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Friday, October 11, 2013

Sellouts writing glowing letters

Scott Wessel, owner of Scotty's Landing, lives a charmed life. For so many years he didn't pay taxes on the properties (including the Grove Harbour Marina) and he got away with it. He never so much as put a coat of paint on Scotty's and don't get me started on the food. If it wasn't for the bay view, there would be no Scotty's Landing. Now he has made some sort of deal with Grove Bay, the developer of the Waterfront Project. Yesterday, Scott put out a letter, writing very glowingly of the project. Amazing, one day he is down and out and now he is in the game.

The promise to him was the Scotty's name will live on at the Waterfront Project and so will his staff. I really don't see either happening, I highly doubt Shula's Steakhouse is going to change their name to Scotty's Landing and I have never heard of a whole staff being hired at a new restaurant without applying for the job and going through training and most not making it.

But that doesn't matter. The issue is that now Grove Bay is paying off people in various ways, which, if it was an above board project, they would not have to do that. Reminds me of the neighborhoods being paid off in the Mercy project years ago. Same thing. Only that ended in a blaze of flames.

Keep an ear out for something from Shake-A-Leg Miami, word is that they have been offered something, too, for a glowing letter.

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36 Comments:

Blogger Headly Westerfield said...

Do I detect the stench of [allegedly] corrupt Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff in these backroom shenanigans?

A backroom deal is the same tactic played on the neighbourhood of West Grove when [allegedly] corrupt Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff was trying to get residents to sign off on Trolleygate. The $250,000 offer to clean up the toxic soil at Armbrister Field didn't come out of nowhere, doncha know? It was an attempt to pit one group of residents against another. Hi, Scotty's Landing!

However, in the end, the bribe for Armbrister Field wasn't needed because of more backroom City of Miami jiggery-pokery. Astor Development (the builder of the Trolleygate garage) was allowed to change its application to remove the word "maintenance" from it after someone in the Zoning Department noted the obvious: a maintenance garage was an industrial use which did not conform to the Miami 21 plan. They merely hid the pea and got their warrant.

Is it any wonder why the referendum question and the whole Grove Bay plan is couched in mere generalities? That's so it can be jiggery-poked in the backrooms so that the developers win again.

However, it's cute how the citizens of Coconut Grove think they have any say in any of these matters. Grove Bay is going to happen. It's going to happen because [allegedly] corrupt Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff wants it to happen and whatever [allegedly] corrupt Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff wants to happen, happens. See: Marc D. Sarnoff Memorial Dog Park, Marc D. Sarnoff Memorial Traffic Circle, earlier closing times for bars in The Grove, the Trolleygate garage, among other very public incidents in the Marc D. Sarnoff file. Who knows what has yet to be discovered among incidents that have yet to be made public?

October 11, 2013 9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aren't there three restaurants planned? I think logic would dictate that if Scotty's were to remain, it would be the casual restaurant not Shula's. Assuming that the employees would work for Shula's seems like a pretty stupid. This blog seems to be for Scotty's one day, then against Scotty's another day. I read one of your previous posts about how "this is a blog, it is biased" but some of your statements are lies. You seem to be grasping at anything to write about something.

I live in the grove and have been going to Scotty's for years before and after I was married. Now I go with my kids on the weekends. If Scotty's was able to strike a deal with the developer, I think that is great. Good for him. Where is this letter? I like the project and will vote yes on Nov. 5th. I drive by the site everyday and I think to myself, the grove and Miami deserves better. I think it will be awesome when the new park is done and across the way, three restaurants all on the water, all newly built and safe.

I love living in the grove but it has is larger share of haters and you are a hater

October 11, 2013 9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in the North Grove they can buy my vote for $50,000 as well !!!Tell them to contact me !

October 11, 2013 9:40 AM  
Blogger Grapevine said...

I have not been a fan of Scotty's for years. Not sure where you got that from. Have not eaten there since maybe 2007. And I have reported on and commented on his lack of paying taxes, etc. I am against it for the record.

October 11, 2013 9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ANON 9:40 AM You have a big mouth and spew at the writer of this blog when you can remain anonymous. no one is telling you to read this or to be nasty yet you are reading and commenting. too bad you don't have the balls to put your name like the Editor does of this blog. You are married with kids and this is what you want for your neighborhood? You must be really stupid!!

October 11, 2013 9:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wessel not only has Scotty's Landing. He also has the boatyard, and that boatyard has employees. Hopefully some of those people will get a job after working at the boatyard for so many years.
BTW, I got a letter for our county commish. Apparently, the people behind the boat garage at Matheson have dropped their bid. Funny how those same people are behind the new boatyard in the Grove now. Guess they'll concentrate on Matheson when they're done screwing us!

