Weaver & Weldon Face Off at West Side Forum

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

Weaver & Weldon Face Off at West Side Forum

Guest Columnist Janet Hommel


Former Winter Park city commission candidate Barbara Chandler and The Friends of West Winter Park hosted a lively sharing of ideas on Tuesday, March 26 at the Winter Park Community Center. Commission candidates Todd Weaver and Peter Weldon were invited to engage directly with West Side families, elders, community leaders and small business owners in a moderated question-and-answer forum.

Chandler emphasized that this was not a debate, but an opportunity “for candidates to sit with our community . . . to learn what our issues and values are. We also want to make sure our community gives each candidate a chance to be heard.”

“Since election day March 12,” Chandler went on, “West Side Winter Parkers have been asked who we’ll be supporting in the run-off election April 9. Just like all Winter Parkers,” said Chandler, “we’ll be voting for the candidate who supports our values and community.”

Despite Chandler’s insistence that the forum was not a debate, the candidates wasted no time throwing jabs and punches. Most of the questions for the candidates dealt either with minority representation or issues specific to the West Side, such as the CRA.

Chandler’s frequent attempts to maintain decorum and her reminders to both candidates and audience to show proper respect fell victim to the emotion brought out by this hotly contested race.

Be sure to vote April 9!

Remembering Lurline

Remembering Lurline

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since West Side advocate and some-time gadfly Lurline Fletcher passed away. Lurline’s family has returned to Winter Park to mark the anniversary.

Tuesday, April 2, 4 to 6pm – Shady Park

On Tuesday, April 2, from 4:00 to 6:00 pm, family and friends will gather in Shady Park to celebrate the life and times of Lurline Fletcher. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to join the celebration.

So put on your craziest hat and your biggest sun glasses and come to Shady Park for food and fellowship in honor of Lurline’s legacy – which was . . . always showing up.

Mixed-Use Development on Orange Ave.

What’s at Stake?

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

Mixed-Use Development on Orange Ave.

Guest Columnist Beth Hall

 

Mixed Use Development Community Input Session
The Community Center
Thursday — March 28th — 5:30 – 7:00 pm

Please Attend this Important Event

The whole of the Orange Avenue corridor and parts of Fairbanks Avenue are up for rezoning. Thousands of square feet of new retail, residential, and office space, as well as a Sun Rail station, may soon be in the works. All of Orange Avenue, both east and west of 17-92, is included in the rezoning initiative.

Impacts on Surrounding Neighborhoods

City Planning Director Bronce Stephenson is spearheading the push to obtain public input prior to making any changes to city codes. In addition to attending the public input session, another method for providing your feedback or asking questions is to use the newly created city e-mail address OrangeAve@cityofwinterpark.org. Stephenson is making himself available to meet with residents who have questions or input about the massive rezoning.

Mixed Use Development Already Permitted on Orange

For years, owners of the largest parcels on the Orange Avenue corridor have been unwilling to redevelop their sizable holdings under the City’s existing zoning guidelines. The guidelines already permit that combination of residential, office and retail uses otherwise known as “mixed-use.”

For as many years, the same owners have approached the city about opening the doors to more intensive redevelopment. Owners include the Holler family and Demetree Global, as well as the City of Winter Park, which holds about five acres at Progress Point. Changes to the Comprehensive Plan in 2017 gave land holders even more incentive to delay, since the changes called for new mixed-use standards or an ‘overlay’ to be devised by April 2018 – a deadline that came and went without fanfare almost a year ago.

Progress Point — From Albatross to Swan?

Because the city has long wrestled with the albatross property at Progress Point, mixed-use rezoning represents an opportunity to turn it into a swan. For every new zoning entitlement bestowed there, the amount a buyer must pay for it will increase accordingly. The need to sell this city-owned property has assumed a new urgency as the city copes with the $10 million budget shortfall for the Canopy Project.

Property Owners Aim to Go Bigger & Taller

With these three owners anxious to make big changes on the corridor, city planning staff are taking initial steps toward adoption of a new “mixed-use overlay.” Once in place, the overlay would allow redevelopment on a scale that will significantly exceed what would be permitted in the absence of the overlay or adoption of new zoning district standards.

