Anne Mooney

Entries by Anne Mooney

WP Goes Virtual

Dry Run for Special Commission Meeting Monday, March 30

WP Goes Virtual

by Anne Mooney / March 27, 2020

Yesterday, March 26, from 5:00 to 6:30 pm, the Winter Park City Commission held its first Virtual Meeting – and probably the first meeting ever attended by all 7 past and present commissioners. And even with 7 Commissioners present, the meeting began and ended right on schedule.

Work Session on City Response to Coronavirus Lockdown

The meeting was a live-streamed Work Session on the City’s response to the coronavirus situation. Participating from home but visible and audible on computer screens across the City were Mayor Steve Leary, Commissioners Carolyn Cooper and Todd Weaver, soon-to-be-former-Commissioners Sarah Sprinkel and Greg Seidel, Commissioners-elect Sheila DeCiccio and Marty Sullivan and City Manager Randy Knight with key city staff.

Exec Order from Governor

The meeting was made possible by an Executive Order from Governor Ron DeSantis suspending the Florida statute that required a quorum to be present in person at a specific place. The Executive Order allows local governments to utilize media technology to hold meetings.

As with any Commission Work Session, there were no Commission votes or public comment.

Dry Run for Monday’s Commission Meeting

Yesterday’s Work Session was a dry run for a Special Commission Meeting Monday, March 30 at 5:00 pm. At that meeting, the Commission will vote and take public comment. If you missed last night’s meeting, you can tune in Monday at <cityofwinterpark.org/cclive>

Register in Advance to Participate

In order to participate, you must register in advance. Space is limited, so do not delay. Go to <cityofwinterpark.org> and click on Access Virtual Commission Meeting Live Video Broadcast & Instructions. You will find all the information you need to register and participate.

Public Comment Will Be Taken Monday

Public comment will be taken at the 5:00 pm hour, as usual. You can comment in advance of the meeting by emailing mayorandcommissioners@cityofwinterpark.org  Emailed comments will become part of the record, but will not be read aloud. You can also comment by phone, and your comment will be recorded and will be audible on the live stream. The public comment line, which will be activated Monday at 5:00 pm, is 407-599-3410. Live comments will be monitored in accordance with City standards of decorum.

Meanwhile, although City Hall is closed to the public, the City itself is Open for Business.

Police and Fire-Rescue Departments are at full staffing. The Police Department reports a decline in criminal activity and calls for service, due to fewer people being on the streets.

Fire Chief Dan Hagedorn reported that, as of yesterday, there were 2,235 reported COVID19 cases in Florida, with one fatality. Two cases have been reported in Winter Park – one is a resident and one a non-resident. Emergency crews who transported these patients to the hospital are on 14-day quarantine as a precaution, but are showing no symptoms.

Parks & Recreation Director Jason Seeley reported that the March 13 order of a 10-person-group limit marked the drawdown of City recreational programs. Playgrounds are now closed, but open spaces such as Central Park and Mead Botanical Garden are open, with social distancing required. Monday’s Commission meeting will likely see decisions to close the Dinky Dock boat ramp and the Winter Park Golf Course. Citizens may enjoy continued lake access from their private docks.

Infrastructure departments such as the Electric Utility, Water & Waste Water, Code Enforcement and the Building Department are open and active.

City Budget

In his discussion of the budget, City Manager Randy Knight acknowledged that the City anticipates a drop in revenue, but said it is difficult to tell at this early stage how great or small that will be or how long it will last. Knight said he does not anticipate cutting essential services for residents. He plans to present the Commission with a revised budget for this Fiscal Year.

City Assistance to Residents & Businesses

Utility cutoffs for non-payment have been suspended, and staff is working on programs to assist residents and businesses with utility payment plans. City Staff will work with the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce to help local businesses apply for loans and other financial assistance. Restaurants are allowed to offer takeout and delivery services.

City staff is working to develop virtual programs for youth and seniors. The City is considering creating a micro-loan program for businesses in the CRA. And the City Manager is looking into acquiring Federal assistance available to state and local governments.

 

DeCiccio & Sullivan Win Commission Seats

10 Charter Amendments Approved

DeCiccio & Sullivan Win Commission Seats

by Anne Mooney / March 18, 2020

 

Sheila DeCiccio & Marty Sullivan

Well, it’s over for another year, but newly elected Commissioners Marty Sullivan (Seat #1) and Sheila DeCiccio (Seat #2) will not take their seats on the dais March 23, as that Commission meeting has been cancelled because of the current health crisis. Here’s hoping April will see us return to normal.

Thanks to Blydenburgh and Creasman

Our City owes a debt of gratitude to the four candidates and their supporters who worked so hard in this race. To Carl Creasman and Jeffrey Blydenburgh, we appreciate your engagement in our community and your willingness to serve, and we look forward to your ongoing contributions as our City continues to go about its work.

Poll Results – Commission Races

As of February 20, Winter Park has 22,366 registered voters. Of those, 8,610 – or 38.5 percent – cast their votes. Not every voter voted for every ballot item, however. Apparently, there were around 600 voters who voted only in the Presidential Primary and declined to participate in the local races. In the races for the two Commission seats, for instance, fewer than 8,000 cast votes.

