Column: Recipe for Success 

Challenge Fitness, Via Brendon Lies

Looking to open a business here in Wilton Manors? Want to do it quickly with no hassle, without proper permits, and without bothering with all the restrictions and fees that everyone else must incorporate into their business plan? Want to bypass the whole process and not be concerned with your neighbors’ quality of life? 

Well then, step right up, ‘cause I have the recipe for success to pass along. These few easy steps are perfectly tailored to how things have been working here in our Island City. 

First and foremost, the most important ingredient for this recipe is to track down a local, very popular not-for–profit with a cash hungry CEO to be your landlord. After that, it’s basically an easy slide to the bank as the money starts rolling in. Not content with your profit margin? Proceed directly to the second key ingredient for success – chutzpah.  Go ahead and sue the local municipality that keeps pestering you to follow the rules of the game that all those other poor souls need to be concerned about. Cash in on that good name of your landlord, file that law suit, and turn up the volume ‘cause those poor neighbors don’t stand a chance complaining to their city commissioners. The party can easily go on for at least a good two-year run. So, go ahead, have some fun, let the good times roll baby. 

Challenge Fitness, the illegal business operating on the Pride Center’s campus, has followed this recipe word for word, and is proof that the recipe works.  The Pride Center is the local popular not-for-profit landlord that has allowed this illegal business to operate on their campus, continuing to collect their rent, while turning a blind eye to the legal issues and responsibility to the neighboring community. The tenant and quite cunning business, Challenge Fitness, has been able to operate, make money, disregard city codes and laws, be a nuisance to neighbors, and have the chutzpah to sue the city. 

All this at the same time that the City of Wilton Manors hands over $200,000 of its Affordable Housing Fund to the Pride Center to assist with the center’s plans to build an affordable housing project. 

In this surefire recipe for success, the fact that the Pride Center initially entered into an illegal agreement with Challenge Fitness, due to the “overlooked” restrictions on the property prohibiting commercial business operations, should be of no concern. The fact that the business does not have proper licensing from the city, but still continues to operate also should be of no concern. The fact that surrounding neighbors have filed numerous complaints for loud music, glaring lights, off-hour operations, and other Code violations should also be of no concern. Just some overlooked minor details. 

At our last City Commission meeting, Commissioner Gary Resnick inquired about the ongoing legal expenses to city taxpayers due to the issues that have continued now for many months. He went so far as to recommend stopping any further legal proceedings due to continued cost to the city. And, here is the final ingredient in the recipe: Wear them down, keep those legal expenses rising until the municipality tires out, gives up, and chooses to turn a blind eye. 

This taxpayer is absolutely fine with the continued legal expenses being incurred by the city. Turning a blind eye to this issue, allowing our laws and codes to become meaningless, and sacrificing the quality of life of the taxpaying neighbors who live next to this horrific neighbor is not an option for me.  I would have been happier if our City Commission used the Affordable Housing Fund dollars as leverage to bring an end to this illegal business and the legal action coming from the campus of the Pride Center. Unfortunately, that opportunity has passed.  

However, there is one item to be concerned about that could cause this recipe not to be successful. That one minor component is the presence of community-based resistance. If the community keeps pressure on the elected officials not to turn a blind eye, my recipe for success will fail, no matter how well you stir the ingredients in the pot. 

So I wish you well on your quest to operate a business illegally and above the law, but you might want to bypass our Island City. This city has a very active community that will hinder you at every turn and not give in. That is what makes life just better here.


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