March 4, 2013

Real Housewives star could get approval Tuesday to bulldoze house

Miami Beach may finally give Real Housewives star Lisa Hochstein and her husband, Leonard, approval to tear down a mansion that preservationists want declared historic.

A reality TV star and her plastic surgeon husband could finally get approval to tear down a mansion at 42 Star Island.

But even if they do, the battle over the 88-year-old house may be far from over.

Miami Beach’s Design Review Board (DRB) on Tuesday will consider an application by Leonard and Lisa Hochstein to tear down the mansion to make way for a new, larger home. He is a plastic surgeon known as “The Boob God” and she is a cast member on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Miami .

The celebrity couple has been up against the Miami Design Preservation League, which filed a petition to preserve the 1925 home from demolition by having it declared historic.

In February, preservationists were close to getting a moratorium on the demolition of the home. But, due to a deliberate stray from procedure on the city’s part, the application for historic designation, and therefore the ability to get a moratorium, was delayed.

That led to a timing advantage for the Hochsteins, who now have the opportunity to get their plans approved Tuesday.

City staff has recommended approval of the Hochsteins’ plans. Michael Larkin, a land use attorney representing the couple, has previously told The Miami Herald that approval from the DRB would render the application for historic designation “moot.”

“It vests the property against any type of pending designation request,” Larkin said during a Monday telephone interview.

But Kent Harrison Robbins, an attorney working pro bono for the preservationists, doesn’t agree.

In the first place, Robbins argues that the Hochsteins should not get DRB approval because, “We don’t think the applicant has done their job to establish a basis for them to be able to demolish the architecturally-significant building.”

Preservationists have enlisted the help of structural engineer Herbert Gopman, who, Robbins said, is ready to contest in front of the DRB the structural report submitted by the Hochsteins. The couple has argued that the home is structurally unsound.

If the Hochsteins do get approval Tuesday, Robbins said preservationists can appeal the decision — though Larkin contests that.

The Design Review Board meets at 8:30 a.m. in the commission chambers on the third floor of City Hall, 1700 Convention Center Dr.

Follow @Cveiga on Twitter.

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