Promise of a marina sinks condo boaters

Author:
Updated:
Original:

Robert Gross and his son, Russell, thought they had found the perfect spot for their 27-foot Formula — a marina on the Intracoastal Waterway in Hallandale Beach, Fla., that was to be built as part of a condominium complex called the Ocean Marine Yacht Club.

Robert Gross and his son, Russell, thought they had found the perfect spot for their 27-foot Formula — a marina on the Intracoastal Waterway in Hallandale Beach, Fla., that was to be built as part of a condominium complex called the Ocean Marine Yacht Club.

In the winter, the father and son would jet from New York City to Florida at least once a month to enjoy their boat in warm, sunny Florida while others in the Northeast battled the winter doldrums.

When Gross found out about the 28-story tower in 2004 he immediately put down a $60,000 deposit to buy a condominium and — more importantly — secure a slip for the Formula.

“I love boating in Florida,” says Gross, an eye surgeon on New York’s Long Island. “I could have bought [a condo] anywhere. I didn’t care about the condo. It was the marina.”

But there will be no marina. The developer, the Fifield Realty Corp. of Chicago, sent potential condominium owners a letter last fall saying that it failed to obtain the permits to build the 48-slip marina. Gross and others are enraged because they bought their condominiums for the sole purpose of getting an in-water slip — a hard commodity to find in Florida these days. (The 283 units sold out within three weeks of their offering to the public in late 2004.)

Gross and 22 others are part of a class action lawsuit filed last November claiming the developer should have disclosed to its buyers that the marina hinged on obtaining environmental permits — and that getting those permits would be difficult. Bottom line: They want their money back.

“What you have here is a consumer situation of people buying a product and not being given all of the details at the time they make their decision,” says Miami attorney Jared H. Beck, who is representing the buyers. He has asked the court to certify the suit as a class action on the basis that all buyers in the building have been harmed financially by the lack of a marina.

Phone calls to Fifield vice president Timothy Connelly were not returned. Connelly said in an article published in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that he was disappointed that the marina did not go through, but that Fifield did not promise a marina in the contracts that the buyers signed. Therefore, the buyers are not entitled to get their money back.

Buyers argue that they were inundated with literature that touted the marina and the boating lifestyle. “It’s called the ‘Ocean Marine Yacht Club,’ so what would you think?” says Danielle Morton, a Los Angeles resident who is part of the suit. “I feel like I was deceived. I don’t want the condo now.” Morton was scheduled to close on a $415,000, one-bedroom unit in late December. It never happened.

Morton faxed Soundings a copy of the literature. One portion says, “Set out for a nautical adventure from your slip in the private marina.” Promotional materials also show a pictorial rendering of the marina, showing vacant slips, the pool area and cabanas.

The suit also says the Web site for the Ocean Marine Yacht Club summarized the marina and its features: “You’re not imagining it — you can enjoy the privilege and convenience of docking your yacht at your doorstep. With direct access to the Intra-Coastal, on-site services and full-time dockhand assistance, a personal slip at Ocean Marine Yacht Club is a mariner’s dream.”

This information cannot be found on the Web site,

www.oceanmarineyachtclub.com , mentioning only the condo units and other amenities.

In its letter to buyers last fall, Fifield states that it was unable to retain permits from the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers. “Due to the presence of certain seagrasses in the marina area, we encountered opposition from the agencies for any marina use,” the letter states. “Given the current circumstances, we have determined to leave the existing configuration of the marina area and the peninsula for the time being, which allows the docking of 1-2 boats.”

Robert Gross continues to enjoy boating in Florida. He shipped his Formula to the SunshineState in September, a month before he learned about the marina’s demise.

“The bottom line is that I’m still boating,” says Gross, who keeps the Formula in dry-stack storage. “But I’m telling you, this has been a very frustrating situation. It takes me an hour to get to open water from where I am.”