In return for being able to build “bigger,” these landholders say, they will “give back” to city residents in a way that will benefit everyone. It is unclear what these gifts to residents might be. Infrastructure improvements, parking garages, or green space are just guesses.

Roadway Changes Possible — Is This Your Commute?

In an effort to calm or slow traffic, a road diet on Orange Avenue, similar to that implemented on Denning, is possible. Realigning or vacating interior roads between Orange Avenue and the railroad tracks are also possible outcomes. Roundabouts at intersections are another option.

Former Planning Director Dori Stone Kick-started Rezoning Effort

In July 10, 2018, at a city commission work session on mixed-use, former City Planning Director Dori Stone told commissioners that as a “legislative body” they had a responsibility to the community to “make this happen” and to “let the community know what this corridor needs to look like.”

Ms. Stone insisted that the 2017 Comprehensive Plan must be a “fluid” document, one that “changes with the times,” noting that some of Winter Park’s most “iconic places” are examples of “mixed use” development done before the city had a Comp Plan or stricter land use laws.

Leary Chimes In

More recently, on January 22, 2019, Mayor Steve Leary weighed in at the Chamber-sponsored State of the City address. Winter Park must undergo significant “generational customization,” he advised, as old ideas on what is desirable are discarded so a new version of Winter Park can emerge. Winter Park is in a “gangly” and awkward stage right now, Leary opined.

Once brand-new mixed-use standards and an overlay are adopted, taller and more massive buildings will “make a statement,” according to Stone. Existing smaller land owners on Orange Avenue will have the choice to re-develop under the new guidelines or to remain as they are.

Stephenson Welcomes Public Input

Stone’s replacement, Bronce Stephenson, is very enthusiastic about the yet to be explored possibilities for mixed use. Every move he has made has been aimed at inviting the community to take this journey based on a collaborative process. The input session on the 28th is one of only two. The second session targets land and business owners on the corridor, though the public is invited. At this stage, written notice to citizens of the process is not legally required.

The city has retained or will retain urban design experts to devise a master plan for the Orange Avenue mixed use overlay. The master plan will control the future of the corridor.

Open Letter to Mayor & Commissioners

Status of New ‘Library’ Project

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

Open Letter to Mayor & Commissioners

Guest Columnist Joe Terranova

Most of you know that as a result of my injury last October I have been keeping a low profile as I devote my energies to my recovery, but that does not mean I have not followed City events.

The election results on Tuesday, March 12 were most interesting. It is rare that an incumbent places second in a 3 way race, or in my opinion, would have lost if only the top two candidates ran unless he were an idiot or committed grievous acts on his own while a sitting commissioner. No one can say that about Peter Weldon. So why such a poor showing against a relatively unknown challenger?

All of you know I was a member of the group that tried to prevent the city from constructing the new library in Martin Luther King Park. The courts ruled in favor of the city and as far as I am concerned this is a settled issue.

Most of the people I speak to, however, are very upset with the current City Commission`s handling of the library project. The design of grandiose structures that do not fit into the fabric of Winter Park, the dominance of the project by the civic center — later called the events center and now perhaps the convention center –plus the desire of the commission to add on items to the project in excess of the funds approved by the voters has led to dissatisfaction among many — do I dare say a majority of Winter Park voters?

Naming the project the “Canopy” and then cutting down all the beautiful specimen trees was the penultimate insult. Finally, I listened to the Mayor`s presentation to the Orange Country Commission requesting tourist dollars and to Todd Weaver`s “Bait and Switch” video.

When did the citizens of Winter Park agree to be an Orange County Convention Center “Lite?” When was a discussion held with the residents on the West Side concerning the impact of thousands of visitors to their area?

True, many in the business community like the idea of thousands of additional tourists (translate: potential business customers) swarming through Winter Park.

During the time I was Mayor I worked hard each day to advance my vision of Winter Park as a “Premier Urban Village.” Every new iteration to this project moves us further from that goal. Putting lipstick on this pig just does not help it be anything other than a pig.

