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Bal Harbour Elections

BAL HARBOUR
Tuesday’s election to decide two seats in Bal Harbour council
Four candidates — including one incumbent — are facing off in Tuesday’s village elections.
BY RODOLFO R. ROMAN
Special to The Miami Herald
Two newcomers to Bal Harbour politics are vying for a seat on the council, while incumbent Jean Rosenfield gears up to defend her seat in the lead-up to Tuesday’s elections.

Patricia Cohen and Barbara Grossman, both residents of the Harbour House condos, are challenging each other for the District 3 seat currently held by Jaime Sanz, who is not running for reelection.

Rosenfield is battling Abraham G. Gotman, a member of the Bal Harbour Citizen’s Coalition, for the District 1 seat.

Joni D. Blachar won her District 5 seat unopposed when she did not draw any challengers by the end of the qualifying period March 7. She will replace Mayor Howard Berlin, who did not seek reelection.

Grossman, 70, a real estate broker, has lived in the village for 19 years and says she would like to prevent high-rise buildings in Bal Harbour.

”I am very much against building high-rises,” said Grossman. “I feel that would destroy the beauty of Bal Harbour. We want to keep the prices up here.”

She says her background in real estate would be beneficial for the village.

”I know what people are looking for. When they come to me I suggest Bal Harbour,” she said, “because of the beauty and design and the council could benefit. They’ll know what people are looking for.”

Grossman also suggests the village should look into creating a recreational area for pet owners.

Her Opponent, Cohen, 50, who owns a landscaping company in Surfside called Garden Angel, says preserving the village’s aesthetics is on the top of her agenda.

”Guaranteeing that the beach stays attractive for tourist is important because of the revenue,” said Cohen, who adds that she has lived in the village for 10 years. “We are going into a beach replenishing project, which is great. We have to moderate that because it needs to be done.”

Cohen also says Bal Harbour needs to reel in “top quality tourist.”

”I don’t think we are doing enough to attract additional quality tourist to market ourselves in a meaningful way,” she said.

She adds that school boundaries should be reconsidered.

Cohen’s eligibility as a candidate has come under scrutiny because of what she says was a mistakenly filed homestead exemption on her Surfside property. Bal Harbour resident Anamarie Kelly brought her concerns to village officials after she said she ran across the Cohen’s homestead exemption while researching properties in Surfside.

Cohen said she mistakenly filed for the homestead exemption, but insisted her condo in Bal Harbour is her true residence.

She said she had temporarily moved to Surfside while the Harbour House was under renovation — one of many residents required to leave the building until work was completed. She returned permanently to Harbour House in October 2007, she told the council.

After reviewing the documents, the council agreed Cohen was eligible last month.

Under Bal Harbour ‘s charter, candidates for the village council must reside in the village for at least one year before filing to run for office.

Also on the ballot: Assistant Mayor Jean Rosenfield, who is running against challenger Gotman for the District 1 seat.

Rosenfield, 76, who has lived in the village for more than 30 years, said keeping the village’s tax rate low is a top priority.

”I am passionate about keeping our village millage rate low, which has one of the lowest in the Miami-Dade County,” said Rosenfield, who served four years on the council. “I attempted to make it even lower. I am very concerned about that.”

Rosenfield says she is concerned about safety and wants to continue educating residents in case of a major hurricane. She also wants to control development.

”We really have no space where to develop as you well know,” said Rosenfield, who is a public school teacher. “I want to control it because it is important to preserve the beauty that we have in Bal Harbour.”

Gotman, 75, who has lived in Bal Harbour for 11 years, agrees that development should be limited.

”I believe in progress, but I believe progress has to go slower,” said Gotman who is a trustee on the village’s police department pension board. “I am for maintaining a village, not a metropolis.”

Gotman, a gynecologist, says he would like the village to buy The Bal Harbour club.

”Maybe the city should buy the property and convert it into a green park,” he said. “We can place the City Hall, police department and build a library and a club for all the residents.”

The council will appoint a replacement for former Councilman Joel Jacobi this month. Jacobi announced his resignation earlier last month during a trial challenging his residency in the 2007 election. His resignation took effect April 1.

Tuesday’s voting will be Tuesday at Church by the Sea, 501 96th St., from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. For details, call 305-866-4633.

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