Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Help Me Howard: Wall
Having your own business can be tough. Having the same one a few feet from another one can be brutal, and, when that happens, it can create a wall-to-wall headache. That's not an expression, it's a fact, and it has one Hallandale businessman fuming and calling Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Ofir Ben Yaakov opened a handbag business in Hallandale Beach nearly two years ago and enjoys it.
Ofir Ben Yaakov: "Everybody's happy in my store, all my customers."
But one fellow was not pleased to see Ofir show up: Robert, who already owned a handbag business right next door.
Robert Davidowitz: "The old adage is when you try to bury somebody, you will be buried yourself."
Two stores selling the same products a few feet apart, what could possibly go wrong?
Ofir: "And I just came in one day, and I saw it."
Ofir's side entrance to his store was suddenly hidden by a wall Robert built six feet high and a couple of feet away from his door, very close to the door.
Ofir: "Everybody's in shock."
While Ofir is in shocked, Robert is smiling.
Robert: "I'm just righting a wrong."
Ofir's building goes right to the edge of the property, and Robert owns the property that runs right up to Ofir's handbag shop.
Robert Davidowitz: "You can't have a front door leading onto somebody's property."
But Ofir says it's not just a door to his store, it's an emergency exit.
Ofir: "He cannot block my store because of a fire exit."
Yes I can, says Robert.
Robert: "I do have a bona fide permit that says that I have the right to put that wall up."
I didn't believe it and contacted City Hall and talked with people there, and everybody told me it is under investigation, and, "we are going to send somebody to see it."
What they saw was a wall Ofir says was built for just one reason.
Ofir: "Just to kill my business of course, nothing else."
Robert says Ofir should not have a side door empty onto his property.
Robert Davidowitz: "He doesn't have the right to have the access to my property to run his business."
That leaves Ofir fuming, and his friends filling his head with advice.
Ofir: "Everybody told me to break it or paint it, but I don't want to do something illegal."
But can Ofir tear down the wall, and can Robert keep it on his property inches from Ofir's property? Let's bring in Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "Legally, you cannot block customers from coming and going into a business, but Ofir has another entrance, a front entrance and, as long as the wall doesn't violate any fire codes, safety codes, or building codes, if the local government says it's legal."
We contacted the City of Hallandale Beach. After going out to inspect the wall himself, the City manager told us Robert's new wall does meet all City and county codes, and can stay exactly where it is, right in front of Ofir's side door.
Ofir's building does go right up to the edge of his property which is legal, and, while that side door would be illegal today, it was allowed when built back in the 80s.
The result, the wall will stay and no doubt Ofir and Robert will find new ways to compete in their handbag battle.
Ofir: "And now he's so happy, he thinks he is the sheriff of the world."
Robert: "Well, I haven't buried them, but I have put the competition on equal footing."
Patrick Fraser: "Now you may be wondering how the building Ofir rents can go right up to the edge of the property, especially since cities require homes to be a few feet off the property line. In this case, the city allowed what is called Business Limited Zoning, which lets commercial property go right up to the edge of the property.
Hit a brick wall trying to solve a problem? Need someone to bust through? Contact us -- we don't have a bulldozer, but we don't need permits either.
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