I am not a psychic who can predict the results of the run off election on April 9, but I can say this project is way off course.

The proper thing to do is swallow the current expenses paid to date, scrap the whole thing and start over. I doubt, however, that this will happen. The run off election should be interesting.

Joe Terranova was Mayor of Winter Park from 1997 – 2000.

April 9 Runoff for Commission Seat #4

April 9 Runoff for Commission Seat #4

Election night ended with a resounding ‘thunk.’ The two top vote-getters, Todd Weaver and Peter Weldon, will get do-overs in an April 9 runoff, since no candidate garnered more than 50 percent of the vote.

The unofficial breakdown from Orange County shows Weaver leading the pack with 2,589 votes, or 47.9 percent, trailed by Weldon at 2,383, or 44.1 percent, and Barbara Chandler with 431 votes, or 7.98 percent. Because there were three candidates, for one to declare a decisive victory would have required he or she received more than 50 percent of the vote.

What Does That Mean for US, The Voters?

We get do-overs, too. According to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections office, anyone who has a request on file for a Vote by Mail ballot will automatically receive another Vote by Mail ballot – one with two choices this time.

Go to https://www.ocfelections.com/ and right in the center of the page you will find information about the Winter Park runoff election April 9. You can use this site to confirm your registration and ensure you will receive a Vote by Mail ballot if you want one.

Vote by Mail ballots will be mailed out March 18. The elections office was not sure whether all five Winter Park polling places would be open April 9. The Voice will update this information as we receive it.

The mood at last night’s post-election festivities was upbeat as campaigners vowed to keep waving their flags and placing yard signs.

Asked what her plans were going forward, Barbara Chandler said she had no specific plans, but expressed her gratitude to her community. “I was very proud that the community stepped up and proved themselves to be an asset to our city. We want to be taken seriously in the future and we plan to participate at this level and beyond,” said Chandler.

City Seeks Tourism Dollars to Fill Library Funding Gaps

City Seeks Tourism Dollars to Fill Library Funding Gaps


Hoping to raise more money for the city’s planned library and events center, a group of Winter Park officials is asking Orange County for $6 million in tourism tax revenue. The focus of their pitch isn’t books, but the number of tourists the Canopy project could lure to the city.

The carefully organized group, which included Mayor Steve Leary, City Manager Randy Knight, pitched the project to an Orange County review committee as a tourism magnet that will fill new city hotels and help local businesses.

The public was not invited to the February 18 gathering at the County Commission chambers. While both Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel and Pete Weldon were present in the chambers, Commissioners Carolyn Cooper and Greg Seidel were absent. Cooper said she was not told about it. “The only information shared with me was that one of several possible funding sources was a grant from TDT ARC. I was not told about the meeting or the presentation,” she said when questioned about her absence. Commissioner Greg Seidel stated that he had reviewed the grant application prior to the meeting and had offered his “two cents,” but has not engaged in raising funds for the project.

Canopy As Tourist Magnet

Tourism development taxes are charged on short-term rentals such as hotels, motels and AirBnb properties. Typical uses of the money permitted under state law include construction of such tourism meccas as convention centers, sports stadiums and museums. Libraries aren’t tourist draws, but the Winter Park group clearly believed a grand event center designed by a famous architect might be.

Mayor Leary opened the discussion with a power point on Sir David Adjaye, the internationally famed British architect chosen to design the project, called the Canopy. Leary touted Sir David’s knighthood by Prince William and flipped through photos of Adjaye’s many government and institutional buildings, pointing out Adjaye’s work draws visitors “from around the world.”

Adjaye Design Offers “A State Asset Open to All Classes”

Adjaye sent a specially made video in which he commented on Winter Park’s unique character. “Winter Park is an extraordinary and small community in Orlando but has extraordinary ambition with incredible leadership. . . The library and events center project came from a very rigorous study of the climate and culture.” Adjaye predicted the $40 million project would become a “. . .state asset and be open to all social classes.”

Also speaking on behalf of the city were David Odahowski, President and CEO of the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation (EBCF), and Jane Hames, a member of the newly formed Chamber of Commerce Tourism Advisory Board. Former Mayor Ken Bradley was in attendance.