October 11, 2013 10:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/05/03/v-print/3378911/miami-stuck-with-135-million-property.html

Posted on Fri, May. 03, 2013
Miami stuck with $1.35 million property tax bill in Coconut Grove, vows to appeal
By CHARLES RABIN
The Miami Herald

The owner of popular Scotty’s Landing in Coconut Grove is off the hook for $1.35 million in back property taxes — but the city of Miami is now stuck with the bill, a judge ruled Friday.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Peter R. Lopez ruled after a hearing Friday that the city owes the money because its lease agreement with Scotty’s Landing — which operates on city-owned, water-front property — did not address taxes, thereby meaning Wessel did not have to pay them.
Lopez determined the city was liable for the back taxes to the county, but only for the five years between 2007 and 2011 because of the statute of limitations.
City Attorney Julie Bru said she plans to appeal the decision unless her bosses tell her otherwise.
“I don’t believe the statutory scheme the legislature has enacted provides for a mechanism that allows the county to treat the city as a taxpayer,” Bru said.
The city must now pony up $1.35 million in back taxes for the piece of Coconut Grove property adjacent to City Hall that it has leased out for decades, but which no one has paid taxes on since 1995.
The tangled web of who — if anyone — owed back taxes on the Grove Key Marina property began in July when county tax collector Fernando Casamayor wrote Scotty’s Landing owner Scott Wessel demanding taxes dating back to 1996, when he took over and assumed the lease for Grove Key Marina. Casamayor threatened to take away Scotty’s occupational license if Wessel didn’t pay.
Wessel sued to block the order. Casamayor then filed a counter suit, later amended to say the city of Miami might owe the money and leaving it for a judge to decide.
Friday, after a 90-minute hearing, Judge Lopez blamed the city for not addressing the issue in the lease and ordered it to pay the back taxes.
When the original lease with Grove Key Marina was signed in 1976, state law exempted for-profit businesses on municipal properties from paying property taxes. The original owner never paid, and neither did Wessel after he inherited the lease from neighboring Grove Key Marina in 1996. He had purchased Scotty’s Landing and re-christened the waterfront hideaway a few years earlier.
Grove Key Marina, a spit of land between Scotty’s and Miami City Hall, is a dock, boat storage and fueling facility.
Norman Segall, Wessel’s attorney, said he never doubted which way the judge would lean.
“The city loses the [property tax] exemption when property is used for non-governmental purposes,” he said.

October 11, 2013 11:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another blow to the Stop Grove Bay campaign, must be a conspiracy.

October 11, 2013 12:35 PM  
Anonymous Bruce said...

I do not like the Grove Bay plan. Even if I did, I would not trust the City Commission to hold developer to even the mid rise plan they presented. But the whole "Save Scotty's" campaign has disgusted me so much that I have stayed on the sidelines.

Scott Wessel has milked his lease for every last drop of profit since he took over Captain Dick's Tackle Shack. The extent of his investment in the property over 20 years has been a deck, an awning, and about a zillion crappy plastic tables and chairs that when even half full mean it's quicker to swim to No Name Harbour on Key Biscayne if you want a cold beer.

Captain Dick's had no food service, but if you were nice they would slap together a baloney sandwich with Holsum bread using the beer cooler as a counter. And when Scotty took over, the food went downhill and never recovered. The service, the food, the hygiene... AAAAAHHH!!! Downright scary -- year 'round -- not just at Halloween.

So now that Scotty has made his pact with the devil, can we stop venerating him? Let's refocus on making this about creating green space and access to the waterfront. Being true to Sasaki. Because if all everyone wants is to keep Scott Wessel running a waterfront casual restaurant, I would rather have a Shula's!

October 11, 2013 4:27 PM  
Blogger Michelle Niemeyer said...

The volume of misinformation about the lease referendum for the waterfront is shocking. So many of my friends and neighbors are blindly accepting overt lies without questioning them or taking the time to verify the facts. People who have personally invested and worked hard to build businesses in the Grove are being attacked for trying to do something to make our waterfront better for all of us. Anyone who disagrees is branded a "sellout." There is no room for discussion.

