Pending Downtown Developer Gets Hostile with City. Pursues $50K-Plus Public Records Request
With three of five elected officials publicly opposing 1,000 apartments in Margate’s pending city center, developer New Urban Communities has hired an attorney to become hostile with the City of Margate and its Community Redevelopment Agency. Counsel for New Urban, Mike Moskowitz, may be pursuing officials for alleged secrecy despite the trio’s pronounced public opposition to a development deal signed last July. ___________ The deal with New Urban Communities signed by CRA officials is flat out poorly negotiated, which is why on the campaign trail last year both Arlene Schwartz and Anthony Caggiano rallied against it. Their outspoken platforms were in large part why the people elected them. While walking neighborhoods the two found the majority of residents were against erecting nearly 1,000 apartments in the area of Margate Boulevard and State Road 7. The ratio of living units to commercial space in the proposed plan seemed unreasonable, and after selling city-owned parcels to developers for $10 million taxpayers would still foot the bill for a community center, amphitheater and parking garage - the cost of which could be upwards of $10 million or more, leaving taxpayers’ cash poor to the tune of $20 million plus. Additionally, land use laws permit few more than 500 apartment units in the downtown area sandwiched between Coconut Creek Parkway and Atlantic Boulevard.
“It is not what any of the citizens want,” Schwartz announced publicly during a candidate night prior to the election, adding that the original plan for restaurants and entertainment had turned into an abomination of rental units.
Prior to taking office as a city commissioner in November, Anthony Caggiano said no to the development deal when sitting on the Planning and Zoning Board. When hitting the campaign trail for city commission - a seat won by a large margin - the longtime Margate resident said the downtown plan as proposed would unleash unfathomable traffic congestion.
“The downtown: I would scrap it,” he said at candidate night. “We are looking at a situation where our streets and 441 are almost a parking lot now. We are guaranteeing a parking lot by putting in another 3000 cars.”
Mayor Tommy Ruzzano - in office since 2012 - said he never liked the deal numerous times during public meetings of the CRA. Ruzzano is Chairman of the CRA board. Meetings are available online to view by the general public. Enter New Urban Communities counsel Mike Moskowitz - a high paid legal “gun” with a reputation of getting parties to settle while earning big bucks. Neither Moskowitz nor New Urban Communities care what the people of Margate want. What they do want are 36-acres of land that cost Margate taxpayers $33 million for a discounted rate of $10 million - an absurd notion that commissioners Joanne Simone and Lesa Peerman are okay with. So were former commissioners Frank Talerico and Joyce Bryan before deciding to leave office last year. To make the proposed deal even worse, the project wouldn’t put property tax dollars in Margate coffers until the CRA expired in 2026. So Moskowitz has asked for all communications written and electronic from the personal and city cell phones, tablets, computers, social media and other means of communications in an attempt to learn if Ruzzano, Schwartz and Caggiano worked behind the scenes to rid Margate taxpayers of what amounts to the worst deal ever proposed for downtown Margate. He did not request same from Simone or Peerman, both who want to honor a deal that sells $30 million worth (tax-assessed) of taxpayer-owned land for $10 million. Conversely, Ruzzano, Schwartz and Caggiano want nothing less than fair market value for parcels ($30 million or more) - an amount that would go a long way toward needed repairs to city infrastructure, the construction of a community center, a dog park and gathering places that would improve quality of life for Margate residents and visitors. Moskowitz also requested the City of Margate and CRA produce documents, audio files, meeting backup and correspondence, all at a cost to New Urban Communities of around $50,000 according to Margate City Clerk, Joe Kavanagh. “If you anticipate that in order to satisfy this request ‘extensive use’ of information technology resources or extensive clerical or supervisory assistance as defined in Section 119.01 (1)(b), Fla. Stat., will be required, please provide a written estimate and justification,” wrote Moskowitz in his request. Kavanagh said costs are justified due to the extent of manpower and resources required to fulfill Moskowitz’s exorbitant records request. Florida statutes allow for it and staff time to ensure documents are correct will undoubtedly impact budgeted hours for the City Clerk’s Office.