Citizen Protest Puts West Meadow Parking Lot “On Hold”

Citizen Protest Puts West Meadow Parking Lot "On Hold"

City Residents Dispute Parking Plan Rationale & Parking Survey Analysis

On November 2nd, at about 8:00am, Vicki Krueger received an early-morning visit from her neighbor. “I was about to go to the Farmers’ Market when a neighbor knocked on my door. She informed me that her husband had just been at the Meadow and had noticed that a tree had been cut down on the edge of the park across from the Post Office.”Ms. Krueger’s condo, located across from Central Park, is a three minute walk from the Central Park’s “West Meadow,” the grassy green space south of the Post Office. In an interview with the Voice, Ms. Krueger confirmed that when she and her neighbor walked down to inspect the West Meadow that morning, they “saw the stump where a tree had been cut down“ and also saw that part of the West Meadow “had been marked-off with orange tape” next to the Post Office parking lot.

Ms. Krueger told the Voice that several days prior to her discovery of the marked-off area, she had learned of the city’s interest in paving part of the meadow, but mistakenly believed that no action would be taken before further Commission discussion.

Krueger Challenges City Surveyors and Public Works Official.

On Monday, November 4, at about 7:00am, Ms. Krueger again visited the Meadow parking site. Within minutes of her arrival, Krueger says that “two City employees arrived and began to survey the property.” Ms. Krueger questioned the surveyors, “I asked them whether there was a work order, who had signed it. They confirmed there was a work order but didn’t know who signed it.”

City Had Planned to Pave 12 New Parking spaces on West Meadow by Nov. 30.

Don Marcotte, Asst. Director of Public Works, arrived at the Meadow shortly after Ms. Krueger spoke with the surveyors and, according to Krueger, “Confirmed that the paving was going forward.” Ms. Krueger says she handed Mr. Marcotte a copy of an independent parking garage study and “after some discussion, he told us that the work would be stopped, at least for the day.“ Click the button below to view the Public Works memo discussing the Parking Expansion timeline.

Public Works Memo

Citizens Dispute City’s Parking Rationale – Conduct Their Own Parking Availability Surveys.

Over the last two weeks, several citizens – including Ken Murrah, Vicki Krueger and others – have written the City asking for reconsideration of the city’s plans to expand parking in and around Morse Blvd. and Central Park. Mr. Murrah and Ms. Krueger have each conducted independent surveys of parking availability near Park Ave. Their counts of available parking spaces over multiple days/hours/locations are at odds with the City’s own parking surveys. The City surveys are a key factor in the City’s decision to expand parking. Click the button below to view the City’s Parking Study.

Parking Study

The Voice contacted the City asking for comment from City Manager Randy Knight, Public Works Officials Troy Attaway or Don Marcotte on the delayed implementation of the City’s parking expansion. Clarissa Howard, the City’s Communications Director, responded with a statement saying , “The city did have plans to move forward, however, due to public input received, this project was delayed until after the City Commission had an opportunity to discuss further at their Monday, November 11 City Commission meeting.”

Did Commissioners and City Staff Agree to Meadow Parking Expansion Without Actually Voting on It?

We spoke with Ms. Howard at length about the City’s decision-making process – the process that led to the City’s initial decision to pave a section of the West Meadow by Nov. 30. We asked about the hearings, meetings, public notifications and votes that led to, and ultimately authorized, City staff to add 100+ parking spaces in and around downtown.

On Friday, Ms. Howard told the Voice that her research – done in the limited time she had to respond to our questions – indicated that parking expansion was discussed at several meetings including the June 24, 2013 Commission meeting (during which a consultant presented the City-commissioned Parking Study), and the Sept. 6 Strategic Planning Session. According to Ms. Howard, the Commission did vote to formally “accept” the Parking Study during the June 24 meeting – and asked City staff to come back with specific recommendations to expand parking.

Click the button below to view the staff Parking Study analysis.

Staff Parking Study Analysis

Ms. Howard indicated that in the Sept. 6 Strategic Planning Session attended by Commissioners and City staff, Public Works Director Attaway presented his suggestions for creating 100+ additional downtown parking spaces including making/paving new spaces in the West Meadow. However, it appears that since this meeting was a work session – not a formal Commission/Board meeting – no actual vote was taken regarding the West Meadow paving, nor was any formal notice given to the community that City staff would implement the paving/parking expansion administratively (without a formal vote by the Commission).

Parking Expansion and Paving the Meadow Will Be Discussed in Today’s 3:30pm Commission Meeting.

Multiple sources have told the Voice that even though City Commissioners will discuss the City’s Parking Expansion plan, they may or may not decide to vote on paving the West Meadow. Sources confirm that inaction by the Commission could result in City staff moving forward as planned to pave the meadow and implement the rest of the Parking Expansion.


