Developer, city of St. Petersburg win Bliss condo lawsuit

A judge's decision clears St. Petersburg and lets developer Brian Taub build Bliss.
Published September 4 2015
Updated September 5 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — A judge has ruled in favor of the city of St. Petersburg and developer Brian Taub in a lawsuit alleging that Taub's 18-story Bliss condo tower violates the city's comprehensive plan.

In a brief order, Pinellas Circuit judge Doug Baird granted a motion for summary judgment filed by Taub and the city. The effect of the ruling is to deny plaintiff Michael Levy's request for an injunction to stop work on Bliss, now under construction at 176 Fourth Ave. NE, just off Beach Drive.

"It paved the way for Bliss to go forward and the last of the roadblocks is removed at this point,'' assistant city attorney Michael Dema said Friday. "From the city's perspective it's gone through the Development Review Commission and an appeal to City Council — this happened twice.''

Taub said he was "thrilled'' by the order, which was recorded this week.

"I feel that justice prevailed,'' he said.

Neither Levy nor his attorney could be reached for comment on whether they plan to appeal. Levy, who owns a condo in the nearby Parkshore Plaza, sued the city in January, alleging that Bliss was too big for its site and exceeded the maximum "floor area ratio'' allowed for a residential building in that part of downtown.

The ratio measures the gross floor area of a building divided by the area of the parcel on which the building is constructed.

Levy also said Bliss would partially block the waterfront view from his ninth-floor unit and hurt its value, now estimated at around $862,000.

Taub intervened in Levy's suit against the city. He filed a separate suit against Levy and the Parkshore Plaza Condominium Association that accused them of "interference'' that had jeopardized financing. That suit is pending.

The developer already had modified the plans for Bliss by relocating a controversial garage with car elevator that Parkshore residents complained would create noise and traffic problems.

In his order, the judge reserved the right to determine if Taub and the city are entitled to make Levy pay their attorneys' fees and court costs. Dema said the city has not decided whether to seek those; Taub said he is consulting with his attorney.

Signs at the Bliss construction site show that the financing is through New Jersey-based Valley National Bank. Taub Entities, which Taub runs with his wife, Debbie, has a $7.8 million mortgage with Valley, records show.

The current general contractor on the project is Voeller Construction of Palm Harbor, which filed a notice of commencement in early June and has a contract with Taub for $19,573,000.

Last month, the original contractor, Fort Lauderdale-based Moss & Associates, sued Taub, alleging it had been replaced without cause or notice. Attached to its suit was a contract with Taub for $18 million.

Taub knew that drawings and specifications for Bliss were incomplete when the contract was signed and wanted Moss to pay part of an increase in costs on the project, the lawsuit said.

Brian Taub said Friday that Moss "did not wish to fulfill" its contract. Voeller was hired "some time later,'' he said.

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate

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