Sat, Oct. 19

Commentary: Cuban Queen a case study of Jerome’s parking woes

What began as a seemingly simple plan to re-birth some of Jerome’s nefarious history has turned into a real boondoggle for the mountainside community.

It was hoped that Thursday’s meeting of the Jerome Board of Adjustment would provide some resolution for a planned re-build of the former Cuban Queen brothel.

As it turned out, the board rejected one of the appeals under consideration and delayed the other for 90 days.

Front and center to the Cuban Queen debate is the issue of parking adequacy. The property owners want assurance from the town that the proposed rooming house/studio/retail operation will have sufficient parking.

That should not come as much of a surprise as parking has been the hot-button topic in Jerome for well over a year now. In fact, Jerome is moving forward with plans to implement kiosk-styled paid parking in town. There are those who think such a move is a blasphemous contradiction to the free-wheelin’ ways of Jerome.

But let’s face it. Parking has become a legitimate supply-and-demand commodity in Jerome. There are some folks up there willing to sell parking spaces for enough money to buy a new Mercedes. For years now the typical Monday morning office banter about going to Jerome over the weekend concludes with this answer about what you did up there: “Looked for a place to park.”

Yep, thar’s gold in them thar hills. Parking spaces are about the most valuable commodity in town.

For the Cuban Queen owners, they believed they had struck gold by inheriting a town variance on the property that allowed for five parking spaces.

As always, though, the devil is in the details. The variance did allow the prior owner five parking spaces, “upon completion” of the Cuban Queen’s reconstruction. That variance was issued in 2009 when the town’s parking problems were not nearly as severe as they are today. The town’s zoning administrator determined since the Cuban Queen was not reconstructed by the prior owner, the variance for parking did not automatically pass forward to the new owners.

Jerome’s Board of Adjustment had the (now former) zoning administrator’s back on that decision. That put the Cuban Queen owners back in the starting gate on obtaining a parking variance.

How that will play out over the next 90 days remains to be seen. The lawyers are already circling over Jerome like buzzards hoping a deal will not be struck.

There are many in town who would love to see the old Cuban Queen brought back from the dead. In this case it would be a brick-by-brick resurrection of the building that over time collapsed into a heap. Jerome is a town of history. Keeping that history alive is crucial to the town’s heritage.

Some are probably not so keen on giving the Cuban Queen a second chance given the fact that it will represent another notch in the belt for short-term rentals. This is not a “boarding house” to address the needs of affordable housing in Jerome, but, rather, a stop-and-go for tourists.

And while those tourists spend money in a town that lives and dies by tourism dollars, they also compete for valuable parking spots.

All things considered, a reconstruction of the Cuban Queen would be a good thing for Jerome, both in terms of community heritage and as well for the bottom line.

Now if we could just find a solution for those pesky parking spots.

They have 90 days to work it out.

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