SoBe Developer Sues Resident For Telling City He Was Violating Historic Codes

Categories: News
Courtesy of Andre Frings
This is all that remained of the building when Frings returned to South Beach.

When Andre Frings returned to his South Beach apartment from a trip to New York last December, his jaw dropped at what had happened to the historic building next door. The 1926 art deco edifice was completely gutted, the graceful façade gone. Frings suspected the developer had broken the Beach's historic preservation codes, so he filed a complaint. The city investigated and, sure enough, found that demolition had exceeded the scope of permits. The developer spent months making fixes.

Democracy at its finest, right? Not for Frings. Last month, the developer -- Brickell-based Jeffrey Schottenstein -- filed a lawsuit against the SoBe resident, seeking more than $15,000 for the egregious crime of reporting his problems to the city.

"It's ridiculous because I don't have any influence. I'm just a resident," Frings says. "All I did was write to the city about my concerns."

Andrew Hall, Schottenstein's attorney, says Frings was wrong to air his grievances when work was already underway. "Guys like this, they think they're smarter than everyone else," he says. "He doesn't care about the consequences of his actions."

Frings's attorney, Michael Schlesinger, has a different take on the suit. "It's a frivolous action brought solely to intimidate and punish [Frings]," he says.

Courtesy of Andre Frings

Frings, a 48-year-old New York native who's lived in South Beach for seven years, had always liked the shape of the building at 830 Fifth Street. So when he returned to find the building totally stripped, he emailed a Planning and Zoning official.

The city decided Frings's complaints had merit and ordered corrective work. At February's meeting of the Historic Preservation Board, members drafted a list of dozens of changes.

In June, Schottenstein struck back at Frings. His suit calls the resident an "officious intermeddler who acted vexatiously."

Frings says he's already out thousands of dollars in attorney fees. He hopes a judge will recognize the case as courtroom bullying.

"It's crazy, and no one from city hall has helped me at all," he says. "I thought this city was all about community participation and historic preservation."

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24 comments
DebraL
DebraL

Have your attorney look up the "Norr Pennington Doctrine" which protects a citizen from petitioning the government to redress wrong-doing by a third party.  Not only can you get damages, but attorney's fees and potentially sanctions against the plaintiff's lawyer.

dale
dale

A law biding citizen did his civic duty to uphold the rule of law.  The outcome is a unscrupilous dirt bag hiding behind his deep pockets to discourage anyones ability   to speak freely.  He wants to bully the rule of law cause he believes he stands above it!  Schottenstein should we say more

Craig Chester
Craig Chester

Jonathan - some states have anti-SLAPP suit legislation to prevent this sort of thing.

knas167
knas167

Way to go Frings! countersue that scumbag and get all of your legal fees and then some

Jay Lee Mendez
Jay Lee Mendez

wait a second, ur telling me they can burden u with a lawsuit to shut u up....what if you cant afford an attorney!?!?! This is absurd! Should the State, City help him out or something!?

Jay Lee Mendez
Jay Lee Mendez

wait a second, ur telling me they can burden u with a lawsuit to shut u up....what if you cant afford an attorney!?!?! This is absurd! Should the State, City help him out or something!?

Christian Fabian Robotti
Christian Fabian Robotti

As a South Florida Archaeologist, thesis LAUGHABLE. If the P.O or the State doesn't do anything about this, a counter suit is applicable.

Frank Castle
Frank Castle

that developer doesnt have a case anyway....he was just mad and did the lawsuit cause he got caught

Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal
Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal

Oh man: an "officious intermeddler who acted vexatiously" Craig Chester, this description fits you perfectly.

YouWereCaughtDummy
YouWereCaughtDummy

Wow, Schottenstein is a huge scumbag.   Hopefully Frings gets all his costs and then some back from that idiot.  

headlyw
headlyw

I am concerned about this for VERY personal reasons. On Friday I reported to the City of Miami that work was proceeding at the 120-year old E.W.F. Stirrup House in Coconut Grove without a posted building permit. Will developer Gino Falsetto, who controls the E.W.F. Stirrup House, sue me for reporting him?I have been trying to save this structure for the community, not to have it turned into a Chi Chi Bed & Breakfast.Please read about my efforts: http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/riptide/2012/08/complain_about_a_south_beach_d.phpThank you.Headly Westerfield

Jimbo99
Jimbo99

Agreed, if the developer overstepped the allowable permits, I'd countersue and go after what the costs are and more.

I'mTam Boyd
I'mTam Boyd

Why hasn't a judge,thrown this out of court! It was the right this to do!

xjahn
xjahn

Schottenstein's a jerk who probably shouldn't be allowed to develop anything else if this is how he responds when he's caught breaking the law.

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