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.

OAO Passes on 3-2 Vote

The End of a Long Week

OAO Passes on 3-2 Vote

January 18, 2020 / by Anne Mooney

After two days and 16 and one-half hours of mind-numbing debate, public comment and amendment proposals, the Commission voted 3-2 to pass the ordinances creating the Orange Avenue Overlay (OAO).

The Thursday meeting, a continuance from the 11-hour session ending at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, was a breezy six hours, lasting from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. At the final vote, Mayor Leary and Commissioners Seidel and Sprinkel voted in favor of the OAO ordinances; Commissioners Carolyn Cooper and Todd Weaver cast dissenting votes.

Ordinance Will Have Second Reading at a Future Date

The ordinance changing part of the Comprehensive Plan now will go to Tallahassee for review. City Manager Randy Knight thinks that will take about a month. The measure then will return to the City Commission for a final vote.

While Thursday’s crowd was sizeable and most seats were filled, no one had to stand and none were turned away – probably owing to the fact there was only one issue on the agenda this time.

Forty-three amendments were proposed – most (but not all) having to do with the large properties at Subarea D (the Demetree properties) and J (the Holler property). Unofficially, 25 proposed amendments passed, 18 failed and one was withdrawn. Check the City website for official numbers.

Important Among the Amendments that Passed Were the Following

Orchard Supply and parcels on the east side of 17-92 were removed from the district. Commissioners agreed that those parcels are more appropriately included in a 17-92 overlay district, if one is created at some future date.

Progress Point Remains for Public Use

The OAO Steering Committee originally recommended that the City-owned Progress Point property, known as Subarea C, would be reserved as open space for public use. While agreeing to public use, the Commission revised Subarea C standards to include:

  • “A building limited to a 20,000-square-foot floorplate at 2 stories with a cumulative maximum of 40,000 square feet.”
  • “”A Parking Garage be constructed to provide required parking for onsite uses and additional parking to be available for area businesses and general public.”
  • “1.5 acre park space”

Existing Residential Not Affected

Existing residential properties will not be subject to OAO standards unless or until they redevelop as commercial. To protect existing residential structures within the district, new non-residential or mixed use development must be set back at least 35 feet from an existing residential structure.

Architectural Review

In addition to meeting the architectural standards of the OAO, “. . . for developments requiring a conditional use approval having a land area of more than 80,000 square feet, having more than 25 residential units, or having structures exceeding 35,000 gross square feet above grade, professionally prepared fully rendered 3-D digital architectural perspective images and elevations . . . shall be submitted to and reviewed by . . . a City-retained professional architect or by a City-established architectural review committee . . . .”

Height & Density Lowered on Large Parcels

The maximum floor area ratio (FAR) on Subareas D (the Demetree properties) and J (the Holler Properties) was lowered from 200 percent to 150 percent. The maximum number of stories on the Demetree properties is now six (down from seven), and the maximum number of stories on the Holler property is now three stories on land fronting Fairbanks Ave. and four stories on land located 100 feet back from Fairbanks.

Transportation Impact Fees

Large development projects within the OAO will pay “a proportionate fair share” of the costs of funding transportation improvements in order for the developers to use additional entitlements provided under the OAO. The City will develop a traffic model to identify needed transportation improvements and to establish a formula for calculating a proportionate fair share system.

It’s Not Over Til It’s Over . . .

The Commission has done most of the hard work on this project, but they can still make changes when the ordinance comes back from Tallahassee for the second reading.

But, For Now, All Eyes Turn Back to the Canopy

Commission Work Session will be Wed., January 22, 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. at Commission Chambers.

 

 

 

 

Marathon Monday Stretches into Terrible Tuesday

Meeting Will Continue on Thursday, Jan. 16

Marathon Monday Stretches into Terrible Tuesday

by Anne Mooney / January 14, 2020

Yesterday’s estimate of a five-and-a-half-hour Commission meeting missed the mark by a mile. For an unprecedented 11 hours, Commissioners struggled to make sense of two of the largest projects ever undertaken by this city – and failed.

OAO Discussion Continued to Thursday, Jan. 16

At 2:45 a.m., Commissioner Greg Seidel finally moved to pull the plug on the meeting, and the Commission agreed to ‘continue’ the Orange Avenue Overlay discussion on Thursday, January 16, at 11:00 a.m. Commissioners were advised to block out approximately four hours for the Thursday meeting.

