Why won't the mainstream media retrace the wreckage of the US economy in terms of the facts on the ground? We did, in this case study of a now overgrown sub-divided 160 acre parcel, from purchase to protracted foreclosure.
The story is not just subprime mortgages wrapped up in financial pools enriching bankers from Wall Street to main street. And it is not just representative examples of Americans for whom the Ownership Society turned into a sour myth. The story to tell-- that we have tried to do on our blog for more than three years-- is how politics and zoning and hubris wrecked the Florida landscape. It started right here in Miami where the snatch and grab development machine, spinning fees to Brickell Avenue law firms like Greenberg Traurig and Holland and Knight perfected all the gears of operation long before historic low interest rates poured money into farmland, backed by false demand, fakery, corruption and greed.
Here is an example from the end of the party. In the middle of Miami-Dade agricultural lands also buffer lands of Everglades National Park, this sad looking subdivision was platted and cement was poured in 2007. The property now is vacant and appears to still be in the middle of a lengthy foreclosure battle which could wipe out the $12.2 million dollar second mortgage held by Falcon Fundings, Arthur Falcone.
In 1993 the Miami Dade County Commission moved the Urban Development Boundary (within which county services are provided) under pressure of high-powered land-use attorneys and a connected production home builder (Pulte Homes and land trustee Henry E. Wolff) to build a dense subdivision - known as a (TND) traditional neighborhood development. A County staffer remembers that at the time "The Commission voted to move the line over the objections of staff and the State growth management agency, and also that the application was litigated for about 2 years." Land within the boundary is worth much more, so this boundary change amounted to a windfall to the profit margin. South Florida Business Journal said that Pulte Homes sold it's interest in the property after the line was moved. Years later (2006) the plat for Kendall Commons subdivision was submitted and approved. The Corporation that submitted the subdivision was Kendall Land Development LLC which is managed by Jose Boschetti and Martin Caparros, also partners in Prestige Builders, one of South Florida's largest developers.
The land was cleared and roads put in 2007, following is a satellite photo of the subdivision:
Although the subdivision shares the name, Kendall Commons was dissolved as a Corporation in 2005. Brunetti was also on this Corporation with Arthur Falcone. Kendall Commons deeded the land to Kendall Land Development in 2004 for $73 Million (according to the stamp fees). Kendall Commons bought the land from a foreign corporation called Cropseyville Corporation (Mark Bisbing signed the deed but Jose Luis Sanchez is the Managing Director) for $16.5 in 2003. The land was purchased by Cropseyville in 1980 from Henry E. Wolff, Trustee of the land, in a murky deal (unable to research the Netherlands Antilles Corporation).
The only land that has been deeded is the land purchased by the school district that developers say they give at a 'discount' to add sugar to the deal. The rest of the subdivision is still owned by the developers.
Here is what shows up when you hit on any piece in the subdivision on the Property Appraisers website. The taxes on this particular parcel are $1,300, they have been paid and this parcel is assessed at $71,490.
Meanwhile the developer in 2008 again extended his mortgage agreement with City National Bank of Florida. The principal amount owed $33,750,000 (2004 date of the original note) was modified to $22 million in this extension.
In March 2009 City National Bank filed a lis pendens of Foreclosure on all the land except the school property.
The CDD also filed a lien on the property, the claim for money's owed: $107,772.87. A CDD provides a mechanism to finance, construct and maintain community or subdivision infrastructure improvements. It operates as an independent taxing district. Usually the developer recoups this money, tacking it on to the purchase price. But in this deal, we have no buyers.
Since the lis pendens filing in March 2009, according to the Docket, the foreclosure has been tied up in court. The last entry was 2/23/2010. City National Bank of Florida was owned by Miami banker Leonard Abess, whose generosity to environmental causes never appears to have found its way to opposing irresponsible development outside the Urban Development Boundary or in support of local groups fighting sprawl. The most recent portion of the docket is below.
Multiply this lousy development scheme by ten thousand and you have a sense of the scale of the development disaster that unfolded with the cheerleading of the Chambers of Commerce, the homebuilders, political sycophants, lobbyists and bankers who walked away with billions. Still, there is no accountability. No new laws or regulations have been proposed to prevent these excesses from happening again. In fact, from the county commission to Tallahassee, Florida's elected officials want it to happen all exactly the same way, only easier.
If you would like to read more on this foreclosure read the fine 2009 article by Brian Bandell and Oscar Pedro Musibay.