For Commission Seat #1, Marty Sullivan received 4,360 votes and Jeffrey Blydenburgh received 3,519, for a total of 7,986 votes cast. Votes not cast, called “under votes,” totaled 624.

For Commission Seat #2, Sheila DeCiccio garnered 5,415 votes to Carl Creasman’s 2,366, for a total of 7,989, with 627 under votes.

Ballot Amendment Results

All Charter Amendments passed except one. Question #9, on whether the City Auditor Contract Term should go from three to five years, failed by a decisive margin – 4,442 to 2,712.

The Charter Amendment questions fared even worse than Commission races in number of votes cast. Although this is only conjecture, it looks like voters may have simply gotten bored with the exercise as they began going down the list of Charter Amendment questions. Question #1, which established the use of gender-neutral language throughout the Charter, drew 7,785 votes. That number declined steadily, so that by Question #11, only 6,977 people cast votes.

For a detailed breakdown of votes on the Commission races and the City Charter Amendments, go to https://cityofwinterpark.org/government/city-info/election-info/

Winter Park – Coronoavirus Update

Winter Park – Coronoavirus Update

by Anne Mooney / March 17, 2020

The City has issued a list of closings and cancellations effective immediately, as it continues to monitor the status of the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease.

City Hall and Facilities Closed to the Public

Effective immediately, City Hall and City facilities are closed until further notice. City services and assistance will remain available by phone or email.

The Public Safety Building at 500 N. Virginia Ave., Fire Station #62 on Lakemont and Fire Station #64 on Howell Branch Rd. are closed to visitors, except for emergencies.

The Saturday Winter Park Farmers Market is suspended until further notice.

Recreational facility closures include the Community Center, Cady Way Pool, Showalter Stadium, the Winter Park Golf Course and the Azalea Lane Tennis Center. Public parks and playgrounds and greenspaces will remain open. Please practice social distancing protocol by keeping a space of at least six feet between you and others not in your household.

Events and Gatherings Cancelled

The March 23 City Commission meeting is cancelled. Future Commission meetings will be announced as they are scheduled.

City Advisory Board Meetings are cancelled until further notice.

All events and gatherings of more than ten people are cancelled or postponed until further notice.

Recreational programming and events for youth, adults and seniors are cancelled until further notice.

Public Safety Facilities and Services

Winter Park Fire & Rescue service will continue to provide fire and EMS services. Winter Park Police Department will operate normally with modified non-emergency responses. For more information, call 407-644-1313.

Utility Customers

Although utility statements and due dates remain on schedule, the City understands that some customers may experience unavoidable financial difficulty during this period and has suspended the disconnection for non-payment policy until further notice.

For billing questions, call 407-599-3220; for outage and service issues call 877-811-8700.

Restaurants and Bars

A recent Executive Order by Gov. Ron DeSantis requires all Florida bars and nightclubs to close for 30 days, effective today. Restaurants are required to remain below 50 percent occupancy. As this creates considerable hardship for City businesses, the City is working with the Chamber of Commerce to help. Go to the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce website to check out curbside food pickup and home delivery options from our local restaurants.

Building Permits & Services Online

Although City Hall is closed to the public, Building & Permitting Services will be reviewing plans submittals and issuing permits electronically at permits@cityofwinterpark.org  Inspectors will continue on a case-by-case basis. You can schedule inspections online at <Epay> or call 407-599-3350.

Stay Informed

Information regarding the spread of the coronavirus and the COVID19 disease changes daily, please remain informed using the following resources.

cdc.gov/COVID19

cityofwinterpark.org

Facebook.com/WinterParkEmergencyInfo

twitter.com/winterparkfla

OUTREACH – sign up for the City’s emergency notification system

nexdoor.com – sign up for your neighborhood information

winterparkvoice.com for the latest from the City.

 

Stay safe – and stop hoarding the toilet paper.

 

Winter Park Responds to Coronavirus

Winter Park Responds to Coronavirus

March 13, 2020 / by Anne Mooney

The Good News

Tuesday, March 17, elections will take place as scheduled. The March 23 City Commission Meeting will take place as planned.

The Other News

All large city events, including the Sidewalk Arts Festival, have been cancelled. See <cityofwinterpark.org> for latest updates.

In addition, the following cancellations were announced by the City of Winter Park this afternoon.

  • City Advisory Board Meetings
  • Indoor youth and adult athletic leagues managed by the City
  • Childcare programs and Spring Break Camp held at City facilities
  • Senior programming at City facilities
  • Winter Park Famers Market through the end of March

Stay Informed

Here is a list of sites with emerging information as this situation develops.

cdc.gov/COVID19

cityofwinterpark.org

Facebook.com/winterparkfla

Moratorium on Commercial Overdevelopment

We Need One Now

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

Moratorium on Commercial Overdevelopment

March 8, 2020 by Guest Columnist Will Graves

Developers. I used to exchange Christmas cards with some of them. One donated $6,000 to a charity I championed.  Another agreed to gift $21,000 for our Lisa Merlin House Golf Tournament fundraiser. One, who occasionally assists with the bread and wine at my church, prayed for forgiveness of my sins one Sunday. 

