Ravaudage Gets $1.2M in Infrastructure Costs

In a ‘No Risk’ Agreement with the City

Ravaudage Gets $1.2M in Infrastructure Costs

The City Commission voted 3 – 2 November 13 to give developer Dan Bellows a $1.2 Million reimbursement over a 10-year period for work on city roads in the Ravaudage development.

Ravaudage Background

The Ravaudage area, once known as Home Acres, was re-annexed in 2012 from Orange County into the City of Winter Park after Mr. Bellows had done some initial work on the property under the auspices of Orange County. Orange County permits allowed Bellows to build greater density and provide less green space than he would have under Winter Park rules. When the property went from Orange County jurisdiction back into Winter Park, the terms of the Orange County permits were honored by the City of Winter Park.

Bellows: ‘City Will Benefit’

The interior roads subject to the current agreement include Benjamin, Lewis, Loren, Glendon Pkwy and Kindel, which were paved by Orange County. As part of his redevelopment of the area into commercial, office, multifamily and residential land uses, Bellows proposes to rebuild roads in the City right of way, adding wide sidewalks, drainage inlets, curbing and on-street parking. Bellows’ justification for requesting partial reimbursement for permit fees is that the City will benefit from these improvements, therefore the City should bear part of the cost.

Cooper Sees Troublesome Precedent

Not everyone sees it that way. Commissioner Carolyn Cooper, who was out of town and phoning in to the meeting, noted that while Orange County had approved greater density, more leasable square footage and less green space, the County had never anticipated paying for infrastructure as part of the original agreement.

Cooper said she was opposed to granting Bellows’ request for three reasons. First, infrastructure contributions were not anticipated in Orange County’s original approval. Second, said Cooper, “Windsong and Whole Foods developers demonstrated that we can get quality development without having to give injections of taxpayer funds. And, lastly, it is not fair to other developers.”

“I am totally opposed,” Cooper concluded, “and find the precedent quite troublesome.”

Seidel Searching for the ‘Win-Win’

“I don’t see the win-win here,” Seidel told the Voice. “There is no tangible value to the City for doing this work. The city doesn’t need to improve these roads — Dan Bellows does. On the other hand, the intersection at Lee Road and Executive Drive needs a signal. I would be happy for the City to contribute money to that improvement, because the entire city would benefit.”

Leary, Weldon, Sprinkel See Benefit to City

Mayor Steven Leary supported Bellows’ request, noting that the planned improvements will meet or exceed Winter Park standards. Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel agreed and made a motion to approve. Commissioner Peter Weldon, who seconded the motion to approve, said he could support the deal because, “We get control over the roads, essentially.”

No Risk

Public Works Director Troy Attaway explained that the ‘no risk’ aspect of the agreement refers to the fact that Bellows’ company will receive no reimbursement of fees until the City has received a portion of the permitting fees from him and has seen an increase in ad valorem taxes from the property.

This is not the first time the Commission has been generous with Mr. Bellows. In January 2015, Leary was one of three commissioners who approved a variance for Ravaudage in which one building went from four to six stories while the height of an alternate building was reduced.

The Winter Park-Maitland Observer reported that during the week preceding the 2015 vote, contributions from five corporate entities associated with Mr. Bellows were deposited into the coffers of Leary’s mayoral campaign. See campaign report.

At the time, Leary denied taking campaign contributions from Bellows and accused his opponent of making “spurious connections” between him, Bellows and the money. “Dan Bellows has not made a single contribution to my campaign to this day,” Leary told the Observer. “He has nothing to do with those LLCs.”

Bellows also denied having ownership in the LLCs. The Observer reported, however, that Winter Park City Commission records showed Bellows has represented at least three of those entities before the Commission. Minutes from July 8, 2013 City Commission meeting list Bellows’ name alongside CRDI LLC. At the April 12, 2010 meeting, Bellows represented Venetian LLC, and he represented WFG LTD in a meeting five months later.

Commission Approves Request

The Commission approved the agreement with Bellows on a 3 – 2 vote, with Cooper and Seidel dissenting. The table below, which appears on page 30 of the November 13, 2017 Commission Agenda Packet, shows how the developer will be reimbursed over a 10-year period.

