Response to 13th Floor Homes Letter to The Woodlands
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
You recently may have received an email from "the 13th Floor Homes Team”. This letter is a response being sent to you by your neighbors who live in the Woodlands. To the best of our knowledge, no one from the 13th Floor Homes Team lives in the Woodlands. We are not surprised that 13th Floor sent you an e-mail that makes the broad unsubstantiated allegation that the Defend the Woodlands Corporation (“DTWC”) is misleading the community but fails to mention a single instance of any misleading statement. Anything DTWC or Jose Spena have said or written is backed up by facts and law. Unlike 13th Floor, in almost all of our flyers we listed the source where the information in the mailer can be found.
An attorney for 13th Floor, Etan Mark, sent DTWC and Jose Spena, a Woodlands resident, a threatening letter in an attempt to bully and harass Jose, DTWC and other residents who have posted online comments opposing the 13th Floor development plan. 13th Floor was attempting to abrogate our free speech rights. As residents of the Woodlands, we are free to express our opinions about 13th Floor’s disastrous development plan. 13th Floor's threats are without substance and ignore the actual facts in their own documents for their project. We believe that the reason A Better Woodlands sent you a misleading e-mail is because Jose and DTWC will not bow down to the bullying and harassing tactics of 13th Floor.
We have a great deal in common with you. We are concerned about the arsenic poisoning to which we are likely to be exposed should the "13th Floor team" dig up our golf courses so they can build cookie cutter tract housing and make money selling that housing. 13th Floor’s style of housing is incompatible with the existing homes in the Woodlands and the character of our community. They write to you with the word "Dear" but the only thing dear to these developers is money. There would be ongoing construction 7 days a week right here in the Woodlands for the next 6 to 7 years. There would be hammering and other construction noise every day, beginning in the morning and going till about 4 in the afternoon, with the possible exception of Christmas.
We are concerned about the impact to the quality of life we all enjoy in the Woodlands because it is our opinion that our quality of life will never be the same if the City Commission approves 13th Floor’s land use amendment and rezoning on October 20th at 6 pm in the City Commission chambers at City Hall. Anyone who does not understand that is not seeing the whole picture of what 13th Floor is about. Let's look closely at the misleading information in their latest email.
Currently, the golf courses are close to 276 acres of open space. 13th Floor’s development plan would actually reduce the amount of open space by 42% to only about 160 acres of which lakes will make up about 40 acres. Source: Broward County Commission agenda backup May 4, 2021. 13th Floor writes they want to build "over 3 miles of walking and fitness trails" but fails to mention that a good portion of those trails will be located directly under heavy duty electrical transmission lines running through the golf courses, the presence of which makes the land directly under these electrical transmission lines unfit for any other use. They are proposing to give us walking trails because there is no other use for the land under these electrical lines.
They state that they are going to build luxury homes. Look at the homes they built in Manor Parc and Central Parc and decide for yourself if those homes are compatible with the existing homes in the Woodlands. The contrast between what 13th Floor homes wants to build and our existing community will create a strange lack of visual harmony and diminish the value of the existing homes in the Woodlands.
They say they are building housing (on our golf courses) "meant to elevate the perception of the community while enhancing values for all homeowners." This is another example of the 13th Floor intentionally misleading us. 13th Floor’s own economic study shows that existing homes surrounding the former Sabal Palm and Monterey golf courses sold for less money after the 13th Floor developments were built. Source: 13th Floor Homes Economic Study submitted to the City of Tamarac. Also the Wall Street Journal wrote that the redevelopment of golf courses into housing devalues the surrounding existing homes by about 25%. Source: Wall Street Journal, January, 2019. So, if your home currently has an assessed value of $300,000.00 the value of your home would decrease by about $75,000.00 to $225,000.00.
13th floor refers to its "vision" for the Woodlands. Please make no mistake. They are developers trying to make money by destroying our neighborhood. Their only vision is to make money from our neighborhood at any cost to the existing homes and homeowners. They are property developers motivated only by their desire to make money. This project would add between 1,396 to 1,508 new people to the Woodlands. This represents a 45% increase in the number of homes in the Woodlands and almost doubles the current population of the Woodlands.Sources: Annual Local Government Revenue Analysis of the 13th Floor Investments Residential Development in Tamarac, Florida 1/9/2019 and 13th Floor 8/17/2021 Powerpoint.
13th Floor writes about the terrible allegations about our former city manager who was allegedly in league with convicted felons. DTWC and Jose Spena had nothing to do with that matter.
13th Floor doesn't mention that the Sun Sentinel published a story stating that 13th Floor paid the Chaits $500,000.00 as hush money between April 8, 2013 and Aug. 19, 2015 to keep quiet about the claims of arsenic contamination in the Manor Parc and Central Parc developments. It appears likely that ARNAUD KARSENTI, as the only listed managing member of 13th Floor Investments, LLC, “…decided it was in his best interest to pay” the $500,000.00 and even entered into a fictitious consulting agreement on or about April 5, 2013 instead of warning the residents of Manor Parc and Central Parc. Sources: South Florida Sun Sentinel March 22, 2021 and statement of facts and probable cause affidavit of Special Agent Monica Baldo of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. According to a criminal information filed by the statewide prosecutor, this money was paid as hush money so the Chaits would not divulge their claims that the land on which 13th Floor built homes contained a high concentration of arsenic from being used for over 50 years as golf courses and were regularly treated with arsenic laced insecticides.