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New Lawyer In Capen Case Sues Pokorny LLC, Too

New Lawyer In Capen Case Sues Pokorny LLC, Too

Humpty Dumpty Lawsuit Asks Homeowners to Put Capen Back Together Again

Story Update:
Not long after the original lawsuit was filed by attorney Howard Marks on October 3, something happened – or, more accurately – didn’t happen: The City was never served with the lawsuit.As noted in the Circuit Court Register of Actions, Marks left the case the day after the original lawsuit was filed. A new attorney, Richard Wilson, was substituted in the case and an amended complaint was filed by Mr. Wilson earlier this week on October 22.“I have no comment,” attorney Marks said on Friday when we asked him about his withdrawal from the case.Marks and others we spoke with kept mum on exactly what happened to stall the suit – and would not comment on what caused the attorney’s sudden, next-day withdrawal from the case. Amended Lawsuit Register of Court Actions

New Attorney Adds Teeth to Amended Lawsuit.

The amended lawsuit appears to have been built on the foundation of the original case, but adds and deletes a number of elements – most prominent among them being the addition of 520 N. Interlachen, L.L.C. as a defendant in the case. The LLC is widely assumed to be a vehicle constructed by Pokorny family attorneys on their behalf. The “business entity” email address listed on the LLC corporate filing documentation includes the name John Pokorny.

The principals of Concerned Citizens for Historic Preservation, Inc. – the plaintiff in the case – are Cynthia Fried, Neil Sullivan and Rachel Chase.

Interlachen LLC Filing     Concerned Citizens Corp Filing

Old vs. New Lawsuit: What’s Different?

A digital comparison of the documents reveals a number of changes – most of them minor. However, by naming the Capen homeowner LLC as a defendant along with the City, Plaintiff attorney Richard Wilson serves notice that he places responsibility for preserving Capen House squarely in the lap of the homeowner.

Attorney Wilson: If Ordinance Doesn’t Provide for Removal of Historic Designation, City Can’t Do it.

In an interview with Winter Park Voice on Friday, Plaintiff attorney, Richard Wilson commented on the core issue of the case: “It is my opinion that the City has an extensive process for designating a home as historic and that there is no provision or ordinance providing for a rescission of a historic designation. If there is no process to rescind, a historic designation cannot be rescinded.”

If Capen House is Moved, Pokornys May Have to Move it Back.

On the question of what happens if the home is cut in half and moved prior to a judgment in the plaintiff’s favor, attorney Wilson indicated that, upon winning the lawsuit, his clients will ask that the process be reversed – that is to “Move the house back to the lot at 520 Interlachen Ave. and put it back together again.”

This remedy – to reverse any changes or movement of the home – is the heart of the Mandatory Permanent Injunction requested in the lawsuit: “Concerned Citizens for Historic Preservation, Inc., requests that this Court issue a mandatory injunction, compelling Defendant 520 N. Interlachen, L.L.C. to return the property to its condition before the historic landmark designation was wrongfully rescinded.”

This is the the full text of the injunction request:


83. Concerned Citizens re-alleges and reincorporates its allegations contained in paragraphs 1 through 74 above as if fully set forth herein.

84. A clear legal right of Concerned Citizens and the citizens of Winter Park at large has been violated, by the unlawful rescission of the historic landmark designation.

85. The unlawful rescission of the designation has caused, and will continue to cause, irreparable harm to Concerned Citizens and the citizens of Winter Park at large.

86. Concerned Citizens has no adequate remedy at law. 87. Work has already begun to remove the house from the property at 520 N. Interlachen, and to demolish other buildings and improvements to the property that are an integral part of the historic nature of the site.

WHEREFORE, Concerned Citizens for Historic Preservation, Inc., requests that this Court issue a mandatory injunction, compelling Defendant 520 N. Interlachen, L.L.C. to return the property to its condition before the historic landmark designation was wrongfully rescinded. ”

In our interview with Mr. Wilson, we asked who will bear the cost of putting Capen House back together again if his clients prevail in court. Mr. Wilson replied that the homeowner – the Pokornys (or their 520 N. Interlachen LLC) – would be responsible for paying the cost to return the home to its original condition on the Interlachen lot.

Attorney: If Homeowner Decides to Demolish Capen House, We Will Seek an Emergency Injunction to Prevent It.

Wilson explained that it is the homeowners who are authorizing the move of Capen House and that the Polasek Museum and others who are actually cutting the house in half and moving it across the lake are, per Agency Law, agents of the homeowner. According to Wilson, this means the Pokornys are liable for the actions of their agents.

When we asked how his clients will respond if the Pokorny family decides to demolish the home instead of allowing it to be moved, Wilson responded that he will “seek an emergency injunction preventing the destruction of Capen House.”

Clarissa Howard, City of Winter Park Director of Communications, was unwilling to comment on the case beyond supplying a statement from City Manager Randy Knight: “”It is unfortunate that we are faced with litigation regarding the Capen House. It is especially disheartening since there has been such active community involvement, including raising substantial funds to preserve the house. We will review the suit and follow the legal process as necessary.”

