By Michael E. Miller
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But Vice Mayor Matti Bower and Commissioner Luis Garcia agreed Sanchez would be "very stupid" to go around threatening people by virtue of his position on the planning board. "I'd be very surprised if Roberto made such a comment," Garcia said. "He's smarter than that."
Bower and Garcia were the two commissioners who made the motion to appoint Sanchez to the planning board this past March. "He does have a temper," Bower acknowledged. "He blows his stack from time to time, and he is stubborn. He feels very strongly that the country club is private property and that he has a right to put up the fence."
However, Bower said she would encourage Gonzalez or any homeowner who can prove Sanchez is abusing his position to come forward. "We don't need anyone on our boards making trouble for other people," she said.
On August 30, days after Hurricane Katrina tore through South Florida, Jane Jantzen, an 89-year-old widow who owns a rustic Colonial-style house with vaulted ceilings on La Gorce Drive, was having an early-morning conversation with Gonzalez about his latest tempest with La Gorce.
Jantzen and her second husband, who died in 1989, bought their property in 1977, 36 years after my timely demise. Yet the couple represented just the right kind of people to whom I was marketing La Gorce. The Jantzens purchased their house upon retiring from their globe-trotting careers as civilians working for the military. They had hopped across exotic locales such as Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines. "Miami Beach was a natural place to come to given we had lived our lives in the tropics," Jantzen says in a sweet voice.
The soft-spoken widow has been a country club founding member for almost as long as she has lived here. She and her husband chose the house because of the golf course. "I'm a golfer," she says. "No sense in buying a house around here if you are not going to join the club. In fact I've been chair of the women's golf committee several times."
However, Jantzen doesn't play as much golf as she used to. The heat, she says, tires her quickly. "Last time I played was in April," she recalls. "This year has been particularly hot."
Jantzen's gray-blue eyes are fixed on Gonzalez, who is playing with his host's immaculately groomed cocker spaniel, Freckles. "They were out there fussing this morning," she says, referring to the golf course employees who have been coming by to install the fence posts.
Gonzalez tells Jantzen about a massive tree limb on the golf course that took out his white picket fence and then fell into his pool, jutting out of the water like a dead Amazonian anaconda. "I asked them what are they going to do with their tree," he states. "They told me it wasn't their problem. But a month ago Sanchez is telling me it belongs to the golf course and I have to buy it."
"That's just unbelievable," Jantzen replies. Even though she is a long-time founding member, Jantzen says she's simply another homeowner fighting to protect her back-yard view too. "They just came into my yard," she mentions, referring to the fence posts. "I only found out because Freckles wouldn't stop barking at them."
But Jantzen refuses to play ball with the country club when it comes to leasing land in her back yard now claimed by La Gorce. By doing so, she risks losing part of the yard where she has nurtured orange, lime, banana, and ylang ylang trees. "They're also going to take part of the side street between my house and the property next door," she says. "It's outrageous."
Jantzen, like Gonzalez, thinks the country club's lease terms are close to bloody extortion. "Seventy dollars a foot?" an incredulous Jantzen says during a brief respite in her Florida room. "C'mon!"
Later on, during a stroll along the golf course, Gonzalez plots a far-fetched strategy to claim the course in the name of the average citizen. He envisions leading a petition drive to place a ballot question before the voters: Should the City of Miami Beach take the golf course property through eminent domain in order to convert it to a public park? "It already counts as open green space," Gonzalez points out. "Yet it is only open to millionaires who can afford the pricey memberships. Wouldn't it be nicer to make the golf course into a park where the guy stocking soaps at a local hotel's bathroom has a place to take his children?"
Certainly not on the golf course Carl Fisher built.