At Thursday’s Continuance, Commissioners will vote on somewhere between 40 and 50 proposed amendments to the OAO ordinances.

As of this writing, the Thursday meeting is not on the January schedule of City meetings. Check the City website for updates or changes in dates and times. www.cityofwinterpark.org

Canopy Project

Earlier in the evening, the Canopy project met a similar fate. After an extended but inconclusive back-and-forth with the owner’s representative and the contractor, Brasfield & Gorrie, followed by the customary back-and-forth among the Commissioners regarding the Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP), the item was tabled until the January 27 Commission meeting.

Commissioner Greg Seidel requested a Commission workshop to discuss such items as the contingency fund and possible sources of funds for the project. Likely funding sources include issuing the remaining $2 Million in bonds, the CRA, and the City’s General Fund. To date, the City has raised only about $2 Million of the promised $5.4 Million in donations.

Seidel also requested the results of Brasfield & Gorrie’s latest three large projects, to compare the (GMP) with actual costs upon delivery.

Agenda Angst

How the Canopy project and the Orange Avenue Overlay ended up on the same agenda is anyone’s guess, though there must be someone at City Hall who knows. The sheer volume of discussion and the number of amendments proposed is a clear indication that neither project is at a point where sufficient information has been digested for the Commission to come to a decision. The City needs to finish baking these cakes before anyone else cuts into them.

Record Crowd – Citizens Turned Away

Hundreds of people showed up at City Hall to listen or to speak. The building, including the downstairs lobby, was at capacity, and many citizens had to be turned away. Communications Director Clarissa Howard went through the crowd in the lobby and escorted those who wanted to speak up to the Commission Chambers and, in most cases, secured seating for them.

A Suggestion

Last night’s meeting demonstrated the folly of putting two mega-projects – especially ones around which there is a lot of positive and negative energy – on the same agenda.

The suggestion is the crafting of an ordinance that states, when a meeting is scheduled on a date certain, the meeting must be called to order and adjourned upon that date.

 

Marathon Monday

Coming Tomorrow to the City Hall Nearest You

Marathon Monday

by Anne Mooney / January 12, 2020

Doesn’t matter what your position is on any of the of issues that will be addressed the afternoon and evening of Monday January 13 by the Winter Park City Commission – while we won’t suffer in silence, we will all suffer together.

Five-and-a-half Hours – Minimum

The number of minutes projected on the January 13 Agenda on the City website comes to five hours and 35 minutes. Not included in the time projections are all the preliminary stuff like the Pledge of Allegiance and the Mayor’s report, closing remarks by Commissioners and . . . Public Comment.

City Manager’s Report

Estimated at 5 minutes, this report has no fewer than 23 items on it, 10 of which are slated to happen in January. Randy Knight is good at what he does, but he’ll have to employ some advanced ‘speed-dating’ tactics to get through this one in five minutes.

Consent Agenda – Progress Point

This one – nine minutes – lists five types of items. Under “Approve the Following Contract Items” (one minute) is a contract for $89,765 to demolish the building at Progress Point. Last time this came up, the discussion lasted considerably longer than one minute.

Action Items Requiring Discussion – The Canopy

First on this list is – yep – Final Approval of The Canopy. This is the long-awaited “Guaranteed Maximum Price.” The agenda framers have allotted an hour and a half for this topic. Maybe they could get through it in 90 minutes – but only if there is no public comment. And what are the chances of that?

Public Hearings – Orange Avenue Overlay

In the grand old tradition of saving the best til last, #4 on the list of four items is The Orange Avenue Overlay – for three hours. Two ordinances, one to amend the Comprehensive Plan, and the other to amend the Land Development Code, will go through a first reading. If they are approved, they will go to Tallahassee for review and then return to Winter Park for the second and final reading in late January or early February.

The Orange Avenue Overlay concept has gone through more than 20 public meetings, workshops and walkshops. People who normally go quietly about their business have been spewing out emails and firing word-bullets back and forth for months. The pro and con camps are about evenly split, neither one is quiet, and many of them will be at this meeting.

The second 13.1 miles of the race begins here, on Orange Ave. Everyone will be tired. Perhaps it would help us to remember we are all neighbors, living together in one of the most desirable places on earth, and to treat one another accordingly.

