City Sues to Validate Library/Event Center Bond Issue

City Sues to Validate Library/Event Center Bond Issue


Library Update: Petition Goes to City Hall
2,000+ Voters Say ‘Don’t Put Library in MLK Park’

Tomorrow, the Save Our Library WP PAC will turn in the signatures of 2,234 registered Winter Park voters who oppose locating the new library in Martin Luther King Jr. Park. This number exceeds by approximately 10 percent the number of signatures required to file a Citizens Petition.

PAC leader Michael Poole said he is not sure what the next steps will be, but expects the issue to end up before Orange County Circuit Judge Margaret Schreiber for a final resolution. He said he expects there may be some discussion of the petition at Monday’s meeting of the City Commission.

“We believe the bond should be validated,” said Poole, “but not with a designated site, because the site was not on the ballot.”

Poole explained the Save Our Library WP PAC will intervene in the bond validation suit using the State’s Attorney. Asked whether he thought the City would continue to deny the PAC has standing to file the petition, Poole said, “I don’t believe any State’s Attorney, when confronted with more than 2,200 valid signatures, would not take in earnest what we are trying to do. This petition says, ‘Judge, these people don’t want the library in this park.’

“It would be incredible for the judge to say that we don’t have standing in this court,” said Poole.

The City Attorney announced at the July 11 commission meeting the City had filed suit in the Orange County Circuit Court to validate the bonds that will finance the construction of the new library – event center.

Case Will Go to Trial

The City is asking the court to confirm that it can legally and safely issue up to $30 Million in municipal bonds. Attorney Richard Geller, sitting in for City Attorney Kurt Ardaman, reported the matter will be litigated, there will be a trial before Judge Margie Schreiber, evidence will be presented and the Judge will determine the bonds can be issued.

Bond Counsel to Argue Before Judge Schreiber

To represent the City, the firm of Bryant, Miller, Olive P.A., with offices in Atlanta, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Tallahassee, Tampa and Washington, D.C has been retained. Attorney Ardaman will act as co-counsel with the bond counsel.

6- to 9-Month Process

In answer to the mayor’s question about the anticipated time frame, Geller indicated the entire process could take six to nine months. The time frame depends on the Judge’s schedule according to City Manager Randy Knight. Knight said the first step, which would be for Judge Schreiber to issue an order to show cause, might occur within 60 to 90 days.

Protection for City & Bond Holders

Winter Park Communications Director Clarissa Howard explained in an email, “The city has made the decision to go through the bond validation process to protect the interests of the citizens and taxpayers of Winter Park. This bond validation process is the most expeditious and fiscally-responsible approach that will ensure the bonds can be properly issued and the approved project can be built without any future legal obstructions.”

Bond Rating Upped

According to an attorney speaking off the record to The Voice, while there is no legal requirement that suit be filed, typically a City such as Winter Park files suit seeking validation by a court, as such a ruling has the effect of giving the bonds the highest possible rating and lowering the cost to the City of the debt service, or interest it must pay on the bonds.

WP 5-Year-Old in World Championship Golf Tourney

Michael Ott Goes for the Gold

WP 5-Year-Old in World Championship Golf Tourney

2014 PNC Rich Ott & son MichaelMeet Michael Ott. He appears to be a healthy, normal 5-year-old – that is, until you put a golf club in his hand. Then, he’s all business.

Michael lives here in Winter Park with his Mom and Dad and his sister. He will begin Kindergarten in the fall at St. Margaret Mary.

Years of Experience

Michael has been playing golf since he was two. His father, Rich Ott, says Michael has only had two formal lessons, from Justin, the former head Golf Pro at the Winter Park County Club. One golfing enthusiast, upon hearing about this 5-year-old phenom, quipped, “I’ve got candy bars in my golf bag that are older than that!”

Making Long Drives

Michael plays golf every chance he gets. He regularly hits the ball 100+ yards. He told me that one time he hit it 121 yards. Since Michael is still fairly small in stature, that would be approximately 121 times his height. Eat your hearts out.


Better than Chocolate??

Michael told me he likes golf better than he likes chocolate ice cream. Go figure.

When I asked Michael what his secret is, he said, “I just putt it and it goes in.”

Next World Champ?

Michael has become something of a celebrity in Central Florida golfing circles. This picture appeared on the cover of the Winter Park Parks & Recreation 2014 Annual Report. 2014GolfBoy

On Memorial Day weekend, Michael won the Regional Qualifier, ages 8 and under, for the 2016 World Putting Championship. On July 9, Michael will be one of 30 competitors in his age group at the World Putting Championship in San Diego. His dad Rich will caddy for him.

