The murky local politics of land development

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


Ever wonder why your local government approves more and more common interest developments – such as condominiums and planned communities with mandatory homeowners associations – even when the majority of constituents don’t seem to want them?

Could it be that developer groups and their affiliates are funneling thousands of dollars of campaign contributions (through dozens of individuals or PACs) to your City or County Commissioners?

You don’t suppose that public support coming from a few HOAs could be staged, rigged, or bought by stakeholders seeking millions in real estate profits, do you?

Or do certain HOA Attorneys also happen to work for some very well-funded developers?

Nah…the system can’t be that corrupt.

Can it?


Bahia Mar’s Lawyer Did Double-Duty on Nearby Homeowners’ Board

By Jerry Iannelli

A development group is planning to plunk two 29-story towers on the publicly-owned Bahia Mar complex on Fort Lauderdale Beach. In May, we reported that close to 30 people related to the development group bundled between $5,000 and $6,600 to each City Commissioner’s campaign in 2014 and 2015. Also, one of only two homeowners’ associations supporting the project has been run, in part, by the Bahia Mar development group’s top lawyer, Barry Somerstein.
Despite the fact that most of the homeowners’ groups near the project oppose the plan, the Harbor Beach Property Homeowners Association sent the City a fawning letter supporting the project on July 10. Before homeowners’ groups endorse a project, they typically vote on it. Reached by phone, Somerstein confirmed that he’d sat on the board of the Harbor Beach Property Homeowners Association, but stressed that he recused himself from any vote related to the Bahia Mar, saying that it “felt like a conflict of interest.”

Somerstein is also the chief counsel for the Bahia Mar development group, TRR Bahia Mar LLC. City records show that Somerstein hired lobbyist Steven A. Geller on the development group’s behalf in December 2015. Somerstein also praised the development in front of of Fort Lauderdale’s Planning and Zoning Board that same month — on behalf of the Harbor Beach board. It’s unclear whether he mentioned that he also worked for the developers at the time.

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