Fur Flies Over Library Location

Stack of Legal Documents Grows

Fur Flies Over Library Location

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On September 9, the Save Our Library WP Political Action Committee filed suit requesting the court to overturn the City Commission’s approval of the City Clerk’s Certificate of Insufficiency of Petition.

PAC Sues the City to Accept Petition

Save Our Library PAC members circulated a petition proposing an ordinance to prohibit a library from being built in Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Park. They gathered the required number of signatures, had the signatures certified by the Orange County Supervisor of Elections, and presented the petition to the City. The Winter Park City Clerk declined to accept the petition on grounds that it was “insufficient.”

Referendum Ordinance or Petition Ordinance?

The Clerk’s finding of “insufficiency” was based on the claim that the petition represented a referendum ordinance rather than a petition ordinance. Basically, a referendum ordinance calls for the repeal of an ordinance the City has already passed – in this case, the $30 Million bond referendum. An initiative ordinance seeks to adopt a new ordinance – in this case, that no library may be built in MLK Park.

WPPL Trustees Speak Out

An “Open Letter to the Winter Park Community“ from the Board of Trustees of the Winter Park Public Library states, in part, “Efforts to halt the construction of the library in Martin Luther King, Jr., Park ARE actions against the new library.” The Trustees’ letter continues, “They [the efforts] are also significant in that they are an attempt to overturn the results of an election by eliminating the only viable site for the library-events center project. . . .”

For the full text of the letter, click here.

The Library will launch an e-newsletter to keep citizens informed on the library progress. Readers may subscribe by going to the wppl.org website.

City Sues State & WP Taxpayers for Bond Validation

Meanwhile, the City has sued the State and all Winter Park property owners, requesting the court validate the issuance of bonds for the purpose of building a library, events center and related parking structure. Although both the ballot language and the public notices that preceded the election were silent as to the location of this structure, the City has proceeded assuming the location was generally understood, and has included language specifying the MLK location in its Amended Complaint for Validation.

Legal Question? or Political Question?

Today, Assistant State Attorney Richard Wallsh filed a Motion to Strike Portions of Amended Complaint and a Motion to Vacate Order to Show Cause, asking the Court to strike references to the MLK Park location in the City’s Amended Complaint that seeks validation of the bonds. (Case No. 2016-CA-6063-0, Circuit Court of the Ninth Judicial Circuit of Florida, in and for Orange County, Florida)

In Paragraph 7 of his Motion to Strike Portions of Amended Complaint, Wallsh writes: “The selection of MLK Park as the construction site was never a portion of said ordinance or referendum. The inclusion of the site is not a proper subject for determination by this court. . . . That is a political issue for the city to resolve.”

Wallsh continues, “Plaintiff city is overreaching in its attempt to obtain judicial imprimatur for a hotly contested political decision regarding the location of the project for which bonds have been sought to finance.”

Hearing Set for October 20

Wallsh has requested the court either set a hearing for his motion prior to October 20 or move the October 20 date forward.

U.S. Census Bureau Reports Central FL Population Explosion

How will Winter Park Cope?

U.S. Census Bureau Reports Central FL Population Explosion

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Documentary Film – “Rebels With A Cause”

The 14th Annual Global Peace Film Festival and Rollins College present the documentary film “Rebels With A Cause,” in which a group of “ordinary” northern Californians dealt with just such a question.

Thursday, September 22 – 8:00 pm
Rollins College Bush Auditorium
Click here to buy tickets

Panel Discussion

Immediately following the film, there will be a panel discussion moderated by Orlando Sentinel Columnist Beth Kassab. The five panelists are:
Mark Brewer, President & CEO, Central Florida Foundation
Becky Wilson, Attorney, Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed
Bruce Stephenson, Professor Environmental Studies, Rollins College
Chris Castro, City of Orlando Director of Sustainability
Steve Goldman, Winter Park Visioning Steering Committee

Central FL Growing Fastest

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Central Florida is the fastest growing of the 30 largest regions in the country. In January, Orlando Economic Development Commission CEO Rick Weddle told an audience at the Orange County Convention Center that Orlando is “growing at close to double the rate” of the U.S. population. “More people are expected to move here than at any other point in history,” said Weddle, “with a net immigration of 350,000 new residents by 2020.”

Sooner or later, all 350,000 of our new neighbors will find their way to or through Winter Park.

How Will WP Preserve Quality of Life?

One of the overriding concerns expressed by Winter Park residents during the recently completed Visioning Process was how to preserve the character of Winter Park in the face of such growth. Steve Goldman told the Voice in a recent interview, “One thing became clear as we spoke with thousands of people during the Visioning process, and that was that people place a very high value on the village feel of Winter Park. They value the lakes and the tree canopy – the feeling of openness. They expressed a concern that all that was eroding as density increased, and they felt boxed in.”

Can Parks, Green Space Keep Pace with Population Growth?

A growing number of Winter Park residents, including Goldman, believe the only way Winter Park can preserve our quality of life is to ensure that our parks and green space increase at the same rate as the population. “Imagine New York without Central Park,” said Goldman, “or San Francisco without Golden Gate. Without the relief of that green space, neither place would be as attractive, and real estate values would certainly not be at their current levels.”

