Oceanside Marina: It’s Getting Worse…
by Naja Girard…….
The cloud over the new Oceanside Marina hotel is getting darker.
For months questions have been lingering about the appearance of a luxury 175-room hotel on Stock Island when only 17 hotel building rights (called “transient ROGO’s”) were on file for the project (instead of 175). Well, things just got worse. There is good reason, this week, to question whether 12 of those lone 17 transient (hotel) ROGO’s even existed or whether they were created out of thin air using false documents.
It is a bizarre story, where Oceanside Marina becomes tangled with another Pritam Singh development: Hawks Cay Resort, completed in 2004, on Duck Key.
When Pritam Singh bought Oceanside Marina in June of 2013 it was a failed development. By November of that year Singh’s new project was already moving smoothly through the County’s development approval process. There was no talk of a gigantic hotel at the time, only of single family condominiums. The “hotel” itself existed solely as a modest 17-room section in some corner of one of the 4 large buildings to be constructed.
So, the mystery was: How did we end up with a 175-room hotel?
SEE RELATED: Oceanside Marina: Bait and Switch
When searching for answers in County records, one meeting in particular was perplexing. On November 19, 2014, the Planning Commission was listening to Mr. Singh explain why 12 “bedrooms” he had chosen not to build 13 years ago in units at Hawk’s Cay Village should transform into the right to build 12 new “hotel rooms” at Oceanside.
If the reader feels lost at this point don’t worry, the Commissioners shared your confusion. “We’re talking villas at Hawk’s Cay. We’re not talking hotel rooms,” interjected William Wiatt, the Planning Commission Chairman, “We’re talking about privately owned vacation rentals.”
“Are we winging this?” asked Commissioner Ron Miller in response to a convoluted explanation by the County’s lawyers. But in the end, the Planning Department bureaucrat, in a monotone voice, assured the commissioners that staff had “verified” (Mr. Singh’s claim) that the previously permitted 12 bedrooms [now known as transferable “hotel room vested rights”] had not been built. “My rights… My vested rights,” repeated the animated Mr. Singh. And the County recognized the 12 controversial “hotel room vested rights” ROGO exemptions.
Now this is the part where we double-check the claims made during that hearing.
The Blue Paper requested copies of all emails exchanged at the County level that had anything to do with the new Oceanside Marina development. There were 5376 emails to comb through. One of them included a list that Mr. Singh’s attorney, Barton Smith, had provided to the County: It showed all the units built by Mr. Singh at Hawk’s Cay with specific addresses along with the corresponding number of bedrooms for each. That list turned out to be false.
At first glance it appeared to conclusively confirm the statements made, under oath, by Mr. Singh during the public hearing: Almost all of the units were 2-bedroom and only 600 bedrooms had been built whereas 614 had been permitted. A signed affidavit swore to the truthfulness of those numbers.
The problem was when we cross-referenced each specific address with the Monroe County Property Appraiser’s records we found that 23 of the addresses listed as 2-bedroom homes by Mr. Singh were described by the Property Appraiser as 3-bedroom units. For the addresses of 2 Hawk’s Cay homes reported in Singh’s list as 2-bedroom units, the Property Appraiser described them as 4-bedroom units.
We also found a website called duckkeyonline.com that maintains historical data regarding the sale of the homes at Hawk’s Cay. There we found that many units reported as having only 2 bedrooms by Mr. Singh had been sold over the years as 3-bedroom units.
From there we tracked down the actual advertisements describing those purported “2- bedroom” units as 3-bedroom units, with each bedroom duly photographed in the most advantageous lighting for the benefit of potential buyers. In fact, we found 44 ads describing homes listed by the developer as having only 2 bedrooms had been advertised for sale as 3 or 4 bedroom units.
For example, 7402 Marina Terrace located in “Sanctuary Village” at Hawk’s Cay is described as a 2-bedroom unit in the document provided by Mr. Singh, but on the Property Appraiser’s website it appears as a 1,760 sf villa with 4 bedrooms. The unit was also advertised as a 4-bedroom waterfront executive villa listed for sale at $699,000 in April of 2016 on villageathawkscayrealestatesales.com. The ad provides a photo of each of the four bedrooms.
