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Date of Issue: May 11, 2006

Roses wilt under weight of lawsuits

rosa del mar pic
Rosy view
All that's left on the vacant Rosa del Mar property in Bradenton Beach is a sign advertising the phone number for anyone interested in a unit. The construction trailer has been removed and the city has ordered removal of the berm separating the property from the beach. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Embattled Island developer GSR LLC and its principals, Robert Byrne and Steve Noriega, have been slapped with two more lawsuits, this time over the failure of the company to build its planned Rosa del Mar condominium project in Bradenton Beach.

James M. Dornan, as trustee of the Dornan Family Trust, and Randy Moore filed individual lawsuits against GSR April 21, alleging they entered into agreements with GSR, Byrne and Noriega to purchase a condominium at Rosa del Mar.

The lawsuits claim that Byrne and Noriega failed to deliver an "assignment fee" required under the agreement.

As a result, the lawsuits say, both parties had the option to either purchase the unit at a reduced price or terminate the purchase agreement. The plaintiffs claim that if the agreement were terminated, "GSR was required to immediately refund all deposits with interest, plus any additional monies delivered" by the plaintiffs "and pay an additional $200,000."

The plaintiffs say they terminated their purchase agreements on June 5, 2005, but Byrne and Noriega have "failed and refused to deliver all sums due" and "the sum of $100,000 remains due and owing" to each plaintiff.

As a result, both Dornan and Moore allege they have "suffered damages" and have asked the court to require Byrne and Noriega to "pay all sums due" along with attorneys' fees and costs.

Dornan and Moore are represented by Jason Lessinger of the Sarasota law firm of Icard, Merrill, Culliss, Timm, Furen & Ginsburg.

Lessinger also represents Longboat Partners LLC in a legal action against GSR, Byrne and Noriega filed March 2, claiming Byrne and Noriega are in default on an $800,000 note the company gave them in July 2004.

In addition, Ed Furfey of New Jersey filed a lawsuit against Byrne and Noriega in early February, claiming that while he is an equal partner in GSR with Byrne and Noriega, the two sold off a piece of GSR's Villa Rosa property on South Bay Boulevard in Anna Maria without his knowledge and consent and below market value. The property in question was sold to Bon Eau Enterprises LLC of Sarasota.

Furfey, however, was forced to add Byrne and Noriega as GSR partners in a lawsuit he filed against Bon Eau. Furfey claimed in that legal action that the "sale" was nothing more than a loan by Bon Eau at illegal interest rates and GSR is entitled to damages.

 

Allegation dropped

GSR partner Ed Furfey has withdrawn one portion of his February lawsuit against his partners - Steve Noriega and Robert Byrne - in which he claimed the two men took $100,000 in company funds without his knowledge or consent.

Furfey made the allegation as part of his February lawsuit against Byrne and Noriega, claiming they acted without his knowledge and consent in a real estate transaction with Bon Eau Enterprises LLC of Sarasota.

The remainder of the lawsuit is unchanged.

 

A rose by a lot of names

GSR Development LLC and Robert Byrne and Steve Noriega first arrived on the Island real estate and development scene in April 2002 when they proposed the Villa Rosa gated subdivision on South Bay Boulevard in Anna Maria. GSR had paid the Lardas family about $2 million for 3.85 acres of undeveloped canalfront property for its planned project.

At the time GSR made its site plan presentation to the city commission, the company said it expected to build 17 single-family homes in a gated community with a maximum lot size per house of just under 8,600 square feet.

Following several stormy meetings on the project, the Anna Maria City Commission approved the site plan on July 7, 2002, after several lawyers representing GSR threatened the city with legal action if the site plan request was denied.

GSR representatives said a final plat allowing lot sales to begin would be delivered to the commission within six months, but the commission has waited nearly four years and has yet to sign off on the final plat.

The company was allowed to construct a model home on the property. That structure was recently completed after nearly 18 months of construction. It was included in the 2006 Manatee County Parade of Homes.

The GSR site plan submission did result in the city establishing procedures and guidelines for site plan submission of major and minor construction projects, although city officials at the time admitted that Villa Rosa was likely the last major parcel of undeveloped land in the city.

Real estate agents in 2002 estimated the value of each home in Villa Rosa would be about $1 million, but given the Island's rising property values the past four years, that figure was recently revised by Noriega to a minimum of $2 million per house, if not higher. That would make the Villa Rosa project worth about $34 million at buildout.

One agent said vacant lots in the subdivision would likely be worth between $800,000 to $1 million.

GSR was also scheduled to develop the Rosa del Mar condominium project on Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach, but lost its building permit last year after the city determined that no activity had taken place on the property during the prescribed period. Noriega objected to the loss of the permit and promised that a resumption of the project was imminent, but the lot has been vacant for nearly two years without activity.