Downtown Historic Properties Endangered
April 15, 2009, 10:15 PM
Filed under: CRA Districts, Development, Downtown, Young Circle

April 15, 2009

Unless it takes action, our newly elected City Commission is about to be implicated in what was arguably the worst decision made by its predecessor:  taking a family’s property by eminent domain to make way for a huge private development on Young Circle.

Back in 2005, Hollywood’s Downtown CRA began the legal process of seizing the Mach family’s property in downtown Hollywood. The city’s justification:  eliminating slum and blight.  Does the well-maintained Mach building, which dates from the 1930s and houses four small businesses, look like your idea of “slum and blight”?

Why did the CRA want to TAKE the Mach’s property?  Because developer Chip Abele wanted to build a big condo tower named Young Circle Commons on the site of the historic Great Southern Hotel and he needed more space for his project.  No problem:  the CRA Board (aka the Hollywood City Commission) should seize the adjoining Mach property and give it to Mr. Abele.  That’s what the former City Commission agreed to do by a vote of 5-2. Does the new City Commission support this action? We strongly hope not, but we will see….

The Mach family challenged the city’s action in court and won, but under its former leadership, the city promptly appealed the trial court’s decision. On March 26, 2008, a three judge panel of the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the city.  Read the appeals court opinion here.   The Mach family is seeking to have the case re-heard before the full Fourth District Court of Appeals, and is willing to take the case to the Florida Supreme Court.

Young Circle Developer:  Chip Abele

While Mr. Abele continues to allow the historic Great Southern Hotel to deteriorate as the court case drags on, he is back before city staff with a second tower he wants to build on the other side of Young Circle;  the so-called 25-story Hollywood Circle tower – a project he appears to be rushing through the city staff approval process in preparation for appearances before the city’s Planning and Zoning and Development Review Boards and ultimately the City Commission..

Historic Preservation

While the legal case drags on, Mr. Abele has shown no respect for Hollywood’s old, historic hotel, one of the most endangered historical sites in the State of Florida, according to the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation.  He has allowed it to deteriorate continuously.  The irony here is that Mr. Abele’s Young Circle Commons was designed to “save” a portion of the hotel’s facade, and historic preservation became a purported justification for seizing the Mach property.  In fact the only reason for taking the Mach’s property is that Mr. Abele’s proposed project is too big for his site.  Instead of its rightful place at the entryway to Hollywood’s historic downtown, the Great Southern Hotel has become a monument to Mr. Abele’s over-reaching and neglect.

Now, the spotlight is on the new City Commission.  Will it put a stop to the Mach family’s nightmare?  Or will it continue on the same discredited course as the old Commission?  Commissioners Blattner, O’Sheehan, Asseff, and Sherwood were not on the City Commission when this eminent domain action was approved and Commissioner Furr, who was, voted against it.  So we have five out of seven elected officials who did not vote to give the Mach property to Chip Abele for his condo tower.  But they, too, will become tainted by this mess unless they find a way to STOP it.

The great majority of Hollywood residents do not want their government seizing private property to subsidize a private developer’s condo tower.  Indeed, because of the statewide outcry against this type of government action, it is no longer lawful in the State of Florida.  The only reason the Hollywood case continues is because our city began the process of taking the Mach property before the State Legislature outlawed the use of eminent domain for economic redevelopment.  But now that the Legislature has ruled, the city’s continued efforts to take this property are contrary to public policy.

What We Can Do

Hollywood residents should call or e-mail our elected officials and demand that they stop eminent domain against the Mach family once and for all.  The phone number to the City Commission office is:  954-921-3321.  Click here for e-mail. Be sure to include your signature (name and address).

For more information about this eminent domain case from the Mach family perspective — how it has affected their lives, their health, their time and energy, and their view of Hollywood city government — please e-mail David Mach directly for a copy of his article on the subject.   Since his family has experienced all this trouble from the city, David, who lives in Emerald Hills, has become an effective civic activist as well as an expert on the extent to which developers finance the election of city officials.

Comments Off on Downtown Historic Properties Endangered

Comments are closed.