This RFP and project has nothing to do with Marc Sarnoff. The sad thing is because it's a really good plan, he has positioned himself to take credit for it. It's a good project for the Grove and for the City, and because of that he should support it, but really deserves no credit for it; the credit belongs to the bid team who created the plans. They have already invested a great deal in the project and have done a beautiful job of providing what the master plan called for in that area, but with more green space and, because Grove Harbour's owners are involved, a sharing of the boat launching facilities resulting in a safer and nicer experience along the water's edge that wouldn't be possible for anyone other bidder to accomplish.

A lot of people seem to be suspicious of the project JUST BECAUSE Marc Sarnoff is supporting it. It is a good plan that will vastly improve our waterfront. Don't kill the lease and the project because Marc recognizes it as a good plan and wants to take credit.

Scott Wessel recently wrote a letter confirming a deal that was made quite a while ago for the current employees of Scotty's and Grove Key Marina to continue to be employed by the new project. I'm sorry, Tom, but I hardly consider hiring the people currently employed on the site for jobs in the new restaurants and marina to be "paying people off." Would you rather they just can them all? I see that offer as a testament to the bidders' desire to do the right thing in the community, and to make good business decisions. It's good business to keep the servers people know and like, and the marina employees we have known for years. A lot of them are our neighbors. Sure, they may have to learn some new things working for a different employer, but how insulting for you to imply that they wouldn't make it through the training for a new restaurant job!

For the last ten years, I have been actively involved in the Grove and have seen one possibility after another killed by people who are afraid of change or don't want to see anyone else succeed. Meanwhile, the Grove stagnates. We love to bitch and whine about how bad things are, and reminisce about this embellished nirvana that the Grove never really was and most people in the Grove never experienced.

I've spent a vast amount of my time on the waterfront plan and have carefully considered the issues related to this project. It will be a great improvement, and I will be voting in favor of it.

October 11, 2013 4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not often I agree with Michelle.

But this post is excellent. You should make it a post of its own Tom.

JB

October 11, 2013 6:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Michelle. This is what we need more around here, some common sense.

October 11, 2013 7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michelle Niemeyer is wrong.. People aren't suspicious just because Sarnoff is behind this debacle..They are suspicious because Michelle Niemeyer is Behind it too!

Now we have Scott Weasel .. I wonder what the Weasal got?

October 11, 2013 7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom didn't win Best Gadfly 2010 from the Miami New Times for nothing, people.

October 11, 2013 7:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see why the editor keeps bashing this development and good change. I live in the grove on Mary st and can't wait to take my family there.

October 11, 2013 9:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey build a Trolly Garage on the water and put Scotty's and Shula's in the Trolly Garage space to settle all the issues.

October 11, 2013 11:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the picture in the archives in Grapevine of Michelle with Dusty Melton. Then Melton gave money to her campaign fund. Then Melton showed up at the RFP meeting last July at the Knight Center that was so hard to find that Ron Nelson had a hard time finding it. Now Michelle uses her position at the Village Council, an association started to represent the good people of Coconut Grove to have the politicians do what is right for us, not the developers, to promote an agenda that is pro-development.

On another note, if Michelle had dropped out of the commission race, wouldn't it be possible that Kate Callahan would be filling that seat instead of Sarnoff? Looks like Michelle is playing with the big boys now. By Michelle staying in that race assured a win for Sarnoff.

If Michelle thinks this is a good move for the Grove, maybe she should try living at the dock at Bayside for a while and get back to us. Maybe Dusty will stop by for a glass of wine!

October 12, 2013 6:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HAHAHAHAHA!!
Oh my! (tries to catch breath)
That's freaki' hilarious. Now one of the pro-project side's arguments for the project is "Don't worry, Sarnoff isn't really attached to this project, he's just trying to ride the coat tails of a successful idea"
Hey Marc, how does it feel to be thrown under the bus?

October 12, 2013 9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

has anyone put a timeline on this project? I doubt many of will be around by the time it is completed. There will be years of demolition, re-construction, traffic nightmares, noise and general disruption. How long will we be barred from using this area? Poor Bayshore Drive

October 12, 2013 10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grovites owe a debt of gratitude to Michelle Niemeyer, who has dedicated years of caring for Coconut Grove, attending meetings at the CGVC and Waterfront Board. She has extensive knowledge of the Sasaki Master Plan, understands the RFP and has reviewed all of the proposed projects from the first and second RFP submissions. She has been involved for several years and has made many contributions to help benefit our Grove and Waterfront. She did not just get involved one or two months ago like many of the folks that are so agitated but have invested little effort in understanding the Waterfront and have contributed nothing to improve it. Why didn’t those Grovites get involved long before the 11 ½ hour? Why didn’t they come up with investors, architectural design, win the support of the Planning Board, Waterfront Board, RFP Selection Committee, CGVC and Commissioners? I guess it’s just easier to gripe and sign an online petition. This Grove Harbour project is being championed by the same folks that brought us Fresh Market, a major asset to the Grove. I bet quite a few of the folks complaining about this project are grateful that Fresh Market refurbished those derelict Pan Am hangers that Manny Diaz wanted demolished. Let’s hope that the Grove Harbour investors don’t get discouraged by all the naysayers and continue to pursue this project. It would be a major loss to the Grove if they said they had enough aggravation and withdrew their project.

