Land use dispute: The impact of a $100 million condominium complex

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Client: Yale Properties International, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Summary: Media and strategic consulting to help resolve, in Yale’s favor, a long-term public dispute over its proposal for $100 million condominium tower
Result: Victory – in the public dispute, and in achieving an out-of-court settlement against those who incited the propaganda campaign

Contents

Background >

Yale recruited me to help solve the problem >

The results >

The presentation I created >



Background

Yale Properties International, a south Florida developer of upscale residential communities, wished to create “L’Ambiance Beach” (“LAB”), a 143-unit, $100 million condominium complex, on Ft. Lauderdale’s last available oceanfront property (at the north end of the Galt Ocean Mile, below).  YPI worked for approximately eighteen months with the neighboring buildings’ homeowners associations (“HOAs”) to ensure the design of LAB would be neighbor-friendly, and in conformity with all laws.

GaltMile-aerial

The Galt Ocean Mile in Ft. Lauderdale. The last available parcel of develop-able beachfront property was located at the north end of this strip of condo towers.

At the last minute, however, the boards of directors of the HOAs launched a fierce public opposition campaign against Yale, claiming that LAB:

  • Was in violation of legal provisions
  • Would obstruct their ocean views
  • Would cause a negative impact to their property values and lifestyles

The HOAs also claimed that an “as-of-right” building, which would be approximately the same size, shape and position on the site as neighboring buildings, would be a superior alternative.

Although all of these claims were demonstrably untrue, the elected officials comprising the Ft. Lauderdale City Commission bowed to the pressure and propaganda of these affluent, politically-influential HOAs, by repeatedly rejecting Yale’s construction permits, for more than two years. (It wasn’t discovered until later, during the final hearings – and with the aid of the presentation that I developed for Yale – that the HOA boards of directors had been unsuccessfully attempting to extract money from the developer.)



Yale recruited me to help solve the problem

Through an unusual combination of circumstances, I happened to meet the Yale president, and expressed my views as to why this dispute kept going on – and what would be required to help resolve it, in his favor. Against the advice of his counsel (as I had no experience in land use or legal matters), he retained me to provide Yale with a complete assessment of its situation, and make recommendations for improvement.

I began by analyzing Yale’s situation and all the media it had employed concerning this project, and was then tutored on the basics of local land use laws & zoning regulations.

My analysis and “crash course” in the specifics led me to two conclusions:

  • That the principles of the dispute were  simple enough for a child to understand – if it was explained properly to her, with high-end visual media.
  • That the most serious hindrance to Yale was that its team of attorneys, architects, engineers and public relations people had been waging this battle using (a) verbal and written media, and (b) overly-complicated blueprints and technical diagrams (example at right)

I recommended the following to Yale:

  • Creating extremely simple graphic “standards” showing the site under different development scenarios, to demonstrate why the this proposal would be the best alternative, regarding the rational interests of the neighboring homeowners associations
  • Obtaining photographic evidence that would support Yale’s positions and assertions
  • Integrating these materials into graphics and visualizations that would contain all the vital technical information to refute each of the erroneous charges being made by LAB’s opponents, but would be simple enough for a layperson to grasp, and retain in his memory.

The first task I defined, and completed, was to take the only aerial picture of the area, and turn it into an emulated three-dimensional depiction of the various buildings that could be constructed on the property in dispute.  This proved to be among the most contentious single elements of the resulting presentation – because it was the first time anyone had seen an easy-to-understand depiction of the reality, which obliterated the lies and myths that had been propagated about it:

LAB-aerial-1

This illustration was the first time the proposed $100 million condominium tower had ever been seen in 3D, positioned on the site, in scale and relationship to neighboring buildings.



The results

RESULT 1: With the aid of the presentation I created, and making certain concessions, Yale was granted its construction permits for LAB.  Yale credited my work with having a major impact in this long-sought victory (see letter here):

“Given the current anti-development climate, Yale and companies like it have, by necessity, engaged a variety of external specialists to make sure our projects are presented accurately, and in the most favorable light.

“[J]on has provided a variety of consulting services to Yale, primarily related to the design and development of overall strategic planning as well as graphics and copy used in our presentations to governmental agencies and the general public. [His] unique combination of creative research, analytical writing, graphic design and presentation development skills were successfully utilized in our communications programs, in achieving the governmental approvals we sought.

“Jon’s innovation, attention to detail, and ability to digest extremely complex/abstract legal provisions, concepts and arguments, and translate them into clear, impactive visualizations, were integral parts of our presentations.”

Morris Richter, President, Yale Properties International

RESULT 2: Yale sued the HOAs, and won an out-of-court settlement, thanks in part to a supplemental presentation I created.

Note: Based on the success of my work, Yale retained me to consult on an additional project: researching and developing litigation media to support its multimillion dollar breach-of-contract lawsuit against the neighboring HOAs.

The only media provided to me that ended up in the following presentation was one aerial photograph of the site (see top of this page), and several technical illustrations.  All other media was designed and created by me, in the course of this work.



The presentation I created

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PART 1: Establishing the first 3D visuals of LAB’s size and positioning on site, and its proximity to neighboring buildings — as contrasted to other suggested designs.

Note that on page 3 is Yale’s letter of recommendation regarding my impact on this dispute; on page 5 is an example of the “overly-complicated” technical diagram mentioned earlier:

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PART 2: Establishing a simple graphical “standard” atop which to build the truth of the matter.

The following graphics establish the fact that whereas LAB as proposed will preserve the neighboring HOAs’ ocean views (upon which most of the value of their condos are based), either of the alternatives that the HOAs claim they want will dramatically decrease their ocean views:

Yale Part 2 by jonsutz


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PART 3: Debunking the rest of the lies that the HOAs were telling about LAB.

The following graphics explode the myth that LAB was “out of scale” to neighboring buildings, and would be far closer to them than was the standard (one HOA official testified, under oath, that they’d be so close that residents on the balcony of his building could reach over and shake hands with neighbors in LAB, on their balcony).

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CONCLUSION: Closing Summary — demolishing the HOA’s key propaganda points.

Closing-summary

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