Unpacking Coconut Grove ► Part 9.2 ► A Photo Essay Follow Up

It’s amazing what a phone call to the right City of Miami department can do. When I arrived for my weekly visit to the E.W.F. Stirrup House yesterday, there was a city inspector taking pictures of the house and surrounding area. Apparently the day after my visit last week, City of Miami by-law inspector Raghubir Sandhu cited and posted the E.W.F. Stirrup property for “Failure to maintain lot in a safe, clean condition; not allowing accumulation of debris, trash or dense growth of grass,” a contravention of City of Miami Zoning Ordinance 11000. Unfortunately, this was not done due to any of my blog posts (DARN!). A lovely man, Mr. Sandhu spent a bit of time with me explaining the City of Miami’s view on
non-compliance, while I told him the history of the E.W.F. Stirrup
House and Black Coconut Grove, which he had never heard before. Mr. Sandhu seemed interested in what I have been documenting in my Unpacking Coconut Grove series and took the URL of my blog with him. He said he’d take a look, which is all I ever ask (beg?) of anybody. 

Detail of notice directed to Stirrup Properties Inc.

Aries Development, through its owner Gino Falsetto, has bragged about having a 50-year lease on the E.W.F. Stirrup House. However, Aries/Falsetto is not the owner of record. That dubious distinction goes to Stirrup Properties Inc., a company held by 3 descendants of E.W.F. Stirrup, who left a codicil in his will that the house that the house must remain in the family in perpetuity. However, Bad Neighbour Gino Falsetto is the one who controls the E.W.F. Stirrup property through that lease. Falsetto is the person who allowed the property to turn into a garbage dump. Aries Development, which built the Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums, acquired control of the property by trading 2 condo units (#304 and #403) in the Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums — each valued at $500,000 at the time of the swap — for the 50-year lease on the Stirrup House. Somehow I don’t think this is what E.W.F. Stirrup had in mind when he wrote his will. Why does the phrase “40 acres and a mule” keep coming to mind?

It would appear that the descendants of Ebeneezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup cared far less about his legacy, and the rich history of Black Coconut Grove, than they did for having a nice new condominium in a nice new condominium complex. They allowed themselves to be hoodwinked into giving Aries Development total control of the Stirrup property. This also gave Gino Falsetto the right to turn it into a garbage dump, outside as well as inside the house. Stirrup Properties Inc., and not Aries Development, would be on the hook for any fines imposed by the city.

Whenever a property
is cited for noncompliance, aside from a letter like above posted on
the actual property, a duplicate is sent by registered mail to the owner
of record, in this case Stirrup Properties, Inc. It informs the owner that it has 10 days from the issuance of the citation to correct the deficiency, otherwise fines of between $50 to $500 a day could be levied against the owner. If those tickets are not paid, a lien can be issued against the property. Yesterday Mr Sandhu was back to see whether the owners of the property had taken his citation to its corporate heart.

And, lo and
behold, it was. The grass on the property was cut and most, if not all,
of the trash was piled into the dumpster, which is now overflowing. While it’s a half-assed job, comparing these new pictures with
those taken last week and the week before, show a marked difference. Maybe one day soon Aries Development and/or Gino Falsetto might do a proper job of cleaning up the property, and not just the barest minimum to get the city inspector off his back.

While not everything has made it into the overflowing dumpster, at least the fridge is now upright.
However, there’s still a lot of trash laying around, some of it right next to the dumpster.
Some of these trash piles have been there for weeks.
A view over the dumpster of the Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums. For all I know the
descendants of E.W.F. Stirrup could have a bird’s eye view of the garbage dump left in their name.
This is what I mean by half-assed job. This litter is still right where it has
been for many weeks, literally right on the E.W.F. Stirrup House doorstep.
However, credit where credit’s due: having the grass cut makes a world of difference visually . . .
. . . until one starts to focus on the trash that’s still left on the property.
Even the bowers have been trimmed back, revealing the heaps of trash behind the E.W.F. Stirrup House.
It must be noted that those bowers are not formed by shrubs or bushes. Those are vines and weeds run amok.
To be fair: There is one tree hiding in the far back, left corner, but it’s entirely overrun by the vines and weeds.
The graffiti on the wall contravenes the city by-laws, as do these trash heaps
that have been there for several months. Maybe another citation is in order.
This is also what I mean by half-assed. Some of this litter, documented in my last two posts, has been cleaned
up. Some of it was left right where it was. Just enough work was done to please the by-law inspector.
However, good news!!! This is the exact spot where the Reggae flyer
for the last 5 weeks. It is now gone, as are all the dead leaves.
However, there’s a brand new Reggae flyer for me to keep track of. I wonder how long it will remain.
The record to beat is 5 weeks. We will follow its progress as the colours fade like the last one.
Gino Falsetto also controls, through a dummy corporation owned by one of his partners, the two
empty lots across from the E.W.F. Stirrup House. They were also cited for the same thing as the
Stirrup Property. Now the notices are just part of the litter allowed to accumulate on Charles Avenue.
This is also an example of the half assed job that was done. This is base of the Charles
Avenue historical marker across the street from the E.W.F. Stirrup House on property
also controlled by Gino Falsetto. Some of the weeds were cut and some remain.
The latest view of the Charles Avenue historical
marker that began my quest more than  3 years ago.
It’s a never-ending battle to keep litter from overwhelming the property. A good
neighbour would see to it that the job is done without having to be cited by the city.

However, let me be clear. None of the landscaping and hauling away of the trash on the property will do anything to save the E.W.F. Stirrup House from a rapacious developer. Gino Falsetto appears to have already decided that if he cannot turn the house into a Bed and Breakfast, then he will allow it to undergo Demolition by Neglect.

Open questions to Gino Falsetto and/or Aries Development:
1). What promises were made to the City of Miami and to the residents of Black Coconut Grove in order to get your building permit?

2). Why won’t you honour those agreements?



About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.