Riviera Country Club Representative Threatens Commission And Antagonizes Residents In Attempt To “Go Cheap” On Pavers Avoid Liability

Ariel Fernandez

Founder & Editor
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At the Tuesday, March 29th City Commission meeting, the issue of pavers outside the Riviera Country Club on Blue Road was once again addressed by the City Commission. As Gables Insider previously reported, the Riviera Country Club is seeking to change their initial plans for placing pavers connecting the driveway to their parking lot across Blue Road and the sidewalk to asphalt and simple concrete.

At the March 8th City Commission meeting, the Club sent an attorney to speak on their behalf who advocated for changes due to the cost the Club would have to incur. The Club recently completed a $37 million clubhouse for its members, which was part of the same plan. This time, their arguments were different.

The representative of the Club, attorney John Lukacs, tried to blame City staff for the need to make this change from pavers to asphalt. He explained that if the Club placed the pavers, the County would require that the pavers be maintained by the City. He was upset that the City was trying to hold the Club to their development agreement, which they willingly agreed to in 2016.

He threatened the Commission by stating that if the City forced them to hold up their end of the bargain, they would force the City to uphold the County’s requirement. He added that an undue burden was being placed on the Club by the City by requiring the Club hold up its end of the agreement. He also stated that the Club does not want to assume the legal liability for the pavers.

The City Manager explained that the City normally operates with agreements such as these where the City agrees with the County to maintain and passes through the responsibility to the holder of the development agreement. The Mayor explained one example was the Agave project, which operates this way. This was corroborated by the City’s Public Works Director Hermes Diaz. The City even requires that residents who place pavers in the swale portion of their driveways sign hold harmless agreements with the City.

Lukacs implied the City has been unreasonable throughout the process. However, the Mayor asked the Development Services Director, Suramy Cabrera, how many Temporary Certificates of Occupancy (TCO) have been issued to the Club since they opened in December of 2018, and she explained several have been issued. Something, as the Mayor stated, does not normally happen. Without the TCO, the Club would not be allowed to operate, as it is not eligible for a Certificate of Occupancy until the full scope of the work is completed.

The Club representative called the Commission disingenuous. However, as Vice Mayor Michael Mena pointed out, the Club was the one that made the initial request in its plans to have pavers on the road. This was not the City’s request, it was the Club’s request.

At several instances, Lukacs was forceful and antagonistic. He even tried to take control of the meeting telling the Mayor and Commissioners that it was not their turn to speak and that he would finish his comments before they could speak.

During public comment on the issue, resident Maria Cruz who resides near the Club, brought up a point that irritated Lukacs. She explained that the Club had reached a development agreement with all the set conditions, including the pavers on Blue Road. Following the Club’s completion of the clubhouse, they had decided that they did not want to move forward with the pavers and wanted the City to let them off the hook. She explained that if the pavers were not enforced, the entire clubhouse should be demolished, as the project was approved as a whole and not in parts.

Following Cruz’s comments, Lukacs went after Cruz, asking why she emailed the County about this issue. The Mayor explained, with the concurrence of members of the Commission, that Cruz has been an active resident for years on issues in many areas in the City. In this case, she is a resident in the area. Cruz is one of the City’s most active and vocal residents.

Commissioner Rhonda Anderson also chimed in on this point and stated that the time to request the change was when the original plans were approved not now.

Architect Robert Behar, a member of the City’s Planning and Zoning Board who was at City Hall to address another issue, asked to speak and confirmed to the Commission that the Planning and Zoning Board at the time had requested the pavers be included in the project, as a condition for the approval of the entire project.

Lukacs then went after Behar asking him who had asked him to be present to speak and why he was there. The Mayor addressed the point, stating that Behar had asked the Mayor if he could speak to clear any doubts on the issue.

City Attorney Miriam Soler Ramos almost gave the Club what they wanted, by providing confusing counsel to the Commission. A motion was made and she recommended it be amended to include the changes to the pavers. City Manager Peter Iglesias had to step in and correct her, in order to prevent the Commission voting to approve the change.

In the end, the Commission upheld the requirement to place the pavers and asked the Club to begin work as soon as possible to complete the project, which has been pending for over three years.