Falling Out of Favor

How did I fall out of favor with these people?  By publicly writing and speaking to shine a light on the existential need to preserve the unique scenic quality, historic character, architectural heritage, authenticity and property values in our pristine small-scale village of Winter Park.

Overdevelopers

Now, Florida State Senator Tom Lee (R – Hillsborough County), another with whom I used to exchange Christmas cards, wants people like me to shoulder the burden of all legal costs, should we find ourselves on the wrong side of an overdeveloper lawsuit. If that’s not enough, overdevelopment interests, seeking to economize on their tanning lotion by avoiding the sunshine, are now pushing the folks in Tallahassee to eliminate the requirement for those legal notices in newspapers that document what Winter Park citizens need to know to protect their interests.

It no longer matters what the zoning is — it’s who we know who can do an end run around the pesky public to get the variances and Comprehensive Plan changes we need, and forget those disgruntled Winter Park citizens who fear losing sight lines, driving down shadowy road-canyons and wasting time in traffic gridlock.

Gridlock

If you wish to continue to be able to move through Winter Park in an orderly and timely manner in the coming years, a long overdue Moratorium on out-of-scale commercial development should be enacted.  Sooner rather than later. The traffic you’re dealing with today pales in comparison to what you’ll be dealing with soon. That’s what happens when Private Interests are allowed to do your village planning for you.

Be Prepared to Fight

Barbara Drew Hoffstot, Rollins Class of ’42 and Rollins Walk of Fame honoree, nailed the problem in her book, “Landmark Architecture of Palm Beach.” 

Mrs. Hoffstot warned us, “Will you care very much for your country if it becomes largely one of visual concrete commercialism? The decision lies with each and every one of you, my readers. You will get what you want, what you fight for, and what you deserve.  So, don’t let your very fine past be taken away . . . without your knowledge and consent. Be prepared to fight when necessary!”

 

Will Graves is recipient of the 2019 Individual Distinguished Service Award from the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, a statewide partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A six-person statewide jury made the award decision.

Candidate Faceoff, Part Two

The Library

Candidate Faceoff, Part Two

February 23, 2020 / by Anne Mooney

Here again are the four candidates, this time on the Library debate stage. The program was moderated by Carol Foglesong of the League of Women Voters. Marty Sullivan and Jeffrey Blydenburgh face off for Seat 1; Sheila DeCiccio and Carl Creasman vie for Seat 2.

In addition to opening and closing statements, candidates received three questions from the moderator and an additional four questions from the audience. Click on images at the end of the article for unedited video of the debate. Questions and summarized answers appear below in the order of rotation.

  1. Name a strength, a weakness, an opportunity and a threat to Winter Park.

Creasman: Winter Park’s strength is people. A weakness is that we are at the center of the fastest growing region in the country. The opportunity is that we are a wealthy city and can control our own resources, like the electric utility. We should create our own mini-mass-transit system and our own broadband network. Our threat is an internal one — the tone of political discourse in our city, which has the potential to lead us into dangerous places.

DeCiccio: Our strength is people and a sense of community. We have the opportunity to expand our greenspace, with the Post Office and Progress Point. Our weaknesses are traffic congestion and inadequate infrastructure. Failure to immediately address problems as they arise poses a threat to the city.

Sullivan: Our strength lies in our strong financial well-being. Weakness is the conflict between citizen and developer interests. We need to balance what enhances our quality of life with what gives a developer a reasonable rate of return. Both the opportunity and the threat lie in the Orange Avenue Overlay. Opportunity is in the increased green space and bicycle and pedestrian ways. The threat lies in excessive entitlement giveaways to developers.

Blydenburgh: The strength of our community is its people. Our weakness is that, while we have a vision, we don’t have a master plan for the city. The opportunity is that we are close to being the best community in Florida, and we have the opportunity to be even better by fixing broadband and local transit problems and supporting our young families. The threat is the contentiousness, which needs to end.

  1. Cite an example of change you propose to improve Winter Park. How will your proposed change be measured and evaluated?

DeCiccio: I would look to our Parks, Lakes and Urban Forestry. We lack a 10-year maintenance plan, the last having expired in 2016. Maintenance is the elephant in the living room. Who will take care of all these projects that are coming on line right now? .

Sullivan: We should address traffic in a different way. We need a calibrated, dynamic traffic model that will enable us to look at what kind of road changes we can make that will ease congestion. When we begin paying for Sunrail maintenance and operations next year, Sunrail needs to go from being commuter rail to being mass transit system. Every person on Sunrail represents one less car on the road. Measures would be Sunrail ridership and traffic counts.

Blydenburgh: The community should focus on young families who represent our future. We should employ technology that allows two-way communication at our Commission meetings. The opportunity for increased participation in government issues is important, as are upgrades and maintenance of our playing fields.

