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Access Victory in South Florida!

February 05 2007 |
by Mark Rauscher

Surfrider Foundation Exposes Illegal Deals Between Bal Harbour Village and Developer WCI

Bal Harbour Village, Florida (December 11, 2006)-- After enduring 4 months of illegal public beach access closure the Miami-Dade Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches, exposed illegal deals and transactions between WCI Communities, developer of the One Bal Harbour project, and Bal Harbour Village. The above parties were found guilty of ignoring Florida Statute Chapter 161.105 which requires adequate and comparable access and parking during construction and protects citizens’ rights to access the beach. In addition, volunteer activists uncovered an illegal exchange of over $200,000 in illegal land use-rights to State land between WCI and The Village.

Village Manager Alfred Treppeda appears to play a critical role in this lack of citizens’ rights protection. He received a certified letter from the Florida Dept. of Transportation (FDOT), who leases the land to the Village for $1 a year, specifically directing him not to sub-lease the land to WCI. Surfrider uncovered copies of the illicit checks and the illegal agreement the Manager exchanged with WCI to exclude the public from the State property.

Surfrider discovered the illegal deals didn’t stop there. While hiding the illegal sub-lease from one FDOT Division, The Village and WCI went to another division within FDOT and wasted hundreds of hours of State personnel time seeking permit approval to permanently reduce the public’s ability to access the beach at Haulover Inlet. In addition, WCI and The Village ignored Surfrider’s concern that their proposed changes would reduce the public’s ability to access Bal Harbour’s beaches, while at the same time increasing the Dade County taxpaying public’s costs share for future beach re-nourishment projects if parking capacity is reduced.

Surfrider informed FDOT District 6 Secretary Johnny Martinez, whose agency was deceived by The Village and WCI, about the illegal transactions. While Surfrider recently received a phone call from FDOT District 6 personnel suggesting that a resolution to the backroom deal will be announced shortly by the District Secretary, an example needs to be made of The Village and WCI that their abuse of the public trust will not be tolerated in the future by them or others.

The Surfrider Foundation looks forward to regaining full beach access and parking as it was prior to construction.

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