The Voice was unable to obtain a comment from an executive at SunTrust Bank or the Pokorny family as of presstime.



Less than two weeks after the Polasek Museum’s board of trustees announced that they’d found the money to move Capen House across Lake Osceola to its new home, a group calling itself Concerned Citizens for Historic Preservation, Inc. filed suit against the City of Winter Park.

The suit, brought by attorney Howard Marks, alleges that the City removed Capen House from the Winter Park Register of Historic Places in a manner that was “inconsistent with the Defendant City’s Historic Preservation Ordinance.”

Plaintiff Claims City Acted “Arbitrarily and Capriciously” in Rescinding Capen Historic Status.

Count 1 of the complaint states that “Plaintiff believes the Defendant City lacked authority to rescind the designation, or in the alternative, acted arbitrarily and capriciously in doing so.”

The Plaintiffs appear to claim that the City did not establish sufficient basis for the rescission. The complaint implies that the City withdrew its protection of the historic structure without first proving a need for rescission due to “significant deterioration, or extreme difficulty or expense to renovate” the home. The lawsuit also states that the City did not obtain a “recommendation by the Preservation Commission” to rescind Capen House’s Historic Designation. The clear implication is that the City ignored its own ordinance in an effort to comply with the request by SunTrust bank that they remove the designation. City Attorney, Larry Brown, disputed a similar claim made by Mr. Marks in a July 12 letter to the City. Click here for story.

Attorney Marks also alleges that the mortgagee bank “wrongfully accused” the homeowner of “bad faith” during the foreclosure process and “misrepresented the facts and law” in its demand that the City rescind the home’s Historic Designation. Click the button below to view the complaint filed with the Circuit Court.

CCHP Lawsuit

Concerned Citizens Group Alleges Sunshine Law Violation by City Commissioners.

The lawsuit includes an allegation that “At least two Commissioners, in particular, both acted on confidential information not publically disclosed and improperly considered when each voted for rescission. Further, it is believed that the information was wrongfully shared and discussed with other Commissioners outside any public setting.”

Complaint Singles Out Commissioner for Non-Disclosure & Failure to Disqualify “Herself.”

The complaint does not name any of the Commissioners it accuses of wrong-doing, but does make a very specific claim that one of the City’s two female Commissioners “wrongfully received confidential information from the mediator of the foreclosure dispute between the Bank and Clardy Malugen that was relied upon for that Defendant City Commissioner’s vote. The information was not disclosed at a public hearing and the Commissioner did not disqualify herself.”

What Happens Next?

Concerned Citizens for Historic Preservation, Inc. is asking the court to overturn the Commission’s rescission of Capen House’s Historic Designation, which, if the court complies, could complicate or reverse any plans to move Capen House from its current location.


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WP Comp Plan/Codes “Impediments to Economic Development?”

WP Comp Plan/Codes “Impediments to Economic Development?”

Part 2 / Gottfried: Be Careful. . . Residents know there’s “a lot of construction going on.”

Story Update:
In the first half of the joint EDAB/P&Z workshop held on August 15, WRT consultant, Silvia Vargas, explained her study of Winter Park’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code — and the numerous changes the study proposes.
The City-commissioned study summarizes the purpose of the Comp Plan and Land Development Code (LDC) this way: “If the comprehensive plan is, essentially, the ‘what we want to do’ of the community, the LDC is the ‘how we are going to do it.’” Details of the study are published in the 8/15/13 Voice story that follows this update. Images below show some of the close-in commercial properties permitted and developed under the current Comp Plan and LDC.Orange County Development Codes : A Model for Winter Park Development?

The WRT study is seen by some city residents as laying the groundwork for elimination of City regulations that serve as a check on developer over-reach in the City. Others see the study’s recommendations as a road map to streamlining City codes that they believe are hindering economic development.

