What to do about the Cuban Queen?
JEROME -- Windy Jones argued point by point with the two Jerome attorneys and several Board of Adjustment members, but even the ghost of the Cuban Queen could not help her as she and her partner walked away empty-handed Thursday night.
Jones stood at the podium holding piles of papers, showing proof of why she should be allowed town parking space permits for the proposed renovation of the former Cuban Queen building in Jerome.
The hot desert air flowed through the large antique windows of the Jerome Town Council chambers as Jones negotiated about the future life of the Cuban Queen with the Jerome Board of Adjustment members for three hours.
The Town of Jerome brought its own attorney. The Board of Adjustment brought its own attorney. At the end of the meeting, the request for a variance for parking spaces by Jones and her partner Josh Lindner was tabled. The Board of Adjustment recommended the couple look around Jerome and see if they can acquire parking spaces on their own or to scale back the project.
Earlier in the evening, the board also shot down the couple’s appeal of the zoning administrator’s original decision that the town permit, which granted the Cuban Queen five parking spaces, was invalid.
The five parking spaces were contingent upon the previous owner’s completion of the building project before Jones bought the property. That was the decision rendered by former Jerome Zoning Administrator Charlotte Page, on the advice of the Town Attorney William Sims. The parking permit is crucial to the plans to convert the one-time brothel into a four-bedroom rooming house.
After unanimously supporting the decision by the former zoning administrator, the board turned to the question of whether the new Cuban Queen building should be granted a parking permit due to hardship.
Jones argued they should be granted the parking variance because she was told on several occasions that her parking permit was valid by a town official.
Board of Adjustment Attorney Bill Ring suggested Jones should not focus on what happened in the past but instead address the building’s structural limitations and hardships.
Jones said the hardship is relevant because town officials previously had assured them of parking availability. She presented a list of those contacts with the former zoning administrator as evidence. She also argued that she had a special hardship because of the topography and location of the property.
The town’s former zoning administrator, Page, told the Board that access to the property is limited and the basement slope creates a hardship to develop.
“Without variances for parking, she may not be able to build at all,” Page concurred.
“There are almost no commercial buildings in Jerome that supply off-street parking,” she added.
New buildings in Jerome require on-site parking and there is a formula for how many spaces each building should have.
Since the proposed size of the new Cuban Queen building is larger than the previous structure, Board Vice Chairman Carol Yaght questioned whether the Cuban Queen should be coming in for six or seven parking spaces. If the board were to grant five spaces, the town would not be following the formula for new business on-site parking.
“If we were to grant you a variance for five, and given the scope of the improvement, I am not sure there is going to be enough parking,” said town attorney Sims.
“Put on your zoning administrator hat. So even if they (the board) decide to give five spaces, but the structure they are building requires six, and Carol thought it may even be seven, what do we do then?” Sims asked Page.
“Perhaps we need a project that is closer to what was originally built,” Sims said.
Page said there was a very large parking lot in the Cuban Queen area that was “underutilized.”
Who owns this parking lot? asked chairman Shapiro.
“The town, town-owned property,” Page responded.
At this point, Shapiro suggested tabling the couple’s request until they could secure off-site parking spaces and they could reconvene once they could demonstrate that they had secured parking spaces.
Jones said Thursday’s meeting was about obtaining the parking spaces, and was not sure what she needs to come back with.
Jones said they would come back in 90 days, on Oct. 24.
Any appeals to Board of Adjustment decisions go to Superior Court, according to Town Manager Candace Gallagher. If the board had approved either request, it would go back to a full Planning and Zoning and Design Review Board hearings.