What Two People Saw

When the Library-Event Center Concept Was Unveiled

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

What Two People Saw

On the evening of November 1, Sir David Adjaye, lead architect on the library-event center, revealed his conceptual design before a capacity crowd in the Rachel Murrah Civic Center, which the new building will eventually replace.

Sir David’s presentation was broadcast live via several media outlets, and a video recording of the presentation is still available on the City Website.

This being Winter Park, now that most people have seen it, everyone has an opinion about it. Impressions of Adjaye’s concept offered here by two of our readers broadly reflect the views of our citizens. If your views differ, we invite you to weigh in.

While everyone’s view matters, the views that matter most will be those of the Commissioners. They will decide on Monday, November 13, whether or not we move forward with the concept as proposed.

If the City adopts the concept, Commissioners and City staff must determine how to accomplish the task within the confines of the site and the budget. If the City decides to go another direction, the Commission will assume the responsibility for guiding us down that path, as well. The Commission’s task is not an easy one.

 

In Praise of Adjaye’s Design

Guest Columnist Beth Hall

I was prepared to dislike the design proposal from Sir David Adjaye and his colleagues. Aside from his Museum of African American History in Washington, D.C., I had seen little from him that I could appreciate or to which I could relate. But when I heard his presentation and saw his concept for Winter Park, I was surprised to the upside. Every time I review the slides and the various elements of the presentation, I like it more.

What is presented here is my perception of the design concept. What is not presented here is a defense for the park location or for the $30 million budget. The bond referendum passed. The issues have been litigated, in the court system as well as in the court of public opinion. Now, we must move on.

What I see in Sir David’s concept are deceptively simple, yet uniquely appropriate, shelters to hold all of the activities and all of the people which will occupy them for years to come. I see a design which bears no time stamp. In the words of Raymond Loewy, “Good design does not become obsolete.”

The structures acknowledge their placement in a lovely park with water views. They take maximum advantage of these, even including a stage at the water’s edge, designed to make the most of the slope to the water. One enters from Morse Blvd. at ground level and advances onto the plaza and into a vantage point from which to survey the park and green space beyond.

I would be very surprised if everyone embraced the concept Sir David showed us. This speaks more to his artistry than it does to the amount of time he did or did not spend in Winter Park.

The winning aspects of the design are many — the column-less, ultra-flexible interior space, the inspired roof line that provides both rain and sun protection, the expansive windows that function to bring the outside in while fostering line-of-sight-contact among users of all spaces, and the thoughtful consideration of the prevailing winds in placing the structures.

Weather control is not possible at the current library any more than it will be at the new one, but Adjaye tried his best to mitigate it. The summer and winter solstices found their way into his renderings. Sun and warmth will be allowed to penetrate most deeply in winter, far less in summer when the roof line creates an angled barrier.

Low maintenance yet highly versatile concrete and glass comprise the exterior makeup of the buildings. The massive glass panes are slanted. Observe any air control tower and some department store windows to recognize this is done to maximize visibility and reduce glare. I suspect it will also help with heat reduction.

The commission must thoroughly explore this before they sign off. Folks have expressed a concern that this glass will turn the library into a massive oven under the Florida sun. I doubt Sir Adjaye just forgot Florida is a subtropical hot environment, but heating and cooling costs will matter.

I am struck by the playfulness of the design and the lightness of feel. It makes me think of parachutes. Adjaye said he hoped it felt like one had placed a “perfect tent” in this lovely place.

It’s true. There is no building in Winter Park that looks like this. Still, there are familiar elements. I think it can belong.

Against the backdrop of this inspiring design, talk of cost over-runs, storm water management and parking issues have reared their ugly heads. We are at a cross roads.

Our Commissioners face a difficult decision.

Open Letter to Mayor & Commissioners

By Guest Columnist William Deuchler

Thank you for scheduling the special meeting to allow the public a first glimpse of the conceptual design for the new Library and Civic Center. It was helpful and informative, but also very disappointing to me.

