Judge Denies Citizens’ PAC

Requests for Rehearing, Rewording Denied

Judge Denies Citizens’ PAC


city-libary-cogsAs 2017 gears up, the court continues to clear obstacles from the Winter Park Library’s path to Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Park. Judge Margaret Schreiber has denied the Save Our Library WP PAC’s requests for a rehearing of the bond validation suit and the removal of language specifying the library location from her ruling.

Petition Question Still Unanswered

The only matter still pending is a request that the court quash the Certificate of Insufficiency issued by City Clerk Cindy Bonham. The City maintains the petition is a “reconsideration of a referendum,” which must be filed within 30 days of the election. The PAC says their petition, which was filed in August well after the election, was an initiative seeking to establish an ordinance to prevent a library from being built in MLK Park. A Citizens’ Initiative, provided for in the City Charter, has no time limit.

City Fees Top $200,000

According to City Manager Randy Knight, the City’s legal fees, to date, amount to $201,759. Fees in the bond validation suit are $168,881, and fees in the dispute over the petition total $32,878.

Bond Validation Protects City, Saves Money in the Long Run

The bond validation protects the City from future legal challenge regarding the bond issue, and it will save the City money by allowing the bonds to be sold at a more favorable rate. Any expenditures associated with the bond validation will be recovered over the life of the bonds and, according to an attorney knowledgeable about the situation but who asked not to be identified, represents a wise investment on the part of the City.

PAC: City Could Have Avoided Additional Fees

According to citizens associated with the Save Our Library WP PAC, the City would not have incurred the $32,878 in fees if they had acknowledged the citizens’ petition initiative. Michael Poole, president of the PAC, told the Voice, “This expenditure could have been avoided by allowing the voters a say in the location of the library – either by including location language in the March 15, 2016 ballot, or by accepting the citizens’ petition as an initiative and allowing the voters to express their preference that way. If the City had put the location to a vote, it would not have cost them anything.”

Election Looms

Election Looms

City Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel will start her third term in office this March without opposition, but Commissioner Greg Seidel faces a challenge to his second term on Seat 1: Wes Naylor, whom Mayor Steve Leary appointed to the city’s Police Pension Board five months ago.

How those developments will affect the board’s future approach to zoning and planning is anyone’s guess. Even before the election, commissioners this week showed they can act unpredictably on such matters.

Unforeseen Zoning Votes

Sprinkel, who often agrees with Leary on zoning issues, did just that with most items on Monday’s agenda. But she joined forces with Commissioner Carolyn Cooper to oppose a relatively minor lot-split request, defeating it in a 2-2 vote from which Seidel abstained because the applicant was building him a home.

Later, Seidel, who often sides with Cooper on zoning matters, found a third ally to defeat a contentious request affecting a westside neighborhood.

The applicant, Morgan Bellows, wanted to rezone a single-family lot on Comstock Avenue to higher density R2 so he could build a large single-family house. R2 zoning would give him an extra 600 extra square feet so the house could be 4,300 square feet.
Seven residents made impassioned pleas against the project because of the cumulative effect such rezonings and larger structures would have on the small westside community.

Racism an Issue?

“Inch by inch, block by block, you start changing,” said Martha Hall about her neighborhood. She recounted the history of efforts to remove blacks from west Winter Park starting in the 1800s. “You all may look at it in a different manner, but when you look at racism, when you look at discrimination, it happens. I always say, there’s a zebra and can a zebra change its stripes? You all continue to make the same decisions” on westside development.

Opponents weren’t optimistic their arguments would be heard. The Planning and Zoning Commission had voted 2-2 on the request, with board member Randall Slocum abstaining because he was working for Bellows. On Monday, city commissioners also heaped high praise on Bellows’ application and design.

Commissioner Pete Weldon even chided Hall by name. “I am sick and tired of people coming here and associating the performance, the judgment, and the thought processes of the people who serve this community as racist, and I don’t want to hear it again, Miss Hall.” Leary agreed the racism words “disgusted” him.

“You will hear it again,” a woman in the audience called out.

Then Weldon did the unexpected. He said he was voting against the rezoning, “not because the neighbors are all against it, not because Miss Hall thinks I’m a racist, but because in my judgment it is an accommodation without strategic purpose for the neighborhood or the city.”