Edyth Bush Foundation Donates $750K

Odahowski announced that the Edyth Bush foundation would bestow an unprecedented matching grant of $750,000 on the Canopy project. Noting that the foundation is the third largest donor in the history of Rollins College, Odahowski characterized Winter Park as “an authentic cultural mecca” that takes its role in the regional tourism industry very seriously. “The Canopy will enhance our tourist destination and put heads in beds stimulating additional hospitality options [hotels] . . . stores staying open late. . . restaurants packed with diners. . .ringing cash registers, generating sales tax revenue and attracting more tourists,” said Odahowski.

“The Canopy Events Center will be a cornerstone for a tourism strategy enhancing our ability to host larger meetings, celebrations and trainings. . .With your support the Canopy will launch the next ‘Golden Age’ of Winter Park tourism,” he said.

Welcome Mat is Out for Tourists

City Manager Randy Knight predicted the Canopy project will conservatively result in over 5,200 additional hotel stays per year and over one million dollars in hotel revenue. Currently there are three new hotels under construction and two others in the public approval process.

He predicted the Canopy will be more sought after as a wedding venue than the Farmer’s Market, given its architect’s international fame. Knight said the Rachel Murrah Civic Center, which has been torn down, hosted 250-400 guests. The Canopy will have four separate spaces suitable for wedding parties. Knight stated the facility will have the capacity to host statewide conventions and he estimated 1,200 Winter Park hotel stays annually from those conventions.

Knight said it’s hard to predict just how many tourists might visit the site based on its architectural merits, but he noted that more than 30,000 visitors travel annually to Florida Southern to discover Frank Lloyd Wright’s work.

New Hotels Will Accommodate Increased Tourism

Some visitors could stay at the Alfond Inn, which now is planning a 73-room addition, Knight said. According to City Planning Manager Jeff Briggs, the 110-room Hilton Garden Inn and the 120-room Spring Hill Suites by Marriott recently broke ground at Ravaudage. Three other hotels are in early stages of planning and approval. Knight stated City staff is exploring selling other city-owned properties for hotel space.

Knight noted the city’s long and close relationship with the Chamber of Commerce, which is actively recruiting tourism from Brazil and the United Kingdom. Jane Hames, who chairs the Tourism Task Force of the Winter Park Chamber said an informal Chamber study found that British residents are the largest population visiting the Chamber’s Welcome Center on Lyman Ave.

Both Knight and Leary assured the Orange County board members that the Canopy is a shovel-ready project that has “wide community support.”

Nevertheless, the Canopy project has been surrounded by debate since a $30 million bond referendum was put on the ballot in 2016 for a new library, events center and parking garage. Of the 5,411 voters, 51 percent approved the bond issue. Later that year, a group of citizens collected more than 2,000 signatures to challenge the location in Martin Luther King Park, in hopes of preserving the park’s green space. That effort failed in the courts. Recently, park patrons were furious to discover that a large number of mature trees had been removed at the site.

Although the Canopy is still in the design and development stage, Knight said a feasibility study by a professional firm shows the center will easily cover its annual expenses with a profit. Knight and Leary promised they would not seek additional operational support from the tourism revenue.

Knight displayed a chart illustrating just how important the tourism dollars are to the City’s ability to build the Canopy. Of the $40.1 million needed for construction, $28.7 million will come from the net bond issue, $5.4 million from additional community support which was not described in detail, and $6 million in tourism development money. Another potential source of funds would be the sale of the existing library property on New England Ave.

Build It & They Will Come

City leaders suggested these large numbers of tourists will generate revenue on many fronts, and the activity around the canopy will drive intense redevelopment. Mayor Leary provided an aerial view of the project, claiming it’s more than shovel ready, it is shovel active. After the project is completed, he said, the City plans to plant over 1,300-caliper-inches of trees of different species.

We’ll Know in April

According to Commissioner Greg Seidel, the project plans are at a percentage of completion “somewhere in the sixties.” Seidel explained that when the plans, including all the add-alternates, reach 80 percent completion, the Commission will have adequate information upon which to base their decisions. Seidel estimated things would come together some time in April, when the City will have nearly completed plans and will have a better idea of how much money is actually available.