During the first couple of minutes of Sir David’s talk, I thought that just maybe we might have a chance for a design that would truly add to the character of Winter Park.  He talked about the unique ecology of Florida.  He pointed to our history and some of the architectural history of our town.  Although Sir David spoke of how those things would influence his design, when the design was unveiled, I saw no reference either to our history or to our unique setting.

Consider this if you will. What do people say is so charming about our town after a first visit?  I believe the answer is, clearly, Park Avenue.  And what is so charming about Park Avenue? People love the historic character of the buildings, the inviting human scale of the streetscape and the understated elegance which is, at the same time, modern and highly functional.

Now, what is the one building that is conspicuously out of character with the rest of Park Avenue? That would be City Hall, a contemporary, mid-century modern building. City Hall is a “statement” building that shouts, “I’m different, I want to be noticed for myself.”

Do we really want another “statement” civic building? It will certainly be the most significant and visible project in the general downtown area.  It may also be the LAST and largest civic building built in Winter Park — at least until the current City Hall is renovated.

Why not have a legacy building that is consistent with the character of Winter Park?  Even Disney knew that you don’t build a Tomorrow Land structure on Main Street.

I also have reservations about the proposed design from a practical perspective — in particular, the requirement for exterior transit and the amount of glass used in the concept. The fact that, to enter the Library or Event Center, one would have to walk outside after being let off is silly for our climate.  Anyone who has been caught in one of our summer rainstorms knows that if you are outside, you are going to get wet.  It’s hot in Florida most of the year.  People prefer to get out of the sun and into air conditioning as quickly as possible.

I doubt if the plaza areas Adjaye envisions would be used more than three to four months per year.  Even when the weather is cool, the Florida sun reflecting off those expansive glass windows will likely make the ‘Belvedere’ unbearable.

Turning to the interior spaces, just ask anyone who lost trees in the hurricane what happened to the temperature of their home.  Unless you have a tree canopy above that building, it is going to be one big furnace on the inside, no matter how much engineering goes into those elegantly canted sides – this is Florida!

I urge the Commission to vote NO to the conceptual design as presented.  It will be painful, but there’s still time to cut our losses, thank Sir David for his effort, and get an architect who isn’t going to create “Leary’s Folly,” someone who will design a building that really does reflect our #1 value of, “Honor our historic and cultural features throughout Winter Park.”

We, the taxpayers, are going to spend 30 million of our tax dollars on this project. It’s worth taking the time to get this project right.

Adjaye to Reveal Library Design Concept

Nov. 1 at the Rachel Murrah Civic Center

Adjaye to Reveal Library Design Concept

Architect Sir David Adjaye will present his long awaited conceptual design of the new Winter Park Library & Event Center.

Wednesday, Nov 1, 5:30 to 7:30 pm
Rachel D. Murrah Civic Center
1050 W. Morse Blvd.

The event will be a special meeting of the Winter Park City Commission. Mayor Steve Leary will open the meeting and introduce members of the library-event center design team, which will feature lead architect Sir David Adjaye. Public input will follow the formal presentations.

Library-Event Center Design Team

The design team assembled for this project are Pizzuti Solutions, the Owner’s Representative that will work with City staff to manage the project, budget and schedule; HuntonBrady Architects, which will develop the signature architectural design in partnership with Adjaye Associates; and the construction management team, which will consist of Brasfield & Gorrie and Lamm & Company.

Sir David Adjaye

Sir David Adjaye was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and named one of 2017’s 100 most influential people by TIME magazine. His firm is known for its innovative approach to library design. Adjaye’s projects include the award-winning Idea Stores in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African-American History & Culture, which opened September 2016 in Washington, D.C.

Listen to Live Broadcast

Those unable to attend can watch the presentation broadcast live on the following outlets.
cityofwinterpark.org/facebook
cityofwinterpark.org/#nextchapterwp
Orange TV Channels:

Spectrum (formerly BrightHouse) Channel 488
Comcast® – Channel 9
CenturyLink® – Channel 1081 (HD) Channel 81 (SD)
WSWF (digital over the air) Channel 10 – 2

Young Composers Return to DPAC

UCF, Orlando Phil Present 2017 National Young Composers Challenge

Young Composers Return to DPAC

Mark the date: Sunday, November 12, 1:00 to 5:00 pm, in the Walt Disney Theater at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Experience an unforgettable musical afternoon as the University of Central Florida, the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Young Composers Challenge (NYCC) join to present the 2017 Composium.

