Prive developers file $225M lawsuit against neighbors

Construction for 160-unit, 16-story twin-tower condo has been stalled

February 11, 2015 02:00 PM

Privé and its developers from left: Charles Phelan, Gregory Friedman, Gary Cohen (sitting) and Daniel Lebensohn

Nearly a month after developers of Privé at Island Estates, a condo project in Aventura, filed a $200 million lawsuit against the city of Aventura, developers filed a separate, $225 million lawsuit against individual property owners to “enforce development rights and ensure construction begins on schedule.”

Developers BH3 and Gary Cohen filed the lawsuit against specific residents in and near Williams Island for “interfering with their undisputed rights to build and for trying to prevent the project from coming out of the ground,” according to a statement released Wednesday.

“It’s very clear that this small group of people has one objective and that is to kill our project,” BH3 principal Dan Lebensohn said in the statement. “Our goal is to exercise our long-standing building rights, which have been in place since 1976, and deliver a first-class project to our purchasers and a lasting and enduring landscape which meaningfully and permanently contributes to the Aventura tax base to the benefit of all residents. And that is exactly what we will do.”

Construction for the 160-unit, 16-story, twin-tower condo development has been stalled by litigation over an issue with the sidewalks and pending building permits. Complaints among nearby residents include traffic concerns.

“In their continuing disregard for the basic rights of others, this is another attempt by Mr. Cohen and his group to bully people into allowing them to do whatever they want to do,” Susan Raffanello, attorney for the homeowners on Island Estates, said in a statement. “Calling the individual homeowners ‘spoiled brats’ and proclaiming open and transparent city commission and homeowner town-hall meetings ‘conspiracies’ is their substitute for facts, evidence and law.”

In a September Miami-Dade County Circuit Court hearing, Cohen said that nearly half of the 77 unit reservations chose not to proceed with their contracts and recovered their deposits because of the litigation with neighbors.

“Everyone in this community knows high-rises can be built here,” Gary Cohen told The Real Deal. “It’s no secret.”

“If it weren’t for this lawsuit [over sidewalks], this project would would be sold out by now,” Lebensohn told TRD.

In mid-January, Privé developers filed a lawsuit against the city for not issuing building permits. Privé is located on Island Estates, a private island in Aventura.