A Course of Course!

Which patch of green grass has Miami Beach bluebloods brandishing machetes and clubs?

The homeowners turned to the Miami Beach City Commission to preserve their vistas. The city commission passed an ordinance barring the country club from constructing the fence.

But Sanchez was an undaunted, determined fellow. He ordered his lawyers to sue the City of Miami Beach in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. I can't say I blame the guy. Legally speaking, Sanchez was well within his rights to put up a fence on his property. It breaks my lifeless heart to see this man ruining my legacy.

I must say I was not surprised to learn the country club won its case. I wouldn't expect an oily circuit court judge to appreciate the historic value the La Gorce houses have retained owing to the back-yard views of the golf course. Meanwhile city officials are showing the backbone of a mud-scurrying trilobite. They are waving the white flag, acceding victory to Sanchez and his ugly black wrought-iron fence. And the city would probably allow him to dig a moat swarming with alligators, judging by the defeatist attitude being expressed by some city commissioners.

"The country club has the city stuck between a rock and a hard place," says Miami Beach Commissioner Luis Garcia. "They beat us in court. Only King Solomon can fix this one."

Adds Vice Mayor Matti Bower: "There are some things government can do for the people and some things we can't do. This is one of the situations where we really can't do anything."

Now the country club is moving forward with its fence installation, which has created another problem. Over time, as properties abutting the golf course changed hands, generations of homeowners have maintained, landscaped, and even built structures, from pools to decks to back-yard fences, on land now claimed by La Gorce. "Sadly, no one did a survey for many, many years," says country club treasurer Albert Eiber, a radiologist who joined the club ten years ago but has never had the pleasure of living on the golf course. "We decided to do a survey when the homeowners started complaining about the fence," Eiber explains. "Not only are people encroaching on our land, but some of the city's street ends belong to La Gorce."

Well, that's the way I planned it all along. I never intended to put up any barriers that would interfere with the views, so I saw no need to survey the properties. But I have to hand it to Sanchez, Eiber, and their board cronies. In true Fisher fashion, the country club is offering to lease the land back to the homeowners at $70 a square foot when easements in Miami Beach are averaging $5 a square foot. Some of the homeowners, who don't want any trouble with the country club, have closed deals to retain anywhere from five square feet to twenty square feet of land the country club has claimed.

Eiber, who would have been a perfect pitchman for one of my many real estate ventures, says the country club could have asked for more money per square foot. "Seventy dollars is an extremely fair price," Eiber insists. "Someone might think we're nutty, but you don't have to lease it if you don't want to pay our asking price."


Now, ladies and gentlemen, I, Carl Fisher, would like to introduce you to a brave, idealistic homeowner who recently mounted a daring defense against the overlord of the links and country club president Roberto Sanchez.

Meet Rudy Gonzalez, a 41-year-old Cuban American who made a whole lot of money as a New York City investment banker before relocating with his wife to Miami Beach more than a year ago.

Gonzalez and his wife Claudia, a sweet Colombian lass with a sharp eye for trespassers, purchased a two-story Mediterranean villa with a back-yard pool on 60th Street and La Gorce Drive. They also bought the house next door because Gonzalez didn't want someone to buy the Colonial-style property, raze it, and build one of those tawdry McMansions you see going up all over the Beach these days.

Gonzalez traded in his banking stripes and now earns his keep as a realtor and mortgage broker in Miami's highly competitive market. Until recently, Gonzalez was somewhat ambivalent about the club's efforts to place a fence along the perimeter. "For me, the difference is half a foot," Gonzalez says. "They can go ahead and tear down my fence to put up theirs. I don't have a problem with that."

His problem, Gonzalez continues, has been the way Sanchez and some of the country club employees have mistreated the homeowners. As the original developer of the golf course, I found some of the allegations Gonzalez raised concerning Sanchez to be deplorable, despicable acts unbecoming of a country club president. Gonzalez, in particular, had a run-in with Sanchez and three of his cronies this past July 18.

That morning Gonzalez's wife Claudia was drinking a cup of coffee and eating a piece of whole wheat toast at her kitchen counter when she spied three haggard men in heavy clothing unlatching the gate to her weather-beaten white picket fence and entering her back yard. One of the trespassers held a machete in his right hand. A startled Gonzalez called out to her husband, who was in another room.

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