Bring the Family

Professional musicians from the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and the UCF faculty will perform classical compositions written by six young musicians aged 13 to 18. Dress is casual. Children are welcome. Admission is free. More information is available at http://www.youngcomposerschallenge.org.

Part Concert, Part Seminar

The Composium is part concert, part rehearsal, part recording session and part seminar. Winning compositions, chosen from thousands submitted by teen composers from around the world, are rehearsed, discussed and recorded before a live audience.

Founded in 2005, the NYCC is a non-profit charitable organization whose goal is to promote the creation of new orchestral music and foster the careers of the next generation of American composers. The purpose of the Composium is to build greater understanding of and support for symphony orchestras and the creation of new orchestral music.

‘You Will Never Again Hear an Orchestra in Quite the Same Way’

“The level of sophistication of these orchestral works is mind-blowing,” said Steve Goldman, Executive Director of the NYCC. “This is a rare chance to witness new orchestral works by America’s top young composers performed for the first time by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra.”

“Once you have attended a Composium,” said Goldman, “you will never listen to an orchestra performance in quite the same way again.”

‘Central Florida’s Commitment to Classical Music’

Dean Jeff Moore, of the UCF College of Arts and Humanities, said this event is good for the young composers, but also the Orlando community. “UCF is committed to providing access for people to pursue their passions,” said Moore. “The longtime partnership between UCF, the Orlando Philharmonic and now the NYCC demonstrates Central Florida’s commitment to the past, present, and future of classical music.”

‘Support for Young Composers is Essential to the Future of Music’

“The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra is proud to partner with UCF and the National Young Composers Challenge,” said Executive Director Christopher Barton. “This opportunity to support the development of our next generation of composers is both exciting for our audiences and essential to the future of music.”

National Young Composers Challenge is a 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization supported by grants and in-kind donations from the University of Central Florida, Rollins College, Full Sail University, Timucua Arts Foundation and the Goldman Charitable Foundation. http://www.youngcomposerschallenge.org

Villa Tuscany Memory Care

‘Forget It,’ Says Commission

Villa Tuscany Memory Care

At their October 9 meeting, Commissioners once again denied Villa Tuscany’s application for conditional use for a 31,000 square foot memory care facility at 1298 Howell Branch Road with a decisive 5 – 0 vote.

Villa Tuscany Revises Application for Conditional Use

In March 2017, after the Commission denied their application for a somewhat larger memory care facility, Villa Tuscany sued the City in an attempt to reverse the decision. The developer and the City entered into a mediated settlement process, overseen by a Special Magistrate. City Manager Randy Knight led the negotiations for the City. The result was the revised application for conditional use and variances presented October 9.

Applicant Still Seeks Variances

City Planning Manager Jeff Briggs explained in his presentation to the Commission that the developer had made three basic changes. The building was reduced from three stories to two stories, although the overall height of the building was dropped by only four feet, from 35 feet to 31 feet. The planned facility would accommodate 49 beds instead of the original 51 beds.

Second, the parking lot was moved from a 25-foot setback from Lake Temple to the 50-foot setback specified by City Code.

Third, the building was shifted eastward on the property to protect the view of the neighbors across Lake Temple. The shift in location put the building to within 15 feet of the sinkhole on the property. Code requires a 50-foot setback from any wetlands, so approval would involve a setback variance of 35 feet.

No Commission Guidance for Staff During Negotiations

“This mediated settlement process is certainly interesting from the staff’s perspective,” observed Briggs. Staffers who engaged in the negotiations were advised by City Attorney Kurt Ardaman that they were not allowed to speak with Commissioners about the project while the negotiations were underway.

“We had to base our decisions based on comments we heard from some of you at that March public hearing,” said Briggs, “and we had to kind of guess, to be perfectly honest.”

Briggs said he thought the reduction in number of stories and increased setback from Lake Temple might be sufficient for a staff recommendation of approval, but deferred to the Commissioners.