Creasman: Our city would be better if we got Lynx buses off our interior roads and had our own mini-mass-transit system, funded with CRA dollars, in the form of either a trolley or an autonomous vehicle. While we cannot expect to fix traffic congestion immediately, this would provide a measurable benefit over time by decreasing traffic on our interior roads and addressing our critical environmental issues.

  1. Are you happy with the level of transparency you see at City Hall in conducting meetings and sharing information honoring public records requests?

Sullivan: Not really. The city website is not user-friendly. I’ve received highly detailed reports from City Manager Randy Knight that would be very useful for everyone, but the information is available only to Commissioners. We need to better manage our communications to provide full and timely information.

Blydenburgh: We need good communications in order to make good decisions. You can get just about anything you want if you ask Randy Knight, but it shouldn’t be that way. The city’s responsibility is to inform us. I think we should redesign the city website so we can find the information that we need.

Creasman: There has been a “Balkanization of Communication,” and we are now talking past each other. Since the explosion of mass media communications technology in 2007-2008, communication presents a huge challenge for the city. Do we need to update the way the city communicates? Yes, but we need to recognize just what a large task that is.

DeCiccio: We need to improve the city communications department. We need to all have the same information so that we are all speaking from the same page. I would also like to see at least one Commission workshop every month, where Commissioners can publicly discuss their thinking. We should not have to wait for weeks to get minutes from a board or commission meeting.

  1. Will you support an increase in city funding for the new library? If you are asked, as a commissioner, to stop or delay the library project, would you vote yes or no?

Blydenburgh: Our job as commissioners is to ensure the new library is delivered on the budget and the schedule established by the current commission. I would not support a stop or delay in library construction.

Creasman: We should increase city funding for the library, and I would vote no if someone tried to stop the project.

DeCiccio: I am in full support of the new library and increased city funding for it. However, if cost overruns get out of hand, then I would have to take another look. It is very difficult for me to say yes or no to that question. If serious problems surface, I would not be doing my job if I didn’t take another hard look.

Sullivan: Paraphrasing Winston Churchill, “Winter Park can be depended upon to do the right thing once we’ve exhausted every other possibility.” We need the best in-depth research possible to determine our citizens’ wishes. Hence, as your next commissioner, I will represent you, the citizens, on this issue and, from the results of the research, I will do your bidding.

  1. Referencing 17-92, knowing that the infrastructure has already experienced failure with the present load, why is this not given paramount consideration when higher FARs [floor area ratios] are being put into place over existing codes?

Creasman: I think city has done a good job of budgeting, and city staff has done a good job of maintaining our infrastructure. I would look forward to continuing to support the expertise of city staff.

DeCiccio: We are fortunate that our sewer and water lines are in such good shape that the city has been able to reallocate that money into undergrounding our power lines. Water quality and water treatment are the important issues now, so that we avoid contaminating our lakes, streams and aquifer.

Sullivan: The city has done a good job of maintaining our core infrastructure. We need concurrency with our infrastructure and our new development to make sure new development does not over-tax our infrastructure system.

Blydenburgh: And to reach concurrency, right now the burden is on the city. We need to shift the burden to developers by implementing developer impact fees. The developers need to pay for the impact of their development on our infrastructure.

  1. Are you in favor of Orange County Mayor Demmings’ one-cent transportation tax? State the reason for your position.

DeCiccio: Strongly support. Fifty percent of it will be paid for by tourists and it will be applied to transportation infrastructure. Right now, only 32 percent of the people in Winter Park both live and work here. Everyone else commutes. It can take up to two or three hours on Lynx, so if we could have more direct routes, that would be fewer cars on the roads. We also need to connect Sunrail to the airport and have it run nights and weekends.

Sullivan: Strongly support. Compared with other cities our size, we have about one-third the public bus system we should have. The tax will provide a dedicated funding source to invest in mass transit. We should turn Sunrail into a transit system and expand it. Every rider on Sunrail is one less car on the road.

Blydenburgh: Strongly support. The estimated amount coming into Winter Park annually is between $8 and $12 million. This is something the community should support.

Creasman: Strongly support. We need to invest in our police force, a mini-mass-transit system and Sunrail expansion. If we are going to solve the problems confronting us, we have to be willing to pay for solutions.

  1. Do you support the Rollins plan to move their graduate business school and the Cornell Fine Arts Museum to property they own north of Fairbanks

Sullivan: To locate the Cornell Museum there would be wonderful. Bringing the Crummer Business School to that site would be the first time Rollins has brought classes north of Fairbanks. The third issue is the massing of the buildings, without much open space. I think there should be more open space, and I am not in favor of bringing students north of Fairbanks.

Blydenburgh: I support the project. The current commission has made several recommendations for increased setbacks and open space. I don’t have a concern with students coming north of Fairbanks, and to have the Cornell there would be a huge plus.    

Creasman: I would listen to the residents on this one, to find out what works for everybody. Generally, Rollins has been very positive for our city. In fact, as of 2008, they were the second-largest taxpayer in the city, but I think Rollins has more work to do on their design.

DeCiccio: I strongly support the Cornell Museum relocating to that site, but I am opposed to the current design for the business school. The massing isn’t right. I support the college moving Crummer there, but they need to redesign the building so it doesn’t look so much like a prison wall.

