Jan 23, 2024 - News

Village of Bal Harbour sued by mall owner in Live Local Act development dispute

A rendering shows the proposed expansion of Bal Harbour Shops in the foreground, with new towers to house residential and hotel units. Photo: Courtesy of Whitman Family Development

Bal Harbour Shops is suing the village of Bal Harbour over local officials' efforts to derail the Shops' proposal to build a new hotel and residential complex at the luxury mall.

  • The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, accuses the village of violating the Live Local Act, a 2023 law that gives developers more rights and the ability to bypass city council votes when building affordable housing.

Why it matters: This is the first time a developer has asked a court to enforce the Live Local Act against a municipality's wishes, according to the mall's attorneys.

Catch up fast: The lawsuit comes a week after the village council voted to consider suspending all new development in an effort to stop the project from moving forward.

  • After that vote, Mayor Jeffrey Freimark told residents that the fight was headed to court.
  • Matthew Whitman Lazenby, president and CEO of mall owner Whitman Family Development, also threatened litigation against the village.

Context: The development, proposed earlier this month, has faced consistent pushback from residents and local officials who say it will worsen traffic congestion.

  • The plan, which seeks to override local zoning rules, calls for 600 "high-end" residential units, 70 hotel rooms and more than 45,000 square feet of additional retail space. It would rise about five times higher than local height restrictions allow.
  • Forty percent of the residential units in the development are to be income-restricted "workforce housing," the minimum threshold under the new law.
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