When Trammell Crow Residential brought plans to bring a new 21-story, 180-unit apartment tower in downtown Fort Lauderdale in 2017, the project seemed like a sure thing.
Two city committees had found the project to have largely met the city’s guidelines. It also received approval from the historic preservation board. But a year later, under a new mayor and new city commissioners, the Alexan Tarpon River project never received approvals from the city and the project never got off the ground.
Edgewater Condo Association, which represents the unit owners of the existing building at 501 Southeast Sixth Avenue, filed a lawsuit this month against the city of Fort Lauderdale in federal court alleging the city discriminated against the project. It further alleged “the Commission acted arbitrarily and capriciously and in furtherance of no legitimate government interest.”
Developers often grow frustrated at city officials for halting their planned development projects. The lawsuit shows, however, that these tensions may be escalating under Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis and the commissioners, who are more reluctant to approve new real estate development than previous administrations.
In March 2018, the design review board approved plans for the Alexan Tarpon project, a decision that would become final 30 days from then unless the commission decided to review the application. In order to review the application, the commission would first have to find that the project “misapplied or failed to apply one or more” of the city’s requirements, according to the lawsuit.
The commission then called the project up for another hearing in May 2018. At this meeting, the developer proposed reducing the height to 14 stories to alleviate some of the neighborhood’s concerns.
Also during this meeting, the complaint alleges that commissioner Steve Glassman’s misgivings about the project came from his constituents, who told him “don’t forget why we voted for you, we voted for you…. To slow down development.”
The developer did not receive approvals for the project in May and attempted to reduce the number of units to 120 its next meeting in June. The committee pushed for another meeting in August.
This time, the developer went back to proposing to build 180 units and the commission ultimately denied the application by a vote of 3 to 2.
The lawsuit alleges the commission never stated how it failed or misapplied its requirements with the city. It also alleges that the city approved four other developments, including a 374-unit, 32 story residential building at 419 Southeast Second Street that were indistinguishable from Trammell Crow’s project.
The condo association claims it has been deprived of its “basic fundamental rights of equal protection and procedural due process under the law.”
A spokesperson for Trammell Crow Residential declined comment citing pending litigation. The city of Fort Lauderdale did not respond to a request for comment.