October 12, 2013 11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some community members who have been involved in the project are too emotionally attached to the design and are treating the project like it is their baby. Most Grovites are simply against blocking the waterfront. It is not unreasonable to redesign and add to the space currently occupied by Scotty's and Charthouse but adding a multistory parking garage with retail is a question no one can clearly answer or fathom.

October 12, 2013 6:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why doesn't anyone understand that the convention center parking is going away. It will all become part of the park. The parking garage will help replace all those lost parking spots and allow people to visit the park. The additional parking is needed unless you want it to end up like Kennedy Park with people parking on the street. The retail was going to be marine related stores just as the Sasaki plan called for. Michelle got up at the City commission meeting and, rightly so, asked that it be allowed to include services for the park. Like bicycle rentals and such. The retail in the garage is also going to help with the costs of maintaining it so that it doesn't fall into disrepair later. Michelle has worked tirelessly for this community and spent hours upon hours of her personal time going to meetings and learning about what is going on in our neighborhood. We would do well to listen to her and thank her. Unless any of you nay sayers wants to go to a City commission meeting, a waterfront board meeting or even a village council meeting. No, wait a minute. What am I saying? Let's have drinks at the Grove Spot, sing songs and hold up signs. Let's troll blog comments and make uniformed negative comments. That's how you bring about change in the community. Give me a break!!!

October 12, 2013 7:22 PM  
Blogger Brian Breslin said...

I wish you were required to use your name on comments on this site. so much hate gets thrown about from anonymous commenters aimed at other anonymous commenters. smh.

October 12, 2013 8:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Secede if you want change, no one trusts Miami.

October 12, 2013 9:51 PM  
Anonymous That Guy said...

I know Michelle, and I like Michelle, but I simply do not understand her trust of a completely undefined project. sure, a proposed plan was put together, but there is nothing in the approval by the commission or the upcoming referendum that would bind the developers to any particular plan. That is a problem.

Michelle, please admit that I am correct on this point. Once the referendum goes through, the developers can change the plan without the need for any public approval. In short, we are writing the commission, and these developers a blank check by voting yes.

For the record, something new is needed in this spot and has been for years, but not a project this size. Too big too fast.

October 14, 2013 11:23 AM  
Blogger Michelle Niemeyer said...

That Guy,

The Commission approval referenced and attached the lease. It is not an undefined project, as the lease was the result of an RFP defining the project and a response that describes what the leaseholder will build. Furthermore, the plans for the project will have to go through the Historical and Environmental Preservation Board, as it involves historically protected hangars. It will also need building permits.

The referendum allows the lease to be approved so it can get to those next steps.

What is not certain is what would happen if the referendum were NOT to pass. The Grove Key / Scotty's / Chart House lease ended in 2012. There have now been two RFP processes yielding some truly disturbing responses. Another RFP will result, and more responses, maybe. Or perhaps just more stagnation, since this experience isn't lost on other potential bidders and they may prefer to invest millions elsewhere.

Last, the parking garage and wraparound retail will probably happen with or without this project. It would just be developed by the MPA without the financial or management contribution of the tenant in the referendum.

October 14, 2013 12:24 PM  
Anonymous That Guy said...

Michelle, I appreciate your response. I do have concern that following the vote, the developers could provide an updated plan, which the commission could pass, allowing for any number of changes.

I guess I am concerned that the referendum isn't specific to this developer, this RFP, these handful of sketches that don't quite match one another, etc.

I am also disappointed that one proposal was made and accepted. I do not believe that only 1 developer was interested in this deal. Instead, it stinks of classic political hijinks, wherein others are told not to bother (and with the expense you can imagine why).

The commission should not have chosen from a group of 1 proposal, it should have been postponed or left open until a minimum number was submitted. Better yet, the referendum should allow the citizens to choose between multiple lessees, not just one.