Well-Organized Community Opposition

The applicant then presented their case, followed by a brief Commission discussion, which consisted chiefly of Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel’s motion to deny and Commissioner Carolyn Cooper’s second.

Residents of the neighborhood, led by spokespersons Barry Render and Nancy Freeman, opposed the project on grounds that the structure is incompatible with the surroundings and is simply too large.

They acknowledged that while there are commercial buildings to the north and east of the property, those buildings are around 3,000 square feet – one-tenth the size of the proposed memory care structure. In fact, Freeman pointed out, the proposed Villa Tuscany project is larger than City Hall.

Freeman and Render said the neighbors did not object to the purpose of the project. They cited the example of Alabama Oaks, another memory care facility in Winter Park that is owned by the same applicant. Alabama Oaks is a series of small cottages that house the residents and staff of the facility, one which the neighbors feel would be suitable in their neighborhood.

Drone Photos Show Flooding at the Site

The citizens’ presentation included drone photographs taken several weeks after Hurricane Irma hit this area September 10. Photographs show the proposed building site would still have been under water as of the October 9 meeting. One can assume the additional impervious surface of a large building and 25-space parking lot would cause the water level to rise further.

Dr. Render concluded the neighbors’ presentation with a request. “We would like a project that is proportionate in size and scale, is compatible with our neighborhood, one that would preserve the charm and beauty of north Winter Park and one that would require zero variances.”

Thumbs Down 5 – 0

At the end of the day, the Commissioners unanimously denied both the application for conditional use and the Mediated Settlement Agreement.

The applicant still has the opportunity to seek relief in the court system.

No Park Expansion

No Park Expansion

A 20,000-square-foot medical office building will occupy a lot once home to bowling lanes on Fairbanks Avenue near U.S. Highway 17/92.

City commissioners accepted an offer to buy the land from ComTech Properties for $3.5 million by a 4-1 vote, Commissioner Carolyn Cooper opposed. The site at 1111 W. Fairbanks Ave. has been coveted by some in Winter Park eager to expand Martin Luther King Park.

The city put the land out for bid in June, less than a year and a half after it bought the 1.63 acres from Rollins College for $2.9 million. The college had bought the bowling lanes site in 2013 for $2.85 million as part of a planned athletic field, but sold it to the city after it found another location.

The city used community redevelopment — or CRA — funds from its special downtown taxing district to pay for about a third of the purchase price to Rollins. The intent was to create turn lanes from Fairbanks Avenue onto Hwy. 17/92. There also was discussion at the CRA and city commission level about using the parcel to expand MLK Park.

Commissioner Cooper argued Monday the city should delay the sale “for now,” so it can study what effect the new city library will have on storm water drainage in the area. Hurricane Irma raised the need for more land to offset storm water, she said. Commissioner Greg Seidel voiced similar concerns, as did two residents who spoke to delay the sale. This area “was the TV stand-up spot” reporters used to show flooding from Irma, resident Charley Williams said.

Mayor Steve Leary said the agenda item was “never about park space and water,” but about needing space for traffic lanes. Arguments about stormwater were just another tactic to delay the sale, he said, and that could scare away prospective tenants in the office building and jeopardize the bid.

Power and Police Priorities

Power and Police Priorities

Winter Park’s electric utility and law enforcement emerged as partial winners in Winter Park’s budget debates. The city’s tax rate for 2018 will stay the same.

In the wake of Hurricane Irma and complaints about outages, city commissioners figured out ways to make more money available to the electric utility fund. The biggest chunk — $1 million – will be transferred to the utility this budget year from the city’s water reserves. Another $425,000 would be freed up in the utility’s 2018 contingency funding by moving street-lighting from the utility to the general fund, where it had been in the past.

Not yet known is whether that the additional $1.425 million will speed up the city’s underground wiring or how much work could be accomplished. Although several commissioners said the money was intended to move forward with undergrounding, Mayor Steve Leary said some of the $1 million could go toward other improvements necessitated by the hurricane. City Manager Randy Knight estimated the city’s total storm-related costs at $5.5 million with much of that ultimately covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.

“The City has undergrounded just over six miles with the $3.5 million provided for the FY17 fiscal year,” said Clarissa Howard, the city’s communications director Tuesday. “It is extremely difficult to determine how much could be done with additional funds as each project is different and complexity can affect the cost.”

