Friday, May 6, 2022

Government taking of private property for public projects. The taking of resident’s homestead property through eminent domain: two lawsuits involving the Village of Palmetto Bay that you should be concerned about. But will the takings end there?

Were you kept in the loop? So far two residents are at risk of having all or part of their residential property taken for the Old Cutler Road Improvements. We obviously want the project to be done right, if done at all, but what will the impact be for the homeowners facing the tacking as well as their neighbors and other surrounding properties? So far, petitions for the taking of all or parts of these two properties have been been filed in Court. But it may not end there as the mayor and at least one member of the Palmetto Bay Council have discussed taking private property for ‘pocket parks’ here in Palmetto Bay.

First, the two cases that have been filed to date:

Miami-Dade v F Muller.01.ED Petition.2022-008022-CA-01

Petition for Eminent Domain filed May 2, 2022. Property located at 15190 Old Cutler Road. The petition alleges that the designated property is needed for improvements to the intersections of Old Cutler Road, with SW 152 Street and SW 184th Street in Palmetto Bay.

Miami-Dade v R Ryder.01.ED Petition.2022-005523-CA-01

Petition for Eminent Domain filed March 24, 2022. Property located at 7720 SW 183 Terrace. The petition alleges that the designated property is needed for improvements to the intersections of Old Cutler Road, with SW 152 Street and SW 184th Street in Palmetto Bay.

The Ryders have hired legal counsel to fight: the law of Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman, P.L. Their Answer and Affirmative Defenses was filed on May 2, 2022, contesting the taking, or at least the valuation of the taking in this case. 

Who is taking the property, Miami-Dade County or Palmetto Bay? The taking of private property was not disclosed at the Virtual Public Meeting held August 4, 2020. This has always been a joint project; a collaboration between the Village of Palmetto Bay and Miami-Dade County, but as a county road, the improvements on Old Cutler Road will be coordinated and funded by Miami-Dade County. A presentation was provided by Marlin Engineering, Inc. concerning the project during the meeting held on August 4, 2020 by Miami-Dade County and Palmetto Bay. You may view or download the presentation by CLICKING HERE.

This is another Joint project, much like the SW 136 St MEGA sidewalk project. The official Village communications have always acknowledged that Palmetto Bay is collaborating with Miami-Dade County on the Old Cutler Road Intersection Improvements project, which involves the construction of four traffic circles along Old Cutler Road and SW 136th Street, SW 67th Avenue, SW 152nd Street, and SW 184th Street. The village e-news reported on April 12, 2022, that the project is currently in the design phase and construction is anticipated to start in late Summer.

I have background institutional knowledge on this project as I was involved in the traffic plans when serving as mayor, but the taking of property through eminent domain was never discussed or even contemplated. Obviously the design has changed necessitating the taking of private residential property. When was the want for the taking decided? And why? are my initial questions. Was this ever going to be discussed with the public is another important question.

Also of concern: Is the entire property being taken or merely part. And if part, how much? And where with the taste for the taking of private property end if the taking of property is required. After all, Village Officials have discussed taking of resident’s property, so it looks like we are nearing the beginning of a very slippery slope.  Mayor Cunningham held a sunshine meeting she discussed the possibility of using eminent domain powers to take private property to build pockets parks with another member of the Village Council. Neighborhood protection anyone?

NOTE: I am compiling a folder where you can view the materials I am putting together on this matter.  You can view this folder by CLICKING HERE.  Note that all the materials remain available from their original sources. 

Monday, May 2, 2022

Editor Miller raises some serious issues relating to Palmetto Bay’s fiscal accountability, litigation and transparency. The $750,000.00 question.

Currently available on Community Newspapers online: Court rules against the Village of Palmetto Bay in Luxcom case, by Michael Miller, Editor.  $750,000.00 Please, I want to be kept in the loop! My question: Have Palmetto Bay officials spent  more than $750,000 in the different legal matters with Luxcom through October 2021? Obviously that wouldn’t cover all the critical filings leading up to the March 31, 2022, hearing or the Answer and Affirmative Defenses filed late last month. What’s the actual legal bill to date? What is the total budget set aside for this litigation? There are more costs that mere legal. What about overall staff and consultant (administrative) costs that should be associated to this Luxcom matter?

The Palmetto Bay public has a right to know. And the Palmetto Bay elected and staff officials have the duty of candor to the public.  Editor Miller's report raises some alarms as this is not the story that I have been kept in the loop about. This matter has clearly turned into a grudge no holds barred match.  Editor Miller reported on the recent loss that the Palmetto Bay community suffered in court on March 31, 2022.  Background, for those not in the loop, Editor Miller explains that Yacht Club by Luxcom, LLC “… has sued the Village of Palmetto Bay to recover more than $20,000,000.00 in compensation for losses caused by the Village’s efforts to prevent Luxcom from developing its property.

I, myself, have attempted to keep readers in the loop through some of my blog posts (listed at bottom).  Editor Miller reached out for comments from Luxcom, a source we, the people, have not heard from, speaking to a Mr. Barbara, who is the developer of Luxcom.  As Editor Miller explains it: 

When asked about the litigation Mr. Barbara responded – “We are pleased that the Court saw through the Village’s tactics and we look forward to moving vigorously and swiftly with discovery and the preparation for trial in what will be an expensive case with tens of millions of dollars at risk to the Village and its tax payers. As a result of the Court’s ruling, the lawsuit will now proceed forward on its merits, and the Village will finally be held accountable for its conduct and the harm it caused to Luxcom’s property.” 

Barbara added – “additionally, documents obtained through their Public Records Request show that the Village has already spent more than $750,000 in the different legal matters with Luxcom through October 2021, and this case has just begun.”

This is huge and I do believe the taxpaying public is due a full and complete accounting as to the following:

  • What has been spent to date on this Luxcom litigation?
  • Legal costs versus all staff time, administrative costs.
  • What is the projected budget set aside for this Luxcom litigation?
  • What are the goals of this litigation?
  • What is Luxcom entitled to under the law? 
  • What is he village attempting to stop Luxcom from building?
  • Will this litigation resolve the issue or is it merely one more step to additional litigation

Transparency and accountability is important as Editor Miller specifically stated that:

“When Mayor Karyn Cunningham was asked to comment about the most recent court ruling, she said that because it was an ongoing case, she could not comment and directed any questions to the Village Attorney.” 

No, that is deflection, avoidance. The people have the right to know. Legal strategy is one thing, but providing a realistic assessment of the goals, costs to date as well as reasonably expected future costs of this litigation is the public’s right to know.

PRIOR RELATED POSTS - LUXCOM LITIGATION:

April 30, 2022, LUXCOM Litigation update. Palmetto Bay files the Answer and Defenses. 14 pages - filed April 28, 2022

April 21, 2022, LUXCOM Litigation update - Transcript of proceedings from March 31, 2022, now available to the public on official court docket

April 18, 2022, Luxcom litigation update - Palmetto Bay's Motion to Dismissal was denied. Case moves forward.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Happy #NationalRideABikeDay! Road or gravel - its another great day to get out and ride!

From the League of American Bicyclists:

 Happy #NationalRideABikeDay

🚴 How to celebrate is simple: ride a bike anywhere and for any reason today. Ride to the store to complete a chore. Ride a bike with a friend to gossip about your weekend. Ride a bike on a trail or to the mall to check out a sale. We’re not saying you have to go full green eggs and ham but just #bikethere!

PRIOR RELATED POSTS ON BICYCLING: