The Real Deal Miami

Injunction delays Privé condo project

Judge grants request to halt sidewalk construction at Aventura development site
Greg Freedman

Greg Freedman

A dispute over a sidewalk is causing delays for the builders of the Privé condominium in Aventura and hurting unit sales.

In a recent hearing for a lawsuit filed by three neighboring homeowners who are challenging construction of a four-foot wide sidewalk in front of their homes, BH3 principal Daniel Lebensohn testified that the suit has negatively affected sales, according to a transcript obtained by The Real Deal. BH3 is partnering with an affiliate company of Aventura developer Gary Cohen to build Privé. Lebensohn told the court the developers had received 77 reservations with six-figure deposits, but 37 of the expected buyers opted to take their refundable deposits back after the suit was filed.

An attorney for the developers and Lebensohn also said delaying completion of the sidewalk would mean they could not obtain a foundation permit. Without the permit, the developers could not close on a $145 million construction loan from California-based Canyon Financial.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jerald Bagley granted a temporary injunction sought by the homeowners.

At issue in the case is whether the developers have the right to encroach on private property without the homeowners’ consent to build a four-foot wide paver sidewalk within a 10-foot utility easement along the outer boundaries of their three single-family properties. The sidewalk was mandated by the City of Aventura to provide for increased pedestrian traffic expected from the 160-unit, two-tower project. The developers received a permit for the sidewalk and site plan approval for the development from the city during the summer.

The homeowners want to prevent the developers from digging up their yards and landscaping without their consent and building the sidewalk on their land, according to the injunction. They claim a sidewalk “is not a public utility” and not an appropriate use for the utility easement.

BH3 and Cohen already constructed the sidewalk in the easement area of 12 of 15 properties within Island Estates. Those owners consented to the sidewalk construction, according to the injunction.

The injunction, issued Sept. 22, prevents the developers from finishing construction of the sidewalk and delays the start of the project planned on the eight-acre North Island, located between Williams Island and Sunny Isles Beach. The developers hoped to start construction by the end of September.

“This temporary injunction recognizes the importance of private property rights,” Susan Raffanello, the homeowners’ attorney, told TRD. She acknowledged the large-scale development would create a need for the sidewalk.

Despite the delay, BH3 principal Greg Freedman, insists the injunction won’t stop the development from moving forward. Freedman said the developers are trying to negotiate a settlement agreement with the homeowners. “These individuals are trying to throw a monkey wrench at us,” Freedman told TRD. “But it is not an impediment whatsoever.”

In August, homeowners David and Dara Clarke, Dan and Sheila Kleiman and Alan Reyf sued three entities controlled by Cohen in an attempt to stop the sidewalk’s construction. Their single-family homes are among 21 in a development known as Island Estates. Cohen also developed that project, which sits next door to the Privé site.

Despite his colleague’s testimony, Freedman, who repeatedly noted BH3 is not a defendant in the lawsuit, said that 95 percent of the sidewalk is completed and the project is not in jeopardy. Freedman also claimed sales have rebounded since the initial response after the suit was filed. He said about 40 percent of the project is under contract.

As part of the settlement discussions, Freedman said the developers have offered to remove the sidewalk and restore the original landscaping.

Freedman said “it is impossible to quantify” how many reservations were lost because of the sidewalk litigation.

Privé is planned for one of the last developable islands in South Florida. Units range in price from $2 million to more than $10 million.

  • real

    sorry to say it but we all saw this coming for all deveopers, if 37 opted out its not rocket science and stupid sidewalk is not the reason they want to back out of a beautiful building like that. The buyers are seeing that the market is saturated and not worth the prices, when they have choices all around them. Its a bubble that is going to burst and when it does these developers are going to blame it on stupid things like this. of course these ego enthused developers will never take the blame for being to greedy and stupid

  • Islander Guirle

    Forgive me but I’m a bit confused. According to the history of this lawsuit and past articles, the developers need the sidewalk in order to continue with construction, obtain construction loans, etc. But at the latter end of the article one of the developers is talking about settlement discussions with the home owners and restoring the sidewalk and landscaping. Yet still expects to continue with construction. How can that be. Can someone clarify for me maybe I missed something. I would appreciate any clarification I’m very interested in this whole drama!!!

  • disqus_hSoUKpCoxu

    The arrogant developer accuses the homeowners trying to keep said developer off their private property of throwing a monkey wrench? That’s pathetic. Too bad for you Mr. Developer that the judge agreed with the monkey wrench throwing homeowners.

  • Real Guru

    Islander Guirle there should be no confusion. The developer cannot build the sidewalk. No sidewalk, no building permit – simple. The “monkey wrench” that these individual homeowners have thrown at the developer is called private property rights! That is the beauty of the Constitution and why we live in this great country. This smart judge has ruled that all developers are not above the law. Wrench or no wrench, this project was destined to flop!! Pick up your plans and go home.