Monday, May 26, 2008

Lowe's Sucks Part IV: The Everglades "Hood" Where they want to build. By geniusofdespair and Gimleteye

Be sure to hit on image to enlarge it.

The controversial Lowe's development outside the Urban Development Boundary (Lowes: destroying the Everglades one "two by four" at a time) had a hook for the audience of county commissioners who made a decision to approve the application to move the UDB: that part of the land would be used for a new school, even though the Miami Dade Public School System expressed no interest in building a new school there.

Lowe's is not donating the land for the school, but has agreed to sell the property. For the land in question, Lowe's paid $9,000,000 for about 30 acres in 2003, or about $300,000 an acre.

What I have learned is that if you want to see who really supports changing the UDB, you have to look at who are the surrounding land owners. In the case of the next big thing to cross the county commissioners' dais, Parkland by Lennar, I have noted that some of the biggest lobbyists and developers in the county own adjacent property, including Governor Crist's appointee as chair of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, Rodney Barreto. But back to Lowe's.

A 29 acre property next to Lowe's, 139 Avenue SW 8th Street, LLC, is owned by a Brickell Real Estate Developer named Charles Tavares, who paid $55,000 an acre in 2003. There was a very recent sale (to NC Capital Group - Nelson P. Rodriguez, Mgr.) next to that parcel, April, 15 '08 for about $100,000 an acre (19 acres). There was a foreclosure involved; this property closed 9 days before the UDB vote. More likely than not, these folks are general partners in partnerships that probably involve other Growth Machine developers who aren't named.

It seems to me that Lowe's paid a lot for its land, compared to the recent sales nearby.

Also, it appears there is a large tract of 234 acres, just North of the site, controlled by Rock Mining interests (White & Case is the Rock Mining Law firm of choice and they are the designated Agents for the property.) A rock mine next to a store and a school? I traced this property, to Tractor Man and CANF Board Member, L. Patrick Kelly in a quit claim deed.

Any way you cut it: it's a death by a thousand cuts for the Everglades. It is as if it is being done with a box cutter straight from Lowe's shelves.

Lastly, there are several large swaths of land owned by the government just West of this site. Do you think the Government owns this land for a reason? Why did the Government invest in these very large tracts of land if not for their value to our environment? South Florida Water Management District is buying land for our future. Lowe's isn't. Lowe's motto: "Let's build something together", should change to: "Let's destroy something together: The Everglades."

And an interesting postscript on the odd property ownership in the area:

As you move West along S.W. 8th Street, past the South Florida Water Management district land, you come upon many parcels owned by Inversiones Gorfu, a Panamanian Company. The parcels were purchased in the late 70’s. With some heavy digging I found the name of the President of this company, Haralambos Tzanetatos. The address he uses is P.O. Box 331428 in Coconut Grove. Coincidently, there are also many additional parcels owned by John Scurtis (purchased in the late 80’s). He uses the very same P.O. Box. Apparently there was some news about Haralambos in the "Panama News" issue, June of 2004:

“The collapse of Banco DISA --- a business that was built on US government loan guarantees --- has been one of the country’s more instructive financial scandals of recent years. Most of the top management is about to go on trial to face charges of various white collar offenses. Meanwhile, one of the major depositors, shareholders and directors, Haralambos Tzanetatos, whose Curacao Eximport Enterprises banked there, has won a legal battle in the Supreme Court over his claim that the bank’s management improperly took $10 million of his company’s in a failed bid to stave off collapse. That got the money moved from out of the lowest priority --- that is, unrecoverable --- owner assets category. But that still puts Tzanetatos a ways from getting the money, which is still tied up in bank liquidation proceedings.”

John Scurtis, the other land owner, appears to be a Miami lawyer and an Archon with the Greek Orthodox Church. He also might be the Father-in-law of the Yankee’s A-Rod. (There could be more than one John Scurtis, the other guy I have a lock on, it is easy to search a name like Haralambos Tzanetatos).


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the research -- the SFWMD land is a puzzle. If the land there is ripe for development, why are they buying?

Anonymous said...

Gimleteye writes:

That is a very good question. Without knowing the specific answer, I'd say as a general matter, that sophisticated land speculators-- with enough money to access the Governor's Office in the case of the Bush terms-- were able to identify where exactly the District was buying land, and then, to purchase land that appeared to be in the long-term plans for "restoration".

It would take a lot of research through deeds and property transfers to piece together how much money was made by speculators who used "restoration" as a guide for investment decisions. You might start, also, by reviewing campaign contributions.

Pants on Fire said...

Anon - It's the other way around. The land is ripe for preservation.

The SFWMD is buying the land because it is critical to the long-term health of our drinking water supply, flood protection, and Everglades preservation. It's part of the Everglades restoration project.

As was mentioned above, many of those properties were purchased in the 1980's when everglades preservation was only important to the likes of Marjory Stoneman Douglas and certainly not the State of Florida.

UDBMe said...

You note two sales in April. Wasn't that just AFTER the Lowe's application got approved?

Genius of Despair said...

UDBME I added the info in the post...the sales were before the vote to move the UDB.

I was surprised at the size of the SFWMD property Pant's of makes me hate Lowe's even more...on the one hand you have this preservation going on and on the other you have total lack of scruples...

The Plant Man said...

is there any way to stop this from happening now or is it inevitable?

Anonymous said...

Did you see the article today in the Miami Herald that totally misunderstands the issue? Is this reporter an intern?

Genius of Despair said...

Yes, I saw the article and wrote about it. It is a very odd story for the Herald to print. I don't think the reporter has read the Miami Herald lately.

Genius of Despair said...

P.S. Thanks for the "Intern" idea anonymous...I used it.