October 14, 2013 3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All Grovites where aware that Scotty’s and Chart House lease were going to expire. Everyone knew there was an RFP last year and that 4-5 proposals where entered. One proposal won the approval of the RFP Board. I believe that Steve Kneapler (former Manager of Monty’s and recently chairman of the last RFP Selection Committee) was a partner in one of those proposals. But City Manager Johnny Martinez chose to veto the choice. He then bundled all three parcels which made it much more costly and challenging to participate in the new RFP this year. Two proposals where entered. One from a Mexican concern that was quickly withdrawn. The rumor has it that those investors did not wish to participate in a background search or perhaps provide accurate financial statements. So that left one submission. The City needs to generate more income and they feel that a new and exciting project will help to accomplish that. Wouldn’t it be great if all of the naysayers where willing to put their money where their mouth is? It’s just too bad that all the
naysayers could not combine their resources, find an architect that they liked and propose a project that would be like Scotty’s, only with better service, cheap booze, exciting food selection, but no increase in price? What are the chances?

October 14, 2013 10:03 PM  
Anonymous That Guy said...

PS. I just wanted to thank Michelle for thoughtful discourse. I appreciate it, and I think these comments could be more productive by following a more respectful sense of decorum and tone.

For Anon @ 10:03. You make good points as to why the game was rigged by the city from jump street. Instead of accepting proposals for 3 separate parcels and/or one giant mall, the city rejected them all, and provided an exceedingly short window for an all encompassing giant mall proposal only. The result was 1 proposal. I would love to have tried to put something together, but unless you already had a design and financing lined up prior to the first rejection of all proposals, it was a true impossibility to get it all together in time. That's why what we are left with is a mall that was going to go somewhere, and does not appear designed for this purpose, space, or community.

October 15, 2013 10:34 AM  
Blogger Michelle Niemeyer said...

That Guy,

I wanted to check my facts before responding to your post yesterday. The referendum has a strict limitation to how long it can be, as in amount of space it can take on the ballot. It references the lease, which in turn attaches the RFP response. The lease references the RFP response as to what is to be built, subject to permit approvals, etc.

The project will have to go by the HEP board, as it involves restoration of the historic hangars, which is a public forum. There may be tweaking of the details, but the RFP response defines the project.

October 15, 2013 11:26 AM  
Anonymous That Guy said...

Well, my reading of the ballot does not actually contain a "reference" and certainly not an incorporation of any lease. Instead I read it plainly, wherein it states: Shall the City be authorized to lease approximately 7 acres of waterfront and submerged lands in Coconut Grove to Grove Bay Investment Group, LLC, providing for..." The only provisions are for dollar amounts for rent and improvements to the marina, baywalk, a park and to partially fund a garage.

In short, the referendum, and any approval thereon, does not appear to be bound to the RFP or anything else. The city certainly has not, in my opinion, bound itself to do so. Has there been any formal representation by the city or a city attorney opinion otherwise?

Regardless, I do agree that other processes should provide some protection, but I simply don't like the idea of what I see as a blind vote.

October 15, 2013 4:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re. That Guy said...
Inquiring to other commenters on a Blog is hardly the best way to obtain accurate information. If you have serious concerns, you may wish to consider addressing them to the City of Miami Manager and or City Attorney. Otherwise, it’s just the blind leading the blind!

October 15, 2013 6:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom can I suggest an alert system for times when Center Grove Mafia is at heightened activity.

October 15, 2013 7:47 PM  
Blogger Michelle Niemeyer said...

That Guy:

See the legislation at the attached link:

http://egov.ci.miami.fl.us/Legistarweb/Attachments/72302.pdf

In section 3(c) it requires the proposer to "construct improvements to the property as specified in its proposal and pursuant to the provisions of the RFP."

The referendum is to approve the lease approved through that legislation.

October 16, 2013 10:40 AM  
Anonymous That Guy said...

Thanks for the link Michelle.

For Anon@ 6:00pm. Shhh, grownups are talking. While I hate to appear hypocritically dismissive of you after my previous statements about respectful discourse, your comment invited it.

October 16, 2013 12:21 PM  
Anonymous captdick said...

To Bruce,
I am Capt Dick's
daughter and would like to correct your statement. Capt Dick's served pita sandwiches, lobster salad, conch salad, smoked fish, smoked fish spread, hot dogs, chili dogs, and more. Baloney was never on our menu! Speak from facts, not from ignorance. My Father built that place, my handprints are in the concrete under it, are yours?
Have a little class, and never speak ill of the deceased. But do know, that I am here to protect the reputation of Capt Dick's which was a thriving business @@@
Good day readers. I know the true meaning of that site, little others do.

October 21, 2013 6:09 AM  

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