What’s Happening at City Hall?

Can You Believe It’s August Already?

What’s Happening at City Hall?

Even in August, things aren’t slowing down much. We’re at 21 public meetings (down from 23 in July). Nothing is written in stone, so use this link to keep up with the latest schedule changes. https://cityofwinterpark.org/government/boards/

Social Notes from the Last Commission Meeting

Something’s Rotten at City Hall. The dais where the Commissioners sit has termites. Like the Trojan Horse, the beautiful custom woodwork facing the audience harbors an invading army. Before the army gets out and attacks the entire building, the dais will have to be dismantled and removed and the invaders eradicated. Here’s hoping the City of Winter Park is more successful than the Trojans were. Search is underway for an artisan to design a replacement.

Body cameras for Winter Park’s Finest are in the FY2020 budget. And the Commission voted not to demolish the building at Progress Point. A majority agreed they would wait and see what happens with redevelopment plans for the Orange Avenue corridor. The City did, however, mow the grass at Progress Point. Neighbors are grateful.

Schedules for Commission, Advisory Boards and 3 Task Forces

Commission meetings are held the second and fourth Monday of each month, beginning at 3:30 pm, in the Commission Chambers on the second floor of City Hall. They go until they’re finished – typically until 5:30 to 6:30 pm unless there is a controversial item on the agenda.

Nineteen citizen boards advise the Commission on topics ranging from Police Officers’ Pensions to Lakes and Waterways and Code Compliance. A full list of these boards and board members can be found at the City website (above link). The August schedule is on the chart below.

In addition to the standing advisory boards, there are currently three task forces, which are formed for a single stated purpose with definite beginning and ending dates. The three task forces are described below. You are urged to attend their meetings.

Charter Review Advisory Committee

This task force is formed every 10 years for the purpose of updating the Winter Park City Charter. The Charter is our City’s ‘Constitution,’ its primary governing document. Some major issues are under discussion, making these meetings interesting and relevant. Meetings are held once a month at the Community Center from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. The first hour is devoted to public comment, so best be on time. The next meeting is Tuesday, August 27.

Orange Avenue Steering Committee

The purpose of this task force is to decide the parameters of a zoning ‘overlay,’ which will establish guidelines for the redevelopment of that stretch of Orange Avenue reaching from 17-92 to just north of the corner of Denning and Fairbanks. Meetings are held twice a month from 5:30 to 7:30 pm in the Commission chambers. The next meeting is Wednesday, August 7.

Old Library Reuse Task Force

This group is charged with recommending to the Commission the proper disposition of the current library facility. The task force meets twice a month in the Commission chambers at Noon. The next meeting is Wednesday, August 14.

Coffee Talks

Not only do we have official commissions, boards and task forces, we also have informal gatherings with the Mayor and Commissioners where you can let them know what you’re thinking and find out what they’re thinking.

The Mayor’s Coffee Talk was in July. Coffee Talks with the Commissioners will be held 8:00 to 9:00 am at the Winter Park Golf and Country Club, 761 Old England Ave.

Commissioner Greg Seidel – August 8.

Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel – September 9.

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper – October 10.

Commissioner Todd Weaver – November 14.

Here’s the August Lineup.

The Chapman Room and the Commission Chambers are on the second floor of City Hall.

Note: this schedule is subject to change. Check the City website link at the top of the article for the latest information.

Winter Park, Where Bike Trails Come to Die

Mayflower Nixes City’s Request for Bike Path Easement

Winter Park, Where Bike Trails Come to Die

When the Mayflower retirement community came before the July 22 Commission seeking final approval for plans to expand their facilities and services, most of the discussion centered not on the expansion, despite substantial changes to the version that received preliminary approval in 2018, but on the City’s request for an easement along the western border of the property where it could maybe, someday, build a 15-foot wide path for bikes and pedestrians. The City wanted to create a route that removed bikes and pedestrians from the dangerous motor traffic on Lakemont Avenue.

In January 2018, the Mayflower received preliminary approval to add a new three-story health care center and a one-story memory care center, a one-story club house and four separate three-story residential buildings. Conditions of approval were that the Mayflower would “explore” a bike path, install buffer landscaping for adjacent properties and come up with a storm water plan approved by the St. Johns River Water Management District.

A year and a half later, in addition to the new club house and additional residences, the Mayflower wanted to combine the health care facility with the memory care center in a single four-story structure to make room for a fifth 24,000-square-foot residential building. The plan presented to the Commission displayed easements along the western border of the Mayflower property for the bike path. The easements are indicated in red and blue on the map above.

Sprinkel Has Heartburn

Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel pointed out that when the original request came before the Commission in 2018, the Mayflower was asked to “explore” a bike path that would serve as a northeast connector trail, but the path was not a condition of approval. “We have not, as a Commission, even approved this bike path,” said Sprinkel.

