Orange Avenue on Track to Become Hot Spot

Orange Avenue on Track to Become Hot Spot

December 5, 2019 / by Geri Throne

A 40,000-square-foot lakefront home proposed for Palmer Avenue—the biggest home ever in the city—is garnering the most attention outside Winter Park. But residents who crowded a city planning and zoning board meeting Tuesday had an even bigger issue on their minds: a rezoning plan to convert North Orange Avenue into the city’s next intensely developed hot spot.

After a long line of residents spoke for and against the rezoning proposal, members of the advisory board all voiced their enthusiastic support. They agreed that benefits would outweigh any negatives and voted unanimously to recommend the proposal to the city commission.

City commissioners will consider the rezoning plan at its Jan. 13 meeting.

Planning jargon aside…

Despite use of planning jargon such as “overlay district” and “placemaking” at Tuesday’s hearing, the issues surrounding the proposed Orange Avenue district boil down to familiar zoning concerns: Is growth “inevitable” in Winter Park, and if it is, how much development should be packed into an area? How high should buildings be allowed? How much extra traffic should be created?  How well would new construction mesh with existing structures?

City Planning Director Bronce Stephenson said a flexible mixed-use overlay is the best way to deal with the avenue’s future growth. He defended the months-long process the city went through to arrive at the proposal, noting that residents were involved early on. An 11-member appointed steering committee, made up of people with broad ranges of opinion about development, participated in the recommendations.

“Despite what has been reported [in social media], the small-scale character of Orange Avenue has been promoted and protected throughout the process to the highest extent possible,” Stephenson said.

Residents concerned about the new zoning district, however, were not convinced. They asked the planning board for more time to digest the thick packet explaining the proposal. They noted the potential for congestion, more traffic and buildings as tall as five and seven stories within the district.

Although the number of residential units in the district would stay the same, total development in the proposed district would become more intense. Under current zoning, almost 1.9 million square feet of development is possible in the district. With the new district zoning, the total square footage possible would climb to more than 2.6 million.

The debate…

The benefit, Stephenson said, would be a mixed-use plan that would improve the area visually, attract more visitors, and cure what the city sees as “economic stagnation” on Orange Avenue from Fairbanks Avenue to US 17-92. Some other pluses he cited: wider, safer sidewalks; more open space; connection with nearby Mead Botanical Gardens, and parking garages set back behind buildings. Design standards would ensure that new structures would be attractive and compatible with neighboring buildings.

Existing zoning also would allow more development, he said, and perhaps not what residents might desire. Without new and creative zoning, he warned, a Wal-Mart-sized structure could be built with a huge paved parking lot.

Some residents, however, worried that the plan didn’t do enough to honor the city’s stated commitment to cherish “its traditional scale and charm.” Resident Bart Johnson said that exceptions to that goal in most of the proposed district were big enough for a developer to “drive a truck through.”

“Citizens need more time to fully understand the implications” of the lengthy new ordinance, pleaded resident Pat McDonald, a concern echoed by other residents.

Frank Hamner, an attorney representing the Holler family, a major property owner in the area, criticized calls for further delay as having “a different purpose” than stated. Residents had ample time to attend the numerous public meetings about the proposal, he said. Their calls for more time were “a distraction” to “delay for delay’s purposes.” Hamner also accused unidentified people of posting online anonymously and knocking on doors “spreading lies” about the plan.  Those people should “come up out of the sewer,” and make their case face to face, he said.

Traffic worries

Stephenson downplayed traffic worries. The planning director stressed that the overlay is a “framework” or starting point, which must be approved before a traffic study can be done. He also cited a state study that found few drivers stopped on Orange Avenue as a destination. He described it as a “cut through” road.

That four-lane stretch of North Orange Avenue is no shortcut, however. It serves as an arterial road in Winter Park, connecting Winter Park commuters to State Road 527 and US 17-92 and helping them get from one side of the city to the other. Traffic accidents on that stretch are frequent, city statistics show. Until a traffic study is conducted, it remains unknown how traffic safety, street parking and traffic flow will be juggled under the proposed design.