To View Video of Winter Park’s Presentation, click here.

2019 Election Update

Vote by Mail Ballot Deadline; Canvassing Board Update; Rollins Debate Video

2019 Election Update

Request Your Vote by Mail Ballots by March 6

If you were expecting a Vote by Mail ballot and did not received it, the Orange County Supervisor of Elections (OCSOE) advises you to contact their office to request one.

Call 407-836-8683 or 407-836-2070. Or go online to https://ocfelections.com.

You have until March 6 to request a Vote by Mail ballot. If you prefer to vote at the polls March 12, click the above link to make sure your registration is in order and find your polling place.

Cooper, Sprinkel & Seidel Will Serve on March 12 Canvassing Board

In the City Attorney’s report at the Feb. 25 Commission meeting, City Attorney Kurt Ardaman revisited the issue of the canvassing board. “The issue has come up,” said Ardaman, “can a mayor or commissioner participate in a [campaign for] a city election, even though they are not the ones running, and still be on the canvassing board?”

Ardaman said, “I have spoken with [Orange County Supervisor of Elections] Bill Cowles – and, of course he deals with a County canvassing board, and we have a City canvassing board. They are two completely different animals.”

Ardaman explained that the Florida state statutes deal with County canvassing boards, but they do not deal with City canvassing boards. City canvassing boards are controlled by the City Charter. “Notwithstanding the participation of any mayor or commissioner in this election or campaign, they have the ability to participate. It might not be the right thing, or the wrong perspective,” said Ardaman, “but the law does not allow us to appoint anybody other than those who are provided by our Charter.”

After discussion, it was agreed that Commissioner Carolyn Cooper, Commissioner Greg Seidel and Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel will serve on the March 12 canvassing board. To view the conversation, click here.

Ballots Are Secret

Earlier conversations with City Clerk Cindy Bonham shed light on the vote certification process, which is the duty of the canvassing board.

The final vote tabulation is done at OCSOE. In addition to tabulating votes cast at the polls on election day, the Vote by Mail ballots also are tabulated by OCSOE. OCSOE compares the envelope signatures with those in their data base. Envelopes with signatures that do not match signatures in the data base are given to the City canvassing board to accept or reject.

Canvassing Process Open to the Public

On election night, after the polls close, results from each precinct are electronically transmitted to OCSOE office for tabulation. The three members of the City canvassing board go to OCSOE offices, where they will canvass votes that are in question. The process is open to the public. Any citizen is welcome to observe, but no one may interfere with the canvassing board.

When a questionable envelope is accepted by the canvassing board, it is given to OCSOE to include in the tabulation. Rejected envelopes are set aside unopened.

According to City Clerk Cindy Bonham, envelopes that are rejected are never opened by the canvassing board. So, while board members may be able to identify the voter, no one at the City ever knows how a voter votes.

According to Cindy Bonham, “OCSOE makes every effort to ensure every vote is counted correctly.”

In a small town such as Winter Park, even one vote can make the difference. Just ask Joe Terranova – Winter Park Mayor 1997 – 2000.

Rollins Debate

The third and final candidate debate between Commissioner Peter Weldon and his challenger Todd Weaver was sponsored by Rollins’ Democracy Project. Only Weaver and Weldon were present for the debate. The third candidate, Barbara Chandler, was absent.

Time to Party!

Celebrate Community & Greenspace at the Winter Park Land Trust Kickoff

Time to Party!

Feb. 28 – Farmers Market – 6 pm

The Winter Park Land Trust inaugural kickoff event at the Farmer’s Market on Thursday, Feb. 28 at 6:00 pm promises to be one great big party. There will be music, refreshments and something for everyone. Everyone is welcome – so come on out!

What’s a Land Trust?

Learn how land trusts work around the United States and hear about the Winter Park Land Trust’s vision to help plan, expand and protect urban parks and green space throughout Winter Park and surrounding communities.