Turns out the bike path easement was a staff recommendation, which City Code, Sec. 58-90, “Conditional Use,” allows the City to impose. Code says that if an applicant brings for final approval a project in which the height has changed by more than one foot and the floor area has changed by more than 250 feet, the City can re-open all negotiations. Planning Manager Jeff Briggs cited the intent of the 2010 Comprehensive Plan to get cyclists and pedestrians from Lakemont up to Palmer, and said staff believed there was an opportunity for that along the western border of the Mayflower property, as had been discussed in 2018.

Seidel Suggests a Sunset Date

Commissioner Greg Seidel stated while an easement is no guarantee the City will build the bike path, the Mayflower’s failure to grant the easement would guarantee it won’t be built. Seidel suggested establishing a 10-year “sunset date” on the easement – if no bike path is built there within 10 years, the easement will cease and the property will revert to the Mayflower.

Connectivity Plan “Accepted” but Never “Adopted”

The connectivity plan for bikes and pedestrians goes back to the Bikes & Peds Board before it was renamed the Transportation Advisory Board. The Bikes & Peds Board submitted a plan for connecting bike and pedestrian paths through the City, which Mayor Steve Leary said was “accepted” by the Commission, but not “approved.”

Mayflower Project Has ‘Substantial Change’

Addressing Commissioner Spinkel’s ‘heartburn,’ Commissioner Carolyn Cooper pointed out that since the Mayflower came back for final approval with a project that was substantially different from the one that received preliminary approval, “. . .we can start all of these conversations all over again. . . . Alternatively,” said Cooper, “the Commission also has the right to ask the developer to revert to the original plan, since the substantial changes have not received preliminary approval by the Commission.”

“Winter Park is a Big Dead Zone”

Commissioner Todd Weaver addressed the concerns of the Mayflower residents for their own pedestrian safety on the property. He pointed out that between the fence and a 50-foot landscape buffer separating the proposed bike path from the Mayflower property, the residents would not even see the path, let alone encounter bicycles. Weaver recounted a recent Metroplan meeting at which a map of the inter-connected greenways in Orange, Osceola and Seminole Counties showed a big ‘dead zone’ at the center — Winter Park. “It is City staff’s mandate to complete our Comprehensive Plan, and part of that is our mobility,” said Weaver. “This connectivity plan has been 10 years in the making, and we are 10 years behind every other city in our area.”

We Are Asking for the Opportunity

Weaver went on to explain that the City had neither planned nor funded the actual path, that it was simply requesting an easement for the opportunity to do so at some future date. He stated that there would be no design and that no plans would be made without including Mayflower residents, surrounding neighbors, City staff and the Commission.

Everyone Wants Trails – Just Not In Their Back Yards

Public commenters criticized City government for its failure to come up with a well-defined plan for greenway connectivity. Citizens hastened to assure Commissioners that they were not against bike and pedestrian paths, as long as they are far enough away from their property.

Attorney Tripp Cheek, who is a member of the law firm representing the Mayflower, Winderweedle, Haines, Ward & Woodman, PA, but who spoke as a private citizen, cited a case in which the St. Johns River Water Management District required a developer to improve a wetlands property he did not own in return for granting him a permit to develop his own property. The developer successfully sued the District, claiming the wetlands improvement had nothing to do with his own development and should not be used as a condition for approval. Cheek cautioned the Commissioners against asking for the bike path easement, warning they were “asking for a problem” in the future.

Cheek’s remarks drew a sharp response from Seidel. “I don’t appreciate it when people threaten me with a lawsuit over something I’m trying to decide,” said Seidel. “That is not going to sway me one way or the other.” Seidel said he would defer to the City Attorney.

Ardaman’s Response

Ardaman cited City Code, which says the Commission has three options. One, the Commission can decide the Mayflower’s changes are not significant. Two, they can find the changes are significant but acceptable. Or, three, they can decide the changes are significant and unacceptable, in which case the applicant must amend the plan to conform with the original conditional use and resubmit it to the Commission.

The Problem is Lakemont

A significant hurdle to the decision is the City’s failure to adopt a connectivity plan. One by one, each Commissioner admitted that where the ball had been dropped was right in their laps. “We didn’t do it because we couldn’t,” said Sprinkel, “we didn’t have agreement up here. Now we need to do something about this.”

“I know that our Advisory Boards have worked hard on this issue,” said Cooper. “They’ve done planning, but their plans have been ‘accepted,’ not ‘adopted.’ I’m glad [City Planning Director Bronce Stephenson] has a different impression about this plan.”

Weaver asked if people in the audience would favor using the “complete streets” treatment on Lakemont that has been employed on Denning. A cheer and a show of raised arms arose from the back of the chamber. Weaver then asked how many of those people would agree to have their taxes raised in order to pay for an improved streetscape on Lakemont. Again, a strong show of support.

Leary Stands by the Mayflower

Before calling for a vote, Mayor Steve Leary stated that in the nine to ten years he has been going to the Mayflower, he has made a commitment. “If the Mayflower doesn’t support this, I’m not supporting it,” said Leary.

 The Trick Box

When the vote was called, Seidel offered an amendment requiring 15- to 20-foot wide easements at the western border of the property, with a ten-year sunset, for the purpose of building the path for non-motorized transportation, and the City would bear the cost of any improvements required to construct the path. The amendment passed 3 – 2, with Leary and Sprinkel dissenting.