In fact, when we were done painstakingly cross-referencing all of the units built at Singh’s Hawk’s Cay with web advertising and government records we found that rather than having leftover “un-built bedrooms,” Mr. Singh appears to have built well in excess of the 614 bedrooms that had been permitted by the County.
Did we mention that Mr. Singh had also sold some of his leftover “vested bedroom rights” to private people? Well he did. What would be the status of those transactions if the “vested bedroom rights” did not in fact exist?
Only an onsite physical inspection of the 275 villas built by Singh could provide the exact number, but from what we have found so far in the available records it appears there could be more than 50 un-permitted bedrooms at Pritam Singh’s Hawk’s Cay development.
Obviously, The Blue Paper has only limited resources to investigate such intricate issues, there is however undeniably a legitimate question as to the validity of 12 of the 17 “hotel ROGO’s” the County allowed Mr. Singh to transfer to Oceanside Marina.
Transient ROGO’s in Monroe County are currently listed for sale for $95,000 each. If our numbers are correct, the cumulative benefit of the creative documentation of 12 imaginary transient ROGO’s would add up to a value of $1,140,000.
The November 19, 2014 hearing before the Planning Commission qualified as “quasi judicial.” On the video record Mr. Singh is seen being sworn in by a county attorney, enjoined to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
At press time over 100 people [on Facebook] have called for an independent investigation of the Oceanside Marina development.
How to contact Monroe County County Commissioners: http://www.monroecounty-fl.gov/index.aspx?NID=27
Note: This article was updated on Jan 21st, 2017. The following sentence was added: “In fact, we found 44 ads describing homes listed by the developer as having only 2 bedrooms had been advertised for sale as 3 or 4 bedroom units.”
17 thoughts on “Oceanside Marina: It’s Getting Worse…”
Well further down in this issue is an article :
” Pritam Singh’s “Ocean’s Edge Key West Hotel & Marina” [Stock Island’s new controversial 175-room hotel resort] reportedly belongs to famed hip-hop artist Kanye West. At least that’s what one online travel site is claiming…”
Key West and the Kardashians? Oh Noooo!!!!
I don’t do Facebook, but add me to that list. Outstanding research. I nominate this as the second crookedest thing to have happened in Keys politics (after the destruction of SUFA) in my 20 years in the Keys.
Well said. The SUFA chicanery was beyond reprehensible and should never be forgotten.
Routing a sewer line from Big Pine Key to Little Palm Island — through the Coupon Bight Aquatic Preserve — should be on your and everyone’s radar. You may well change your ranking if it is completed as originally proposed.
Point well taken, Pelican. I got a bit involved against the grinder pumps, but down here at the end with our double-sized treatment plant we are only dimly aware of your travails mid-Keys. Definitely not only a threat to second place, but might be–gasp!–worse than SUFA in total money and number of people hurt.
If Pritim’s lips are moving …
A second opinion, indeed!
Call the STATE ATTORNEY!!!
The foul deed –
This here bewitching be looking kinda like
the Wisteria Island and Charles Eimers
Pulitzer spelling bees!!!
— Sloan Bashinsky
Even by Key West standards, the chicanery at Oceanside is beyond outrageous. The stench from the Planning Commission meeting continues like a foul smell blanketing the breadth of the entire Keys. Like third-rate magicians in a backwoods town, the developer and his attorney bamboozled the Planning Commission.
The investigation by the Blue Paper is beyond impressive and once again provides a shining example to other Keys newspapers why independent journalism is so desperately needed.
Now that the bald facts have been presented, let’s hope that the issue is revisited, the Planning Commission decision rescinded, the County Commissioners stand tall and are not feckless, and prosecution, where warranted, is swift.
“Like third-rate magicians in a backwoods town, the developer and his attorney bamboozled the Planning Commission”
This bamboozling keeps going on with this attorney…with help from the Planning Dept Supervisor. It is pretty amazing to watch, if Barton is involved the chances a re VERY good its a slick move and not at all in the best interest of the citizens of Monroe County. Hopefully our new State Attorney will start and investigation into his law firm and the County Planning Dept.
