Aloma Townhome Development Reverts to Single Family
Ansaka LLC Does a Graceful Pivot
Ansaka LLC, the developer who made bright yellow ‘No Density’ signs sprout like daffodils from lawns along Aloma last April, returned to P&Z July 10 with a request to subdivide 1.45 acres of the property into six single-family building lots.
Neighbors Balk at 18 Townhomes
In April, Ansaka appealed to the City for Comprehensive Plan future land use and zoning changes to build 18 residential townhouses on the north side of Aloma Avenue between Lakemont and Phelps. City staff and the Planning & Zoning Board gave the project a thumbs up. When the project came before the Commission on April 9, however, neighbors’ concerns had manifested in the form of bright yellow “No Density” signs, and 24 residents spoke in opposition to the project. The Commission voted to table the item, giving the developer, Andrew Ryan, time to regroup.
Ryan subsequently met individually with each Commissioner and with the design team to come up with an alternate plan. Ryan also heeded neighbors’ concerns in coming up with what he called “the most conservative pivot plan available.”
Graceful Pivot to Plan B
Ansaka now proposes to replat the entire property, which includes 1.45 acres zoned R1A, single family, and approximately 17,700 square feet of land zoned O2, office. The R1A portion of the property, measuring 250’ x 250’, will be subdivided into six single-family building lots. The office zoned portion will be developed at a later date, but was included in the replat so that future users would have access to the common drive, which provides safe access to Aloma.
The six-lot single-family subdivision will have three lots to the south, toward Aloma, and three lots directly behind them to the north. The lots will have shared driveways and parking.
The City Planning staff recommended approval of the redesigned development, stating it will be “. . .good for Winter Park, its residents and the neighboring community.” The plan maintains current zoning, allows an access easement for the commercial property to improve future traffic patterns, preserves existing heritage live oak trees and incorporates street trees that will enhance the Aloma frontage.
In the next step, Ansaka will request approval from the Winter Park City Commission.
Local Developers Make Good Neighbors
This is the second developer this year – the other being Zane Williams of Z Properties — to run the gamut of public scrutiny and come to the City with an application that takes into account the needs and wishes of the entire community. Served well are the neighborhoods in which they seek to build, the neighbors, the City, the Comprehensive Plan – and the developers themselves. Both developers are Winter Park residents who exhibit an understanding for and sensitivity to what Winter Park is all about.
See the entire plan here. Graphic above is on page 32.
Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.
The one thing of note in an uncharacteristically brief June 11 Commission meeting was a presentation by Planning Director Dori Stone about Mixed Use Development. Her presentation focused on a single question, the answer to which will determine the way Winter Park grows into the 21st century.
Are current land use and zoning categories sufficient to promote the best development in Winter Park, or does the City want a specific mixed use development option for properties located along gateway corridors within the city limits?
WP Already Has 3 Mixed Use Developments
Currently, Winter Park has three mixed use developments – Park Avenue, Hannibal Square and Winter Park Village. The single word that describes all three is walkable. Each development has a mixture of shops, offices and residences. Each is a popular destination with wide sidewalks and plenty of shade – resulting in plenty of foot traffic. Buildings are pedestrian in scale, allowing life to flow easily in and out of doors. Each location has a well-defined sense of place.
They All Have Trees
While they have different architectural designs, street layouts and building heights, they all have one essential attribute — deciduous trees. Trees with wide branches. Trees with lots of leaves. Trees that provide cool shade and a sense of place.
Regardless of architectural design, without the shelter of these leafy branches all three areas would be hot, blinding, forbidding environments of reflective and refractive masonry, asphalt and glass. People would avoid them whenever possible, except possibly at night. Who among us doesn’t choose the shady parking spot over the one baking in the harsh Florida sun?
We All Need Trees
Our affinity for trees is in our DNA. Our ancestors relied on trees for security from predators, for foraging, for shelter from the elements, and for gathering places for social contact. Our love of trees is innate. No man-made structure ever has the same elemental and calming effect.
Builders who ignore the need for a stately tree canopy in their developments are doing a disservice to their clients, their tenants, the customers of those tenants and to their own legacies. Trees are good for our peace of mind, the environment – and they’re good for business.
What Kind of Canopy Will Be Left at the ‘Canopy’?
In this vein, many are concerned that at the new Winter Park Library – Event Center at “The Canopy,” the majestic trees that currently form the canopy on the Rachel Murrah Civic Center site will meet with the chain saw — despite the branding term. When that happens, the glare and reflected heat from all that glass, metal and masonry will change the character of the MLK Park dramatically. Although new, smaller trees can be brought in, it will take decades to achieve the current sense of place afforded by the existing site trees.
