Every Available Square Inch

Developers in Coconut Grove have learned a couple of things about rules: They can be used to personal advantage. And they can be used as weapons.

Odio agreed. Rodriguez recounts that when Helfman entered the room, the manager said, "'Steve, this is going to be a short meeting. We cannot violate our own city code because there is no appeal to the code." Abrams and others left the meeting heartened by Odio's firm backing of the city's tear-down order.

At the end of the first week of the new year, the three high-priced attorneys persuaded their clients that it was time to make peace. The situation clearly had gotten out of hand, and the cost of fighting each other and the city was prohibitive. "We didn't mean to start a friggin' nuclear war," chuckles John Fletcher, Spec's attorney. The principals sat down on January 10 and worked out a cease-fire. "I told them [Spec's], 'You quit bothering me and I'll quit bothering you,'" Peacock says. "Also we become friends and I don't appeal anything they do [in the future] and they don't appeal anything I do."

But that agreement has not been signed. Spec's still has one major problem: the city. "If Comras can't solve its dilemma with the city, then neither it nor Peacock can promise us anything," Fletcher says. Spec's wants to be assured use of the glass nose, as promised in its lease with Comras. Without the nose, Fletcher says, Spec's will continue the zoning war, presumably in an effort to pressure both Peacock and Comras to lean on city officials to keep the nose intact.

Helfman is already doing his best to keep the pressure on. Despite Odio's seemingly firm commitment, Helfman says he got the city to agree to delay enforcement of the tear-down order. Maxwell, the city attorney who opposed fighting the developer, has been circulating among various city officials a proposed settlement between the city and Comras. The proposed agreement, which was created by Helfman, offers the city unconditional surrender: The nose will remain, to be torn down only if the city provides 180-day notice that a contractor is ready to widen Grand Avenue. The city also must reapprove the revised plans and allow the building to be completed without further delay. Signature lines are provided for Comras and Cesar Odio.

For some reason, a copy of the agreement was not sent to the Coconut Grove NET office, where the complaints originated. Abrams, the NET office director, was surprised to learn of a proposed settlement agreement, but she insisted the city would stand by the law. "Don't forget that I am the city, too, and that settlement agreement has not been signed yet," Abrams said. "I like to think it won't be."

This past week the city was still negotiating with the industrious Helfman. His proposed agreement was clearly unacceptable as written, according to Wally Lee, director of the public works department. The city code would have to be amended to include a specific exception just for Spec's nose, Lee stated in a memo. But the city's law department was still trying to come up with an acceptable compromise, despite the protracted delay in rectifying a code violation. "This is the first case where we have had something like this," Lee said last week.

Not far from Abrams's office, workers last week were back on the job at the Spec's site. The city had given permission for continued construction A on everything but the nose, which had to wait for some sort of agreement to be reached between Comras and the city. "It doesn't make sense," Abrams said when she was read the proposed agreement. "There is this law that clearly states the [nose] should not be there. I can't see a way around it.

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