Tuesday, January 20, 2015

At Ludlam Trail, Big Corporation tries arm twisting and intimidating neighbors … by gimleteye

Neighbors of the proposed Ludlam Trail -- who are seeking to convert an unused swath of land owned by Florida East Coast Industries and its parent company, Fortress Investments -- are being pressured by the company and its lobbyists, including former top Codina executive, Rafael Rodon.

Over the years, FECI held this property, stretching from Dadeland roughly to Miami International Airport, as a fallow asset. Around the same time that neighbors began organizing to lobby for the conversion of the property into a unique and sorely needed linear park, serving the community, FECI accelerated development plans that require important zoning changes from the local governments.

When the company went to the county commission recently, with its rezoning request to the county, the matter was put on hold for a brief period to give residents and the company some time to work together on a way forward. For the neighbors and Ludlam Trail organizers, the optimal outcome is an eventual buyout of the entire property. The company, in advance of a planned design charrette, has its own ideas and its own motivation: realize as much commercial potential as quickly as possible before the current building boom burns out.

Its objective is to do through government zoning what Jorge Perez did on the Miami River: minimal public access in exchange for maximal development footprint. That's the Miami Way and there is nothing illegal about it.

To ratchet up pressure on neighbors, the company has sent out a demand letter to abutting property owners who chose, over a period of decades, to enclose their property where it meets the abandoned railway line.

One Ludlam Trail supporter forwarded me the following email message. It is perfectly legal and it is meant as a message, too, for county commissioners. It says, "Don't delay our request. We want, what we want and when we want it and do-good'er neighbors who think we will patiently sit through a charrette and endlessly negotiate with them, may have other neighbors' pain to answer for."

In a few months, county commissioners will have the opportunity to state whose side they are on. Maybe for once, at Ludlam Trail, the county commission draw a line in the sand and show "the Miami way" is also about quality of life.

Dear Lisa:

I have attached a letter I received today from LR 13-18 LLC. The letter was delivered as certified return receipt…

As it turns out, LR 13-18, LLC. is a subsidiary of FECI. Both of these entities share the same addresses and legal personal. Therefore, I will refer to them both as FECI.

This is a very aggressive Cease and Desist Letter. It is demanding that I remove a small encroachment from my boundary abutting the FEC corridor. I happen to own one of the properties zoned RU-1, one acre, close to SW 80th Street.

My parents bought this house in 1954. I returned to live in this house and take care of my parents. In 1998, I errected the fence referenced in this letter. I have a large dog that needs to be fenced in. This is not a small fence by any means. The encroachment is
minor. It is a wedge approximately 12" to 2" by 225 feet long.

In view of the fact that FECI is applying for up-zoning, and the Ludlam Trail proposal is entering its charrette phase, I have no intention of removing my fence within the next 60 days as demanded in this letter.

FECI is being very insensitive to neighbor concerns. This is not what I expected from them.

Of course, I will eventually remove the fence. But if they intend to develop this land, they will surely request a variance from me and they
will be required to build a fence or wall of their own. This demand is a hardship for nothing!

I understand that I have no right to adverse possession of FEC property. However, they could have simply sent a letter putting me on notice of the encroachment. It would have been legally sufficient. Why are they giving me a deadline and threatening legal action if I don't act within 60 days.

Please forward this letter to your Neighborhood Assoication and Community Leaders. A lot of people are in the same situation and I know they feel very threatened.

Thank You, 1-13-2014

23 comments:

Randy Gomez said...

Wow .all I can say is what has happened to our city is awful these companies feel as though they can come in and bulldoze through our neighborhoods and over crowd our communities and the sad thing is they get away with it , When will our politicians stand up to big development and say NO ! I sure hope it happens now ,all It's sad. I think it's time for our mayor and governor to get involved and say once and for all no to big development and no to harassment of these people who have spent their lives living in this community.

MD said...