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper voted against the $1 million transfer, saying she preferred such fund-to-fund shifts be done as loans that are paid back. Both Mayor Leary and Commissioner Pete Weldon voted against putting street lighting back in the general fund.

NO BODY CAMERAS FOR POLICE

Police Chief Michael Deal was successful in winning an $862,000 increase in his department’s budget. In earlier budget talks, Mayor Leary had asked the department to cut its request by $200,000, but on Monday commissioners decided to approve the full request. They said they wanted the department to be competitive with other Central Florida departments in hiring new officers.

Commissioners, however, declined to budget the $120,000 Deal had sought for police body cameras. In earlier budget talks, only Mayor Leary had supported that request. Commissioner Weldon didn’t want the cameras to be used to make public safety a “political football,” and Chief Deal said he had seen no complaints of excessive force or racial profiling in the year he has been chief.

On Monday, Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel noted the police department’s healthy budget and said the chief could use the money for body cameras if he saw them as a priority. If the chief “can figure out a way to do it, fine,” she said.

NO TAX RATE INCREASE

Commissioner Weldon was unsuccessful in seeking a cut in the property tax rate to 3.9942 mills. That would have removed a half million dollars from the general fund. One mill equals $1 of tax for every $1,000 in assessed property value.

Weldon argued that the city’s coffers are healthy enough to sustain a lower rate. In addition, he said, the same millage will bring in more revenue because the city’s assessed property values have increased. Commissioners voted 4-1 to keep the rate at 4.0923 mills.

Stormy Weather Ahead

Will the Lights Stay On?

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

Stormy Weather Ahead

Peter K. Gottfried, Guest Columnist

Tropical Storm Maria has now become Hurricane Maria and is battering residents of the Caribbean — even as they are still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Irma. Too soon to tell if Maria will turn toward Central Florida, but one thing remains certain – the City of Winter Park is still not ready for a major hurricane.

This rotten utility pole at Stovin and Park Avenue fell during Hurricane Irma.

Storm Water Has No Where to Go . . .

Flooding occurs in the same areas of the City it always has – and thanks to continuing development without proper storm water management, it is getting worse. The City knowns about these areas, but continues to take a go-slow approach to addressing them.

. . . Except Into the Roads

Lake Mendsen within Martin Luther King Park – site of the proposed $30 million library-event center — is woefully inadequate to handle existing storm water drainage from the Winter Park Village, the Paseo Apartments and the CNL Heritage Center. Even a heavy afternoon thunder storm will cause flooding on Denning Drive and Harper Street. The construction of the new library, with its associated impervious surfaces, can only make things worse. Other areas of the City that routinely flood include the intersection of Kings Way and Fawsett Road and stretches of Palmer Avenue, where water rises to the curb top after an afternoon downpour.

High Rates Alone Won’t Keep the Lights On

Reliable electric power during major storms is a significant issue. Like many other customers in Winter Park, I was without power for a week following Hurricane Irma.

Let’s Bring Our Infrastructure Into the 21st Century

Winter Park purchased the electric utility from Progress Energy/Florida Power in 2005 with a promise to underground all lines within 10 years. According to the City website, that target completion date has moved out to 2026. Progress is measured in terms of how many miles of line have been undergrounded rather than the number of additional customers served. The current debate is less about how and when to underground and more about how to pay for it. For information about undergrounding in your area, go to https://gispublic.cityofwinterpark.org/ugstatus/

Editor’s Note: The City of Winter Park issued a statement that said undergrounding timeline was 20 years.

Winter Park can do better. There is no reason we should scramble every time there is a major storm. Let’s bring our infrastructure up to date so we can have some peace of mind when the next storm hits.

Peter K. Gottfried is President of Natural Systems Analysts, Inc. which provides technical and scientific support to the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Bureau of Land Management. He served as a City Commissioner and on the Planning and Zoning Board, Lakes and Waterways Board and, currently, on the board of Mead Botanical Garden.

Keep the Park in Winter Park

Guest Columnist – Bob Bendick

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

Keep the Park in Winter Park

The “Greenspace Connectivity” article published here is a useful continuation of the discussion in our community about the need to update Winter Park’s ten-year-old Parks and Recreation Plan.