Parks Protected in Perpetuity

Citizen Activists Made Sure 122 Acres of Parkland Remains Green

Parks Protected in Perpetuity

by Anne Mooney / January 10, 2020

In an economic climate in which developers threaten to gobble up every square inch of open land, a hearty band of Winter Parkers deserves our gratitude for making sure our largest parks are protected from development and will remain forever green.

Six Winter Park citizens – Michael Poole, Charley Williams, Peter Gottfried, Marty Sullivan, Forest Michael and Kim Allen – have worked tirelessly since May of 2016 to make sure the city government took the necessary steps to preserve five of our largest parks for “outdoor recreation in perpetuity.”

The five parks – Phelps Park, Lake Baldwin Park, Martin Luther King, Jr. Park, the Community Center swimming pool and Temple Trail – had received money from the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program (FRDAP). This program provides state funds to municipal and county governments to acquire or develop lands for public outdoor recreation.

The FRDAP grant comes with a condition. For each park receiving a grant, a deed restriction for the park must be filed with the Orange County government pledging that the site is dedicated to “outdoor recreation in perpetuity.”  Over the years, beginning in 1974 with Lake Baldwin Park (a/k/a Dog Park), money was dispersed and work was done, but the deed restrictions fell through the cracks, leaving open the door to disposal and/or development of some 122 acres of parkland.

When the citizen group learned in 2016 that deed restrictions and site dedications had not been filed for these parks, they brought the matter to the attention of the City and of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).

The happy ending to this story is that, after three and a half years of phone calls, emails, letters and meetings, Kim Allen received notification from the FDEP that the deeds were filed and the parks protected.

The email read: “Good Morning . . . and Happy New Year! I am . . . sending this email to let you know that the City of Winter Park recorded the following Notices of Limitation of Use – Site Dedications, for the projects listed below [i.e., the five parks], with the Orange County Clerk of Courts office. Thank you for your continued patience working with our team and the city to secure these recordings.” The email was signed by Angela Bright, Community Assistance Consultant, Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Credit goes to Brenda Moody of the Winter Park Public Works Department, who performed the exacting task of making sure the paperwork was properly completed and filed with the county and state agencies.

This kind of behind-the-scenes dedication and dogged determination by citizens who are just like everyone else – with jobs and families and busy lives – is what makes Winter Park such a special place to live. The same tactics that worked for John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt to establish the national park system worked for our very own neighbors. We should be both proud and grateful.

 

Get Ready to Vote

Get Ready to Vote

by Anne Mooney / January 9, 2020

Okay Winter Park Voters, it’s time to get our ducks in a row. This election season is off to a lively start, with four well-qualified candidates for City Commission. In the unlikely event you’ve forgotten, they are (in alpha order) Jeffrey Blydenburgh, Carl Creasman, Sheila DeCiccio and Marty Sullivan.

But wait, there’s more.

This year’s ballot is going to be chock-full of choices for you to make – from the national scene to the Winter Park City Charter to the City Commission seats alluded to above. Here are the dates on which the election process will play out. Special thanks to Charley Williams for gathering this information from the Orange County Supervisor of Elections.

Winter Park Municipal Election — March 17, 2020

February 1 – Overseas Ballots Mailed to Military Personnel posted abroad

February 6 – Vote by Mail ballots go out

February 18 – Voter Registration Deadline

February 25 – Sample ballots mailed out

Note: if you don’t vote, you lose your right to complain, a sacred privilege most Winter Parkers could not do without.

March 2 – Early Voting begins @Winter Park Public Library, every day, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm

March 7 – Deadline to request your Vote by Mail ballot

March 15 – Early voting ends

March 17 – ELECTION DAY — POLLS OPEN 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.

Winter Park municipal elections are non-partisan and open to all voters — Democrat, Republican or NPA (no party affiliation). In addition to Commission races for Seats #1 and #2, there will be 11 Charter Amendment questions on the ballot. In advance of Election Day, the Voice will publish the details. If you don’t want to wait for us, check the City website at www.cityofwinterpark.org for complete information.

If you want to Vote by Mail, you must renew your request every four years. If the last time you requested a Vote by Mail ballot was 2016 or earlier, you have until March 7 to renew your request.

If you have questions, the folks at the Orange County Elections Office are courteous and helpful. Give them a call at 407-836-2070.