Got the Ballot Blues?

Ballot Questions Demystified

Got the Ballot Blues?

by Anne Mooney / February 10, 2020

Everyone should have received their Vote by Mail ballots by now, and if you’ve read yours, you may still be scratching your head. In addition to the four candidates for City Commission, 11 Charter Amendments appear on the ballot — in the form of questions.

You Still Have Time to Register to Vote

Before we get into that, if you haven’t registered to vote, there is still time to do so. You have until February 18 to register. Call the Orange County Supervisor of Elections at (407) 836-2070. The folks down there are courteous, knowledgeable and anxious to help.

Charter Must Be Updated Every 10 Years

Every 10 years, the City Charter is updated by a group of citizen volunteers, with professional guidance from an outside consultant – this year, Marilyn Crotty led the effort. A group of your neighbors spent an entire summer going through the City Charter, (in effect, our Constitution) going page-by-page, line-by-line, to make changes and clean up archaic and obsolete language. The result of their efforts is what you see on your ballot – only in question form.

Help Available at the City Website

The Communications Department at the City of Winter Park has put up a very informative page that shows you exactly what has changed. You will see about half the questions are simply housekeeping – such as making the Charter language gender-neutral. The other half, if passed, would make a change in the way the City operates. Click here to view the Charter changes.

https://cityofwinterpark.org/docs/government/city-info/election-info/2020-proposed-charter-amendments-background-detail.pdf

Questions Explained

Referring to the questions as they appear on your ballot, below is a brief explanation of each one. Between this and the page on the City website, you should easily be able to decide how you want to vote.

Question #1

This is a rather comprehensive housekeeping question. Among the things it does is to make the Charter language gender-neutral and to delete obsolete language. There is no change to the way City business is conducted.

Question #2

This changes the base salaries of the Mayor and Commissioners, which have not been changed for more than a decade. If this question passes, the Mayor will receive $15,000 a year and each Commissioner will receive $12,600 a year.

Question #3

This simply acknowledges that the City has a “Commission-Manager” form of government. Nothing changes, we’ve had that all along, it just adds the language.

Question #4

Language in this question will make our Charter language consistent with County and State law regarding the conduct of elections. No real change here.

Question #5

Less complicated than it looks. Deadlines for citizen referendum petitions have been extended from 30 to 45 days, giving citizens more time to collect petition signatures. After you’ve submitted your petition, if the Commission fails to adopt a proposed ordinance within 60 days, or fails to repeal the referred ordinance within 30 days, then they have to hold a special election and put it to the voters. That election shall be held not less than 30 days and not later than 90 days from the date the petition was determined sufficient (i.e., accepted by the City).

If there is an election already scheduled within that time frame, there would not be a special election. Instead the measure would go on the regular ballot. 

Question #6

If a Commissioner becomes unable to serve within 60 days of a general election, this gives the remaining Commissioners the option of either appointing someone to fill the vacant seat or operating with a Commission of four members until the election is held.

Question #7

This establishes the size of City advisory boards at seven members. It gives the Mayor the right to appoint three board members and gives each Commissioner the right to appoint one board member. If passed, this would change the current system which gives sole authority for all advisory board appointments to the Mayor.

Question #8

This would allow the Mayor or a Commissioner to be counted present for voting purposes if they video-conference into the meeting. The privilege would be limited to three times a year for any Commission member.

Currently, Commissioners can teleconference (audio only) in to a meeting, but they cannot vote on measures that come before that Commission meeting.

Question #9

This would simply change the term of the contract for the City Auditor from three to five years.

Question #10

If passed, this would strengthen the ‘non-partisan’ status of Winter Park elections by denying any candidate the right to campaign as a member of any political party or to accept campaign contributions from any political party, and it establishes penalties for candidates who do not comply.

Question #11

This question would renumber the section containing the Charter Amendment Process (housekeeping), and would extend the deadline from 60 to 180 days for the City to hold an election on a Charter Amendment proposed by a citizen petition.

Not So Bad

I confess I had the same reaction many of you may have had when I first saw the ballot questions. In the end, though, they’re not so tough. And they come as a welcome reminder that our Winter Park City Charter is, indeed, a living document.

Candidate Face-Off – Part One

Candidate Face-Off – Part One

Candidate Face-Off – Part One

Anne Mooney / February 8, 2020

Jeffrey Blydenburgh, Marty Sullivan, Carl Creasman and Sheila DeCiccio met early Friday morning at the Chamber of Commerce for the first of two debates on issues which two of them will face during their terms in office as Winter Park City Commissioners. The second debate will be held at the Winter Park Public Library on Wednesday, February 19, at noon.

Eight questions were posed during the hour-long session, moderated by the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee Chairman, attorney Lee Steinhauer. There was a respectful atmosphere of comradery among both audience and candidates that has been missing from Winter Park in recent years. Each question, with a brief description of the candidates’ responses, appears below. Full video is posted at the end of this article.

