The Real Deal Miami

Turn a home into an office? Not so fast, Miami planning and zoning board says

House was used as a medical office building since 1985, owner said
By Erik Bojnansky | November 04, 2016 09:45AM


2225 Southwest 18th Avenue

Homeowners of Miami’s Silver Bluff neighborhood claimed victory Wednesday after Miami’s Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board shot down a real estate consultant’s request to use a single-family house as an office.

L2 Holdings Miami LLC, a company controlled by real estate consultant Lance Lazarus, bought the 3,719-square-foot home at 2225 Southwest 18th Avenue in July. Lazarus explained to the board that the purchase was part of a “package deal” for the adjacent two-story, 16,000-square-foot Coral Way office building where the MSGComm marketing and advertising agency once operated.

L2 Holdings bought the two buildings, and the 26,197 square feet of land they sit on, for $3.9 million from a company controlled by MSGComm founders Al Garcia-Serra and Manuel Machado. The 1951-era house sits on a 13,093-square-foot lot.

Lazarus and his lawyers pointed out that the house was used as a medical office building since 1985. Lazarus said the house will operate as a base for himself and eight of his employees. Lazarus added that “$200,000 was already spent on the property.”

However, Silver Bluff homeowners told the board that they’ve been trying to shut down the office operation since 1985. Neighbor Don Devesz said the house hasn’t been used as an office for 18 months. Then, about a year ago, illegal construction commenced on the house, attracting construction crews to their residential neighborhood.

“If you buy a house, you get a house,” Devesz said. “If you want an office, there’s plenty of spaces available. Today, just driving up Coral Way, I counted nine ‘office for lease’ signs.”

Javier Vazquez, Lazarus’ attorney, stressed that his client has only possessed the house for two months and that he’s working to get it in compliance with the Miami 21 zoning code.

Vazquez said that Lazarus has applied to continue the nonconforming-use designation under the city’s 2013 “Nonconforming Use Pilot Program,” which Lazarus applied for just prior to the program’s expiration in August. It will also revert back to residential when Lazarus sells it, Vazquez added.

But neighbors stressed that the planning and zoning board didn’t need to approve the application. Beba Mahn, president of the Silver Bluff Homeowners Association, said the home will have the capacity to hold “35 or 80 employees.” She also said that the house property was used as spillover parking for the office building during the months it was unoccupied, including during a time when the building was holding a block party.

Mahn demanded that the house remain empty until the asphalt is removed and the property revert to its residential origins. “We want our neighborhood to be a place of beauty and tranquility, not a place of urban chaos,” she said.

The Planning and Zoning Department issued a report supporting Lazarus’ non-conforming use request so long as it wasn’t transferable upon sale. However, the planning and zoning board unanimously sided with the residents, pointing out that the Miami 21 code stresses that such a use “will not prove materially adverse to the surrounding properties.”

The board’s decision is merely a recommendation for the Miami City Commission. The first available date for the commission to rule on the Lazarus’ house is January 26, according to Olga Zamora of the city’s Hearing Boards section.