Meet the Candidates

Meet the Candidates

Candidates for Commission Seats #1 and #2 Introduce Themselves to You, the Voters

Winter Park is fortunate to have a full slate of candidates for Commission Seats #1 and #2 being vacated by Greg Seidel and Sarah Sprinkel, who have given so generously of their time and effort over the years. While these are large shoes to fill, the candidates seeking to step in bring a wealth of civic and professional experience and accomplishment. As voters, we owe a debt of gratitude to all six people – to Greg and Sarah for their service to our City, and to the four candidates for their commitment and willingness to serve.

Jeffrey Blydenburgh – Seat #1

“It’s time to give back.”

Jeffrey and Caroline Blydenburgh have lived in Winter Park since 1997. Over the years, Blydenburgh served the community in many capacities. He was Vice Chair of the 2016 Visioning Committee, Board President at Mead Botanical Garden, 2018-19 president of Rotary and board member of the Rollins College Winter Park Institute. He also served as Vice Chair of the Jobs Partnership, a local organization that helps the working poor in our community progress to family-sustainable employment.

Blydenburgh stated as his reason for running for City Commission, “This community has given so much to us. It was time to give back. I am at a time and place in my life that I can use my skills as architect and planner to bring a creative and inclusive approach to the city commission.”

Blydenburgh wrote that, if elected, he would seek to bring a culture of listening and respect to all aspects of Winter Park’s local government. “I think residents will find me to always have an open door,” he wrote, “and be willing to hear any resident’s viewpoint and make a good judgment on their behalf.”

He cited four major questions he believes are facing Winter Park.

Civility – “We may not always agree,” he wrote, “but Everyone in Winter Park deserves respect and deserves to be heard.”

Crime “We can have no tolerance for crime of any kind in Winter Park. When I’m a City Commissioner, I’m going to ensure that law enforcement has the resources and tools they need to keep us safe.”

Traffic – “Traffic is washing over us in Winter Park. As an architect and designer, I bring a unique perspective to this issue.”

Growth – “My rule of thumb when it comes to growth and development is – does it protect or harm the unique charm of Winter Park? Is it good for our residents – all our residents?”

Jeffrey’s campaign website is www.jeffreyblydenburgh.com and his Facebook page is www.facebook.com/Jeffrey Blydenburgh for Winter Park

His kickoff party is Sunday, January 5, 3:00 to 5:00 pm at Mead Botanical Garden.

James (Marty) Sullivan – Seat #1

“We must improve pathways of communication with citizens for greater city government transparency.”

Marty Sullivan is a fifth-generation Floridian, a Navy veteran and an environmental and geotechnical engineer. He and his wife Maura Smith have lived in their historically designated Winter Park home for 33 years. As outdoor enthusiasts, they are keenly aware of the impact humans exert on fragile Florida ecosystems and of the need for each of us to take responsibility for safeguarding the environment that sustains us.

 

Sullivan has served on numerous city boards, including Lakes & Waterways, Orange County Public Works Advisory Board, and as chair of the Winter Park Utilities Advisory Board during the purchase of the utilities company in the early 2000s. From 2017 – 2019, he was Statewide Natural Resources Director for the League of Women Voters.

Sullivan’s campaign is built on four pillars of integrity, commitment, experience and tradition.

Of integrity, he wrote, “I am truly independent, with no obligation to any corporation, industry, company or special interest.” He continued, “I am committed to maintaining our quality of life by addressing scaled development, protecting park lands, and our transportation hierarchy of 1) pedestrians, 2) bicycles, 3) transit and 4) private vehicles.”

“I have experience serving on numerous boards at the state, county and city levels. My professional experience includes engineering in the fields of software development, geotechnical engineering and environmental engineering.”

Finally, “As a fifth generation Floridian, I understand the importance of preserving tradition and ensuring that Winter Park remains a premier historic village.”

“Our overarching challenge,” wrote Sullivan, “is to enhance our quality of life through City government transparency by improving our pathways of communication with our citizens.”

Marty’s campaign website is www.Marty4WP.com .Facebook is www.facebook.com/Marty4WP

His kickoff party is Wednesday, January 15, 6:30 pm at Mead Botanical Garden.

Carl Creasman – Seat #2

“We must confront the future with an openness that is welcoming, not exclusionary.”