Don’t Cut Them Down; Dig Them Up!
This does not have to happen. A reasonable solution would be to dig up the specimen trees, roots and all, and store them in MLK Park in wooden crates until the construction is completed and they can be safely replanted.
While this may seem incredible, it is actually standard technology. The land that the retired El Toro Marine Air Station occupied was deeded to the City of Irvine, CA in the early 2000s. Before redevelopment began, 543 large shade trees, which included 10 species, were saved in this manner. The average weight per tree was 40 tons. The city crated them and cared for them for about five years until, one by one, they were strategically replanted as redevelopment progressed. The sense of place was preserved by this brilliant and caring move, and the homes in those developments sold as quickly as they were built.
Trees Are Our Brand
Canopy trees are part of our unique Winter Park brand. They shelter nearly every street and enhance every neighborhood. The promulgation of mixed use standards presents a fleeting window of opportunity. We must act now to ensure that mixed-use will enhance our gateway corridors for generations. Let’s make a big green splash!
Trees Should Be Part of the Mix
Let’s make room for our big green friends in our Mixed Use code. Let’s promote reasonable street setbacks and adequate pervious areas for these natural wonders. After all, our big trees enhance and promote our businesses, our neighborhoods and our sense of place in Winter Park. And, for Winter Park, a sense of place is a sense of home.
Todd Weaver is a semi-retired aerospace engineer and UCF graduate. He holds a Florida general contractors license. He currently runs a Winter Park-based business, TruGrit Traction, Inc, which designs and manufactures specialty wheels for pipe inspection robots for the public works industries. Weaver has served on Lakes Management advisory boards for Orange County and Winter Park.
The June Planning & Zoning Board meeting looked like it might be a contentious one. Several items on the agenda were repeats that had met with rigorous public opposition when they’d been to City Hall before. Among them were the old bowling alley property at 1111 W. Fairbanks and the Villa Tuscany Holdings property at 1298 Howell Branch Road. Also scheduled were requests by Z Properties to build an office building and parking lot, and by Sydgan for a zoning change — both in the Hannibal Square neighborhood. To round things out, there was a request for a lakefront lot split, something specifically forbidden in the Comprehensive Plan.
But, this time, the system worked for everyone. Staff and applicants were well-prepared with requests that fell squarely within the spirit of what the Comprehensive Plan spells out as good for the city – and everyone gave as good as they got.
Officers Chosen, Elevations Approved
The first order of business was the selection of Ross Johnston to Chair and Shelia DeCiccio to Vice Chair the P&Z Board for the coming year. This was followed by approval of final building elevations for the west end of the Winter Park Corners shopping center on Aloma and Lakemont and for the office building on the former bowling alley property at 1111 W. Fairbanks. Both sailed through with little or no discussion.
Villa Tuscany Forgets Memory Care
Villa Tuscany Holdings LLC was up next, but instead of another version of the memory care center at 1298 Howell Branch Rd., they presented a request to subdivide the property into four large residential lake-front lots. Former opponents of the memory care project, Barry Render and Nancy Freeman, spoke in support of the proposed residential subdivision, and P&Z voted to approve.
Z’s Dilemma . . .
The next issue was a complicated request by Z Properties for zoning and future land use changes at 301 N. Pennsylvania Ave. in the heart of the Hannibal Square neighborhood. The lot is 100 feet wide by 200 feet deep and has a split Future Land Use designation. The half fronting Pennsylvania Ave. is zoned commercial and the rear half is zoned residential. The applicant wanted to erect an office building on the commercial half, but to do that, he needed part of the residential half as a parking lot to satisfy the City parking requirements for the proposed office building. That would necessitate rezoning part of the land from R2, residential, to PL, parking lot.
Finds an Elegant Solution
The developer, Zane Williams, explained that he had approached this development “in a different way.” At the outset, he requested meetings with city planner Jeff Briggs and with Mary Daniels and several other neighbors from the west side community. In the course of these meetings, Williams learned that people living on the west side were deeply concerned about the rate at which the area is losing residential. So, Williams said, “What would happen if I give you a part of my land and build you a house there?”