Interviewed after the meeting, Hall, surprised by the 3-2 vote, said, “I was pointing out history and what has happened through the years and what continues to happen. I didn’t call anyone up there racist.” She said it’s important to talk about issues like racism to address them. “When a person can’t sit down and talk about it, something is wrong.”

Parking Lot Nixed

Perhaps the most unexpected vote of the evening was the commission’s unanimous denial of Phil Kean Designs’ request for a parking area in a residential neighborhood. The Fairbanks Avenue business wanted to rezone a single-family lot behind the business, making the front portion R2 and the back portion parking for Kean’s business.
Planning and Zoning had voted 3-2 for approval, and city planners argued that fencing would shield neighbors from the parking. Commissioners also heaped high praise on Kean, a luxury home developer, but Weldon moved to deny the request, with Cooper seconding. The rezonings were defeated 5-0.

March Election

In addition to the Seat 1 election, the city election on March 14 will include a charter question changing the way the city handles multi-candidate races. Currently, the city holds a primary race in February when there are more than two candidates. The charter amendment would put the first ballot in March and hold a runoff, if needed, in April.
Seidel is on the ballot again after two years because he ran successfully for the remainder of Leary’s term after Leary resigned to run for mayor in 2015. Seidel previously served on the city’s Utility Advisory Board as its chairman. He is vice president of a Winter Park-based civil engineering firm and has lived in the city 16 years. Naylor, a retired Naval officer, is president and managing partner of an Orlando consulting group serving businesses seeking military contracts. He moved to Winter Park five years ago.

Save Our Library PAC Disputes Judge’s Ruling

Requests Rehearing to Present New Evidence

Save Our Library PAC Disputes Judge’s Ruling

city-libary-cogsThe Save Our Library WP PAC has filed two motions with Orange County Circuit Court requesting a rehearing of the library bond validation suit and asking Judge Margaret Schreiber to amend her Final Judgment, issued December 7, 2016.

PAC Wants to Present New Evidence

The request for rehearing is to present evidence, not presented at the hearing on October 20, 2016, that contradicts the City’s position that the new library-event center complex can only be built in Martin Luther King, Jr., (MLK) Park.

Memory Jog for City Manager

The evidence in question is video of City Manager Randy Knight speaking April 21, 2016 at a public meeting about the library. In the video, Knight states that the library could be built in a location other than MLK Park. At the October court hearing, Knight testified that he could not recall whether or not he had made that statement at the April meeting.

PAC Asks Judge to Strike 3 Paragraphs

The motion to amend the Final Judgment asks the Judge to eliminate paragraphs #26, #34 and #35 of the Final Judgement. Click Here to read Final Judgment.

Paragraph #26 refers to the PAC’s petition as a “reconsideration of the Bond Ordinance,” and states that the petition is now barred because it failed to meet a 30-day deadline for filing.

‘Reasonable Voter’ Paragraph Questioned

Paragraph #34 holds that a reasonable voter, upon reading the bond ordinance, would have understood that the new complex was to be built on the site of the existing Civic Center, and Paragraph #35 states that the MLK site was a matter of public record because of the motion passed at the October 26, 2016 commission meeting.

No Decision Reached in Separate Case

The PAC’s requests are based on a separate action filed in the Ninth Circuit Appellate Division in which they claim their petition is a Citizens’ Initiative and does not seek reconsideration of the bond ordinance. They hold that, because the intended location of the new complex did not appear anywhere on the ballot, the voters did not knowingly vote to locate the complex in MLK Park. They voted only to approve the library bonds.

No One Contested the Bond Validation

“In the bond validation case,” said PAC President Michael Poole, “the judge was asked only to validate the bonds. No one contested that. I do not know how [Judge Schreiber] could also decide on the library location when the location language appeared nowhere on the March 15 ballot. And the decision as to whether our petition constituted a reconsideration of the bond ordinance or not has nothing to do with validating the bonds.”

PAC: Court Lacks Jurisdiction

The PAC’s Motion to Alter or Amend Final Judgment states that paragraphs #26, #34 and #35 refer to, “. . .a collateral issue to the bond validation proceedings and [we] respectfully believe the Court does not have jurisdiction over this issue. The Court is aware that a Writ of Certiorari has been filed with the Ninth Judicial Circuit . . . . This case is pending and specifically addresses [these issues].”

The pending case is before a three-judge panel in the Ninth Circuit Appellate Division. Poole says they do not know when the panel will issue their ruling.

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