Excellent overview of Peebles' history in working with-- or rather against-- the communities in which he develops.
"Don is a great gentleman, a great talker, and a great manipulator," said Joe Fontana, a Beach resident whom Peebles financially supported in his losing race for city commissioner against Luis Garcia. "But I disagree with his heavy-handed approach, like refusing to pay the city its lease. And he always has a different story to tell -- he tells people one thing to get what he wants, then down the road, he'll end up doing something else. His tactics aren't good for Miami Beach."
Since Don blames the city for the problems -- he says officials never informed him about the extent of structural problems at the Royal Palm, or of the petroleum-contaminated soil there -- he isn't responsible for $15.8 million in construction delays and additional costs. Consequently Peebles wants them to allow him to sell the smaller Shorecrest as a time-share condominium; this would place the asking price on the 150 rooms in question at about $330,000 each. At those prices, Don could pay the city back the $4.5 million used to purchase the Shorecrest, cover the additional "problem," and make a little profit into the bargain.
"With Don, you never know where you stand," agreed Broward County Commissioner John Rodstrom, who has also dealt with him. "He's constantly changing the terms."
Many expect the local and state regulatory agencies to come to our defense. Peebles seems to have a different take on to whom public officials should be responsive:
In a sobering, eye-opening monologue, Peebles spoke at length about single-handedly raising large amounts of cash for political campaigns. The real sphere of influence on the Beach, Don revealed, are people like himself: real estate developers. Don explained that lobbyists were nothing more than tools, mere vehicles who make phone calls and set up meetings with elected officials when they are too lazy to do it themselves. Never batting an eye, Don told commissioners that he has no problem funneling campaign contributions through various entities he controls. Don also doesn't have a problem strong-arming people who work for him to donate to political campaigns. "Now, let's be realistic," Peebles said hypothetically. "When I call up the general contractor who I am paying $65 million to build a building for me and tell him Saul Gross is a nice guy and I would like you, your company, and your employees to each contribute $500 to his campaign, I dare them to tell me no.... Or I'll get on my intercom, call up my comptroller, and ask him how many limited partnerships and entities do we have? He tells me 30 or so. I tell him to cut a check from each of them and give it to Commissioner Luis Garcia's campaign. That is the power of real estate in this city."
It's a long article, but you probably should read the whole thing.