Left unknown…

Undecided in the proposed ordinance is the fate of Progress Point, an odd-shaped, city-owned parcel at the intersections of Orange Avenue and Denning Drive. The steering committee could not agree how the lot should be used or whether the city should sell it. Sheila Deciccio, a member of that steering committee, urged that the city keep the land, which might help solve area stormwater and parking problems. The site is “one of the jewels we have left,” she said.

Also unknown, but probably not in doubt, is an unrelated agenda item—the fate of the massive 40,093-square-foot home that real-estate developer Marc Hagle wants to build on Lake Osceola. The planning and zoning board tabled its vote until next month after some board members and two neighbors raised questions about a proposed setback.

In Memory: Thaddeus Seymour ’82HAL ’90H

October 28, 2019 – by Rob Humphreys ’16MBA

In Memory: Thaddeus Seymour ’82HAL ’90H

This article originally appeared on Rollins360, Rollins College’s news site. It is republished here with permission.

Rollins’ 12th president was magical in every  sense of the word.

Photo by Scott CookPhoto by Scott Cook

Waiting in the checkout line at Publix stood a giant man with a giant penchant to charm just about anyone he met, in any capacity, at any time.

Introducing himself to the 7-year-old daughter of a friend, “Taddeo the Great” reached down, flashed a big smile, did a little hocus pocus, and poof—pulled a shiny coin from the girl’s ear.

The child’s eyes, her father recalled, “got about as big as that half-dollar.”

Thaddeus Seymour ’82HAL ’90H, Rollins’ 12th president from 1978 to 1990, possessed a genuine brand of magic that touched countless lives, from students and families to faculty, staff, and the greater Orlando community. A beloved campus icon, accomplished magician, public servant, and academic visionary who returned the College to its liberal arts roots—while famously reinstating Fox Day—Seymour died this past Saturday, October 26, at his Winter Park home. He was 91.

“Thad was a great man and a great president,” says Allan Keen ’70 ’71MBA ’10H, a member of the board of trustees since Seymour appointed him in 1989. It was Keen’s daughter, Kristen ’20 PMBA, who pocketed the 50-cent piece that day at the grocery store. “Thad had a bigger-than-life personality,” continues Keen, “and he elevated Rollins to new heights.”

Thaddeus Seymour ’82HAL ’90H was president of Rollins College from 1978 to 1990. Photo courtesy Rollins College Archives.
Thaddeus Seymour ’82HAL ’90H was president of Rollins College from 1978 to 1990. Photo courtesy Rollins College Archives.

Destined for Greatness

Born June 29, 1928, in New York City to Lola Virginia Vickers and Whitney North Seymour, assistant solicitor general in the Hoover administration and later president of the American Bar Association, Seymour attended Princeton and the University of California, Berkeley as an undergraduate.

A lifelong athlete who hit the gym well into his 80s, Seymour—at a muscular 6 feet, 5 inches—competed in the U.S. rowing trials for the 1948 Olympics.

After earning his master’s and PhD in 18th-century English literature from the University of North Carolina, he taught English for five years at Dartmouth, where he coached rowing and became dean of students at age 30. Prior to Rollins, he was president of Wabash College in Indiana for nine years.

“The Seymour presidency proved to be a turning point in Rollins’ history,” writes Jack C. Lane, emeritus professor of American history and college historian, in Rollins College Centennial History. “At a time when the college community was somewhat adrift, or at best standing still, Seymour instilled in the College a revived enthusiasm and provided a sense of continuity and gave it a new sense of direction. … Rollins, he proclaimed, must ‘return to its roots. Our aim is to know ourselves and to be known by others as the finest small liberal arts college in the Southeast, standing among the finest colleges in the country.’”

Thanks in large part to Seymour’s vision, Rollins has been recognized as the No. 1 or 2 regional university in the South for the past 25 consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report, among numerous other accolades.

