Responding to claims of civil rights violations, City Manager Julian Deleon said the city acted properly in its actions with the owners of a downtown building that was being renovated into a boarding house.
In a May 2 letter to the city, Miami lawyer John de Leon stated, for more than year, Fernando and Yudith Fernandez have attempted to operate a boarding home at 1 West Main Street.
John De Leon claims there is a conspiracy to prevent Hispanics and others from residing in downtown Avon Park and racial animosity motivated the city to withhold business and occupational licenses for the Fernandez’s boarding house.
Julian Deleon acknowledged that the city received a “demand” letter from a lawyer regarding the previously proposed boarding house for 1 West Main Street.
The letter was forwarded to the city's insurance carrier who has assigned legal counsel, he said.
Deleon summarized the city’s actions concerning the Fernandez’s efforts to operate a boarding house.
He explained that the Fernandezes invested and retrofitted an older building in downtown Avon Park without going through the site plan review process.
The building has 16 rooms which were previously used as office space, Deleon said. At one point, the Fernandezes showed the city a health department permit to accommodate 75 adults inside the 16 rooms, which would be an increase in the intensity or use of the property with 4.7 adults housed per room.
“While they satisfied the health department's standards, they failed to meet the requirements in the city's Land Development Code, which provides for the welfare of all city residents,” he said. “They lacked the parking to convert the building into a residential type use and could not meet the other elements, which were required within the city's code.”
The city facilitated the Fernandez’s request for a variance through the Planning and Zoning Board, Deleon said.
“As part of this process, we had to notify the property owners within 300 feet of their proposed variance,” he said. “The business and residential community at large voiced strong opposition about waiving any requirements for the city's code.”
The variance was not approved by the planning and zoning board, Deleon said.
“In public meetings, Mrs. Fernandez has utilized some very strong accusatory and demeaning language against city staff and council,” he said. “They are now alleging additional charges. This is fine.
“We stand firm on the process and criteria utilized in evaluating their variance application.”