Before calling the vote on the final approval, with Seidel’s amendment, Leary offered the Mayflower the opportunity to pull or table the application prior to the final vote.

At least half a dozen lawyers headed for a huddle at the rear of the chamber, with attorney Cheek at the center of the pack.

The Mayflower attorney returned to the podium to report that the Mayflower would agree to a part of the easement at the southwest corner of the property, provided the Commission would approve their plan with the four-story building as presented. The Mayflower offered the easement marked in red at the lower left corner of the map at the top of the article.

In a confusing turn of events, Seidel withdrew his original amendment for the expanded easement, which had already passed, and offered a new amendment that granted the Mayflower’s request, which passed on a 4-1 vote. The main motion, to approve the Mayflower’s plans as presented and with only the smaller easement, then passed on a 5-0 vote.

What’s Happening at City Hall?

The Place Is Hopping – Even In This Heat

What’s Happening at City Hall?

You think Winter Park is sleepy during the summer? Think again. In July alone, there will be 23 public meetings.

The Voice has received requests for notifications and schedules, so we’ve compiled a list of standing boards and task forces and will post monthly meeting schedules. You can also see the schedule, schedule changes, agendas and lists of board members on the City website at https://cityofwinterpark.org/government/boards/

City Commission — 2nd & 4th Monday Each Month

Of the 23 July meetings, two are Commission meetings. These are held the second and fourth Monday of each month, beginning at 3:30 pm, in the Commission Chambers on the second floor of City Hall. They go until they’re finished – typically until 5:30 to 6:30 pm unless there is a controversial item on the agenda. In that case, they’ve been known to go as late as 10:30 pm, but under the current administration that is the exception.

Nineteen Advisory Boards

Nineteen citizen boards advise the Commission on topics ranging from Police Officers’ Pensions to Lakes and Waterways and Code Compliance. A full list of these boards and board members can be found at the above link.

All advisory boards are formed of citizen volunteers who bring their experience and expertise to the business of running the City. They operate in a strictly advisory capacity, offering guidance to the Commission, the policy-making body of the City. The boards make the recommendations; the Commission makes the decisions.

Most advisory boards meet once a month. There are a few, including the Commission, that have workshops for the sole purpose of discussion among board members. While the public is invited to observe, at workshops, there are no decisions, no votes and no public input.

Three Task Forces

In addition to the standing advisory boards, there are currently three task forces, which are formed for a single stated purpose with definite beginning and ending dates. Ending dates, known as “sunset dates,” are, of course, flexible. The three currently active task forces are described below.

Charter Review Advisory Committee

This task force is formed every 10 years for the purpose of updating the Winter Park City Charter. The Charter is our City’s ‘Constitution,’ its primary governing document. Some major issues are under discussion, making these meetings interesting and relevant.

One is the question of whether we will continue to vote ‘at large,’ as we currently do, for mayor and commissioners, or change to a voting method based on geographic districts. There is still time to get in on this discussion, as the question was tabled until the full task force is present (which hasn’t happened yet).

Other topics include increasing compensation for Commissioners and who should have the authority to appoint Advisory Board members.

Meetings are held at the Community Center from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. The first hour is devoted to public comment, so best be on time. This task force began April 23 and will run through September 24. The next meeting is Tuesday, July 23.

Orange Avenue Steering Committee

The purpose of this task force is to decide the parameters of a zoning ‘overlay,’ which will establish guidelines for the redevelopment of that stretch of Orange Avenue reaching from 17-92 to just north of the corner of Denning and Fairbanks.

The discussion is informative and the outcome will directly affect the sizable population that lives in the western part of the city. City Planning Director Bronce Stephenson wants everyone involved, and you are encouraged to attend. Meetings are held twice a month from 5:30 to 7:30 pm in the Commission chambers. The next meeting is Wednesday, July 24.

Old Library Reuse Task Force

This group is charged with recommending to the Commission the proper disposition of the current library facility. The task force meets once a month in the Commission chambers at Noon. The next meeting is Wednesday, July 17.

Coffee Talks

Not only do we have official commissions, boards and task forces, we also have informal gatherings with the Mayor and Commissioners where you can let them know what you’re thinking and find out what they’re thinking. Except for the Mayor’s, which is at the Welcome Center across the street from City Hall, all Coffee Talks are 8:00 to 9:00 am at the Winter Park Golf and Country Club, 761 Old England Ave.

The Coffee Talks with the Mayor and Commissioners will be on the following dates.

Mayor Steve Leary – July 12 – at the Welcome Center on Lyman Ave.

(All others are at the Winter Park Golf & Country Club.)

Commissioner Greg Seidel – August 8.

Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel – September 9.

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper – October 10.

Commissioner Todd Weaver – November 14.

Here’s What’s Left of the July Lineup

Look for August when we get closer. Note: the Chapman Room and the Commission Chambers are on the second floor of City Hall.

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