Photos courtesy Rollins College Archives
Photos courtesy Rollins College Archives

Firmly Establishing an Identity

In one of his earliest acts on campus, Seymour established a College Planning Committee, chaired by Daniel R. DeNicola, professor of philosophy. After 18 months, the committee produced a 500-page comprehensive plan focusing on institutional mission and structure; divisional objectives; the allocation of funds, physical resources, and personnel; and the 1985 centennial.

Through that lens, Lane writes, “the College began firmly establishing that its identity and future lay with its historical liberal education mission.” Rollins revived its dormant Department of Classics and once again issued diplomas in Latin. To the delight of students, Fox Day returned as well. First celebrated in 1956, the random spring day deemed “too pretty to have class” had been on hiatus since 1970, but Rollins’ new president was more than enthusiastic to revive the tradition in 1979.

During Seymour’s tenure, Rollins considerably raised faculty salaries, rededicated the Walk of Fame, built the Olin Library and Cornell Hall for the Sciences, and renovated Pinehurst Cottage, placing it on the Winter Park Register of Historic Places. Administratively, two of his most important hires were Dean of Admissions David Erdmann and Treasurer Jesse Morgan; together, they helped the College achieve greater financial stability by increasing enrollment, eliminating operating deficits, and overhauling bill collection and investment procedures.

“While the College had historically experienced periods of financial stress, I don’t recall any sleepless nights during his presidency,” says Harold A. Ward III, who served on the board of trustees as a member and chairman while Seymour was in office.

“It was apparent to me from the beginning that working with Thad was going to be both rewarding and a lot of fun. Perhaps it helped that he was part of a family of lawyers, but more likely it was a combination of his remarkable personality and intellect. Another vital part of his presidency was his wife, Polly, who was always involved with the College and the community, and a tremendous support for him and the entire institution.”

Ward described Seymour as a student-centered president adept at winning over constituents from all walks of life: faculty, trustees, alumni, staff, donors, potential donors, and, sometimes, angry members of the community.

“An early challenge,” explains Ward, “was the presentation at the Annie Russell Theatre of the play Equus, which included a scene involving a nude male actor. There were considerable differences of opinion about the appropriate presidential action (or inaction) that should be taken. Thad somehow managed to calm the waters by shifting the focus to the broader issues, such as the desirability of student involvement and freedom of expression. In the end, the play went on, and most of the furor subsided.”

Photo courtesy Rollins College Archives
Photo courtesy Rollins College Archives

Presidential Acclaim

For all his professional and academic talents, Seymour’s most enduring legacy lies squarely in the human domain.

Rollins’ current and 15th president, Grant Cornwell, called him a friend and mentor from the moment they met.

“It was so good to be able to talk about the history of Rollins and current issues with someone who shared a love for the College and profound optimism for its future,” says Cornwell. “I valued Thad as a wise counselor and as one of the kindest, most good-hearted people I have ever known.”

Rita Bornstein, Rollins’ 13th president from 1990 to 2004, always admired how Seymour led by example, whether casually picking up garbage around campus or actively serving the community, most often well outside the media spotlight. When she arrived on campus, Seymour rang chapel bells, posted “Welcome Rita” signs, and threw a party at his home.

“Lion of a man and lion of a president,” says Bornstein. “He thought big, he acted big, and he had big ideas and ambitions. He was ebullient, enthusiastic, kind, generous, fun-loving. He always made me feel optimistic. I think that is true for all who know him. Thad loved ceremony, ritual, history, anniversaries. Often, he engaged the community to participate with the College. He committed himself totally and struggled valiantly to pull and push Rollins to be better and better.”

Former Rollins presidents Jack Critchfield, Thaddeus Seymour ’82HAL ’90H, Rita Bornstein ’04H, and Lewis Duncan at the inauguration of Rollins’ President Grant Cornwell. Photo by Scott Cook.Former Rollins presidents Jack Critchfield, Thaddeus Seymour ’82HAL ’90H, Rita Bornstein ’04H, and Lewis Duncan at the inauguration of Rollins’ President Grant Cornwell. Photo by Scott Cook.