  1. What is your vision for Orange Avenue between 17-92 and Fairbanks Avenue (i.e., the Orange Avenue Overlay District)?

Candidates approved of the Orange Avenue Overlay process and thought it was an excellent start. They also thought the project still has a way to go. They agreed that Progress Point should be preserved for public use, and they liked the idea of a park and a theater district there. Some expressed concern about excessive entitlements for developers, traffic, stormwater management and open space. They agreed that how it gets implemented is now what’s important.

  1. Pass-through commuters and I-4 runoff traffic are a problem. There are those who are critical of the proposed overlay who fear that multi-use density would make matters worse. Others who are supportive of the overlay would say that the overlay would employ traffic-calming methods. What is your view of corridor traffic that you will bring to this commission, should you be elected?

Candidates acknowledged that Winter Park traffic is a regional issue, and that the City needs to work with FDOT & neighboring communities to figure this out. They spoke about multi[-modal transportation, turn lanes at major intersections, smart signaling and the so-called “last mile” – public transit necessary to move people from their cars to Sunrail or other modes of public transport. They also spoke of the need for dynamic traffic modeling, and agreed that Sunrail should transition from commuter rail to transit rail.

  1. How do you feel about Incentivizinig developers with additional entitlements if they’re willing, in return, to underwrite the cost of storm water treatment & filtration?

Like all infrastructure questions, this is about the pressure Central Floridians are feeling from heavy, rapid population growth. The candidates expressed, each in his or her own way, a desire for developers to give back some of what they get from the City, but cautioned against “giving away the store.” They also agreed that our responsibilities to minimize flooding and keep our water clean exist on regional, local and personal levels.

  1. The Commission is considering the purchase of Winter Park’s downtown Post Office to expand green space near Central Park at a price of $7.5 million. Although the US Postal Service did not initiate the sale of this property, under what conditions should the city purchase this property?

Candidates agreed the City should strive to expand Central Park, but not everyone agreed on the appropriate cost. All were committed to keeping the retail part of the Post Office in the city core and relocating only the distribution center.

  1. Are zoning and ordinance inconsistencies the reason Winter Park is seeing signs of blight along its major gateway corridors?

Candidates agreed that Winter Park’s zoning ordinances need updating. They found the overlay concept useful in this regard, because it offers an opportunity to help small businesses as well as large developers. Sullivan pointed out Winter Park’s bus stops as one unnecessary example of blight. People awaiting buses sit on transformers or curbs with no protection from sun or rain. There is CRA money to fix at least some of this, and he urged that the city proceed immediately to remedy the situation.

  1. How do you view Sunrail’s current and future usefulness and the transition to assume local management costs in 2021?

Blydenburgh began by pointing out that it has taken a while for people to change their habits and begin to use Sunrail. The others agreed we’ve made a good start, but we need to continue to invest to make it a workable system. It should become a transit system, not a commuter system. Our cities need adequate connectors to the airport. Sullivan suggests considering a parking structure behind the Winter Park Sunrail station and expansion of the current rail schedule to include nights and weekends – especially during weekend events like the art festivals.

  1. One Commissioner believes their community-wide advocacy for or against a project prior to Commission review is okay. Others feel it is a violation of Florida’s ethics and sunshine laws. What do you believe is proper and right?

Sullivan acknowledged that if two Commissioners communicated about an issue outside a public meeting, they would be in violation of the Sunshine law. Creasman noted the intent of the law was to “protect” the policy-making process from politics. DeCiccio spoke to the need for increased transparency in the City and thought more communications should flow from the City. Jeffrey Blydenburgh spoke of the need for more collaboration among Commissioners and of the inconvenience and difficulty created by the law’s requirement that all decisions take place in the public eye.

The question, which interrupted the flow of the debate, was a reference to “Cooper’s Perspective,” in which Commissioner Carolyn Cooper emails constituents about issues that are scheduled for an upcoming Commission agenda. It appeared to have come as an afterthought, but no member of the Chamber was available for comment or confirmation at the time of this writing.

Is this a violation of Florida Sunshine Laws? Established in 1995, Florida’s ‘Government in the Sunshine Law’ provides a right of access to governmental proceedings of public boards or commissions. According to <floridabar.org>, “The law is equally applicable to elected and appointed boards and has been applied to any gathering of two or more members of the same board to discuss some matter which will foreseeably come before that board for action. There are three basic requirements of section 286.011, Florida Statutes: (1) meetings of public boards or commissions must be open to the public; (2) reasonable notice of such meetings must be given; and (3) minutes of the meetings must be taken and promptly recorded.” For more information, go to https://webprod.floridabar.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/18-RW-Opengovernmentoverview.pdf

Reached for comment, Commissioner Cooper had this to say. “This is clearly not a violation for me to communicate with the people who elected me to represent them. Wouldn’t you rather have your elected officials provide you with information and facts upon which to base an informed decision? There is nothing in any law that prevents me from sharing information about important issues in our city that impacts the lives of all of us. I will never stop communicating with my constituents. The people with whom I cannot communicate, outside of a formally noticed meeting, are my colleagues who sit with me on the Commission.”