Williams: “And I Learned Something in the Process”
Z Properties entered into a contract with the Hannibal Square Community Land Trust to build a new single-family home on 33 feet of the residential portion of the property and to deed over the home and the property to the Land Trust. The new home will be an affordable home in perpetuity. The new owner who eventually moves into the house will own only the building. Ownership of the land on which the home sits will remain with the Land Trust. Any profit the owner of the house might realize from a future sale is capped, ensuring the property will remain perpetual ‘affordable housing’ overseen by the Land Trust.
Lake Front Lot Split
Following Sydgan’s request for rezoning, which turned out to be an administrative ‘clean-up’ with no controversy attached, Amy Black came with her request to subdivide a large 3-acre parcel on Lake Killarney into three single-family one-acre lots. The amendment to the Comprehensive Plan allowing the lake-front split would apply only to Lake Killarney and would not affect any of the Chain of Lakes. The result of this lot split would be three so-called estate lots – one acre or larger – where now there is only one.
This lot split would also enable Ms. Black’s mother to remain in her home of many years with security in her retirement. “I know your job is to protect and do what’s best for the City and for the beautiful lake,” said Ms. Black, “while my main concern is for the health and well-being of my mother. We are confident that this action will honor and serve both interests.”
After being assured by the City attorney that the policy change applied only to Lake Killarney, and that nothing would change the ‘estate lot’ status of the property, P&Z voted to approve the request.
And everyone went home at a good hour, all the better for having participated in the process.
“Wish You Were Here: Hotels & Motels of Winter Park”
Mark your calendar – Thursday, June 7, 5:00 to 8:00 pm – The Winter Park History Museum will open its new exhibit, “Wish You Were Here: The Hotels and Motels of Winter Park.” This is a family friendly event that will feature food, friends and the music of Frank Sinatra.
Hotels and Rollins Built Winter Park
The vision Loring Chase and Oliver Chapman had for Winter Park consisted of two key elements. One was Rollins, established 1885, and the other was luxury hotels that would appeal to the wealthy ‘carriage trade’ from the northeast. To that end, they set aside three elevated five-acre lakefront lots for the large luxury hotels that became the Virginia Inn, the Seminole Hotel and the Alabama.
Every Hotel Lobby Had a Land Sales Office
The purpose of the hotels was to appeal to the type of guest who was wealthy enough to invest in the town and intellectually liberal enough to create a community that would be attractive to the academics who would create Rollins.
The lobby of every luxury hotel featured a land sales office offering land for homesteads, commercial development and citrus production. Tours of citrus groves were a central feature of the sales presentations.
Hotels at Center of Community Life
As time passed, Winter Park became more established and the large hotels became centers of local community activity. Residents could buy memberships to use the hotels’ recreational facilities. The hotels provided a place for larger business and social events. It is fitting that Rollins has come full circle with the Alfond Inn, which serves as a watering hole for locals and as the repository for the Alfond family’s extensive collection of contemporary art – in addition to accommodating visitors from around the world.
Motels and Boarding Houses
The show will include a study of smaller boarding houses and hotels that accommodated the working class tourists and staff who traveled with the wealthy luxury hotel patrons. There will also be a section devoted to the classic Florida motels that grew up around Lake Kilarney and 17-92, which became popular tourist destinations in the 1940s.
The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.wphistory.org
Discussion of the new library-event center at Monday night’s May 14 Commission meeting seems to have raised more questions than answers.
How much will the library-event center cost?
After a dizzying hour-long discussion of design and building costs and possible sources of revenue, City Manager Randy Knight confirmed the total buildout of the Adjaye-designed library and event center, with all the add-alternates – the raked auditorium, the outdoor amphitheater, the porte cochere covering the entrance and a roof-top venue for the event center – will cost $37 million.
The Commission voted to proceed with the raked auditorium, the outdoor amphitheater and the porte cochere. While they did not approve the roof-top venue buildout, they voted to engineer the event center structure so the venue can be added at a later date. There is still no parking structure in the budget – or in the plans.
What About Parking?
Commissioner Cooper pointed out that everything she had read in the agenda packet about the rooftop venue talked about “doubling the amount of opportunity” to lease out the facility. “And what I would say to all of you,” she said addressing the other Commissioners, “the problem we have not resolved is parking. And for us to add on another venue . . . for me parking is a real problem.”
What about Operations & Maintenance?
Cooper also pointed out that, so far, there has been no move to fund the operation and maintenance of the facility. Mayor Leary had suggested that some funds could come from the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), and Cooper pointed out that CRA funds could be used both for parking and for operations and maintenance. Apparently the City is also seeking to raise money from state and county tourist development agencies.
Where Will We Get the Extra Money?
