By Suzy Kridner
NEW SMYRNA BEACH - Visiting a fortuneteller online doesn't have the same ambiance as visiting one in her place of business.
Whether she uses a Magic 8 ball or Tarot cards or a crystal ball or reads your palm to predict your future, it's more entertaining to meet face-to-face.
That was impossible in the past in New Smyrna Beach since the city had a ban on fortunetellers. But that's changing.
A local attorney representing new residents said his clients want to open a fortunetelling business, but it won't happen on Flagler Avenue in the heart of the beachside tourist district, which is where they wanted to locate.
After several months of discussion, the City Commission recently voted to relegate fortunetelling businesses as a special exception to areas zoned for highway service business (B3), such as U.S. 1, the west end of Canal Street and large portions of State Road 44.
Each request would have to be approved by the City Commission.
Local attorney James Peterson said his clients, Anthony and Sabrina Miller of W. Warwick, R.I., wanted to open a fortunetelling business on Flagler Avenue.
They told Mr. Peterson last week that they are "elated that New Smyrna Beach has welcomed us to the City by both eliminating the longstanding prohibition and by allowing us an opportunity to locate our business in the B3 zoned areas."
They also said they hoped they would be able to "alleviate any of the preconceived misconceptions and/or fears the City Commission and the Flagler area merchants have which prompted them to deny our request to locate our shop on Flagler Avenue."
Attorney Peterson said he has been working with City Attorney Frank Gummey on changing the land use amendment to now allow fortunetelling in certain areas.
He said his clients are moving here from Rhode Island where they operate a family business.
"She's the talent," Mr. Peterson said.
Allowing fortunetelling in areas zoned for highway service business is better than the areas zoned industrial that were first considered, he said.
"After making an initial request with the city, Mr. Peterson said he found there was a blanket prohibition on fortunetellers that "probably wouldn't stand up to a constitutional challenge."
Mr. Peterson said the City Attorney agreed and recognized the ban needed some kind of amendment.
The city then started proceedings to amend the zoning ordinance so fortunetelling businesses could be allowed.
"The city wanted to bring the ordinance up to date and determine the best areas for the businesses," Mr. Peterson said.
Vice Mayor Judy Reiker said, "It is our job to determine if it is in the best interest of New Smyrna Beach."
Flagler Avenue businesswoman Adele Aletti of Gone Bonkers, president of the Merchants of Flagler Avenue, told commissioners she was opposed to fortunetellers on Flagler Avenue.
"I just felt it wasn't suitable," she said later. While Flagler Avenue shops sell crystals, she said, they don't do readings.
Kevin Jameson, a planner for the city who has researched fortunetelling in area cities, as well as tattoo parlors, Internet gaming and pill mills, said the City Commission is pretty conservative and looks on fortune telling as adult entertainment and wanted the businesses in adult entertainment districts.