A group of Coconut Grove homebuyers just got reassuring news from Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who said city officials would help them break an impasse with a Miami developer who has locked them out of their houses for years.
During a meeting at Miami City Hall that included four building department officials, Suarez sympathized with buyers who have been fighting with Doug Cox of Drive Development to close on the sales of their homes, which are in move-in condition but each lack about 10 final inspection approvals necessary to obtain certificates of occupancy from the city.
“Mayor Suarez seemed to genuinely care and desire a resolution that will get us into our houses,” said Kevin Ware, who relocated from Chicago to Miami with his family expecting to move into a Coconut Avenue townhouse two years ago. “The building department acknowledged that we are facing a developer who does not want to finish the job site. Doug Cox has blamed everybody but himself but what became clear to all today is that he does not want to close on these houses.”
Cox, through his company Send Enterprises LLC and other companies, owns 24 properties in Coconut Grove, including 12 townhouses on Coconut Avenue that he finished building two or three years ago but the buyers, despite signing contracts and paying deposits from $300,000 to $500,000, have not been able to move into them. He also owns vacant lots on which he promised to build new homes for buyers but has failed to break ground.
Cox, 52, presents an unusual problem for the building department in that unlike a typical developer, he has been stalling his own project, said the city officials at the meeting and the engineer Cox hired to do inspections.
“It’s a one-off. No one has seen anything like this before,” said Katrina Meneses, president of MEP, a Coral Gables engineering firm that Cox hired as a private provider to conduct inspections and submit reports to the city for approval. “The mayor is mystified. The developer lets permits expire and purposely delays the project, which is the total opposite of what a developer would normally want to do.”
At the time Cox signed the sales contracts and collected the deposits, he pledged completion and closing dates within 45 days to six months on the Coconut Avenue townhouses. But he keeps extending those dates, upending buyers’ plans and forcing them to “live in limbo,” as they describe it, in costly rentals or with in-laws. Home prices in the Grove have nearly doubled since buyers signed deals for houses ranging from $1.2 to $1.8 million as far back as 2018.
Cox has told buyers they can withdraw from their contracts and get a refund of their deposits because he’s got backup buyers presumably willing to pay 2023 prices. Earlier this month, Drive listed 2986 Coconut Ave. for $2.495 million. It was originally under contract in July 2020 for $1.385 million, a difference of $1.11 million. The house doesn’t have a certificate of occupancy. Cox did not attend the meeting and declined to comment when contacted by the Herald.
“Mayor Suarez let us share our stories and said he wants to find constructive, actionable, legal solutions,” said Mike Coyne, a New York transplant who has lived in six different places with his wife, three children and parents-in-law while awaiting a closing date.
Meneses and the building department were criticized for their lack of oversight when Cox worked through a Stop Work order for more than a year. But Meneses spoke up durng the meeting and said she is frustrated by Cox’s inaction.
“I cannot review documents and approve plans that have not been given to me by the developer,” Meneses said. “The only reason I’ve stuck with this project is to help the buyers get in their homes because this is costing us all time and money. I’ve not been paid in full by the developer for my contract. I honestly hope the city can fix it.”
Source: Miami Herald
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