So Much Left to Give

When Seymour stepped down in the spring of 1990, Rollins’ alumni magazine devoted 16 pages to the president they dubbed “A Man for All Reasons.” Taking a cue from Seymour’s self-deprecating wit, the secondary headline deadpanned, “Being Not an Historical Narrative but Rather an Anecdotal Account of Thaddeus Seymour, Some College President!”

Even though his tenure at the top had come to a close, that didn’t stop Seymour from channeling his boundless energy into serving the College and the community in other capacities. From 1992 to 2008, he returned to his academic roots by teaching English part-time.

Not surprisingly, “retirement” also allowed him to develop close ties with the Winter Park Public Library, serving as its chair from 1996 to 1998 and helping Polly with her favorite volunteer project, the library’s New Leaf Bookstore, now named in her honor. In 1997, the chamber of commerce named the couple Winter Park Citizens of the Year.

Seymour’s altruism carried over into several additional passions, including independent transportation for older adults, the Winter Park Health Foundation, and working to save the city’s historic Capen-Showalter House. His longest-serving volunteer work, however, started in the late 1980s when Hal George ’76, founder and master builder for Parkland Homes, approached him about becoming chairman of Habitat for Humanity’s new Winter Park-Maitland chapter. It was a position Seymour would never relinquish.

“Thad was not a figurehead by any means,” says George, who still serves as Habitat’s president. “He was very involved … the best kind of leader you could have. He rolled his sleeves up and come out to the job sites. He’d bring his family out, and Polly would make curtains for our new families at our dedications. Here’s this big guy with a booming voice who never needed a microphone. He really led with enthusiasm and passion, encouraging people all the way. He was the kind of person who made you a better person just being around him.”

George got a kick out of how Seymour, ever the technology buff, maintained the Habitat webpage and taught him how to use an iPhone. “The first thing he did was load a program that made it look like you were pouring a beer.”

Remembering Thad Seymour

Seymour is survived by Polly, his wife of 71 years, and their four children: Liz, Thaddeus Jr., Sam, and Abigail.

The couple’s daughter, Mary Seymour, died in 2015.

A celebration of Seymour’s life will be held at Knowles Chapel on the Rollins College campus at 2 p.m. on Sunday, November 3. A reception will follow. For those who are unable to attend, the service will be streamed live on the Office of the President website.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in Dr. Seymour’s honor be made to Rollins College (P.O. Box 864168, Orlando, FL 32886-4168) or Habitat for Humanity of Winter Park-Maitland (P.O. Box 1196, Winter Park, FL 32790-1196).

Talk to Hotel Developer – Farmers Market Event Tonight

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

Talk to Hotel Developer – Farmers Market Event Tonight

Talk to Hotel Developer – Farmers Market Event Tonight

This evening at 6:00 to 7:00 pm at the Farmer’s Market, developer Adam Wonus will be available to answer questions about the proposed Henderson Hotel.

 

Opinion by Adam Wonus, Developer of the Henderson Hotel at Lake Killarney

The Henderson Hotel at Lake Killarney takes its name from the Henderson family who owned and operated the Lake Shore Motel on the site next to the proposed Henderson Hotel at Lake Killarney. The proposed hotel site consists of approximately 2.6 acres of lakefront property. As with any new project, there are questions and concerns. Below are answers to some of the questions I have received.