Questions of liability have also come to light on other issues. In August of 2021, a patron of the country club drove her car through a fence in the elevated valet area of the clubhouse and plunged 12 feet onto a golf cart parked in the driveway on the first floor. Luckily, the driver and passenger of the car only received minor injuries and no one was on the golf cart at the time. However, the safety of the design of the driveway have come into question, as have the quality of the materials used in the fencing around the valet. Gables Insider is investigating the issue.


17 thoughts on “Riviera Country Club Representative Threatens Commission And Antagonizes Residents In Attempt To “Go Cheap” On Pavers Avoid Liability

  1. Blue Road has been in horrific condition now for how many years, surrounding the RCC? The rest of the road hasn’t been nearly as torn up, muddy and axle bending as that particular stretch. I see no reason for the City to change course after all this time. I assume those that entered into the negation as in the first place are all card-carrying adults…
    I suppose we will continue to have crappy road conditions thanks to an entitled bunch of folks who are members of a very exclusive club. And, nope, I’m not a joiner so I don’t give a damn about the club until it impacts other residents in their daily lives, year after year.

  2. Upset by neighbors negative comments regarding City Manager Peter Iglesias. Per Ariel’s article he saved the day, before the vote. Poor reading comprehension, probably poor SAT scores to match from rancorous readers. Kudos to Engineer Pete!

  3. When you throw out the commissioners, you also throw out the City Manager, the City Attorney, and the Director of the Planning and Zoning Board. Add Bob Behar, too.

  4. A long, unpaid vacation for the City Manager, Peter Iglesias, the City Attorney, Miriam Ramos, and
    the head of the Planning Board, Ramon Arias.

    We wont miss you.

  5. The Riviera Country Club is “exclusive” for crybabies and going cheap.

  6. City needs to clean house, starting with City Attorney and City Manager. However, it won’t be happening organically. These 2 are carrying the water for the Mayor and certain Commissioners. Whenever these egregious “mistakes” are made by the duo, someone stands to benefit.

  7. Out with the leftover City Manager, the City Attorney & Mr. Trias, after his Biltmore Way “mistake” he should be “out of there”. Let’s clean City Hall of leftovers!!!!!!!!!!
    Riviera Country Club should deliver what was agreed upon and let the members enjoy their beautiful new Club. No I am NOT a Member!!!!!

  8. Carlos is correct. Mayor Lago is NOT a strong mayor. Indeed he is ONE vote of FIVE. In this case, ALL FIVE commissioners agreed and voted to uphold the club for what they proposed to begin with. What is the point of pointing out Lago is not a strong mayor ?? I’m sure the club was not built without any variances and items such as these pavers serve to proffer something in return for the betterment of the surrounding community and city as whole. GOOD JOB COMMISSIONERS!

  9. Only half the story, the city is pushing something that they do not have in writing. The only thing that is in question is the maintenance of the pavers. They already agreed to do the work they just don’t want to have the maintenance contact forced upon them. The Mayor and City manager used false information to push the issue. The Mayor stated that architectural pavers are a calming tool. Trying to imply it is a safety matter. Then basically forced the public works director to state the same false information un oath. FDOT guidelines specifically states it they do not. 226.1 FDOT design manual clearly states decorative pavers are not a traffic calming measure alone. The other issue is that the city is so incompetent that they sign an agreement that does not clearly state that maintenance is required they have to grandstand and continue to say it is implied. That is a failure on their part. Something of that magnitude should never be implied. We continue to see these things from this group, mainly the Mayor, who is not a strong mayor meaning his vote is the same as everyone on the Commission, and the City Manager who continues to enter in to contacts and agreements that place The city beautiful in jeopardy of law suits. How do we continue to keep him around?

  10. City attorney Miriam Ramos again showed she is for special interests and not for the community.
    She was in favor of helping the “exclusive” Riviera Country Club and in favor of concealing
    unsolicited bids.

    Get rid of her!

  11. The Westbound lane in front of Riviera is in horrific shape. When will that be finally fixed?

  12. Anyone have concerns about the City Attorney? A judge found that the WAWA deal she drafted was illegal. She provided “confusing counsel” to the Commission that would have given Riviera what it wanted. Where there is smoke …..

  13. It sounds like the city attorney is not a very good attorney. Perhaps the city should look for a replacement. The residents of the City of Coral Gables deserves better.

  14. Maybe the city should revoke the TCO until the club comes into compliance.

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