The Ultimate Nasty Neighbor

A 600-foot-tall monster stomps into your neighborhood. What can you do about it? In the City of Miami, absolutely nothing

Regardless of his more notorious enterprises, Bermello has clearly been one of Miami's most successful architects and recently has emerged as a prominent developer (BAP Development has about 2000 units planned or under way in Miami, as well as an immense resort project in the Dominican Republic). He knows the drill, which includes hiring a hot-shot attorney to make his case before the city's various regulatory officials.

To that end, BAP/GGM hired one of Miami's top development attorneys, Adrienne Pardo of Greenberg Traurig, to present their case. They also enlisted several Edgewater residents who were happy to tell the commission about the boost in business and property values the new development would bring to their neighborhood. None of them lives on NE 28th Street.

In advance of the October 28 meeting, each commissioner had received a four-inch-thick sheaf of papers detailing the traffic analysis, the Planning and Zoning Board report, the developers' plans, and all the other paperwork.

Dana Murphy: "I worked hard to fix up my home, but after they build that 
monster, the morning traffic is probably going to drive me nuts"
Jonathan Postal
Dana Murphy: "I worked hard to fix up my home, but after they build that monster, the morning traffic is probably going to drive me nuts"

Dana Murphy and Andrew Dickman didn't realize the meeting was over before it started. In fact it was probably over the day Bermello and Miculitzki bought the properties at the end of 28th Street. "I don't think the commissioners really considered the neighbors or the existing uses there already," Dickman would say later. "My feeling is they're so focused on what they want there and on the future that they've written off the neighbors and the neighborhood."

The October meeting did have a perfunctory feel about it, as if commissioners were simply going through the motions. First Pardo and Bermello made their presentation, followed by the Edgewater residents in favor of the project. Commissioners were polite and brief.

But when it came time for dissenters, Murphy and Dickman were basically brushed off. "The first problem was that the city attorney's office conveniently issued an opinion that the land we were fighting over belonged to the city -- and we only got a copy of that five minutes before the meeting," recalls Murphy. The city attorney argued that because none of 28th Street's property owners had paid taxes on the small parcel for years, it had reverted to city control. Murphy and Dickman asked for a delay in the hearing so a judge could decide the matter, but commissioners weren't interested:

Mr. Dickman: And just on that point, I mean, and with all due respect to the attorneys involved, we haven't had a chance to submit an opinion. We didn't even know that the --

Commissioner Johnny Winton: Well, that's your problem.

Mr. Dickman: -- other side was gong to submit one.

Deputy City Attorney Joel Maxwell: It came in today and I've just given you, for the record -- I did give you a copy of it, Mr. Dickman. You had it.

Mr. Dickman: Five minutes ago.

Mr. Maxwell: That's right.

The commission quickly shot down any hope Murphy and Dickman held that the title question could be a wedge for downsizing Onyx 2. They moved on to other issues but were continually prodded by commissioners to hurry up, as were other NE 28th Street property owners who spoke against Onyx 2.

Adrienne Pardo gracefully deflected criticism of the building, but Bermello was incensed that people had spoken out against his development, and he took the dais to attack Murphy and another neighbor, Catero Manicuso. Bermello ignored commissioners' mounting objections as he tried to accuse the two men of extortion.

Mr. Bermello: These gentlemen sat in my office for three hours. I took time away from my family. At the end of the meeting, they said, "Mr. Bermello, what we're talking about here is we need an exit strategy. Do you know what that means?" I said, "No. You tell me what that means." They said, "Well, the exit strategy is, you either think about buying our property out --"

Mr. Maxwell: Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Murphy: That is not true. Do not go down that --

Mr. Maxwell: Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Bermello: I'd like to finish the statement.

Commissioner Jeffery Allen: See, this --

Chairman Joe Sanchez: Sir, you're out of order.

Mr. Bermello: I'd like to finish the statement.

Chairman Sanchez: All right.

[More chatter.]

Chairman Sanchez: Willy -- Mr. Bermello, hold on.

Eventually Winton got to the heart of the matter. The commission wouldn't stand in the way of this development because of the Eighties rezoning that permanently altered Edgewater's character. Because of that, argued Winton, it would be a violation of property rights not to allow Bermello and Miculitzki and others of their ilk to build mega-condos in Edgewater. "I've said it on every single project and have voted to approve all of them," Winton began, "because that's what the zoning is -- and just wait. Wait till we get ten more of these. Wait till seven get built and everybody's going to talk about traffic.... [Holding up a picture of Murphy's house] We're not going back to this. This house isn't going to be there in fifteen years. As much as I hate to say it -- this is a beautiful house -- it ain't going to be there."

Winton threw Betty Auerbach a bone, asking the developer to come up with some sort of design pattern to adorn the sheer north face of the tower. Then commissioners voted to approve the project -- unanimously.

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help
Miami Concert Tickets