Sometimes there's a legitimate need for something but the location just isn't right. In any downtown area where it is hoped that businesses of all kinds will prosper, the wrong choice can cause issues for a long time. That's what the Avon Park Planning and Zoning Board dealt with last week and they made the right decision.
The city' planning and zoning board voted down 3-2 a parking variance for a proposed boarding house. The owners of the Touchton Building at 19 W. Main, Fernando and Yudith Fernandez, sought approval to count a parking lot located about 400 feet away from their building as off-street parking for residents of a proposed boarding house in the upper story of their building.
The Fernandezes want to provide 16 rooms upstairs housing up to 53 adults. These would be mostly migrant workers. Having that many residents requires parking, and there isn't enough directly behind the building to meet zoning requirements. The Fernandezes purchased a parking lot down the street, but it exceeds the 200-foot minimum. They sought a variance to allow the boarding house and its parking.
Local business people said that on-street parking spots would be jammed with residents of the boarding house if the variance was allowed, which would hurt their businesses. Their customers would become frustrated with lack of parking convenience, they stated, which would hurt retail establishments.
They make a legitimate point. Nothing is more frustrating to customers than having nowhere to park. And there's little doubt that residents of the proposed boarding house would not want to park more than a football field's length away from their homes when there's closer parking. It would be a parking enforcement nightmare that no one needs.
We understand the Fernandezes' frustration and their wish to get this passed. And we don't doubt there's a need for such housing, but this location just doesn't work well with what the city and business owners along Main Street are trying to do.
Some people have claimed racism is what's behind all of this. They think that business owners don't want "those people" living in that location. First off, we don't believe that. Secondly, we believe business owners will do whatever they can to increase their business first and foremost, and they see this as a hindrance.
We believe the planning and zoning board made the correct decision on this matter for downtown Avon Park.