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The Five Most Petty Things That Have Upset Rich Beach Residents
City of Miami Beach

The Five Most Petty Things That Have Upset Rich Beach Residents

A certain subset of (let's be honest: rich and bored) oceanside residents is currently fighting over whether the city should install a big, bright, and sorta dumb-looking LED "welcome" sign at the foot of the Julia Tuttle Causeway. The sign is indeed stupid-looking and wholly unnecessary. But the squabble perfectly encapsulates the silly, petty nature of many beach-related issues: Though the oceanfront is suffering through a massive affordable-housing crisis that has many hotel workers commuting multiple hours to get to work, residents often spend time locked in furious battles over shrub-trimming or loud cars.

So, in honor of the ultrawealthy residents who cannot stop screaming about dumb stuff, here's a list of the silliest things that have caused an uproar over the years:

1. A plan to install a sidewalk to help people with disabilities

With their prime location near South Beach and luxe cachet, the four gated Sunset Islands are home to some of Miami Beach's richest and most famous residents, from mega-developer Scott Robins to nightclub impresario David Grutman. In a neighborhood known for its epic sunset views, where homes sell for upward of $26 million, you'd think residents would spend their days happily relaxing in the lap of luxury.

Think again. In the past few months, one seemingly minor neighborhood proposal has turned the two southernmost islands, known as Sunset III and IV, into a full-on neighbor-versus-neighbor war zone. The item of contention: a proposed sidewalk.

“This whole fight is disgusting,” says Peter Luria, a former homeowners' association (HOA) board member who is in favor of a sidewalk for better access. “There have been many instances where pedestrians have almost been run over. We’re talking about safety here.”

Sunset Drive, which spans from Sunset Harbor to the Sunset Islands, is a busy throughway — and a popular route for pedestrians traveling to and from the islands. In February 2014, the City of Miami Beach approved and funded the construction of a sidewalk along Sunset Drive as part of a large-scale neighborhood renovation project involving utility, street, water, and sanitary improvements. According to the city and experts, the sidewalk was to provide access for people with disabilities and greater safety to pedestrians and would connect to the existing sidewalks on two Sunset Island bridges.

But almost two years later, there is nary a new sidewalk to be found. And what's more, Luria was recently ousted from the board.


2. Adding more trees to a public park

Miami Beach will soon chop down an estimated 815 trees in North Shore Open Space Park. On its face, this news is very bad: The park is the only public beachfront green space on the whole barrier island. Hundreds of residents have signed petitions urging the city to stop the plan.

But those petitions leave out a crucial fact: Miami Beach plans to replace those 815 trees with at least 1,032 new ones. Which means that after a small construction hiccup, North Shore Open Space Park won't be paved over, built over, or flattened. It's simply getting renovated and reshaped a bit.

Those facts have not stopped more than 1,300 people from signing a petition demanding the city stop the renovation plans, though.

"As many of you know, we went to the commission's meeting in the Miami Beach city hall on January 27," the petition's author, Juan Pablo Ortega, wrote last Friday. "In this meeting, it was disclosed that they are planning to cut not 300, but almost 700 trees. In addition, they want to "trim" the natural canopy to gain more 'ocean view.' We already know what that means." (Ortega did not respond to New Times' written request for comment.)

Because of citizens' complaints, portions of the project have stalled, and some design-review proposals have been delayed until at least March.

3. Landscaping on a super tiny stretch of a luxury neighborhood in the beach-adjacent town of Indian Creek Village

As America hurtles toward a second scoop of recession and you struggle to make ends meet, you should know this: Some of this nation's wealthiest citizens are squabbling over a minute stretch of asphalt.

On a recent weekday, Riptide traversed where few plebeians without landscaping licenses have gone before: Indian Creek Village. The millionaires' island just west of Surfside is closed to the public. But the village's attorney wanted us to see something firsthand.

"Doesn't this road look like shit?" Stephen Helfman asked us.

Yes, the island's thoroughfare sort of did. It was full of fissures, sinkholes, and puddles. We wanted to brave the road with a brimming cup of hot coffee to truly gauge its bumps, but the only way we were getting on the island was in Helfman's plush BMW SUV, which we figured would ride smoothly in Sarajevo. So instead, we counted the ratio of pavement cracks to workers manicuring hedges. The final count was three to one. This is very troubling indeed.

The 30-odd millionaire residents of Indian Creek Village — home to Norman Braman and Don Shula — are locked in jihad with the Indian Creek Country Club, the equally secretive golf-and-mint-juleps society plunked down in the middle of the land mass.

Both sects seem determined to wring the other's neck. There are currently three ongoing lawsuits. All involve whether the town or the club should pay the bulk of costs for the island's perpetually bored, seafaring police force.

4. Shorts, exposed "mid-drifts," or (gasp!) bare legs:

In 1939, the Miami Beach City Council — as it was called at the time — went after people who appeared on the streets "with exposed legs sometimes wet and sticky with suntan oil," the Associated Press reported.

From the AP story: "An ordinance adopted yesterday requires bathers to wear robes extending from shoulders to knees" when going to or from the beach. "It's the stickiness the council dislikes, not the exposed legs," said the AP story, adding that some council members considered the sight of exposed legs slathered in oil to be "unsightly, distasteful, and annoying."

5. Mr. Clucky the Bicycling Rooster

Frosted Flakes has Tony the Tiger, University of Florida has Albert the Alligator, and the City of Miami Beach has Mr. Clucky — the bicycle-riding rooster. On any given Saturday, you can catch the bright white celebrity bird canoodling with tourists on Lincoln Road, perched on silver handlebars, or just out for a beer with handyman-cum-activist owner Mark Buckley. He's become quite the unofficial Beach mascot since New Times slapped his feathered mug on a cover a couple of years ago.

But that could end soon. Last week, Buckley was cited by the city's code enforcement department. The citation explained the rooster must leave town in seven days. The reason: The city prohibits "the keeping, stabling, or maintaining of livestock."

"It's nuts," says Buckley, who considers the fowl a friend. "He's just a cheerful little animal who likes to bike around and meet people, and he's getting shot down for some insane bureaucratic bullshit. It's like, "Alert! Alert! Oh my God, it's a CHICKEN!"

Says Miami Beach Spokesperson Ivette Diaz: "[Buckley] can file for an appeal of the citation within ten days of the notice with the Office of the City Clerk."

Around 9 a.m. last Wednesday, there was a knock on the door of Buckley's cozy South Beach pad. He says he found a sheepish code enforcement officer at his front entrance. "He told me: 'Don't shoot the messenger. I love Mr. Clucky.'"

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