Last year, we reported on the epic battle
Fahmie was waging against Burns as the two men jockeyed for customers
across the street from one another. This year, Burns and Fahmie have
set up shop blocks away from each other, but they remain on frosty terms. The latest skirmish began with the
25-foot-Christmas tree Burns dangled from a building crane on his
spot at 11400 Biscayne Blvd this past Saturday.
"I was killing it until he hoisted up that tree," Fahmie says. "It is a great idea and I would love to do it too, but when I called the county's building department, they told me what Burns is doing is illegal."
A Democrat with a long history of financial troubles, Burns counters that the tree promotes a charity toy drive that he supports -- not his business. He says Fahmie should worry about selling his own trees: "He doesn't have any customers because he is so busy coming after me."
Unlike his competitors on Biscayne Boulevard, Burns doesn't obtain his proper permits and flaunts regulations, Fahmie grouses. "I just want him to play by the same rules as everybody else," Fahmie says. "Every year, he games the system."
Burns insists he hasn't done anything wrong. "I have all my permits in order," he says. "The only thing I have to do is go back to the county and show them I paid for my certificate of occupancy. That was finalized yesterday."
As for the giant tree, Burns says he plans to take it down Friday when it will be delivered to the Miami Beach Convention Center, where it will be displayed as part of the toy giveaway to kids from the Childrens' Cancer Caring Center. He contends since the tree is not advertising his business, he is not doing anything illegal.
"I was going to take it down on Sunday," Burns says. "But [Fahmie] started complaining so we left it up for the entire week."
However, Fahmie provided a Dec. 13 email from a building official that shows Burns was warned to remove the crane and the 25-foot-tree by Friday at 7 a.m. James Byers, a zoning chief with the Miami-Dade Permitting, Environmental and Regulatory Affairs Department, informed Fahmie that if Burns didn't comply, he and the property owner who leases him the lot would face fines.
According to Fahmie, Burns -- who did not obtain permits to run his tree lot from 2004 through last year -- gets preferential treatment even though he has a history of breaking the rules.
Burns dismisses Fahmie's complaint as sour grapes. "The health department went by his place because he doesn't have a bathroom for the handicapped," Burns says. "He also has a giant blow-up snowman that is illegal. But I don't concentrate on what he is doing. I just worry about selling my trees."
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