If an angry rich person is an attorney's best friend, a lot of lawyers must be pretty pleased about the spat boiling over on super-wealthy Indian Creek Island.
In late April, New Times told you about the escalating feud between Siamese titans on the island in Biscayne Bay. The 33-resident Indian Creek Village voted to increase Indian Creek Country Club's annual tax by nearly 30 times, from $29,819 to $842,315.
As expected, the country club has responded by filing suit against the village. More surprising, so has a group of village residents led by Miami Dolphins legend Don Shula.
On May 20, the day after the club sued the village, the Shulas, along with millionaire residents Martin and Constance Silver, Charles B. and Ann L. Johnson, P. Frederick O'Brecht, and Carolyn Smathers -- widow of U.S. Sen. George Smathers -- filed their own suit, calling the tax "unlawful and improper."
While skyrocketing the club's taxes, the new ordinance cuts the amounts due from all but three homeowners -- the Shulas (who will pay $3,467 more per year on their $4.1 million house), the Silvers ($4,480 more on their $3.9 million house), and Smathers, who has the most right to be pissed off: She'll be hit with $16,291 more annually on her $1.7 million house.
The Shulas, the Johnsons, Smathers, and O'Brecht will pay twice: They are all also members of the country club. That's according to a club roster Riptide has gotten its hands on, which includes sensible bylaws such as "Helicopters are permitted to land and take off only between dawn and dusk" and "Boat owners will instruct their crews to remain in the immediate dock area."
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Mrs. Shula and Mrs. Smathers are both on the "entertainment committee," which we're guessing means they're in charge of the board-game closet. Deluxe Monopoly!
Indian Creek villagers ignored their neighbors' pleas at the council meeting when the new ordinance was passed. Mary Anne Shula made a surprising plea of poverty -- "Don is unable to do talks and signings like he used to. If our taxes go up, he'll suffer... What gives you the right to do this?" -- and Smathers compared the club and village's contentious relationship to that of a married couple that can't afford a divorce.
The huge tax increase could cripple the ultra-exclusive country club, which is notorious for a history of racist policies. Riptide has obtained a letter that was sent to members from club president Stephen H. McKnight and warned of "significant financial exposure to the club": Each member will see their individual dues increased by $10,800 annually, more than doubling their former annual fees of $10,000.
That increase will inevitably lead to mass resignations from the club, one member tells Riptide -- and spark yet more brouhaha on the county's richest island.