DORAL (CBSMiami) – Donald Trump said he had two choices when he took over the Doral Golf Resort & Spa last year.
“I can fix it and clean it and get great food and make it very nice — but it can never be great,” Trump told CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald in a telephone interview Tuesday. “Or, I can spend $200 million and truly make it great.”
Trump, the New York developer with a penchant for making a splash, chose the latter, reports the Herald.
One of Trump’s first moves was to plant rows and rows of areca palms around the red and gold golf courses, erecting a visual buffer between the homes and greens. Trump said the trees were necessary to protect the homeowners from getting hit with golf balls and to muffle the sound of the maintenance workers.
Trump also noted the trees’ aesthetic value.
“What happens is when you are on, as an example, the first green on the gold course, you are staring at houses with laundry hanging out their window in some cases. It’s not appropriate for the finest resort in the country,” Trump said.
The homeowners in the Fairway Homes community, many of whom have paid $500,000 and up to have a home with golf course view, have a decidedly different view of their homes. The community has 65 homes with golf-course views.
“The homeowners association does not allow us to do that [hang laundry outside] and they are very strict about what the rules are,” said Antonio Pardo, 70, a part-time resident. “It’s absolutely forbidden for that to happen.’’
The palm trees are only part of the problem, say the residents, who’ve complained to the city about loud, early morning noises coming from the resort’s maintenance crews.
The president of the homeowners association says he regularly hears from members complaining about the noise.
“They call me and send me emails to tell me, ‘I can’t sleep,’ ” Hugo Ledezma, president of the Fairway Homes of Doral Estates Homeowners Association, said at a special city council meeting Tuesday. “What my residents want to hear is tomorrow morning, ‘Can I sleep at least until 7:30?’ ”
The city council called the meeting to seek a resolution to the city’s recent legal action.
On Jan. 18, the city filed an emergency motion seeking an injunction against the resort, alleging that it has “continuously operated commercial noise-producing lawn mowers, blowers, chainsaws, power tools and other noise-producing tools …. between the hours of 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. on weekdays, and 6:30 p.m. to 9 a.m. on Saturdays and any time on Sundays.’’
The city has spent about $20,000 in legal fees on the issue.
“Nobody wants a legal battle, except for attorneys,” said City Manager Joe Carollo.
In November, a special magistrate found the resort committed 19 violations against the city’s noise ordinance and fined it $28,500. In addition, the magistrate ordered the resort to pay $1,500 if any future violations occur.
The council on Tuesday voted unanimously to place a 30-day hold on its emergency complaint and the magistrate’s order, to let the city and Trump negotiate. The city has not officially served its suit on the Trump organization.
Donald Thornburgh, the resort’s director of golf, said the resort has kept the same maintenance times as its previous owners, but Trump has doubled the staff size and equipment.
Ed Russo, a project consultant working for Trump, visited the course at 6 a.m. Wednesday. He determined the majority of the noise was coming from John Deere Gators, heavy duty, utility vehicles that the workers were driving on paths near the residents’ backyards.Thornburgh said the resort would move the drivers to a path farther from the homes.
Ivanka Trump, Donald’s daughter, speaking by phone on Wednesday, said the company also would look into buying electric vehicles to minimize the noise.
Meanwhile, Nathan Kogon, the city’s planning and zoning director, said the resort is permitted to plant as it wishes on its property.
“Golf course features, including landscaping, are at the discretion of the property owner,” wrote Kogon in a memo he delivered to the council.
That pleased Ivanka Trump. “We are very much in our legal right and this is not an issue that is appropriate for the city to intervene in,” she said.
She said most people who have seen the new plants have been happy about the new look.
“I am going to reach out and coordinate a meeting with the homeowners,” she said. “This is not a widespread issue; this is a very small number of people who feel they are being affected.’’
Ledezma, the association president, said he’s looking forward to meeting with her.
Mayor Luigi Boria, who lives in the community, recused himself. Councilwoman Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera did not attend the meeting.
Pardo, the part-time resident, said the issue has divided the community.
“The Fairway Homes have become a terror area,” he said. “People are scared, screaming, angry and crazy because all of the things happening now.’’
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed to this report.)