  1. Will the Hotel Provide Lake Access to Its Guests? We will not. We will post signs warning guests to stay out of the lake. The four docks currently on the site will be replaced by a single dock, available for photos and there for people who want to enjoy the view. There will be no watercraft access to the lake from the hotel property.
  2. How will the Hotel Look from 17-92 and Lake Killarney? The Hotel façade on 17-92 is one story. The east and west sides of the hotel step back, increasing in height, to keep the greatest building height in the middle of the property. The hotel is set back at least 90 feet from the lake shoreline and is only two stories in height at the point closest to the shoreline and nearby homes.
  3. What is the size and height of the Hotel and how does that compare to the Alfond? Our architects, Baker Barrios, also designed the Alfond Inn, and we seek to emulate the quality of the Alfond. We have limited the number of rooms to 118, similar to the room count of the Alfond when it was first constructed with 112 rooms. The height is similar to the Alfond (64’-2”) — The Henderson Hotel is 65’-3”. There is an architectural feature designed to give the hotel an historical feel that extends past 65’ as seen in the rendering.
  4. Why are you Vacating a Portion of Fairview Ave? The Killarney neighborhood has a problem with cut-through traffic. We have provided a traffic study from Kimley-Horn, whose engineers have offered several recommendations to help alleviate the increased traffic flow through the community. One suggestion was to create a roundabout at Fairview Ave. blocking access to non-residents drivers. We have offered to pay for this portion of the improvement should the neighbors want to utilize this option. Ultimately, the Killarney neighbors will decide the traffic solution based on what works best for their neighborhood.
  5. What will the impact be to the Lake? The proposed hotel will help clean up Lake Killarney in several important ways. First, we will provide an exfiltration system to treat the storm water. We have committed to the City to install a filter on the existing outfall structure. Presently, untreated storm water is gathered from 17-92 and directed into Lake Killarney. The filter will remove trash and debris that currently flow into the lake from the road. Our engineer and landscape architect will create bio-swales to treat storm water near the lake. We also plan to remove the invasive species along the lakeshore and replant the littoral zone with native species.

A hotel should be more than just a place to lay your head. It should be an important part of the culture of a city and should contribute to the history of the city in a particular period of time. The Henderson Hotel seeks the opportunity to do just that.

Open Letter to Winter Park Residents

Open Advisory Board Service to All City Residents

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

Open Letter to Winter Park Residents

by Phil Anderson

A Task Force to review the Winter Park City Charter is currently meeting, as they do every 10 years, to make recommendations on how we should update our City Charter to make Winter Park better.

One way we can make Winter Park better is to re-open the opportunity to serve on volunteer City Advisory Boards to all Winter Park residents. As the Charter stands, only the Mayor can appoint board members, leaving many citizens feeling their applications are ignored if they are not a friend of the Mayor or a donor to his campaign.

On August 13, I asked the Charter Review Committee to recommend a change to encourage more inclusion on City Boards. We can change one sentence in the Charter and re-open the opportunity for almost 50 percent of our residents to serve.

These Citizen Boards are incredibly important. Over 150 residents serve on the 19 Boards, which include the Planning and Zoning Board, which determines in many ways what the city will look like in years to come. These volunteer boards also include the Utilities Board, the Lakes Board and others that specialize in one area or another. These boards thrive in an environment of blended political views, diverse professional expertise and general business and community experience that promote good policy for the city.

Thanks to you, I served as a City Commissioner from 2008-2011. At the beginning of my term, all Commissioners participated in nominating Winter Park residents to various City Advisory Boards and Committees. When I started, I remember sitting on the floor sorting through stacks of resumes. I was amazed at the wide variety of qualified citizens willing to serve as volunteer board members. These people could run large public companies, yet they were willing to volunteer their time and expertise. This process of including nominations from the full Commission had been practiced for a long time, and I assumed that would be the continuing tradition.

Halfway through my term, however, the process changed. In 2009, a sentence in the City Charter was invoked, and the nomination process started to fall exclusively to one personthe Mayor. Since then, many people have expressed their feelings that they won’t be considered unless they are a friend of the Mayor. Since mayoral election margins in Winter Park are generally pretty close, say 51 to 49 percent, almost half of Winter Park may feel excluded from serving. As a result, Winter Park is losing out on a deep pool of talented people.

If you agree that all citizens should have the right to be fairly considered for service on City Boards for which they are qualified – regardless of their political leanings — please contact your City Commissioners and consider speaking to the Charter Review Committee. Ask them to formalize an older, more inclusive practice which a) expands the pool of talent; b) allows all City Commissioners to participate in Board nominations; and c) brings Winter Park in line with almost all other Florida City governments.