Carl Creasman and his wife Kim have lived in Winter Park for 26 years. Creasman’s life’s work has been in the non-profit sector, in religious institutions and in higher education. He joined the Valencia College faculty in 2002 as a history professor. In 2013, he was elected President of the Faculty Senate for the East Campus, and the following year he became College-wide Faculty Association President. He also chaired the Winter Park Parks & Recreation Advisory Board.

Creasman has a list of things he’d like to accomplish as Commissioner in Seat #2. Foremost among them is “demonstrating principled leadership based on values and virtue, which includes listening well to others.” He wrote that he plans to, “uncover and support ‘next best step’ solutions that are strategic in nature, not only pointing the city toward 2020, but to 2070 and onward.”

In a more practical vein, he said he would like to realize the following accomplishments, if he is elected.

Support and protect greenspace by investing in and expanding our parks.

Complete the refurbishment of MLK Park, first approved in 2017.

Confront growing connectivity and traffic concerns.

Carry forward Commissioner Greg Seidel’s plan to create a city-wide traffic plan using FDOT Geographic Information System (GIS) data.

Create a city-owned transit system similar to that now on trial in Lake Nona.

Develop a master plan for the remaining years of the CRA that puts the focus on people.

“Within our city proper,” wrote Creasman, “the narrower set of questions [we face] starts with how to handle being one of the fastest growing regions in the country. Winter Park lies in the center of the region, and cars and people will continue to come.” 

“Another question,” he continued, “would be whether Winter Park is taking its place as a regional leader . . . in addressing issues of public safety, of growing mental health issues and of equity in terms of accessible housing and appropriate pay for those who work in our city.”

“Finally,” he wrote, “. . . are we doing enough to protect the future charm of Winter Park, while maintaining codes and policies that will encourage businesses and entrepreneurs to flourish. If we stifle business and growth with overly restrictive rules, we risk harming our local economy.”

Carl’s campaign website is www.CarlforCommissioner.com . His Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/creasmancampaign/

His kickoff party is tentatively set for January 15. Check the campaign website for time and location.

Sheila DeCiccio – Seat #2

“We are the stewards for the next generation.”

Sheila DeCiccio is an attorney, civic leader, wife and mother. She and her husband Dan have lived in Winter Park for 37 years. After a stint as Assistant District Attorney in Boston, DeCiccio moved to Orlando, where she became the first woman partner in the law firm Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed. She completed her career as business manager for the DeCiccio & Johnson law firm in Winter Park.

DeCiccio has extensive city board experience, having served on P&Z, Code Enforcement and, currently, on Economic Development Advisory Board. Her community activities include Rotary, Winter Park Land Trust, Orlando Museum of Art’s Council of 101, Winter Park History Museum and St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church.

DeCiccio said she decided to run for office so that she could represent the residents when decisions are made at City Hall. “We are the stewards for the next generations,” she wrote, “and it’s up to us to protect our City.” She has recently retired from her legal career and is able to devote herself full-time to serving the interests of Winter Park residents.

If elected, DeCiccio pledges to advocate for wise development that is compatible with the charm and scale of Winter Park. She will work to ensure fiscal accountability and enhanced transparency within city government so residents know how and where city funds are being used. She will work to make sure the police and fire departments ae adequately staffed and funded – without raising taxes.

In answer to the question about what major questions Winter Park faces, DeCiccio describes comments and questions she has heard from citizens as she has walked neighborhoods and attended meet-and-greets. These citizen concerns will be her guide as a City Commissioner, she says.

Probably the greatest concern she hears about is traffic. Residents want to know what can be done to improve the traffic flow in Winter Park. Another question she hears is, does Winter Park really want to become a major tourist destination? “Residents don’t seem to share the current City leaders’ desire for more tourists in Winter Park,” she wrote.

Residents express their fears about over-development, and they wonder if their voices really are heard at City Hall, despite lip service assuring them. “They tell me that they often feel the Commissioners have already made up their minds before the public has had a chance to voice their concerns,” wrote DeCiccio. “If elected, I promise to listen to the residents and to make sure their voices are fully represented when we make decisions at City Hall.”

Sheila’s campaign website is www.SheilaforWinterPark.com

Her Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/sheilaforwinterpark/

Her kickoff party is Tuesday, January 7, 6:00 pm, at Mead Botanical Garden.