Government Can’t Solve the Problem

“Everyone seemed to be expressing the same concerns,” said Goldman, “and it became clear to me that government wasn’t going to solve this problem. Nobody wants to raise taxes to buy green space. It became clear that it was going to take a private initiative to bring this about.”

It’s Been Done

“This movie, ‘Rebels with a Cause,’ illustrates that if enough people believe something can happen, it can happen,” said Goldman. “As I’ve been talking to more people about this idea of creating a trust fund to acquire greenspace, I’ve found almost universal excitement about it. The real question is how do you bring people together to do something like this?”

Come See the Inspiring Story of How They Did It

“Rebels with a Cause” chronicles the long journey of preserving coastal lands in Marin and Sonoma Counties in California. Writes Nadine de Coteau of EarthJustice: This film is “a reminder that a strong coalition of ‘regular people’ can achieve a truly ambitious goal.”

Ravenous Pig to Move

Will There Be Enough Parking?

Ravenous Pig to Move

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P&Z found itself in a ‘Catch 22’ Tuesday evening when James and Julie Petrakis, owners of the Ravenous Pig, Cask & Larder and Swine & Sons, announced they would be moving The Ravenous Pig from its present Orange Avenue location to the Cask & Larder site at 565 W. Fairbanks.

The Petrakises have bought the property at the corner of Pennsylvania and Fairbanks Avenues where Swine & Sons and the Cask & Larder are now situated. Since the lease on the current Ravenous Pig location is about to expire, they seek to combine the two restaurant operations, with The Ravenous Pig in the dining room and the Cask & Larder in the tap room.

What’s the Catch?

As with many businesses in the Orange/Fairbanks corridor, the issue is parking. The property includes a small, vacant, unpaved lot at 520 Pennsylvania which has for years been used for overflow parking for patrons of the restaurant on that site. This goes back to the days of Harper’s Tavern and the Cordon Bleu.

Property Needs a Facelift

As part of a facelift for the property, the new owners want to re-do the parking lot, add landscaping, upgrade the paving and lighting and add a small outdoor dining area behind the restaurant, away from the Orange Avenue frontage where now the chairs sit empty because of traffic noise and glare from the setting sun.

Pave the Parking Lot

This would include paving and landscaping the small lot at 520 Pennsylvania to make it a proper parking lot. Currently, the lot is muddy when it rains, has an uneven surface and has holes that are hard to see in the dark. The difficulty is that 520 Pennsylvania Avenue sits within the southern edge of the Hannibal Square neighborhood and is zoned single-family. In order to pave and improve it, the lot must be rezoned to “PL” (for Parking Lot), requiring a change in both the Comprehensive Plan and the Future Land Use Map.

Commercial Creep

As benign as it first appears, this is the kind of commercial creep into the single-family residential Hannibal Square neighborhood the people who live there are trying to prevent. They point out that this sort of commercial incursion would never be approved in other neighborhoods — say, in the “Vias.”

In a letter to members of the Planning & Zoning Board, sent in advance of the meeting, west side resident Mary Daniels wrote, “We are asking the board and staff to preserve what is left of R1A zoning in this community, to stop the inching encroachment process of another block of zoning changes to PL or higher density zoning based the commercial surrounding and not the residential zoning in the adjacent area.”

Historical Use is for Parking

City Planning Manager Jeff Briggs pointed out the reality that, historically, none of the restaurants that had occupied that site had ever had sufficient parking. He said if the lot at 520 Pennsylvania is not used for parking, that will drive the patrons to find parking out on the residential streets. Briggs said, without the long history of the property as a restaurant, the staff would have come with a very different recommendation.

“Our Objective Is to Make that Corner More Attractive.”

There is no question the junction of Fairbanks, Pennsylvania and Orange Avenues is unattractive and dangerous, and that it could use some love. Petrakis spoke about his desire to provide a way for patrons to enter and leave the restaurant safely – by directing traffic to enter from Pennsylvania instead of from Fairbanks. He also noted the need for an improved aesthetic. He stated he was willing to enter into a developer’s agreement stipulating that if he ever sold the lot on Pennsylvania, the zoning would revert to R1A.

Why Amend the Comp Plan?

Maria Bryant, another resident of the Hannibal Square neighborhood, agreed with Petrakis. She said she did not understand why the zoning and the Comprehensive Plan needed to be amended. The purposes of both the community and the property owner would be served with a development agreement that allowed Cask & Larder to improve and continue to use the lot for parking, but if the lot ceased to be used for parking, it would revert to its original R1A zoning and would retain R1A status on the Future Land Use map.

Future Land Use Important

Bryant’s sentiments were echoed by Mary Daniels, who pointed out not only should the Comprehensive Plan and zoning for this property remain unchanged, but the Future Land Use map should also reflect R1A status. Daniels expressed her appreciation for Petrakis and his effort to share with the neighbors in advance his plans for improving the property.

How Do We Keep Our Businesses Viable and Our Neighborhoods Safe?

Kim Allen posed an essential question when she pointed out that many businesses in major commercial corridors of Winter Park lack sufficient parking.

P&Z to Petrakis: Back to the Drawing Board

P&Z Board member Peter Gottfried solved the problem, for now, by ending the discussion. He made a motion to Table, advising the applicant to flesh out his plans and bring back a more comprehensive description of what will happen to the property at Pennsylvania and Fairbanks, and to two of the region’s most popular and respected dining establishments.

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