Featured speakers from the City of Winter Park, the City of Orlando, the Alliance of Florida Land Trusts, the Nature Conservancy and, of course, the Winter Park Land Trust, will be joined by 15 groups at information tables, where representatives will be on hand to discuss their visions for urban parks and greenspace in Winter Park.

Participating Groups at Information Tables

City of Winter Park
City of Orlando
Nature Conservancy
Alliance of Florida Land Trusts
1000 Friends of Florida
Rollins College
University of Central Florida
Stetson University
Winter Park History Museum
Mead Botanical Garden
Audubon Society
Florida Native Plant Society
Winter Park Garden Club
IDEAS for Us
Winter Park Land Trust

Please forward this announcement to everyone you know who has an interest the future of parks and green space in Winter Park.

Open Letter to City Officials

Don’t Block W. Lyman Ave.

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

Open Letter to City Officials

Guest Columnist Janet Hommel

Dear Mayor Leary, Vice-Mayor Weldon, and City Manager Randy Knight:

We have a problem in Winter Park. You, as city leaders, are not fostering a culture of listening to residents, especially those on the Westside.

Recently, we pleaded with you not to sell Blake Yard. We begged you to consider making a community garden of the space. This was one of the last gems of city-owned urban greenspace.

After you up-zoned and sold Blake Yard, we fought the intrusion of an 8-unit cluster housing apartment building on Comstock, a street of single family homes. Again, you didn’t consider residents’ concerns.

Now you have a proposal to bisect W. Lyman Avenue at New York. You will cut off the Westside from Park Avenue. I read in the agenda item that the Chamber of Commerce is in favor of this change. I note further that staff will reach out to local businesses and will take this concept to the Transportation Advisory Board and the CRA Advisory Board for further review.

What’s missing here? Oh, them! Has it occurred to you to ask what the residents think — especially those on the Westside who will be most impacted?

What would be your reaction if the city were going to cut your street in half, making your block a dead end and forcing you to reroute to reach the other side of town? Imagine further that the city didn’t inform you of this, but rather sought input only from the neighbors on the other half of the bisected street – all of whom were commercial.

Now, try to imagine how we on the Westside feel.

Ignored. Again.

Sincerely,

Janet Hommel

258 W. Lyman Avenue
Winter Park, Florida

Chandler Joins Weaver, Weldon at Library Debate

Audience Questions Run the Gamut

Chandler Joins Weaver, Weldon at Library Debate

The capacity audience at the Winter Park Public Library got a chance to meet all three candidates for Commission Seat #4, as Barbara Chandler joined Todd Weaver and Peter Weldon for the first time in a debate open to the public.

The first few Moderator questions, posed by Carol Fogelsong of the Orange County League of Women Voters, covered traffic, congestion, parking, the library, the budget and development on major corridors such as Orange Avenue.

Audience Questions

The fun began with audience questions, which ranged from the poor condition of Lake Baldwin Park, a.k.a. the dog park, to allowing backyard chickens to a possible ban on plastic bags. There were lively exchanges on alternate modes of transportation and how to foster ethnic diversity in city government.

Watch the embedded videos to see each candidate’s views on these and other subjects.

Thanks to Three Candidates

The effort involved in campaigning for office and the devotion of time required to serve in office represent a significant level of commitment to our community. Commissioner Weldon, Mr. Weaver and Ms. Chandler deserve our appreciation for their willingness to serve.

Second of Three Public Debates

The Library debate was the second of three debates that are open to the public. The debate originally scheduled at the University Club February 27 was cancelled when Peter Weldon and Barbara Chandler declined the invitation to participate.

Third & Final Debate at Rollins Feb. 26

The remaining public debate will be at Rollins College Bush Auditorium, February 26, from 5:00 to 6:00 pm, with a reception until 6:30.

See Video of All Public Debates Here on WP Voice

The Winter Park Voice will post video of all public debates. Those who are unable to attend a debate can view the video to see which of the three candidates you will choose to represent you in Commission Seat #4.

Vote March 12

The three candidates on the March 12 ballot are Barbara Chandler, Todd Weaver and Peter Weldon.

To request your Vote by Mail ballot. Contact the Orange County Supervisor of Elections either online at https://ocfelections.com or call (407) 836-2070.