With the outer structure complete on the 3550 condo in South Palm Beach, the Town Council’s only recourse may be to fine the developer if the town determines that the building violates rules on height. Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star
By Dan Moffett
South Palm Beach council members want to double-check measurements of the 3550 South Ocean condominium project to make sure it complies with the town’s building code.
At issue are the structure’s height and the area set aside for green space on the site.
Councilwoman Stella Gaddy Jordan says she is concerned that the building’s six stories above a garage exceed the town’s height limit and that the structure’s footprint does not preserve enough open space.
“They’re both terribly incorrect,” Jordan said of the two code issues.
A spokesperson for the developer says Jordan is mistaken.
“3550 South Ocean has obtained all necessary approvals from the Town of South Palm Beach and is fully compliant with all regulations,” the spokesperson said.
The councilwoman blames the town’s building official for not bringing changes in the project to the council for approval. She said she believes the developer, Manhattan-based DDG real estate investment group, and contractor KAST Construction did not adhere to the original plans.
Jordan claims the building has grown to a height of about 106 feet from ground level, roughly 20 feet above what she says the council was expecting. Part of the increase is due to a foundation with a starting point above those of surrounding buildings — 7.6 feet higher — that is mandated by flood plain requirements. A 21-foot garage space and a roof with elevator shafts and stair towers account for more of the total additional height, officials say.
In response to Jordan’s complaints, Town Manager Mo Thornton inspected the building in mid-October with Hector Garcia, the project’s architect, and Mike Crisafulle, the town’s building official. Thornton said they measured the six floors of living quarters and together the height of those six stories was slightly less than 60 feet. She said they were unable to measure the equipment on the rooftop, however. Some of the roof structures are roughly 15 feet tall.
Jordan has complained that the structures on the roof were not part of the developer’s original plans.
Thornton said, based at least on the floor-to-ceiling measurements, the building complies with the town’s code.
“It’s built according to the approved plans,” she said.
Mayor Bonnie Fischer said the council will discuss Thornton’s measurements at the Nov. 13 town meeting and decide whether more double-checking is needed. Jordan wants to have the entire building surveyed from the ground up, but other council members have balked at spending several thousand dollars to measure a building that’s essentially already built.
Council members Elvadianne Culbertson and Bill LeRoy have questioned what remedy the town has to address the issues at this late date — now that the outer structure is built and developers are aiming toward a grand opening next summer.
“I’m still trying to understand,” Culbertson said. “What do we do about it?”
“We’re pretty much stuck with the building,” Jordan said, “unless we want them to tear off the top floor.”
She told the council it’s important, however, that the project’s changes go on the record, and if violations of town rules occur, then fining the developer is an option.
“I don’t think it’s wise to allow people to get away with so much without proper notification from the town,” Jordan said during the council meeting on Oct. 9. “This needs to be documented.”
With 30 luxury units priced between $3 million and $7 million, the 3550 project offers opulence unlike anything South Palm Beach has seen, appealing to affluent buyers from an international market and promising a huge boost to the town’s tax base.
Among the amenities are concierge service, a dog park and VIP access to the Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa.
In October, DDG announced it was also offering buyers private jet service on demand. The developer has contracted with Star Jets International to provide 24-hour jet travel, with planes capable of leaving the runway within hours of request.