  1. If elected, will you uphold the Commission’s vote to move forward with the Winter Park Library & Events Center?

After acknowledging the project was “contentious” and “painful,” all four candidates were clearly eager to put aside the differences and to move ahead. Yes, they all support the project. They agreed they missed the Civic Center and looked forward to it “coming back to life,” as one put it.  They all expressed the need to bring the project in “on budget and on time.”

The acknowledged budget was a maximum $41.7 million. “That’s got to be the final price when we’re all done,” said Blydenburgh. Sullivan responded, “It’s now time for us to come together and make sure that this is the best library and events center possible to serve our citizens.”

Closing Remarks

Blydenburgh: “As commissioner, I would represent 29,000 citizens. People matter – everyone of you matters. We all have the good fortune to live in Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood. We may not always agree, but we all work together, we live together, and that’s how we should behave together.”

Creasman: “In deciding to run, I thought about the tone we have with each other, both here and on a national level, and that makes me nervous. I know where that possibly can go. It’s important to keep in mind that what should drive us is how much we care for one another. Every person matters, every person has value and every person’s voice should be heard. We are our best together.”

DeCiccio: “I respectfully request your vote on March 17. I have the experience and I have the time to devote to being your City Commissioner. We are the stewards for the next generation, and it is our responsibility to leave this city better than we found it. We have some serious issues to work on, but I truly believe the best is yet to come.”

Sullivan: “Critical projects that need critical thinking and knowledgeable oversight are the Library and Events Center and the Orange Avenue Overlay. We need leadership with a strong engineering background. I seek to achieve a more citizen-focused government. We are a premier urban village, and I will work to preserve what’s best about our community.”

 

Commission Approves Canopy, Seeks P.O. Property

Commission Approves Canopy, Seeks P.O. Property

by Anne Mooney / January 30, 2020

In contrast to January 13 – 16, the Commission breezed through its January 27 meeting, even though they discussed several items of major importance to the community, among them acquisition of the US Post Office property and approval of the Canopy project.

Canopy Approved 3-2, and is No Longer the Canopy

The big news – well, it’s long past being news, this being Winter Park – is that the library-events center project finally received a 3-2 thumbs-up from the Commission. The issue had been tabled at the earlier January 13 / 16 meeting. Mayor Steve Leary and Commissioners Greg Seidel and Sarah Sprinkel voted to proceed with the Library-Events Center project now that there is a construction budget, despite the fact that project funding is still shy several million dollars – how many million depends on which math you use. Commissioners Carolyn Cooper and Todd Weaver voted against.

Commissioner Greg Seidel moved to rename the project The Winter Park Library and Events Center. The motion passed 4-1, and the ‘Canopy’ moniker is a thing of the past.

How to Spend CRA $$$?

Prior to the regular Commission meeting, the six-member Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), consisting of the five City Commissioners plus Orange County Representative Hal George, met to discuss their spending priorities for the millions of unallocated tax dollars that will flow into the CRA before it sunsets in 2027.

#1 CRA Priority – Acquire Post Office Site to Expand Central Park

Cooper led off the conversation with her list of priorities. Lengthy discussion that followed revealed very little disagreement among the Commissioners. First on the priority list was to give City Manager Randy Knight and City Attorney Kurt Ardaman the green light to negotiate with the US Postal Service to secure the current Post Office site for the purpose of expanding Central Park. The plan is for the retail Post Office to remain in the City core, and for the City to work with USPS to relocate the distribution facility to somewhere outside the City core.

The price tag to the City could easily run six to seven figures, but Commissioners agreed on a 5-0 vote that it was worth it to secure land to expand Central Park.

Other priorities included a $750,000 enhancement to the Library, lighting and tree design for SR 17-92, $3 million for MLK Park improvements, an $8 million downtown parking garage, $4 million for a parking garage that will not be in the park but will service MLK Park and $200,000 a year for affordable housing. The CRA will maintain a 20 percent reserve fund.

Presentation from Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center

Immediately after the CRA meeting adjourned, the regular Commission meeting opened with a presentation by DPAC President and CEO Kathy Ramsberger. DPAC is celebrating its fifth anniversary. The audience at City Hall was treated to a full array of statistics on attendance, programming, past and future fundraising and the center’s fiscal health in acknowledgement of the City’s status as a major donor to the arts center.

Ramsberger noted that over the past five years, DPAC has doubled their business, climbing from $22 million the first year to ‘close to’ $44 million, partly the result of growing ticket revenue outside Orlando. “This is an international organization – a destination,” said Ramsberger, “generating over $700 million in economic impact.”

Approval of Library-Events Center

Going from one grand project to the next, the Commission took up the question of the Winter Park Library and Events Center, deciding on a 3-2 vote to proceed with the project.

A Very Expensive ‘Done Deal’

As the Library-Events Center project moves forward, and Winter Park looks forward to a grand new facility, it may be wise to keep in mind points made by dissenters, including the citizens who offered public comment and the Commissioners who voted against the project because they felt it had strayed too far from the initial concept approved by the voters.

As Peter Gottfried pointed out, nearly 11,000 people voted on the $30 million bond issue, and it squeaked through on a margin of just 214 votes.