Peter Gottfried, a member of the City’s Planning and Zoning Board, illustrated the latter view by pointing out the development strategy pursued by developer Dan Bellows, who obtained less-restrictive building approvals in Orange County before having his Ravaudage development annexed into Winter Park: “The perfect example of that is a developer who decides to go develop a large piece of property and decides to go through the Orange County development approval process rather than go through the Winter Park process – and that’s Dan Bellows’ project at Lee Road.” Mr. Gottfried appeared to compare Winter Park’s approval process unfavorably with Orange County’s process, flatly stating: “. . . I think Orange County provides a fair and equitable [ process ] – even though you might not like their rules . . . I think as we move forward we need to decide how we’re going . . . to tackle revising some of these things that need to be revised . . .” (Video, Part 2 – 16:15)Another view of the contrast between Orange County and Winter Park development regulations is illustrated in an analysis written by P&Z board member, Pete Weldon – also a proponent of regulatory overhaul in the City. In his analysis of Ravaudage development (obtained by the Voice in a public records search), Mr. Weldon concludes that Orange County development regulations enabled Mr. Bellows to potentially build out Ravaudage at significantly higher density, “. . . Having accepted the terms of the annexation that include operating under Orange County codes and entitlements . . . the city approved Ravaudage densities somewhere in the range of 50-100% more favorable for the developer than would have been available under city code.” Mr. Weldon’s analysis can be viewed by clicking the button below. Weldon Ravaudage Analysis An increase in allowed building density as noted above is among the most hotly debated issues whenever significant changes to Winter Park’s land development regulations are proposed.Other regulatory policies – like the City’s “Conditional Use” standards that allow certain kinds of development if prescribed conditions are met and approved – were questioned during the hearing. EDAB board member, Steve Flanagan, criticized the standard saying, “. . . as a ‘recovering’ developer, I have to tell you it scares the living daylights out of me every time I think of it – because as a developer, you come into a community hoping that you can understand the rules and that if you obey them, you can get your project done.” (Video, Part 2 – 11:20)Mr. Flanagan also questioned use of Floor Area Ratio (FAR) standards – particularly in the Fairbanks corridor – asserting that development is “stymied” by current FAR regulations that limit bigger buildings on limited-size parcels.

Will High-Density Buildings Reduce “Sprawl” and Lower Residential Property Taxes?

Mr. Flanagan and others on the panel implied that allowing more in-fill development of larger and/or more numerous commercial buildings confers important benefits on the city that include prevention of “sprawl” and an increase in the City’s commercial tax base. (Video, Part 2 – 10:00)

Ms. Vargas appeared to question the use of sprawl as a rationale for higher density development, pointing out that “It’s just kind of difficult to talk about sprawl in a community that is mature, developed and land-locked the way that Winter Park is.” Vargas did agree that the sprawl rationale might be more appropriately applied to parking in Winter Park’s major corridors – an apparent reference to construction of “land-efficient” parking structures. (Video, Part 2 – 14:25)

Consultant: Purpose of Regulations is to “Provide Predictability” for Developers and Keep Factories Out of Neighborhoods. 

In response to questions about “Conditional Use” policy, Ms. Vargas stated: “I understand the nature of the Conditional Use . . . there need to be parameters . . . the whole purpose of your future land use map and your zoning map is to provide predictability – not just for the developer, but also for the residents – for someone who’s going to buy a house and can be assured that across the street there’s not going to be . . . a factory.” (Video, Part 2 – 14:53)

Conditional Use is a mechanism that has been used by the City to regulate the approval of businesses seeking to locate here. One example of this use is regulation of what types of businesses can locate on the Park Avenue.

P&Z Board Member Johnston: Are We Scrutinizing Rollins College Development Plans?

New P&Z Board member, Ross Johnston, asked Ms. Vargas about her view of the “public-private relationship” vis-à-vis education – considering Ms. Vargas’ prediction of 5,000+ new residents being added to Winter Park’s population in coming years. Mr. Johnston also asked Ms. Vargas whether she has analyzed the city’s interaction with Rollins College, pointing to the college’s interest in developing “. . . big chunks of land going to softball fields and lacrosse fields across different parts of the town now.” (Video, Part 2 – 8:30)

Ms. Vargas admitted that she did not look closely at the Rollins/Winter Park relationship, but did say that she recommends keeping education “concurrency” in City codes – a policy that that ties future development to increases in the City’s educational resources.

Toward the end of the workshop, the discussion turned toward questions of process – how the City plans to proceed in its review of the Comp Plan and LDC. Chamber of Commerce CEO, Patrick Chapin noted the phrases and characterizations used in the WRT study: “In Conflict”, “Highly Unusual”, “Contradictory”, “Onerous” and pressed the panel to consider the process: “I want to understand how this process – when this Comp Plan was developed – what was the mechanism? What was the plan? Did a group sit around the table like this?” (Video, Part 2 – 17:10)

P&Z Members Gottfried & Sacha: We Need Independent Facilitator to Get This Done Right.

Peter Gottfried responded with a brief history lesson – telling stories of past conflict, a Comp Plan committee being fired and a generally disjointed process. Mr. Chapin asked whether an arbitrator was used. Gottfried replied that the prior Comp Plan committees did not use the services of a professional facilitator, then pointed to Ms. Vargas as a person who could fulfill that role: “I think that’s what we have right here. I think that’s going to be a real value as we move forward . . .” Gottfried expressed confidence that Ms. Vargas could help keep the process “consistent” and “legal . . . I think that’s what we need.” (Video, Part 2 – 19:55)

