Will a public pathway end up costing Hollywood condo owners to have it reopened?

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – A beachside battle continues in Hollywood. As we first reported earlier in May, a public pathway on North Beach remains closed, shut down by an adjacent condo association.

The association is in violation of city code for blocking a public right of way. Now the question is, when will the public path reopen?

The attorney for Renaissance on the Ocean said the plan is to reopen the path as soon as it is safe to do so. They are working to assess outstanding matters that must be completed for the safe re-opening of the path. But we haven’t seen work being done and the danger doesn’t seem visible. Meanwhile, the public is getting more and more frustrated with no end in sight.

“What right do they have to deny access to the public?”, bike rider Steve Sher wondered. We asked him how often he rides in this area and he tells us almost every day.

The fencing, the danger, and the warning signs remain up, blocking the public beach side of the pathway directly behind Renaissance on the Ocean.

The path is City of Hollywood right of way. It’s supposed to allow the public to get from Surf Road over to Dania Beach instead of having to go out onto busy A1A. But it’s been closed off since last year.

“It doesn’t look like they are doing any kind of work,” said biker Nick Kirkland. “It seems like they are trying to keep people out,” he says.

Yet, while the public is blocked we continue to see Renaissance residents walk right by the danger signs and use the path as their private pathway to and from their condos.

We stop a resident using the path to ask about who gets to use the path.

“It is supposed to be dangerous and closed?”

“Well, I live in the building, so it is the only way to come out,” the resident told us.

“So, the public can’t use it, but residents can?”

The resident said: “I think the public can use it, actually.”

“They haven’t told you not to use the path in the building at all?

The resident said, “Not that i am aware of.”

We confront another resident on the path. “It says the path is dangerous and you are not supposed to use it.”

“I live here,” the resident told us.

“Oh, so people who live here can use the path?”

“No. No one is supposed to use the path,” the resident said.

“But you are?”

“Shhhhh,” the resident replied.

The signs and the fencing were put up by the condo’s association. They claim the pathway is dangerous due to erosion problems while this is public right of way. As we reported previously, it is part of an agreement to build the condo right on the beach.

Back in 1995, the developer agreed that Renaissance on the Ocean would maintain the public path. Now, years later, repairs are costly and likely will be continuous.

Engineers need to be brought in, dunes possibly rebuilt. There will most likely be strict Department of Environmental Protection and Army Corps of Engineer Rules and permitting must be followed.

Some legal experts say having to maintain the public pathway puts an unfair burden on condo owners and that the agreement with the city was with the developer.

We asked experts in condo law who are not involved in this issue their opinions about what could happen.

Attorney Jason Gordon said the owners are “in a real bind.”

And Attorney Ken Direktor said: “The owners all bought with notice of these easements. If they looked at the documents.”

“This is what they got from the developer,” Gordon said. “They have no choice in it.”

Maintaining the public pathway comes with another financial burden: Serious liability issues for the condo owners.

“It can be expensive and it can bring risks of liability if someone is injured on the easement property,” Direktor cautioned.

“If you have a building with 80 units, those 80 units are not responsible. Being sued for significant amounts of money and having to pay to defend it or have their insurance companies step in where now the deductibles go up,” Gordon added.

Which is exactly what happened down the street at Positano. They also have an agreement with the city to maintain public right of way: A path on the north side and a roadway and lighting on the south side.

So, when someone apparently fell on the path, they sued the Positano Condo Association even though it’s city right of way. There is talk that the Positano Association may go back to the city and ask them to be released of the liability. Ironically, Hollywood’s former mayor Mara Giulianti lives in the Positano. She signed the agreement as mayor with the developer of Renaissance, but now that she’s a resident living in the Positano, she has a different perspective, a source told us.

As far as the Renaissance and in Gordon’s opinion: “That is not a liability a city wants to take on at this point and they are going to point to the agreement does with the developer done years ago and say. ‘You gave us the right of way. We agreed to give you the building. We never said we were going to defend you or take responsibility. We have no obligation to do it now.’ "

What we know is that next week the city attorney and an attorney for the Renaissance will meet behind closed doors to discuss the issue.

The city of Hollywood is taking Renaissance in front of a special magistrate on June 9 for code violations.

What we don’t know is when this path will actually open..

About the Author:

Jeff Weinsier joined Local 10 News in September 1994. He is currently an investigative reporter for Local 10. He is also responsible for the very popular Dirty Dining segments.