influence has helped them get financing, cut red tape, and get several projects done quickly around the city. Galbut interests own a vast amount of real estate in Miami Beach via a web of companies. Miami-Dade County entered into various consent agreements with the United States after being sued by the federal government for failing to protect the environment. DERM, responsible for seeing that the stipulations are followed, issues so-called DERM permits, without which building officials are not supposed to issue construction permits. Yet, without the necessary DERM permit,
the City of Miami Beach issued “phased” permit
B1401637 for the declared $10.7 million renovation on January 9, 2014, good for six months, until July 8, at which time it may be renewed. A phased permit fee of $1,500 was paid. The so-called phased permit was issued against master permit B1400581, applied for on October 31, 2013, upon which a partial fee of only $7,409 was paid against a total fee of $33,995, leaving a balance due of $26,586. Incidentally, total permit fees must be paid before the master permit is
issued, according to the city’s website, although that has not been the practice, according to
David Weston, a certified fire inspector who said he uncovered untold millions in unpaid permit fees, and was subsequently fired. Weston had complained about gross under-valuations of projects when permit fees were based largely on project valuations. Now they are assessed largely on square footage although a portion of the fee collected is supposed to be paid out to governmental entities based on project valuations. I asked the Building Department for a list of phased permits issued. There was some delay in compiling it, apparently due to a coding issue. I sent the list over to DERM, and asked if the phased proje
cts had been permitted by DERM. I pointed out that the city’s public releases on
the prerequisites of phased permitting did not include the DERM permit as a specifically required item. Luis Espinoza, Communications Program Manager for DERM, informed me on March 5 that 17 of the 23 items listed had DERM approvals. The spreadsheet indicated that a DERM permit was actually denied for the Kaskades project on February 3. The reasons for the denial were: a drainage well permit was pending, a clarification was needed for the proposed uses associated with eating establishments, a Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Department (WASD) ordinance letter was pending, and a clarification of point of discharge of elevator sump pump was also needed.
The City of Miami Beach procedures should be revised to specify that DERM approval is required prior to the phase permit being issued. DERM will be contacting the City of Miami Beach to assure that the required DERM approval is listed as part of the Phased Permit process,