If 13th Floor cared about us "Dear Homeowners" they would have gone to the statewide prosecutor back when the Chaits first tried to extort 13th Floor. But the newspapers and the criminal information reveal that 13th Floor only went to the police after the Chaits tried to extort an additional 3 million dollars from 13th Floor. 13th Floor states that “All acts to date have been promptly reported to law enforcement.” This, like much of what 13th Floor writes, is simply untrue. In fact, according to the statewide prosecutor’s information and the March 22, 2021 Sun Sentinel article, 13th Floor and ARNAUD KARSENTI did not promptly report the extortion that took place in April, 2013 to law enforcement. They only reported it years later after the Chaits demanded an additional approximately $3,000,000.00. Source: South Florida Sun Sentinel March 22, 2021.
Arsenic poisoning, or arsenicosis, occurs after the ingestion or inhalation of high levels of arsenic. Arsenic is a type of carcinogen and is extremely poisonous to humans. What makes arsenic especially dangerous is that it doesn’t have a taste or odor, so you can be exposed to it without knowing it. The American Cancer Society states, “arsenic and inorganic arsenic compounds are carcinogenic to humans.” SCS, the company that conducted the Phase II Environmental Assessment of the golf courses, tested the soil, groundwater and surface water for arsenic and organochlorine pesticides. That assessment, which was commissioned by 13th Floor, concluded that the development site was contaminated as the testing revealed that arsenic contaminant concentrations in the soil were in excess of the applicable Residential Soil Cleanup Target Level. Phase II Limited Environmental Assessment study and September 13, 2019 memo from David Vanlandingham, P.E., CWR Engineering Unit Supervisor Environmental Engineering and Permitting Division (EEPD).
13th Floor’s proposed development will severely and negatively impact the Woodlands and the City of Tamarac. Currently, the traffic on Commercial Boulevard is close to 25% higher than its operating capacity. 13th Floor’s proposed development plan will further degrade operating conditions on Commercial Boulevard, Rock Island Road, State Road 7, and the entrances to the turnpike. There are no improvements planned in the County’s Transportation Plan in the next 5 years which would reduce, mitigate or eliminate these adverse traffic impacts. Source: Florida Department of Transportation comments, November 25, 2020. The latest proposal by 13th Floor Homes Closes 4 entrances to the Woodlands.Source: 13th Floor Traffic and Engineering Plan, 8/17/2021 Powerpoint. If you use any of the following roads you will not be allowed to enter them any longer if the project is approved. Residents and all non-residents will be stuck in a long line waiting to enter at Woodlands Blvd because the entrances on White Oak Lane, Banyan Lane, Holly Drive, and Bayberry Lane will be closed.
Almost all the roads in the Woodlands are one lane in each direction. 13th Floor’s proposal increases the roadway traffic by a total of 6,643 daily trips with peak hour traffic increasing from 46 trips per hour to at least 772 trips per hour. Source: Kimley Horn Traffic Study 4/12/2019. This will create longer lines at the exits from the Woodlands and cause much congestion as it will greatly increase the amount of time it will take to leave the Woodlands. The bike lanes on Woodlands Boulevard would be unusable and dangerous due to the increase in traffic. The City’s code requires residential developments promote bicycle, pedestrian, and transit-friendly neighborhoods. We need to protect our bike lanes. Residents and their children currently run, walk, ride bikes, and wheel strollers in the bike lanes.
13th Floor’s e-mail encourages you to treat with caution “any questionable or dubious information… such as that contained in the mailer sent“ by the DTWC. But, 13th Floor NEVER bothers to give you even one example of misinformation that 13th Floor alleges the DTWC is spreading. All of the misinformation comes from 13th Floor. We hope you realize that we are your neighbors and we are telling the truth. We are only trying to preserve the value of our homes, the quality of our lives here in the Woodlands, and the tranquility we enjoy here in the Woodlands. 13th floor sees us as an opportunity to make money. Destroying our neighborhood and our quality of life is mere collateral damage to them.
We know this was a lot to read. Please think about what we sent you today. Protecting our community is our priority. Make your voice heard. Please attend the October 20th City Commission meeting at 6 PM and call, e-mail or write to the Mayor and City Commissioners that you oppose 13th Floor’s land use plan amendment and rezoning. Email us if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here for you.
Jose Spena, Defend the Woodlands Corp CEO
Richard Grinnage, Woodlands President Section 3
Christopher Hodgkins, Woodlands President Section 4
Ilene Lieberman, Former Broward County Commissioner & Former Mayor of Lauderhill