After hearing expressions of support from the board for ongoing mediation, Ms. Vargas laid out her view of how the process could be effectively – and responsively – managed: “I very strongly believe that the community vision process is important . . . It doesn’t work for every community – not every community needs it – but, it seems to me that this community does.” Ms. Vargas acknowledged Mr. Gottfried’s statements concerning problems with past negotiations and offered a plan for a community-based process where “. . . the whole community could bring their opinion about the future – the aspirations for Winter Park twenty years from now, their concerns.” Ms. Vargas advocated a “consensus process whereby perhaps, not everybody agrees on every idea – but everybody agrees that at the end, these are things that are good for the whole community.” (Video, Part 2 – 20:25)

Following Ms. Vargas’ comments, P&Z board member, Tom Sacha, spoke up saying he “totally agreed” with Ms. Vargas’ approach, adding that Ms. Vargas could ”. . . bring [ the process ] to common ground . . . and facilitate us to where we need to be, going forward.” (Video, Part 2 – 21:40)

Consultant Vargas: We Need Lots of Public Input.
EDAB Member Caron Suggests “Smaller Group with Vision, Versus a Consensus-Type of Approach.”

Several other board members shared a mix of opinions, including remarks by Peter Gottfried – who referenced Winter Park’s political landscape: “You learn when you deal in the political world that there’s five Commissioners – or four Commissioners and the Mayor. You learn to count to three . . . that’s the reality of it.” (Video, Part 2 – 22:55)

EDAB member, John Caron, offered an opinion somewhat at odds with Ms. Vargas’ “public input” model – asking Vargas: “You have stated that ‘Vision is lacking’ . . . Who authors the vision? Where does that come from? . . . My sense is that usually it’s a smaller group with vision, versus a consensus-type of approach.” (Video, Part 2 – 23:20)

In response, Ms. Vargas reiterated her view that the City should ”. . . go to the community first – and we go to them repeatedly until we get it right . . .” Ms. Vargas countered Mr. Caron’s view with the assertion that “. . . when you have that vision that becomes the cornerstone of the plan – that comes from the residents . . . you are able to take the politics out of it, because this is the vision of the citizens.” (Video, Part 2 – 24:00)

As Ms. Vargas ended her statement, Dori Stone, Director of Planning & Community Development, stepped to the podium to wrap up the workshop. Ms. Stone spoke about her plan for advancing the WRT study through the City review process: “We are going to complete this study with Silvia’s recommendations.” Stone assured board members that they would have the opportunity to review and recommend changes to the Comp Plan and Land Development Code. (Video, Part 2 – 25:00)

Director Stone promised one public board hearing that would be part of an overall review process that will be finally decided by the City Commission. Ms. Stone estimated that the process could take as long as three months to complete.

Peter Gottfried asked Stone to consider allowing the boards to make more substantial recommendations – putting “more meat on the bones” – before the study is presented to the Commission. P&Z Board Chair, James Johnston, differed with Mr. Gottfried, arguing that the study already gets “the point across” – the point being that “There’s some inconsistency – there’s some problems – there’s some things that could be a hindrance on development . . . I think this report shows that.” (Video, Part 2 – 29:15)

P&Z Chair James Johnston: Current Regulations “Could be a Hindrance on Development.”
Gottfried: “Residents are going to say ‘What do you mean we have a hindrance to development?’ … We’ve got a lot of construction going on . . .”

Gottfried disagreed with Johnston’s characterization of the report stating that “If the premise of this thing is that there’s a hindrance to development – all you’ve got to [ do ] is look around [ in ] the city of Winter Park. We’ve got a lot of construction going on and . . . people, residents are going to say ‘What do you mean we have a hindrance to development?’ I think we have to be careful how we say that.” (Video, Part 2 – 31:00)

Patrick Chapin quickly jumped in supporting Gottfried’s point: “I really disagree with ‘the hindrance of development’.“ Instead, Chapin suggested his interpretation of the study’s message as promoting the “economic well-being” of the community.

As Dori Stone offered her final remarks and ended the meeting, it was unclear whether she intends to implement Silvia Vargas’ suggestion that the City should”. . . go to the community first – and we go to them repeatedly until we get it right . . .” Ms. Stone offered to include public and board comments sent to her via email at in her presentation to the Commission.

Consultant Vargas: We Need to Get Community Opinion and ”. . . go to them repeatedly until we get it right . . .”
EDAB/P&Z Director Dori Stone: “The City Commission will decide what the next steps will be regarding this project . . .”

We contacted Ms. Stone in the days after the workshop attempting to learn more about her interest in using Ms. Vargas as a continuing independent facilitator as suggested by some board members – and whether she will schedule – or ask city officials to authorize – multiple public meetings as suggested by Ms. Vargas.