To complete the components that have been approved, the City is still around $7 million short, according to Jim Russel of Pizzuti Solutions. That means additional fund raising has become a necessity.
What Shall We Call It?
Majority thought from the dais, with Mayor Leary in the vanguard, was that if you have to raise money to build it, you must first brand it.
Former Commissioner Tom McMacken kicked off the branding discussion. He spoke as a member of the current Library Task Force – which has taken on the task of creating a brand to use in the fund raising effort. Task Force members include Sam Stark, Leslie O’Shaughnessy and McMacken, who also serves on the Library Board of Trustees.
“When we go out to the public to raise money,” said McMacken, “what we hear is ‘Don’t bring us the old library.’” McMacken stated that a brand is so important that the Library Board of Trustees has put its current fundraising activity on hold until the City has agreed upon a brand.
McMacken explained that the Library Task Force had worked with Mark Calvert of Winter Park-based Evolve Design Group to come up with the brand “Canopy,” which was meant to encompass the new library, the event center and the entire campus upon which the facility will sit within Martin Luther King, Jr. Park. The Task Force proposed the various locations would be styled as ‘The Library at the Canopy,’ ‘The Event Center at the Canopy,’ and ‘MLK Park at the Canopy.’
Not So Fast, Says Sprinkel
The notion of including Martin Luther King, Jr. Park under the rubric of the Canopy drew immediate resistance from Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel, who very clearly did not want to rename the park. She said she would agree to assigning the name ‘Canopy’ to the library, event center and the porte cochere that joins the two buildings, but was firm that nothing should happen to diminish the identity of Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.
Mayor Steve Leary hastened to reassure Commissioner Sprinkel that renaming MLK Park was never the intent, but insisted, “We need a branding, something we can take out there to people to explain what this is.”
Why Not the ‘Winter Park’ Brand?
Commissioner Cooper pointed out that ‘Winter Park’ itself “is an already mature brand that is recognized as excellent.” She suggested the work of the Task Force might not yet be complete, and that before reaching a final decision they would be well-advised to seek further input from people on the name ‘Canopy’ and the accompanying branding language.
How Does ‘Canopy’ Relate to the Library?
“I’m wondering,” said Cooper, “why the recommendation [Canopy] is so generic. I don’t see how it relates to learning, knowledge, reading, education, opportunity, or intellectual curiosity – all qualities associated with a public library. What would differentiate it from any other mixed-use development – in Winter Park or elsewhere?
“I could see where ‘Canopy’ conveys a sense of inclusion . . . one-stop shopping, maybe – but not wonder and learning. That doesn’t resonate with me.”
Library and Event Center Are Now ‘The Canopy’
Despite reservations about brand confusion and questionable appropriateness expressed in citizen comments following the Commissioners’ deliberation, the Commission voted 3-2 to name the entire complex designed by British architect David Adjaye “The Canopy.” Leary, Sprinkel and Seidel supported the motion. Dissenting votes were cast by Cooper and Weldon.
Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.
Guest Columnist Peter Knowles Gottfried
Have you ever gone to a car dealership to investigate an incredibly good deal only to realize the “deal” really is too good to be true? Or perhaps you were enticed by an ad for a condo with water view only to find that “water” was a retention pond. This is how folks who voted for the proposed “Library-Event Center” must be feeling.
We were promised a beautiful 50,000 square foot Library and new Event Center at the corner of Harper Avenue and Morse Boulevard overlooking Lake Mendsen. We also voted for a parking structure that would adequately service both the new library and the event center. And finally, City literature told us, “The new library, event center and garage footprint will require less than 1percent of additional open space” within Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.
As it develops, however, the situation becomes more and more like being the customer at the car dealership anticipating a shiny new Highlander and being offered a used Yaris instead.
The 50,000 Square Foot Promise.
Let’s begin with the library campaign to win voter approval for a $30 million bond issue for the demolition of the existing Civic Center and the construction of the new library-event center and parking structure. Just about every piece of literature sent to voters spoke of the need for more library space, overcrowding in the youth section and insufficient computer lab space.
One election mailer asked, “What do you do when Winter Park’s Library … has to remove children’s books, even favorites, every time a new book arrives? …doesn’t have enough computers or digital labs? …can’t accommodate emergency rescue equipment above the first floor? …has no space for after-school tutoring rooms?”
Another mailer claimed, “Our children continue to lose out on learning opportunities and materials because of inadequate space.”
Grandparents, seniors, and adults will get “fully equipped technology labs with classes for seniors, students and entrepreneurs.” Another mailer promised, “Expanded and climate-controlled history center with exhibit space, genealogy lab and digitization to preserve our shared history.”