While there remains some uncertainty about the exact questions to be answered by a plan update, it has been encouraging to see the support among elected officials and others for continuing investment in parks and open space in Winter Park.

WP Vision Focuses on Parks & Greenspace

A number of the recommendations of the 2008 plan have been implemented. This, in itself, demonstrates the value of park planning, and this progress provides a good base for additional improvement. Careful stewardship of our parks reflects the views of the great majority of Winter Park residents, as expressed through the city’s recent Visioning Process. The Vision plan recommends:

• Investing in a sustainable future that encourages and supports lifelong learning, healthy living and a daily connectivity to the natural world.

• Enhancing walking, biking and recreational activities through a connected and integrated network of open space.

• Fostering sustainable public and private parks and open spaces using state of the art practices and techniques.

Revise Parks Plan to Address Today’s Needs

So why is a revision of the city’s parks and recreation plan a practical and useful step toward achieving the elements of our shared community vision? First, a revised plan would reflect the preferences of today’s Winter Park’s residents. For example, activities such as lacrosse and paddle boarding hardly existed here ten years ago, but now have grown to become popular uses of our parks.

Reduce Cost and Conflict

A carefully wrought plan would provide a much-needed cohesive framework for making decisions about expanding, adding or modifying individual parks. The decision-making process would become more cost-effective and the City would realize a reduction in the lost time and conflict that results from ad-hoc decision-making.

Avoid Duplication

A thoughtfully revised plan would reduce duplication of facilities and activities, thus improving the delivery of recreational services to the people of Winter Park. It might also introduce innovative ways for private citizens to contribute to the natural and scenic character of our city.

Introduce Updated Management & Maintenance Practices

An updated plan would introduce state-of-the art techniques for management and maintenance of park facilities. A specific, achievable menu of desired projects would enable the City to take advantage of strategic opportunities for implementing the plan through public infrastructure programs, private donations and amenities in commercial and residential development projects.

Connect Our Parks

An updated plan would show how our parks can be connected with walkways and bikeways to provide a green framework for the city’s future. Connectivity among our parks would enhance opportunities for outdoor recreation for citizens of all ages while affording opportunities for safe, non-motorized transportation. We can achieve all this through coordination with the City’s bicycle and walkway planning.

No Need to Re-invent the Wheel

The city’s 2008 parks plan is a sound, useful document. There is no need to start over or to undertake a lengthy and complex planning process. We can take a practical, creative approach to discover ways to further enhance and connect our city’s natural assets of parks, lakes, private open space, walkways and bikeways.

Such an effort is well worth the investment of time and money. Having a clear, overarching vision of the city’s specific open space needs and priorities will save us in the long run, and will encourage the partnerships and creative ideas that are central to park planning and management in today’s world.

We owe it to the next generation to keep the park in Winter Park.

Green Space Connectivity

A City In Search of a Unified Parks Plan

Green Space Connectivity

Among the drawers, shelves and stacks of notebooks, leaflets and books storing visions, plans and master plans sits the Winter Park Parks & Recreation Master Plan. As that plan nears the age of 10 – it was last updated in 2008 — Commissioners, staff and citizens have concluded the time has come to give it some much-needed attention.

Outdated Information

Many of the national statistics used to support the 2008 plan date from 1999. In 2008, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), upon which we now base much of our data, did not exist. According to GIS data, since 2008 the City has added 50 acres of parkland – some of it under water, but most of it visible to the naked eye.

In addition, some significant developments have occurred in the past 10 years that do not appear in the 2008 plan – projects in Mead Botanical Garden and plans for the new library-event center in MLK Park, for example.

Parks Plan Needs Life Support

Solid reasons exist to resuscitate the plan. Both the City’s Comprehensive Plan and the Vision Plan require the City have a current Parks & Recreation Master Plan. Actually, Comp Plan Policy 6-2.5.4 states the plan should be updated every five years. Second, the City must have a current Parks & Recreation Master Plan in order to retain accreditation under the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA).