Ms. Stone would not speak directly with the Voice, but ultimately did respond to multiple requests for comment. Her written responses are excerpted below:

In response to our question asking how the city plans to use Ms. Vargas’ services from this point forward — and/or whether there are any plans for significant facilitation by a person who is not a city employee, Ms. Stone responded:

“The scope of work associated with the contract with WRT included the preparation of and presentation of a review and evaluation of the Comprehensive Plan and LDC. Any new work that the City Commission may wish to pursue based on the recommendations in the study is outside the scope of this contract. Should the City Commission direct staff to implement any of the recommendations and staff decides consultant services may be needed, we would begin the appropriate process in creating a new scope of work for the required tasks, request Commission approval and follow the City’s process for hiring consultant services. This will be a decision of the City Commission and any recommendations by staff would be premature at this time.”

In response to our question asking how Ms. Stone sees the review process moving forward – and whether she is planning multiple public “visioning” sessions that would give Winter Park residents the opportunity to offer input on changes to the city’s Comp Plan and related development codes, Ms. Stone responded:

“At this point in time, the report with recommendations will be presented to the City Commission. The evaluation of the Comprehensive Plan and LDC substantially completes the scope of work outlined in the contract with WRT. The consultant intends to finalize the report prior to the City Commission presentation. Implementation of this study is not included in the scope of work and would need City Commission approval and direction.”

In response to our follow-up questions asking for clarification of her initial response, Ms. Stone responded:

“I have asked the City Manager to bring up the concept of a workshop to discuss the findings of the study. That is the remaining public meeting regarding this contract. The City Commission will decide what the next steps will be regarding this project . . . I have not formulated a staff recommendation to the City Commission yet regarding the next steps. I’m waiting to hear what direction the City Commission gives staff about the report.”

Winter Park Voice will update this story and provide continuing coverage of related hearings.


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CNL’s Ask for Free City Land for Parking Garage is “D.O.A.”

CNL’s Ask for Free City Land for Parking Garage is “D.O.A.”

Commission: Who’s Doing Who a Favor Here?

Monday’s City Commission hearing did not go well for CNL. A fundamental disagreement between CNL and the City Commission was whether the City should expect some compensation in return for allowing CNL to build a large parking structure on the City’s Civic Center parking lot – a property valued at $1 to $2 million.The workshop started on a sour note – with CNL’s Paul Ellis standing firm on his position that CNL should pay nothing and that the City should be happy with the increased / accelerated tax and fee revenue it would receive when CNL develops the property.

CNL’s ask for City help – and the implication that prime 17-92 real estate might not otherwise attract significant developer investment – bore a striking similarity to claims made by Dan Bellows in his long campaign to share millions of dollars in City tax and fee revenues. The appearance of some strategic nexus between the two developers was further strengthened by the scheduling of “dueling workshops” held on the same afternoon on July 22.

In yesterday’s CNL workshop, Commissioner Cooper rubbed Paul Ellis the wrong way by referring to CNL’s controversial 2011 Progress Point land swap deal with the City.

Cooper complained about CNL’s current approach to the City, saying that ” . . .it is indefensible to me, to face other developers in this community and say to them ‘Yes, CNL is at the trough for a second time’ . . . My phone has been ringing off the hook . . . if we are going to give away City land to subsidize commercial development, it needs to be equitable and fair . . .” Click the video image below to view the workshop.

Commissioner Cooper was not the only Commissioner complaining to Ellis. At various points during the workshop, each Commissioner offered criticism of CNL’s offer. More about that later . . .

First, a bit of history on the project: In late July, as noted above, the usual end-of-month City Commission meeting was bookended by two separate workshops – held on behalf of CNL and Ravaudage developers – both of whom did their best to convince the City to hand over City treasure in return for enhanced development along the 17-92 corridor.

First up was Dan Bellows and Ravaudage CDD representatives, asking for City tax revenues and fee sharing to help build out $60 to 70 million in Ravaudage infrastructure – some of which would also serve areas beyond Ravaudage. As with past requests for taxpayer assistance, Mr. Bellows ran into skepticism on the Commission.

However, Mayor Bradley did indicate some interest in the proposal when he pointed out that some part of the millions required to create infrastructure in the area could conceivably be paid by the City anyway – if Ravaudage did not exist and that part of the city developed piecemeal over time. The Mayor offered his opinion that “…at some point, I think there is some responsibility for the City to do something.” Click the video image below to view the Ravaudage workshop.

Ravaudage CDD Attorney: City $$ Not Used Unless Builder Performs, But . . . Builder May Be Unable to Perform Without City $$ Guarantee.

After Commissioner Cooper pointed out that a key reason that CDDs are set up is to allow developers to raise their own infrastructure funding in the bond market, Dan Bellows and the Ravaudage CDD attorney, Jan Carpenter, countered that their funding request is “performance” based and that City dollars would only be spent as development of the land actually proceeds. Carpenter asserted that development of Ravaudage “won’t happen – or it won’t happen quickly” if the City does not agree to provide the millions of dollars in assistance being requested.

Commissioner Sprinkel: Giving Ravaudage City $$ “palatable to me because it’s all new money.”

