Feb 5, 2024 - News

Synagogue inside Aventura home sued for zoning violations

Illustration of a black and white gavel with a green tint over a purple and black background.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

For years, a Jewish center near Aventura has been illegally holding religious services at a private home and doing unpermitted construction, according to a lawsuit filed in January by Miami-Dade County.

What's happening: Chabad Israeli Center of Miami holds religious services and classes out of a three-bedroom home zoned for residential use in unincorporated Miami-Dade County.

  • The congregation, which bought the home in 2016, retrofitted it with an industrial kitchen, a living room classroom and a new air conditioning system.
  • The unpermitted remodeling work also includes plumbing, electrical and exterior repairs — like new windows, a shed and a garage conversion — according to the lawsuit.

Why it matters: The county tells Axios that the unpermitted work could be exposing worshippers to "safety hazards" and that the lawsuit was a "last resort" to fix violations that date back to 2017.

  • The property has received $1.5 million in property tax exemptions since 2021 due to its religious use, according to county property records.
  • The county is asking a judge to force Chabad to fix the code violations and pay up to $10,000 per day per violation of the building code and up to $5,000 per day for violations of the zoning code.

What they're saying: The county said in a statement that the lawsuit is "a last resort" to ensure the building is brought up to code "so all can exercise their right to practice their faith safely."

  • It says the synagogue currently owes $82,719 in unpaid fines for the violations.

A Chabad representative tells Axios the congregation is "in the middle of our zoning approval" and working with the county "to fix the building code [violations]."

  • He declined to comment further.

Flashback: A similar legal battle took place last year in Miami Beach, where the city accused a different Jewish congregation of operating a private home as a place of worship.

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