Need Public Transit, Not Parking Spaces

UCF Professor Jay Jurie questioned the emphasis on parking lots and garages and said, “We may very well be at the end of the fossil fuel era.” He likened the current planning process to “classic Maginot Line” planning, referring to French plans to repel a German invasion which, said Jurie, were unsuccessful because the French “were planning for the last war, not the war that was coming.” He urged the Commission to “look forward” and to be mindful of the climate crisis and the need for an effective and efficient public transit system.

Cost-per-square-foot Comparison

Several speakers, including Commissioner Weaver, compared the cost per square foot of the Library-Events Center to the recently completed Wellness Center, which came in at $525 per square foot, and the new wing of Winter Park Hospital, which cost $661 per square foot. The per-square-foot cost of the Library-Events Center is projected to be $854.

Not the First Adjaye Design to Break the Budget

William Deuchler was one of several who noted the shift in emphasis from the library to the events center. “When we voted for the bond issue,” said Deuchler, “the emphasis was on the library, not the events center. With the TDT/ARC grant, the emphasis shifted to the events center. Citizens who voted for the project expected the City to build what was promised and to do so within budget.”

Deuchler cautioned that the Adjaye-designed African American Museum of History and Culture in Washington D.C. is an example of what could happen here. Over the course of that project, the structure increased in size by 14 percent over initial specifications and costs went over original budget projections by “a whopping 80 percent,” according to Deuchler. Initial projection was $300 million; final cost was $540 million.

Adjaye himself admits that, when it comes to his work, “whether working on a house or a grand civic project, . . . controversy is normal.” In 2019, Adjaye told London’s Financial Times reporter Helen Barrett, “If you want a tasteful and elegant thing, you’re not going to come to David Adjaye. I’m interested in clients who have a strange site that has a difficulty. Those are the projects I gravitate towards, and those are the kind of clients that gravitate towards me.”

Citizen Comments

Following the library-events center vote, the Mayor opened the floor for public comment. Four people, only one of whom was from Winter Park, spoke in strident tones objecting to the presence of the Winter Park Police Department’s armored car at the recent Martin Luther King birthday celebration in Hannibal Square. That armored car has appeared in previous Hannibal Square events, as well as in the Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day parades. It seems to be a draw for kids – of all ages.

The speakers, citing strife on a national level between police and African Americans, particularly young black men, urged the City to emphasize peace and community building rather than a display of police force at events celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Police Chief Michael Deal expressed surprise, as he had worked closely with community leaders in the Hannibal Square neighborhood to plan the participation of his department in the event. “Well,” said Deal, “I have the next year to work with the community to see what they want, and if they are uncomfortable with the armored car, we’ll plan something else.”

“Above all, I want to honor the life of Dr. King,” said Deal. “He did not go to jail 29 times and give his life for his cause to perpetuate this kind of dissension. Our mission is to go into the community and build positive relationships with people, especially the children.”

Starbuck’s on Lee Road

After a second vote by the Commission to move forward on negotiations with the USPS and the approval of a plat of 10 single family homes on New York Avenue on land previously owned by the Christian Science Church, the Commission unanimously approved a free-standing Starbuck’s on Lee Road. Shortly afterward, the meeting was adjourned.

 

Window of Opportunity to Expand Central Park

Open Letter to Mayor and Commissioners

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

Window of Opportunity to Expand Central Park

Guest Columnist Beth Hall / January 26, 2020

What is the Most Laudable Use for CRA Funds?

Looking over the agenda for tomorrow’s Commission meeting, 1/27/2020, I see both the library-events center and the Post Office acquisition are coming before you.  I know the use of CRA funds is contemplated both for funding part of the library-events center and for acquisition of the Post Office property. I ask myself:  what is the best use for CRA funds?

Is It Filling Gaps in the Library-Events Center Budget?

There is no doubt the library-events center is a very important civic project. But the thing is, we voted to issue bonds in the amount of $30 million to pay for that project. Then, we secured an additional $6 million in tourist development tax grant money for the project. Still, we lack the necessary funding to build the library and parking surfaces. The budget is approaching $42 million now.  CRA money is essential to be able to dream of completing the project. Was that the way we planned it?

If precedents like the current library facility and the Rachel Murrah Civic Center tell us anything, the new building also will have a finite lifespan. Maybe an Adjaye-designed building will enjoy a longer life span – there is no way to know.

Or Should CRA Funds Be Used to Expand Central Park?

On the other hand, we have the potential opportunity to expand Central Park by acquiring the Post Office property. This is priceless — a thing of value beyond dollars and cents. Central Park is the crown jewel, the pride of Winter Park.

The significance of the Park for our city will only grow, as Winter Park becomes more and more developed, with projects at Ravaudage, Orange Avenue, Fairbanks and Lee Road already coming online.

The Window of Opportunity Closes Tomorrow

The Post Office Notice of Intent to negotiate with the City of Winter Park expires tomorrow, January 27. We must act now.

For this reason, I urge you to assign the acquisition of the Post Office property the very highest priority in terms of designating the use for CRA dollars. There is only one Park, and the opportunity to expand it is within your grasp. I cannot think of a greater legacy for this Commission or a greater gift to all generations to come.