This can be accomplished by removing from the City Charter asingle sentence: “He shall annually appoint members of the city boards subject to the approval of city commissioners.”

This one change opens up the process to a tremendous talent pool and is in the best interest of all Winter Park’s residents.

The next Charter Review Committee meeting is on Tuesday, August 27th, at 6:00 pm, at the Winter Park Community Center on New England Avenue.  Public comment is allowed at the beginning and end of the meeting. 

https://cityofwinterpark.org/government/boards/charter-review-advisory-committee/

Thank you for the privilege to serve,

Phil Anderson

Why No Confidence

In WP’s Largest Public Works Project?

Why No Confidence

Guest Columnist Charley Williams

The planned Canopy project may be the largest public works project ever undertaken by the City of Winter Park. Approved in 2016, the Library, Events Center and Parking Garage referendum garnered a slim majority of 214 votes, out of over 10,618 votes cast.

 

 

Campaign Literature in 2015-16 Promised Cost Levels

New Library: $17,435,700
New Events Center: $ 3,004,943
Parking Deck: $ 3,004,943
Shared Costs: $ 8,405,496

(demolition, design/engineering, landscaping, site work)

Library Board to Raise: $ 2,500,000

TOTAL PROJECT COST $ 29,914,311 with a promised 15 percent contingency

Three years later, why does the public continue to be skeptical about the chances for success?

Why is public trust in this project, funded by taxpayer dollars, continuing to falter? The answers to these questions are not difficult. Look at the project track record over the past four years. Promises were made, then discarded. Trust evaporated. The trend line below speaks for itself.

Original Pledges

  • $29.9 million project with a 15 percent contingency
  • 50,000 square foot library
  • LEED-certified building including solar energy capacity
  • Multi-deck parking garage to ensure easy access, safety and security for patrons
  • Footprint that takes no more than 1 percent of MLK Jr Park acreage
  • A site suitable to build upon with no extraordinary contamination or soil stability issues
  • Storm water plan that could be addressed without taking more parkland
  • A transparent process open to public comment, with all commissioners kept in the loop
  • Project focus is a world class library and a community events center
  • Robust community fundraising support assured
  • CRA funds unlikely to be needed and should be reserved for other city priorities, like the purchase of the Post Office property.

The Path Forward

  • Price tag increased to $40+ million and is tilting toward $50 million
              Note: Taxpayer dollars restricted to the original $30 million bond limit
  • Greatly reduced contingency fund resulting from a challenging construction environment
  • Library size reduced to 34,400 square feet with no LEED certification
  • No parking garage, requiring consumption of more park space for parking lots
  • No traffic study of Morse & Harper to address congestion and safety issues
    Note: Plan proposed to model the entire Orange Avenue MLK Park region
  • Continued flooding of Morse and Harper with no approved storm water plan
              Note: Lake Mendsen is currently at capacity, per St Johns River WMD
  • Complex site issues with debris buried to 30-35 feet and muck.
              Note: Building site has been shifted west to avoid muck pockets.
  • Trees removed without public notice or involvement.
              Note: There is a moratorium on future tree removal.
  • Consumption of MLK Park acreage now in excess of 15 percent of park space, and
  • Lake Mendsen could be further expanded by taking 1-2 more park acres.
              Note: There is some effort to dial back the size of the project footprint.
  • Lack of Transparency — the last comprehensive public forum on the project was the April 9, 2018 City Commission Meeting approving Schematic Designs.
  • Tourism as priority pitched to Orange County Tourist Development Council (TDC) — our own “I-Drive.”
  • One commissioner was not informed of TDC meeting and the request for $6 million.
  • Fundraising from the community still not accounted for, though the deadline was April 2019.
  • CRA funds will likely be tapped to bail out this project.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr: still has not been honored as the namesake of this park.

What if This Were Your Own Health?

Citizens have not been presented with a satisfactory explanation for this list of discrepancies. This is the chance for the commission to step forward and demonstrate leadership.

If this project were a medical patient, we could say we have seen the X-Rays and indicators of a potential complication are all there.