The State Attorney’s investigation should start with Pritam Singh, the slickest of all slick movers, who, according to the blue paper article, (in my opinion) committed perjuries in getting this deal approved by the county government. The lawyer Barton Smith works for Pritam, and, it seems, so do the county staff and the county commissioners. Perhaps only as unwitting stooges, But, darn, county staff and the county commissioners knew who was running this development. Pritam Singh. And they knew his reputation. Res ipsa loquitur (the thing speaks for itself). –Sloan Bashinsky
Wonderful journalism going on here but dang it’s complicated what they are up to. But the Blue will get it all out there. Thanks Martha
Well! This is great information – I put something in the pot, to help a little.
Much work and research…you and yours is the best!
Now to the next scandal, for this report is so good/important it will be dropped
like all the last scandals over the last few years.
If something is done? I will donate more to the cause…I have been waiting
for some agency or Commissioner to do something for the people…
This could be the first/start???
I really appreciate the precedent this all sets. None of the rest of us need to spend money on expensive lawyers. We can no refer to the Duck Key and Oceanside examples. From now on everyone can:
#1 – Put up a fence that both blocks visual access to anything we build and restricts access to only those who we allow
#2 – Build whatever we want.
#3 – Have it all inspected and approved, but in the off chance that the inspector doesn’t accept outright bribes, then we can pay an insignificant fine and continue business as usual since we will never be required to tear it all down.
#4 – Sell for a huge profit within a year.
#5 – Repeat.
Watch out Bubbas – someone has found your play book!
Does clear-the-swamp ring a bell?
It is only a month into the new term – I bet at least 10 more
dirty deeds “OLE BLUE” will find in the next 2 years, but who is counting?
For it is like the sign on US1 telling us how many deaths each year…they need a total over a few years. (triple digits)
You think the cops will work harder? Or drivers CARE? Just a thought?
This reminds me of how a friend of mine operates who is a developer in Europe. He knows that a town won’t allow him to build a massive nightclub so he gets a permit for a modest restaurant. He’ll go ahead and build the biggest nightclub/disco/restaurant/theater/parking complex he wants. Just before it’s all finished, he’ll hire a hundred or so local people to staff the place. If anyone from the public or government complains, he’ll tell them about all of the now employed people who will lose their jobs if it doesn’t open on time or if there are any delays in inspection approvals. It never fails.He’s never had a late opening. He’s never had to change any building after it was constructed. He’s a multi-millionaire many times over.
The irony to my friend’s developments is that he is consistently praised for his ability to create jobs, expand a community’s tax base and generosity to charities. This isn’t just a local thing. It’s just that Singh and Halpern do it better and on a larger scale in the Keys than anyone else.
I was working for “The Duck” inspecting water installation during Phase II, II-A, @ Phase III @ the KW Golf Course Homes. I couldn’t help but notice that they’ve already been Tented/Fumagated for termites. I don’t believe that I’ve ever seen either before or after structural lumber of such INFERIOR quality. The mantra going on then was Pritim was planning to “Cape Cod” the keys from ocean reef to key West. This was before that Abortion up on Duck Key. We kept on wondering who did Pritim have in his pocket??? Is there ever enough???
How do you build 175 room hotel and not get attention till after it is built ? Could and should been caught early and maybe stopped.
How do you build 87 units when you only have 50 building rights. Tranquility Bay in Marathon was one major scam from start to finish. He used his bought and paid for tools on the city counsel to make the deal work. He would build 3 new affordable housing units and remodel 5 existing hotel rooms to be sold as affordable housing in exchange for 37 additional building rights. What a deal it was! The counsel members laughed all the way to the bank with a pile of cash and looked good driving new boats they received from an unknown friend who happen to have just bought a marina. Needless to say he is not well liked in Marathon. During his scam he decided to try to win over some of the locals by sponsoring an offshore fishing tournament. Everything was great until everyone realized he had entered his family members in the tournament. At the close of the day everyone watched as one of his family members entered a very large bull dolphin. It was an impressive fish but it was clearly not caught during the tournament because it was sporting some very milky eyes. A large number of people spoke out about the judges allowing the fish to be weighed in but they of course remained silent and entered the fish. Needless to say he won his own money back and was shamed off the stage when he stood up to claim his money and give his grand speech. As they say class is the one thing money can not buy.