Trial pits down-zoned land owner against Hollywood

Scott Marder and 901 South Ocean Drive in Hollywood Beach
Scott Marder and 901 South Ocean Drive in Hollywood Beach

The owner of down-zoned land on Hollywood Beach is seeking up to $36 million in damages from the city of Hollywood in a jury trial scheduled to start Aug. 6.

“There’s no doubt it’s going to trial,” Scott Marder told The Real Deal. Marder is an attorney with law firm Duane Morris who represents the land owner, GSK Hollywood Development Group LLC. “There are no settlement discussions. There’s nothing on the table.”

GSK, the plaintiff in the case, is claiming damages “somewhere between $26 million and $36 million,” Marder said.

In late 2002, GSK paid $3.9 million a parcel at 901 South Ocean Drive on Hollywood Beach to develop a 15-story condominium building. After hiring an architect to design the building, GSK “approached the city in the spring of ’04” for approval of the design, Marder said. “It was soon after that when the wheels fell off.”

Residents of the 24-story Summit condominium next door to the site of the planned 15-story condominium “decided they didn’t want a small portion of their view blocked and fought to oppose the project,” Marder told TRD.

In 2005, Hollywood commissioners responded to complaints about the GSK project by passing an ordinance that down-zoned an area encompassing the site of the planned 15-story condo, reducing the maximum building height to 65 feet from 150 feet.

“They did it on a little eight-block area of the beach, and they tried to say it’s a law of general application,” Marder said. “But from the city commission meeting, it was very clear it was all about blocking this [GSK] project. The discussions were all about the project.”

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GSK said the maximum-height reduction made its condo impossible to build, but it still owns the land at 901 South Ocean Drive on Hollywood Beach. GSK is a joint venture between Château Group and K Group Holdings, including Joseph Kavana, who is developing the Metropica project near the BB&T Center and the Sawgrass Mills Mall in Sunrise.

In 2002, GSK paid $3.9 million for two sites on State Road A1A between Jefferson Street and Georgia Street, totaling about 1.5 acres. According to state records, GSK’s managers are Michael Besso, Walter Fischer, Manuel Grosskopf, Jose Kavana and Daisy Sotolongo. The firm proposed a 15-story, 150-foot-tall condo tower, a plan that was met with fierce opposition from residents of the neighboring Summit building.

Hollywood city attorney Jeffrey P. Sheffel could not be reached for comment Tuesday. The trial in August may finally resolve the GSK’s long litigation with city, now in its sixth year.

“We filed suit in 2009, and we’ve made many efforts since then to settle,” Marder said. The plaintiff is claiming damages “somewhere between $26 million and $36 million.”

A jury trial is scheduled to start Aug. 6 before Broward Circuit Judge William Haury, who last year denied a city motion to dismiss GSK’s compensation claim.