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Frank's Plantation

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In 1969, while Gulfstream was busy planning the new future of Plantation, Veltri ran for office and won a seat on the council. By 1973 Gulfstream had acquired all the remaining acres of the Peters family's holdings. And the company had big dreams all its own.

Tucked away in a file at the state's South Florida Regional Planning Office is Gulfstream's 1973 application to build on its new, raw land. And Gulfstream made it perfectly clear to the state that it wanted nothing to do with the rural hopes of Plantation's founders -- the corporation estimated that $3 billion would be pumped into the area by the mid-'90s, and 54,000 housing units for 132,000 people would be built. Only a quarter of those units would be single-family houses, the rest a conglomeration of low-rise, mid-rise, and high-rise apartments, townhouses, and finally condominiums, which were all the rage at the time.

In addition to the dense housing, Gulfstream had already made agreements with Motorola, American Express, and the future builders of the Broward Mall. Gulfstream would "not be a bedroom community, but contain a large number of commercial, industrial, and home office establishments," wrote Gulfstream marketing consultant Reinhold P. Wolff in the application. West Broward, Wolff surmised, was prime development property because it "offers a great deal of building land in the relatively short distance from Fort Lauderdale, the core of the metropolitan area.... It is also in the path of the urban development which originates from the employment centers of Dade County and has moved northward through the West Hollywood and Pembroke areas. This development undoubtedly will eventually encompass Palm Beach County."

The plan caused some uproar at the time, as it called for 10.2 housing units per acre -- more than twice that allowed by the Broward County Area Planning Board. County officials warned that such a massive development would set dangerous precedents for the entire undeveloped region and that the ability for roads, namely University Drive, to handle such a development was highly questionable.

But no dire prediction was heard from Plantation city officials, including Veltri, who says he was an early believer in Gulfstream. City leaders had several reasons to join in with the company, the most pressing of which was that the area -- though it was part of Pancoast's master plan -- hadn't officially been annexed yet. There was a possibility that it could be taken by the City of Sunrise, remain unincorporated, or incorporate into a city itself. Veltri and other Plantation officials were also enamored with the tax base the growth would bring to the city.

"I could see nothing but pluses for the city," says James Ward, who was Plantation's mayor from 1969 to 1971. "We knew we had to have control of it ourselves or anything could happen.... Of course it was different from everything we had been doing."

Veltri made his run for mayor in 1974, and that was the only year he ever took monetary campaign contributions. Even then, he says, he accepted less than $100, which is certainly one of the more remarkable aspects of Veltri's remarkable political career. But the two contributors who did manage to give to him were heavyweights: the Peters family and Gulfstream.

"Fred [T.] Peters called me and gave me his checkbook and said, 'Write the check,'" Veltri says, adding that he accepted only $25. "Then Gulfstream took me to lunch and wrote me a check for the maximum at the time [$1000], and I kept $50 of it and sent the rest back."

The game of give-and-take between Veltri and developers had begun.

When his stovetop burst into flames some 20 years ago, Mayor Veltri grabbed a pan of boiling olive oil that spilled out and scalded his hand raw. The "spaghetti night" -- which Veltri called those evenings when he had his closest friends over and cooked for them -- had gone terribly awry.

"You want to know how tough Frank Veltri is?" asks Allan Minter, the chief developer for Gulfstream whom Veltri invited to that spaghetti night years ago. "He walked out into the back yard and took an aloe plant and rubbed it on his hand and finished the night out -- and was a good host, too. I would have been screaming and running out of that house as fast as I could go to an emergency room. I never met a tougher guy, and I used to be a Marine paratrooper."

Minter, who maintained a good reputation through his decades of working with Gulfstream, was one of Veltri's Gulfstream friends. Another was Emerson Allsworth, one of Broward County's most distinguished felons, a former lobbyist for the Gulfstream company, and the current representative of several developments in the Gulfstream area and the rest of Plantation.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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