The attorney representing the FECI stated in a community meeting "we are ready for a challenge and we have the power and resources to go through it all the way". I guess we are starting to see what that means. It is too unfortunate that the well being of a city and community, the future of a city would be sacrificed for the greediness of a few. It should also be stated that the company did not pay full property taxes for years, and that the land was donated to Flagler to establish transportation for the city (or improve the conditions for the community). I hope in this era of greedy, underhanded business man and lobbysts, good prevails.

Anonymous said...

So FECI should allow this property owner to encroach into their land? She's clearly, admittedly in the wrong yet her answer is "forget you, I'm not moving my fence." If she was my backyard neighbor, that fence would be taken down on day 61.

Latam said...

I have lived next To The trail for over 20 years and it was abandoned for the mayority of then. We cleaned debris, planted trees and provided illumination to prevent thiefs to use it in their benefit, as it happened in afternoon in 2001. FEC has been negligent with it upkeep for years, only when I found a possible profit opportunity from the abandoned land, it begun to maintain it.
They are bullies but zoning depends on impact to its neighbors and their neighborhood. We say NO to their plans.

bobbi bant said...

To correct "anonymous" (clearly an FECI rep. - only person who can't use their name) she did say "Of course, I will eventually remove the fence". It is all about the intended intimidation.
I have lived for 30 years abutting the trail. When my trees hung over many years ago, the maintenance/mover told me that he would pull down my legal fence. So the FEIC has a long history of intimidation.
My question is DID I DREAM THAT THERE WAS A BIG HOOPLA AND PROMISE FOR TRAILS FOR THE RAILS?

Anonymous said...

to whomever anonymously wrote the Fence comment I would ask you to read between the lines. This is not about fences it is about strong arm tactics that big companies use to come in and bully communities. These neighbors have been negotiating to try and purchase the property for months ,so to come in and demand that these fences be moved now when they have been there for decades is an unnecessary hardship on these families. They are supposed to be preparing for a charrette and this is their idea of community outreach .It is outrageous! As a matter of fact some of these fences are old rock fences that we think were put there by the railroad and others that are chain-link are intertwined with huge trees that are also decades old. I think she should challenge a survey that shows a two inch encroachment. I would ask that before someone makes judgement maybe stop and try and read between the lines at how these big developers use their power and money to destroy our neighborhoods .That's the real issue here

Steve Johnson said...

The deceptiveness and bullying tactics are what we all object to. FECI is about to enter a charrette process set up by the County Commission to supposedly show good faith efforts to involve our community in exactly how this proposed devlopment will effect local home owners. FECI has stated they want community input but these demand letters and threats simply display their true attitude. We are just a small obstacle to their plans to over develop the area and miss out on an oppurtunity of a life time, to have an iconic and world class Ludlam Trail! FECI has no actual plan to even build a "Trail" component. We respect FECI property rights and of course will comply with the law. We too, however, are private property owners and insist our rights are repected and that the character of our neighborhood and way of life is not infringed on. This large corporation has many lobbyists, top law firms etc. and ars used to getting their way easily. We are a group of home owners and our neighborhood association (Ludlam Trail Homeowners Association) is growing rapidly as word gets out about how unfair this whole process has been. We too are organized and will use whatever lawful means are available to ensure that at least some of our desires for input regarding future building plans are heard and an agreement is reached with FECI. 50/50 co-operation and good neighbor relationships could still be acheived.

Lisa V. said...

Thankyou Eye on Miami . As a community we had hoped the upcoming Charrette would be a positive move towards a better relationship with Fortress/Flager Development(FECI) . Our neighborhood association LTNA (ludlamtrailneighborhood.org ) and its volunteers have been relentless in reaching out to our leaders to negotiate the purchase of the Ludlam Corridor. To the extent that many homeowners have proposed putting up large sums of moneys to help facilitate the purchase of the land for the county . Yet despite this FECI seems to feel there best approach is to bully there way through the process. If money is there goal then why not get realistic about a price for this property that has sat there for over 30 years and sit down and work with the neighbors to facilitate the sale . This community deserves to have a place where children can ride there bikes without the threat of oncoming traffic. Somewhere where you can still see the horizon and walk through the beautifully preserved Pine Rocklands and just be with nature .We have even confirmed the existence of the endangered Bonnetted bat on this land. We have enough concrete structures in this city . When will the needs of the community finally win over the greed of big developers? Please help support our community by reaching out to our leaders and asking them to say NO to FECI and Yes to a Linear park for all to enjoy .

