published: Sunday, February 17, 2013
Boarding house residents not welcome in Avon Park
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
AVON PARK -- In a 3-2 vote Tuesday evening the Planning & Zoning Advisory Board recommended the city council deny Yudith Fernandez's application for a variance regarding parking at her proposed boarding house. Her property is the historic Touchton building at 1 W. Main St.
This is a controversial issue.
On the one hand, Fernandez who has been trying to open her proposed business for months, has been met with new demands each step of the way. She pointed out to the P&Z advisory board, she had fulfilled every demand every step of the way.
Part of the wary response to her business is that through Fern and Fern Corp. and Fern Finance, Fernandez owns 21 properties in Highlands County. One of those properties is the Sharon Motel at 2180 U.S. North in Avon Park, an establishment that is neglected and in disrepair.
However, when accused of multiple code violations at the P&Z meeting, City Manager Julian Deleon said Fernandez had no outstanding code violations.
Her plan to turn the second floor of her building into a 16-room boarding house for migrant agricultural workers is opposed by many in the community.
Tuesday evening Fernandez was asking for a variance from the on-street parking code.
Speaker after speaker Tuesday night got up demanding the board vote against giving Fernandez that variance.
Members of the board and downtown businessmen said they were most concerned about how transient business parking would be affected along Main Street when boarding house residents began to park on the streets themselves.
Earlier, in response to these parking concerns, Fernandez made arrangements for off-street parking in a vacant lot. That lot, however, is well down the block from the building. Some individuals worry boarding house residents won't park there because they would have to walk.
"Residents could be parked there (on the street) for two or three days," said Carl Cool, whose business is further west on Main Street. "This is bad for Avon Park."
Other objections revealed themselves during the evening.
Jim Barnard, a candidate for the city council in 2012, said, "We have many schools and churches in the area. They'll just be walking up and down the street. I worry about our children."
Others were too, one man rising to say he had changed his mind about the boarding house, of which he had been in favor. "I am now totally, 100 percent against it," he said. "I do have a daughter."
"How is this a betterment," another speaker asked. "We need restaurants and businesses on Main Street."
"Boarding house people would live downtown; they would be customers," board member David Cloud replied. He repeatedly said that as a business in an historic building, city code clearly said Fernandez was entitled to an exemption regarding parking, because no provisions for parking had been made when the commercial building was built.
Jean Jordon, another member of the board, disagreed. "The building is not really commercial," she said. "It is for her, but it's really a residence." Therefore, she added, no exemption was allowed. Multi-residential buildings have to provide a specified amount of off-street parking per living space.
At one point Fernandez and Jordon got into a heated discussion regarding the past use of the Touchton building.
If the Touchton building had once housed residents, Fernandez argued, it should qualify for a parking grandfather exemption, like the Jacaranda.
Fernandez, citing material at the Historical Society, said the second floor of 1 W. Main St. had once been residential.
"I'm 80 years old and it's never been residential in all that time," Jordon said. "The building has always been offices. There is no precedent of people living there."
Fernandez replied she read it in a book at the Historical Society.
Jordon admitted a book she helped write with Leoma Maxwell years ago was not well fact-checked and filled with errors. Fernandez had bad information, she said, but that didn't change anything. The code was the code. "We're trying to bring (the city) back to the charming town it was before," Jordan said.
Deleon said according to city code the matter was moot. A building has to have been uninterruptedly residential, he said. Even if people had once lived in the Touchton Building, they left long ago. 1 W. Main St., therefore, did not qualify for a grandfather clause.
In the end, Jordan made the motion to refuse Fernandez's request for a parking variance. Paul Miller and board chair Roger Gurganus voted with Jordon. David Cloud and Rebecca Jaramillo voted against her motion.
The matter now comes before the city council, which has the final say on the matter.
adios Avon Park (by: horseman - 2/19/2013)
I must admit that AP has become quite the place that special interest groups love to hate. How many folks from outside the City have tried to dig their hands into the city? Of those outside people who do they ally with inside the City? That is your que people as to what the future holds. The man-baby is the conduit for outsiders to change the composition of the council. He despises Deleon enough to bring the City down to its knees just to get rid of him. Who will be there to pick up the pieces? You will have nothing but ag people supporting the cause of boarding houses on Main Street. Forget any hopes of a MLK Blvd... Get ready for a Zapata Street and Cinco de Mayo day off at City Hall!
A P better be careful (by: bAdLeY bEnT - 2/19/2013)
AP should watch just how concentrated the Hispanics become within the city limits of Avon Park for each one who lives in town may eventually become a registered voter. Now Avon Park is on the way to a balanced budget but it may not stay that way if hordes of Hispanics together with the colored community, closet special interest, and extremely liberal minority lover groups along with a few foolish educators all combine their votes for liberal minded city council candidates who if elected will certainly destroy Avon Park, it's finances, history, economy & heritage as well... all in the name of "Justice, Fairness, Diversity, Equality, Righteousness, and last but not least of all, For the Children". For the sake of all the good citizens of Avon Park, be very careful what you allow to happen in your town, the wolves are dressed in sheep's clothing and they are at your door!
Chillin at the Sharon... (by: Joey T. - 2/18/2013)
Hey horseman. Yes, the Fernandez's Sharon "Motel" is a disgusting dump but check out their Manor Hill home. OMG! I used to deliver pizza back in Manor Hill and I once asked who lived in the dump. I sure feel for their neighbors.
Ruined the Neighborhood (by: Kent Steele - 2/18/2013)
If anybody would like to see how the Fernandez's maintain their properties, I recommend inspecting their Sunrise Drive Manor Hill residence on the Deer Run golfcourse. Their neglect of this property has ruined the values of the homes around it. They consistently violate the Manor Hill deed restrictions with no regard for their neighbors and are an unwelcome commodity in this residential community.
Liars all around (by: AP Residents - 2/17/2013)
Good vote by the board just said it was not unanimous. But what stands out to me is this sentence: "Jordon admitted a book she helped write with Leoma Maxwell years ago was not well fact-checked and filled with errors." What a joke.
NIMBY (by: Goodbye Miss American Pie - 2/17/2013)
I cant believe that Avon Park does not want boarding houses. Allow one per block, next to YOUR house. Wake up in the morning and watch 15 men scurry for a bathroom until they urinate in the yard in plain view from your kitchen window. You may even watch them urinate from their own window where the screen has been removed for this purpose. Listen to parties, stay up all night with loud music and drinking. Watch 'm bring in local "fun loving gals" to partake in activities that are generally not approved by local law enforcement. Sometimes, the "gals" are brought in by the same vans the workers are brought in. Nice to know the grove owners help this lifestyle by providing transportation!
LULAC was missing! (by: champ - 2/17/2013)
Interesting that along this "journey", the Fernandez's have had the LULAC (League of united latin american citizens) holding their hand and holding the torch of equality and fairness shouting justice!
Charm vs crammed (by: logical - 2/17/2013)
I am all for the betterment of down town. If it just isnt the vision of this communityy to have boarding houses on Main street, then change the code and move on. This way, issues like this wont happen again.
Make it easy (by: horseman - 2/17/2013)
I drive by the Sharon Motel everyday. If that is what the Fernandez's use as an example of what they will do to down town, then say NO to more boarding houses. Disgusting!
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