When I asked Michael if he thought he might win the tournament, he said quietly, “Yes.”

Rich Ott has promised to keep the Voice updated on Michael’s progress in San Diego. Watch for updates over the weekend.

Ladybird, Ladybird, Fly Away Home . . . .

Traffic, Congestion and Noise = Project Denial

Ladybird, Ladybird, Fly Away Home . . . .

On June 27, the Ladybird Academy came before the Commission to request a reversal of the Planning & Zoning Board’s denial of their application to build a 13,000-square-foot preschool and child care facility on the west side of the K-Mart Plaza fronting Gay Road and Trovillion Avenue.

Residents: Pre-School Not Compatible with Neighborhood

Near some of Winter Park’s most congested intersections — Lee Rd. at 17-92 and Lee Rd. at Webster – the neighborhood between the K-Mart Plaza and Lake Killarney has quiet, two-lane streets and is home to the Killarney Bay and Chateau du Lac condominium complexes, as well as several smaller single family homes. The population is predominantly, though not exclusively, seniors. Residents from this peaceful neighborhood showed up in force, with signed petitions, to oppose the proposed child care facility.

Peak Hour Operation for 144 Kids

Ladybird Academy, a franchise operation with several locations in Central Florida, wanted to build a preschool and child care facility that would accommodate 144 children. They planned to operate between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. The company, incorporated in 2011, is headquartered in Lake Mary. Ladybird offers not only day care and preschool for children ages 6 weeks through 5 years, it also offers before- and after-school and summer camp programs, according to their website.

Neighbors Fear Noise, Traffic

On June 7, the Planning & Zoning Board heard extensive public comment about increased traffic when parents dropped off and picked up their children during morning and evening peak traffic hours – those times when drivers trying to avoid congestion on Lee Road and 17-92 cut through the residential streets. Residents also were concerned about the level of noise that might be generated by 144 children during lunch and recess.

Major Retail Coming to the Area

Residents pointed out that much of K-Mart Plaza is presently unoccupied because it is undergoing renovation. The Whole Foods center, which also will have other major retailers, is also due to open soon. City Planning Director Jeff Briggs noted that traffic generated by these additional large retail developments will be spread out over the day, reducing the impact at any one time. To add an additional 140 or so cars at peak traffic hours, however, could tip an already stressed road system into total gridlock.

Ladybird Experts Weigh In

Ladybird Academy produced a sizeable group of experts that included a traffic engineer and a real estate appraiser, each bearing the proper list of credentials. The traffic engineer cited statistics indicating that both 17-92 and the interior neighborhood streets were currently operating well below capacity, a condition that is not immediately apparent to the anecdotal observer.

The real estate appraiser, Mark Carpenter, was tasked with reassuring current residents that the proposed daycare facility would not diminish the value of their property. He contended that the project would have the opposite effect, to enhance property values. “Basically, right now,” he said, referring to the proposed site, “it’s an eyesore.”

Gladys Renqifo-Ellis who, like many of her neighbors, enjoys the quiet expanse of green space that is the proposed site, disagreed with Mr. Carpenter’s characterization.

Ladybird Seeks Conditional Use Approval

While the Ladybird Academy project did not require zoning changes, because of the nature of its business, the project had to meet 12 criteria for Conditional Use set forth in city code. These criteria were enumerated by City Attorney Kurt Ardaman.

Basically, the code requires the proposed project be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and comply with land use code. The building, landscaping, and irrigation must be compatible with the scale and character of the surrounding neighborhood. There needs to be adequate parking, lighting, storm water retention and noise mitigation.

Academy Fails Compatibility Test

Where the Ladybird Academy project fell short was in the area of compatibility. Criterion #3 reads: “Operating hours, noise, parking and traffic impact will be compatible with existing and anticipated land use activities in the immediate neighborhood and compatible with the character of the surrounding area.”

Criterion #7 reads: “That traffic generated from the property use should not on a daily or peak hour basis degrade the level of service on adjacent roads or intersections. . . . That access directs traffic away from residential roads and toward more heavily traveled roads.”

According to Ardaman, if the project fails to meet any of the criteria for Conditional Use, it is the obligation of the Commission to uphold the decision of P&Z and deny the application.

Ladybird Academy failed the test.

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