Alfred Prieto said...

I feel for the community but I fear they will have a tough time trying to get anywhere with these developers . After all remember a few years ago what happened to the Venetians ! And those homeowners had deep pockets ! Still the developers always seem to get there way . Its unfortunate. Maybe more people should pay attention to who they vote for !

Diana Iturralde said...

These developers started out on the wrong foot with the community, and now with these latest events, it proves to us that they have no intent whatsoever to keep the peace. They have told us, in person in many instances, that they are going to conduct more community outreach and what they turn around and do is the complete opposite. They NEVER had any intentions for helping the community. The support for the Ludlam Trail grows everyday and the truth of FEC's intentions is only becoming clearer.

Anonymous said...

You may want to contact a real estate attorney. You may indeed have an adverse possession claim.

Dana said...

Thanks to Eye on Miami for keeping FECI in the public eye. Yes, they may have the legal right to send out the demand letters. But they keep claiming that they are working in good faith with the neighbors. Simply not true. This is not in THEIR back yard, and so the only thing that matters to them is the bottom line, not quality of life nor conservation nor environmental impact. So disheartening to see such hard-hearted greed everywhere we turn.

MR said...

I have to wonder about the validity of having to remove a coral rock "fence" that has been there for at least 1958 according to neighbors. It's all about money not about the well-being of a community or the generations to follow. A linear park will outlive any concrete structure the put in its place.
MR

Jannette said...

I wana know why they get away with this ? Where are our leaders who are supposed to be looking out for us? Its aweful and makes me want to move out of Miami .

Anonymous said...

Corporations are not people. When will your elected officials started treating you better than corporations?

H.R. said...

when voters start paying attention to who they are voting for

H.R. said...

when voters start paying attention to who they are voting for

Anonymous said...

Along the FEC Corridor going north south from Downtown to Ft Lauderdale the FECI wants for All Aboard Florida, the FECI refuse to put up fences and they almost never cut their grass on their ROW. They went decades cutting the grass 1 time a year. Lately, under scrutiny, they cut more often. Pigs.

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The truth is that there are many adjoining landowners, NIMBYs, who have illegally taken land not theirs and will shortly rise up to find reason to blame the 'evil developer' for the sole purpose of keeping their ill-gotten gains, their paradise, for themselves. They are starting to get angry at the mere thought that anyone one of us unwashed masses may soon be bicycling through their back yard. How long will it be before we start to hear the mantra that the Ludlam Trail will bring itinerants and crime, loss of privacy?

My, my, my, they will be posting scenarios of 'those people on bikes' carrying off the televisions of innocent neighbors. Crime sprees and youth pregnancies.

Yes siree. I have to pull up a chair and watch this circus unfold.

Andre Vagliano said...

For what it is worth, my experience from development work in other parts of the country is that we are up against a particularly inept development team. To start harassing the neighbors with petty encroachment suits at this stage of the process would not be something an experienced team would ever want to do. It just enflames the opposition and generates public support for the the neighbors. But then again, when a development starts off by shooting itself in the foot, you never know what it might do!

Andre Vagliano said...

For what it is worth, my experience from development work in other parts of the country is that the neighbors are up against an remarkably inept development team. To start harassing the neighbors with petty encroachment suits at this stage of the process would not be something an experienced team would ever want to do. It just enflames the opposition and generates
public support for the "little guys." But then again,you never know what a developer might do when it starts out the battle by shooting itself in the foot!

Anonymous said...

You are right . I guess when better people run for office and the public actually researches and pays attention to who they are voting for .Until then these Miami Politicians will continue to support the big developers who finance there campaigns. Its really sad .

Anonymous said...

This sounds very familiar to what is happening at the calusa golf course. The greed of large corporations wanting to eat the little fish and destroy neighborhoods. It is happening all too often in Miami, where developers and large corporations control politics and local government.