There’s Talk, but No Action Yet

Toward that end, the Commission took up the question of updating the Parks & Recreation Master Plan at their August 28 meeting, with the stipulation that they intended to take no action at that meeting.

At the outset, it’s important to know three factors which could stand in the way of a speedy conclusion to this effort. First, with the recent retirement of former Parks & Recreation Director John Holland, no Parks & Rec director is in place to guide the update process. According to City Manager Randy Knight, the search for a new director has not yet begun.

As of August 28, there is no money in the FY 2018 budget for a plan update, although that could change. Finally, the scope of work is vague and the proposed schedule, which exceeds 12 months, is not set to commence until March 2018.

What Do We Know About WP Parks?

According to the 2016 Comprehensive Plan, Winter Park boasts 346 acres of publicly owned park, open space and conservation lands. There is no distinction between active park space, for instance the Farmer’s Market and Azalea Lane tennis courts, and passive green space like Central Park or Mead Botanical Garden.

Of the 346 total acres, 27.58 acres comprise 36 ‘mini-parks.’ Some mini-parks provide peaceful sightlines onto small gardens or lakes, while others are little more than a park bench in a roadway median.

Howell Creek Conservation Land to be Added

In addition to the existing inventory, the City is in the process of purchasing 55.57 acres of conservation land along the Howell Creek Basin. The properties were appraised at $166,000. The agreed-upon purchase price plus commissions will come to $304,500. Approximately half this amount will come from a grant from the State of Florida. The remainder will likely come from the Parks Impact Fee Fund, which currently has a balance of more than $1 million.

The package deal includes seven separate parcels. Of these 55+ acres, two parcels totaling 12.23 combined acres are within Maitland City limits, and 7.71 acres are submerged.

Maitland Gets a Piece of the Park

According to minutes of the August 14, 2017 Commission meeting, staff plans “to work with the City of Maitland on a joint planning agreement to transfer the one piece of property that is in their city limits and adjacent to our park into [Winter Park] city limits and to transfer ownership of the other parcel to Maitland.”

Once this wetlands area has been reclaimed, invasive plants will be replaced with native species. The City plans to create a recreation area that will feature boardwalks, nature trails and a kayaking “blue way.”

Questions Remain — How Do We Anticipate Future Costs of Park Ownership?

Parks & Recreation accounts for approximately 15 percent of the City’s budget. To date, more money has been devoted to parks acquisition. As our parks age, however, the lifecycle costs of ownership and maintenance increases. Is the City prepared to create a Parks & Recreation Master Plan that accurately reflects these costs so we can anticipate out-year budget requirements – and budget for them?

How to Develop Connectivity Between the Park Spaces?

In their August 28 report to the Commission, staff highlighted the need for connectivity between our existing parks and green space. Their recommendation was endorsed by Commissioner Greg Seidel, who cited the need to weave in GIS data points to evaluate feasibility and to accelerate the connectivity portion of the Parks & Recreation Master Plan.

Should We Distinguish Passive Park vs. Active Park?

As urban sprawl presses on our borders, our active parks and passive green space frequently find themselves in the same footprint and in direct competition with one another. The resulting frustration for any visitor is that neither the active nor the passive functions can be adequately realized.

Charley Williams’s ‘Official Quiet Zones’

Elected officials, City staff and Winter Park residents are embarking on a difficult task – one that will take time to complete. In the meantime, Winter Park resident Charley Williams offered the following thoughts that might form a context and a way to think about these issues. In this spirit, we share his musings with you.

 

Charley Says . . .

Leash your dog
Take your bike for a walk.
Enjoy the garden.
Leave the flowers on their stalks.

Take a deep breath
. . . .and take one again.
Smell the dirt and
The scent of the air after the rain.

Sit on a bench, relax, listen.
Remove your sunglasses.
Feel the shade.
Close your eyes – smile, feel your thoughts fade.

Watch the clouds.
Enjoy the sunset.
What bird call was that?
Are the owls waking up?

Come tonight for a meteor shower.
Bring your blanket to lie on.
Feel our natural rhythms
In the low light of our park after dark.

Charley Williams has lived in Winter Park and Central Florida for over 25 years. When it comes to sports and rec, he’s proud to say he still has good knees.