AP miffed with county planning and zoning services
Marc Valero | Highlands TodayAVON PARK - Three different county opinions on the parking requirements for a Main Street building has the city weighing its options for planning and zoning services.
Published: January 2, 2013
Published: January 2, 2013
At Wednesday's special council meeting, City Manager Julian Deleon said in the past four months the owner of the building at One West Main Street has been informed by county planning and zoning that 1.7 parking spaces are required per unit, that one parking space is required per unit and that no parking requirements are necessary.
The second floor of the building has been renovated to serve as a boarding house.
Building owner, Yudith Fernandez, related her struggles with trying to comply with unclear zoning and parking issues.
Fernandez said she has not been treated fairly by the city.
"The city administration continues against me; continues to try to destroy me; continues persecution of me," she said.
Mayor Sharon Schuler said people have complained in the past that many services are at the county level. With the city's recent cost savings, would the city benefit by having a part-time planning person?
The Central Florida Planning Council has done a great job for the city in the past few years, especially in redoing the city's comprehensive land development plan and the county has done well until this "dysfunctional decision," she said.
City Manager Julian Deleon said it has been at least seven years since the city employed a full-time planning and zoning person. With the downturn in the economy and the real-estate market, that position has a significant cost of about $70,000 to $80,000.
The simpler and more common planning and zoning components can be handled by city staff, he said.
Deleon said the city is paying the county $20,000 annually for planning and zoning services so if that contract is terminated that money would be available for either a part-time position or a consultant for the more complicated items.
Councilman Parke Sutherland said comments made at a meeting he attended indicate the county may terminate their planning and zoning contract with the city, "So we may be in the position where we may be required to do something different."
In a Dec. 20 email to County Administrator June Fisher, Deleon said, "I am disappointed on the lack of communication and flip-flopping in the interpretation of technical matters. I will take the position that the active contract for planning and zoning services is not in the city's best interest to continue."
After Mrs. Fernandez complained, county staff issued a second letter/email stating that a "mistake" had been made and that only one parking space per room would be required, Deleon stated in the email. As a result of this, she went out and purchased a parking lot and applied for a variance to the code.
County Development Services Director Mark Hill responded to Deleon's criticisms in a letter to Fisher.
Fernandez was cautioned by two county staff members that there was no guarantee that a variance would be approved and that she should consider waiting to purchase that vacant lot.
"I remain completley confident that the county staff's review and analysis of this request for One West Main Street in Avon Park was completed in an accurate and professional manner," Hill said. "Never the less, the county's planning staff and I can amicably accept Mr. Deleon's recommendation to cancel the inter-local agreement between the city and the county for planning and zoning services even with the possibility that the city may never request such an inter-local agreement again."
At Wednesday's city council meeting Deleon said, "I would recommend that we terminate the contract with Highlands County, keep Central Florida Regional Planning Council under contract and allow city staff to provide the day-to-day more mundane answers," he said. In the meantime the city could seek quotes for a technical expert for the more complicated issues.
Council approved Sutherland's motion to direct Deleon to hire a consultant to determine the parking requirements for the One West Main Street Building.
Also, council approved advertising for bids for planning and zoning services, but decided against terminating the contract with the county.
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