Commissioner Sprinkel reiterated a point mentioned in past discussions that future City revenues shared with Ravaudage is “not money we would have had otherwise – so it’s new money that is coming to us to develop this area to make it better . . . it’s palatable to me because it’s all new money.”

Commissioner McMacken took a different tack – butting heads with Bellows, asking how the developer could come to the Commission asking for millions of dollars in assistance: “Dan, we’re working with your plan. This isn’t a City plan. This is a private developer that comes to the City and says, ‘In order to do this, I have a $63 million shortfall.’ McMacken confessed that he was “stumped” by Bellows request, considering the benefits and concessions Bellows and Ravaudage have already received, saying that “if CNL were here right now, they’d be salivating.”

Even though Mr. Bellows left the workshop less than satisfied with the Commission’s response, both he and Mr. McMacken were well aware that CNL was, in fact, waiting in the wings for their own shot at the City Commission that same afternoon. Mr. Bellows attended the CNL workshop, observing the proceedings from start to finish. Click the video image below to view the July CNL workshop.

Unlike Mr. Bellows, CNL’s Paul Ellis used his afternoon workshop time to ask for land – not money. Ellis’s bid follows on the heels of his successful pitch in 2011 that persuaded the Commission to swap a piece of CNL land on the Orange Avenue railroad tracks for the City-owned State Office Building at Morse and Denning.

CNL’s Paul Ellis: Our Parking Garage on City Property = More, Bigger, Better, Quicker Development + Extra Taxes and Fees for City.

This time around, CNL Commercial Real Estate has a contract to purchase the Mount Vernon Inn at Morse and Orlando Avenue and convert it into a mixed-use complex of multi-family apartments, restaurants and a 100+ room business hotel – if the City will allow CNL to build a large parking garage on the adjacent Civic Center parking lot. CNL is proposing a “Public-Private Partnership” to build the multi-story parking garage on the City-owned parking lot. Like Mr. Bellows, Mr. Ellis paints a picture showing the City largesse he requires being amply rewarded by bigger, better, denser and quicker development that will pour tax and fee revenue into City coffers – development he claims cannot proceed without City help.

The Mt. Vernon purchase contract is contingent on Ellis’s ability to win over the Commission one more time – and, according to Ellis, CNL needs an answer quickly. However, as confirmed by City minutes of the July workshop, “Mr. Ellis explained that at this time a final decision has not been made on the type of redevelopment that will take place on the Mt. Vernon site.“

CNL Wants Quick Answers. Promises $4.1 Million City Gain if Garage is Approved.

Mr. Ellis also was unable to answer questions concerning planned building density during the July workshop. CNL’s attorney, Becky Wilson, claimed that construction of the large garage could enable growth throughout the Morse Blvd./Orlando Avenue area and even potentially triple bookings at the Rachel Murrah Civic Center. As quoted by the City’s minutes of the workshop, Ms. Wilson laid out CNL’s proposed timing of the City approval process this way: “. . . CNL will have to submit a site plan and description by the middle/end of August to the Planning Department. The first week of September City wide notices will be sent out; the first week in October, CNL will present the project to the Planning & Zoning Board for approval; the fourth week in October, CNL will present to the Commission the request for a comprehensive plan amendment and rezoning (first reading) and conditional use; it will come to the Commission at the second week in November for second reading.”

CNL’s proposal, which was explored again at Monday’s 2:00pm workshop, is illustrated in a PowerPoint presentation that can be viewed by clicking the button below.

CNL PowerPoint Presentation

The City’s Agenda Package includes a financial analysis that projects a $4.1 million (NPV) gain for the City if it allows CNL to use City land to develop the garage and Mt. Vernon site as planned. Questions posed by Winter Parkers interviewed by the Voice, workshop participants and by the Agenda document itself are shown below.

What is the increased value of the Mt. Vernon property if the garage is approved?

Is the current 356,472 square ft. project, as contemplated, appropriate and desirable for 17-92?

Does the City see benefit in using City land, already designated for parking, to enhance desirable development along 17-92?

CNL says that its proposed garage will enable significant new development throughout the adjacent area. If CNL controls use of the garage, will it have the power to influence nearby development?

Will the garage and increased project density enhance or degrade use of MLK Park and the Civic Center? How will it affect pedestrian and automobile traffic?

Commissioners Unimpressed With CNL Offer. Sprinkel: “Highly Disappointed.” Leary: “Less Than a Non-Starter.” McMacken: “Deal-Breaker.”

An in-depth analysis of these issues was, to some extent, sidetracked by the Commission’s strongly-voiced objections to the deal as currently constituted. CNL and its proposal were characterized as “presumptuous” by Commissioner Sprinkel who stated she was “. . . highly disappointed in this.”

Commissioner Leary called parts of the proposal “Less than a non-starter.” Commissioner McMacken agreed, saying he considered CNL’s cash-free offer to be a “Deal-Breaker.”