It is no wonder that the Library Board, the Commission and Citizens were excited about a new 50,000 square foot library. A letter from the then President of the Winter Park Library Board of Trustees to voters stated that the library would provide early childhood literacy areas, tutoring rooms, digital media labs, make the library safer, and provide for a new parking facility.
Where Did We Get 50,000 Sq.Ft?
Where did the “50,000-square-foot” number for the library appear? The Library Task Force, a committee authorized by the City Commission to come up with recommendations for the new library, stated in their final report that the estimated size of the library was 50,000 square feet, with the existing library at 33,742 square feet. We were getting an additional 16,206 square feet, a significant increase by any measure.
Following that, an email blast from the “yes for winter park library” Political Action Committee (PAC) clearly stated the proposed library was to be 50,000 square feet. That same email stated there would also be a one-story, 220-space parking deck.
The Winter Park Library staff sent an email to “Friends, Neighbors and Patrons” stating that the library will be 50,000 square feet and include a one-story parking deck for 220 cars. And finally, the City issued a Request for Qualifications for Library Design Consultant Services which clearly stated that the project will include “a new 240-space (sic) parking garage, a new 50,000 square foot library . . . .”
Honey, They Shrunk the Library
It must be a disappointment to the Library friends, neighbors and patrons to find that the new library will be barely larger than the existing library. Depending on whose numbers you use, we may be getting 867 or 991 additional square feet for a new library that everyone thought would provide significantly more space. The architect says the new library will be 34,661 square feet. Pizutti, the City’s program manager, says 34,785 square feet.
Parking Structure Promise
The reference to a parking structure is in the ballot language. The ballot clearly stated that $30 million in general obligation bonds were to be issued for the “purpose of financing the Winter Park Library and Event Center to include library facilities, civic meeting and gathering facilities and related parking structure, and improvements….” [emphasis added]
The City website shows the new plans for a library-event center with surface lots spread throughout MLK Park, including parking spaces at the community playground off Denning Drive.
Certificate Concerning Official Statement
On June 1, 2017 Mayor Steve Leary, City Manager Randy Knight and Finance Director Wes Hamil signed the Certificate Concerning Official Statement attesting to the truthfulness of statements made in the May 8, 2017 Bond Resolution.
The execution and delivery of this Official Statement has been duly authorized and approved by the City. At the time of delivery of the Bonds, the City will furnish a certificate to the effect that nothing has come to its attention which would lead to believe that the Official Statement as of its date and as of delivery of the Bonds, contains an untrue statement of a material fact or omits to state a material fact which should be included herein for the purpose for which the Official Statement is intended to be used, or which is necessary to make the statements contained herein, in light of the circumstances under which they were made, not misleading.”
Wikipedia defines parking structure as, “A parking garage also called a multistory, parking structure, parking ramp, parking building, parking deck or indoor parking, a building designed for car parking . . . .”
Now the Commission has decided that a series of surface lots will take the place of the parking structure called for on the ballot. How might the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board regard some of these directives by the Commission regarding the new Library and Event Center?
One of the documents circulated by the City and the Winter Park Library included a page that stated, “The total area of the new library, civic center, and garage “footprint” will require less than 1 percent of additional open space above the area where the existing parking lot and Civic Center now exist.”
A review of the site plan for the new library-event center and parking shows considerably more space taken than the 1 percent promised. In fact, the new facility is approximately 15 percent of the total MLK Park’s 26.8 acres, or about 8 percent of the total park in excess of the footprint of the existing Civic Center. Eight percent is significantly more green space lost than the 1 percent promised.
Footprint of New Library/Event Center and Surface Parking.
Shortly after voters approved the library/event center in the spring of 2016, a lawsuit was filed challenging the proposed location at MLK Park. No location had been specified in the ballot language.
The Judge in that case ruled that the ancillary documents provided prior to the election – mailers from the Library PAC, emails from the City, Library web pages and presentations by various committees — would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the library was to be built at MLK Park.
The same reasoning can be applied now. The voting public can reasonably conclude the City will build a 50,000 square foot library and event center, and an associated parking structure.
Winter Park voters have the right to question these un-kept promises and to decide if they are happy with the outcome. You can let your elected representatives know they might have some explaining to do by writing them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Knowles Gottfried is an environmental scientist who drew up one of the first plans for Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in 1985. He was a Winter Park Commissioner 1986 to 1996, and then served on the Planning & Zoning Commission from 2011 to 2017.