By William Gjebre, BrowardBulldog.org
Hallandale Beach city commissioners have let a prominent developer off the hook for nearly half-a-million dollars in fines for property code violations accumulated before it bought the land at a much lower price than paid by the former owners.
In a contentious 3-2 vote on Wednesday, commissioners eliminated a trio of liens on property owned by the family of longtime Miami developer Tibor Hollo.
Jerome Hollo, an executive vice president with his father’s flagship corporation Florida East Coast Realty, said the commission’s decision allows him to move forward to obtain financing for a proposed 250-room hotel, residential and retail complex called “Bourbon Street” on 3.55 acres in the 800 block of N. Federal Highway, next to the Mardi Gras Casino.
“It’s going to be a wonderful project for the city,” said Hollo, who is also an executive with the company that purchased the property, 801 N Federal LLC. The younger Hollo appeared personally at Wednesday’s meeting at the request of the city commission, presenting them with preliminary architectural renderings of the proposed project.
But while the commission majority felt the $453,000 in fines were unfairly punitive, two other commissioners, William “Bill” Julian and Michele Lazarow, opposed the measure excusing the fines.
“I have a hard time forgiving this amount,” Julian said, adding he believes it would be the largest fine mitigation in the city’s history.
Julian said the Hollo group knew about the city’s liens when it bought the property in 2010 for $2.5 million. He also noted that the previous owner paid $12 million for the property in 2006.
“You got a heck of a deal and you are coming in [seeking relief]” knowing all that, Julian said.
“This is taxpayers’ money and I am being called to waive it,” said Lazarow. “We are trying to protect the taxpayers.”
But Mayor Joy Cooper, Commissioner Anthony Sanders and Vice Mayor Alexander Lewy agreed that total relief was appropriate.
“There is no money leaving the coffers of Hallandale Beach,” Lewy said. He added that well-off developers should not be treated differently than “mom and pop” property owners.
The Hollo group, Lewy said, “wants to do construction.”
Commissioner Sanders indicated Hollo should not be penalized for getting a good deal on the property.
“He did a good business deal,” Sanders said.
Mayor Cooper said the intent of fines and liens has been to get property owners to clean up their property and comply with city codes, not to be punitive. That approach is common in many cities, she said.
Cooper noted that then-city manager Mark Antonio had asked the Hollo group to clean up the land under a city initiative to enhance and make properties attractive for development. Hollo’s group was told that if they complied the fines would be dropped, according to city documents.
“You did what Mark Antonio asked,” said Cooper.
Cooper accepted a $500 contribution from Tibor Hollo for her successful reelection campaign this past November.
Hollo’s attorney, Alan Koslow, pointed out that the fines were accumulated by former property owners and began with only $500. The fines increased daily when they did not comply, he said.
As part of the agreement to drop the fines, Hollo agreed to pay $4,615 to cover the city’s costs in connection with the violations, which included unsafe conditions and littered grounds that led to loitering and slum and blighted conditions.
The city’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), which is governed by the commissioners, previously agreed to award the Hollo group $25,000 to clean up the property, with payment to be made once the liens are cleared.
If commissioners had not erased the fines, the city manager was authorized under city code to wipe out 90% of the fine.
That power concerned Julian and Lazarow.
“We are the ones who should make the decision,” Julian said.
Commissioners agreed to review the policy, which past city managers have used to wipe out fines both large and small. For example, in July 2010 the city manager forgave 90% of assessed code violation fines for foreclosed home at 747 NW Fifth Court – dropping the total owed from $176,300 to $17,630.
City records show the Hollo group acquired the properties on North Federal Highway in November 2010 from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation through a foreclosure process.
Both Tibor Hollo and Jerome Hollo are listed in state records as officials of 801 N Federal LLC.
Chaz Stevens / March 22, 2013 5:13 pm
We now know what a vote for Cooper cost.
This would not have happened with Mayor Keith London at the helm.
A Joyless HB / March 23, 2013 7:07 pm
London for Commissioner 2014. With Lazarow and London up there, there might be a slight chance for change.
Keith S. London / March 24, 2013 1:45 pm
Lazarow and Julian had this issue pegged.
The issue moving forward is allowing the City Manager to forgive up to 90 % of code violation fines without seeking approval by the city commission.
Mike Good, Mark Antonio and CM Crichton-Miller have forgiven millions without city commission knowledge or approval.
Just a few facts of empowerment which do NOT require City Commission approval:
• The City Manager has spending authority up to $50K for procurement
• The City Attorney can settle law suits up to $20K
• The City Manager can hire professional services up to $25K
Commissioners Lazarow and Julian wanted to change the 90% to a dollar amount and bring any mitigation above $25K to the commission.
The only problem with this, as we now learned, is Cooper and Lewy will play politics and sell the city short for a few campaign contributions and vague promises.
Cooper and Lewy both voted to raise your fees and taxes last year; but not collect legitimate fines from developers on behalf of the taxpayer.
Chad Lincoln / March 25, 2013 1:49 pm
“Broward’s Inspector General has found that Hallandale Beach officials “grossly mismanaged” millions of dollars in public funds”.
The beat goes on.,
Our Mayor and her sycophants Lewy and Sanders keep trolling for financial perks from developers. The Fines were property of the citizens.And these three keep on with their corruption at the cost of the citizens of Hallandale Beach.
GROSSLY MISMANAGED says it all …
Csaba Kulin / March 25, 2013 5:18 pm
Hallandale Beach has very clear rules on how to reduce building fines. City Manager RENEE MILLER did a very poor job of explaining the rules to the commissioners and the public.
She had NO intension to look out for the benefit of Hallandale Beach residents.
Jerome Hollo asked for a 100% reduction, available ONLY in hardship cases.
City Manager RENEE MILLER should have asked for 100% payment of fines, required in cases where a demonstrated lack of attempt to comply can be argued.
Mr. Hollo owned the property for 3 years, he had plenty of time to fix the violations. Where is the “attempt to comply” in this case?
Hallandale Beach City Commission approved 1% of the fines to be paid by Mr. Hollo, 10 times LESS than 86% of our neighbors paid during the past two years.
The fine paid by Mr. Hollo is just 1% higher than hardship cases.
Mayor Cooper, Vice Mayor Lewy and Commissioner Sanders owe an explanation to the residents of Hallandale Beach.
Why do residents of Hallandale Beach pay ten (10) times higher percentage than big time developer Mr. Hollo?
This is a perfect example of GROSS MISMANAGEMENT and IGNORING the Rules.
Charlotte Greenbarg / March 26, 2013 7:35 pm
Just another day in Hallandale Beach with the Cooper/Lewy/Sanders paradigm.
I wonder if the good citizens who elected them have the slightest idea what this is all about.