If we wait seven more months, until January, when construction pricing comes due, we then face a crisis decision of whether to administer chemo or radiation or both. Why not take preventive measures now? Get a second opinion? If your health was at stake, what would you do?

Maybe change medical providers?

Can We Afford This Project?

For many, the fiduciary handwriting is on the wall: we cannot afford this project.

No wonder the citizenry is concerned.

Cost estimates and overruns will not diminish. Instead, they will likely increase. Change orders will become a major concern. Our Central Florida construction market is robust but stressed, increasing pressure on construction costs. That context has already been established with the I-4 Ultimate, Orlando Airport’s New South Terminal and the building boom.

Commissioners Need the Chance to Talk to One Another

At the June 10 Commission meeting, Commissioner Carolyn Cooper requested a workshop so the Commission as a whole could discuss various budget issues, including the Canopy and the CRA, without having to go through the City Manager. She was dismissed by Mayor Steve Leary, but her suggestion deserves reconsideration.

Recommendation: Give Us the Benefit of Your Shared Vision

Hold a Workshop.

Put the questions on the table and explore some answers together.

Educate a very concerned public.

How Much Can the Camel Carry?

In the case of the Canopy, it is reasonable to say that a $1,000 per square foot public works project is unacceptable. So, what is acceptable? $700 per square foot? $500 per square foot? $350 per square foot? That guide star needs to be established — or at least discussed – and the public needs to hear the discussion.

If we cannot attain that acceptable price per square foot, alternative scenarios need to be explored. When a project moves beyond 60 percent design, the time and money already invested make it increasingly difficult to say “no” or even to change tack.

Think Big: Where is Plan B?

The goal is to maximize all our assets to make this project the best it can be. For this reason, the process deserves heightened public involvement, heightened communication and heightened stewardship by our elected leaders.

Are our taxpayer dollars being wisely spent? If so, show us how.

That’s how public trust can be restored.

Libraries -- Essential to Community Health

Weaver Bests Weldon in Runoff

Wins Winter Park City Commission Seat 4

Weaver Bests Weldon in Runoff

Anne Mooney & Janet Hommel

In Winter Park’s first run-off election, voters sent incumbent Pete Weldon packing and handed Todd Weaver a comfortable 285-vote victory — a margin of 4.6 percent.

High Turn-out Despite Rain

Typically, run-off elections draw fewer voters, but voter enthusiasm generated by this runoff was high. Vote-by-Mail was greater than normal. As the last ballot was counted, more than 700 additional voters had cast ballots in the runoff. That’s an increase of 13 percent over the vote in the March 12 general election.

Did Republican Electioneering Steer Voters to the Polls?

The Winter Park City Charter mandates that Commission races be non-partisan, but since 2012, the Orange County Republican Executive Committee (OCREC) has ignored the Charter and played an active role in Winter Park elections. Here is one example of an OCREC mailer sent on the eve of the April 9 runoff.

Republican voters were subjected to a barrage of OCREC-sponsored mailers, emails and robo-calls. Weldon won big in the heavily Republican Precinct 1, where voter turnout was up 15 percent. OCREC electioneering seemed to have less impact elsewhere, however, and Weaver easily carried the other four precincts.

The Chandler Effect and Lee Road

Weaver also appears to have benefited from the endorsement of former candidate Barbara Chandler. Almost half of Ms. Chandler’s votes in the March 12 general election came from Precinct 4, which includes both the traditional West Side neighborhood and the Lee Road corridor. Weaver targeted the Lee Road neighborhoods with a message about controlling traffic and development and had his best results in Precinct 4.

Did the Run-Off Deliver a Message about the Canopy Project?

High voter turn-out and a clear win for Weaver may make the City sit up and take notice. The main plank in Weaver’s platform was that the Canopy Project has gone astray. He pointed out that the project – particularly the events center — is over budget and not delivering what the voters were promised – a bigger library. Weaver suggested we hit the pause button and re-evaluate the project in light of current cost projections and City leaders’ plans to use the Canopy events center to attract tourist dollars.