On The Other Hand, Here Are Some Ideas We like . . .

CNL’s vision of a high-end business hotel near Morse and 17-92 – and the possibility of a deal that might fund the refurbishing the “very dated” Civic Center proved to be a tantalizing prospect for the Mayor and Commissioners. Comments by officials on the City side of the table painted a clear path to a successful negotiation – if CNL is willing to tread that path and bring with them a strong package of incentives to sweeten the deal.

However, at the close of the workshop, Paul Ellis and his attorney offered no additional incentives and, in the Commission meeting that followed the workshop, CNL’s proposal was dropped from the agenda by unanimous consent.

Winter Park Voice will update this story and provide continuing coverage of the city’s hearings, if any, on CNL’s proposal.


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Proposed Park Ave. Restaurant Zoning Bans Fast Food

Proposed Park Ave. Restaurant Zoning Bans Fast Food

Chamber Task Force Asks City to Ban Fast Food Chains & Limit Others

On Tuesday, August 6, Winter Park’s Planning and Zoning board sent a significantly reworked restaurant zoning proposal on to the City Commission.The board voted unanimously to support the proposal that was put together by an informal Task Force comprised of Chamber of Commerce officials, local merchants and Frank Hamner, the attorney for the Holler family, whose real estate holdings include significant Park Avenue retail space.

Mr. Hamner led the presentation in Thursday’s hearing, covering much of the same ground he covered in the prior week’s P&Z restaurant ordinance workshop. One notable modification that was made in the week that transpired between the workshop and the hearing was the inclusion of a “three month rule” that requires Park Avenue corridor landlords to re-lease vacated restaurant space within three months or risk being subjected to more stringent regulation and potential loss of the full package of regulatory benefits and designations enjoyed by the previous restaurant tenant – a key benefit being the possibility that a quickly re-leased space could include a non-fine dining restaurant that might otherwise not be permitted.

Mr. Hamner illustrated his presentation with PowerPoint slides, each of which can be viewed below in our initial 8/6/13 coverage of the P&Z workshop.

A significant change being proposed is the outright ban of fast food chain restaurants. Discussions among P&Z members and Task Force participants revealed broad support for the ban, which has been strongly – and vocally – advocated by Winter Parker residents.

Mr. Hamner echoed the sentiments of City Planning Director, Jeff Briggs, stating that past attempts to create ordinance changes that resolved conflicting views among city officials, city residents, merchants and others had been largely unsuccessful. The City’s own P&Z staff report laid out the multiple failed attempts by the City to resolve the issue. The staff report language can be viewed below in our 8/6/13 coverage of the P&Z workshop, or by clicking the button below.

Staff Report

Early in the hearing, Mr. Hamner stressed that his group was “not assigned this responsibility” by the Mayor or the City. While Hamner stated that his group is not an official “City Task Force,” he did confirm that “this collaboration grew out of a conversation with the Mayor, a couple of Commissioners, Patrick [ Chapin, Chamber of Commerce CEO ], Lambrine [ Macejewski , restaurateur/Chamber member] and myself and Daniel [ Butts, Battaglia Group CEO & Chamber Board Chair ].”

An important element of the proposed ordinance is the imposition of quotas or caps on certain types of restaurants. Mr. Hamner laid out the proposed “cap” formula – which would apply to non-fine dining restaurants – as follows:

“The number of non-fine dining restaurants shall not exceed 20% of the available first-floor store fronts on . . . any particular side of the block . . . and there’s an overall cap of 15% of the total number of businesses in the Park Avenue corridor.”

Hamner said that this formula would, as of now, permit an “additional seven or so non-fine dining restaurants” in the Park Avenue corridor. The proposed cap generated much discussion at the hearing and motivated board member Pete Weldon to send in a detailed response to the proposal via email. Mr. Weldon’s email can be viewed by clicking the button below.

Weldon Email

Winter Park Voice video of the P&Z hearing and vote can be viewed by clicking the video image below. This video also features public comment during the hearing.

However, as noted above, the discussion at the prior week’s P&Z workshop covers most of the same ground and – due to the less formal format of the meeting – the exchange between the board and the Task Force is more detailed – yielding probing and insightful comments and questions from the board, including new members Ross Johnston and Sheila De Ciccio.

Click the button below to view 7/31/13 Workshop Video.

Workshop Video

Part one of the 7/31 workshop video (click image below) shows Planning Director Jeff Briggs’ introduction to the workshop wherein he updates board members with a concise summary of City business.

Mr. Briggs’ presentation reveals an occasional inside view of City business, including a frank assessment of the politics of Florida Hospital’s recent withdrawal of its request for approval of a new parking garage planned at Winter Park Hospital.

Winter Park Voice will update this story and provide continuing coverage of the city’s hearings on restaurant ordinance revisions.

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