Winter Park Land Trust Kickoff

Go Green on February 28 – 6:00 pm — WP Farmers Market

Winter Park Land Trust Kickoff

Grab your Valentine and get ready to party!

Farmers Market — February 28 at 6:00 pm
Come celebrate the establishment of the Winter Park Land Trust with friends, food and music. Find out how you can be part of the mission of creating, enhancing and connecting our urban parks and green space for everyone’s benefit and enjoyment.

What is a Land Trust?

A land trust is a private non-profit organization whose purpose is to conserve land in perpetuity. It enhances the character of the community by providing open green space for recreation, education, the protection of water and air quality, wildlife habitat, and agriculture.

Land trusts ensure lasting stewardship of conserved lands and waters by working with government to create long-term plans looking out over several generations. Land trusts connect the planning process to the public through membership in the organization. There are more than 1,200 land trusts across the U.S., ranging from all volunteer community-based organizations to large staffed land conservation non-profits with statewide or national territories.

Why Does Winter Park Need a Land Trust?

The 2015 – 2016 Winter Park Visioning Process revealed that expanding and connecting urban parks and green space is one of Winter Park citizens’ most important community values.

A community land trust plays an important role providing additional local open space, and it can supplement the ability of city government to provide and maintain green space.

Land trusts in the United States are long-lived, because they are able to transcend the everyday operational responsibilities and the changes in personnel faced by local governments. They exist solely to support a permanent framework of parks and green space in cities and towns.

Vision and Mission Driven

“The mission of the Winter Park Land Trust is to plan, finance and manage the acquisition of land and interests in land to be used for the creation, expansion, improvement, and connecting of parkland and green space within and adjacent to the City of Winter Park.

Our vision is that the Land Trust will help to ensure that Winter Park and surrounding communities will be an area with sufficient parks and open space, where the footprint of existing parks will be increased, and wherever possible, parks and green spaces will be connected in order to balance and reduce the adverse impacts of increasing development and population density. Attractive green space will then always be an important asset and characteristic of the Winter Park area.”

To learn more, go to www.winterparklandtrust.org

Become a Member

By joining The Winter Park Land Trust, you can help with the process of permanent land acquisition for urban parks and greenspace in Winter Park. You can become a member now by going to the website address above – and come to the kickoff party to learn all about it!
The Winter Park Land Trust is supported through private, tax-deductible contributions. Your contribution is an effective way of acting upon your belief in creating a lasting legacy to secure the quality of life in Winter Park.

Make Way for the Wrecking Ball

Civic Center to Be Demolished This Week

Make Way for the Wrecking Ball

Controversy surrounding the city’s new library project dominated the January 28 City Commission discussions, even though it wasn’t on the agenda. This time around, criticism came from state officials, who aren’t happy with the City’s plans to build its new library and civic center at Martin Luther King Park. The state has even warned that the city could lose future grant money for parks if it doesn’t comply with the rules.

None of that is stopping the City from going full speed ahead with the project. Plans are underway to tear down the Rachel Murrah Civic Center this week and take the chainsaw to 60 trees at the park between now and April.

City Out of Compliance with State Grant Rules

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection notified the City Manager in a letter dated March 6, 2018 that the city had failed to follow the rules governing a grant it received in 1994 for improvements to Martin Luther King Park. Commissioner Carolyn Cooper and several citizens pleaded unsuccessfully with commissioners to hit the pause button to resolve the issue.

Seen in this context, and taking into account the City’s failure, so far, to come up with a clear plan to bring the Canopy project back in line with the $30 Million budget approved by the voters in 2016, the decision to proceed with such haste gives one pause.

Playing the Blame Game

“There is a small group that continues to protest this project and has gone to the State and has asked the State to overturn previous State grants, once again costing the citizens of Winter Park money,” said Leary. “If we have to pay back the State . . . uh, this is a small group who are shooting people in the foot. It’s an absurd request.”

FL Department of Environmental Protection

The notification of non-compliance came from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and concerned the 1994 grant for improvements to MLK Park under the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program (FRDAP). The grant required the City to dedicate the park, in perpetuity, “as an outdoor recreation site for the benefit of the general public.” [emphasis added]

City Version of Deed Restriction Unacceptable to FDEP

A March 6, 2018, letter from FDEP General Counsel’s office warned that the Public Dedication recorded by the City in January 2018, “does not meet the requirements of the rule and is not acceptable to the department.” The letter went on to state, “Failure to comply with the department’s rules can result in the City being declared out of compliance and therefore ineligible for further grants from the department.”

This could affect the City’s application for a FRDAP grant for improvements to the wetlands around Howell Branch.

But Wait – There’s More

A January 16, 2019 letter from FDEP stated, “It has also come to our attention that some or all of the City’s previous land and recreation grants do not have restrictive covenants recorded for the parks funded by our grants.” In addition to MLK Park, the letter contains a list of other FRDAP grants for locations such as Lake Baldwin Park, Mead Garden, Phelps Park and the Howell Branch Preserve, requesting the City to provide copies of the declarations of restrictive covenants for each within 60 days.

To read the full text, click here.

What’s a Deed Restriction?

A FRDAP grant to the City carries with it the requirement to publicly record with Orange County a covenant restricting the park to outdoor recreation, in perpetuity.

If the City converts this dedicated land to another use, according to the January 16 FDEP letter, the City must “. . .replace the removed property with property of similar size and value and replace any facilities (such as the walking trails around the current civic center that were part of the FRDAP grant) that will be removed by the new construction.”

Citizens Urge Caution

During public comment, several citizens urged the Commissioners to move cautiously with their demolition plans until the way forward is clearer.

“I see a tendency by the City to insulate itself from opposing views and from citizen input,” began Beth Hall. She pointed out that the original Library Task Force had considered multiple sites for the new library, MLK Park among them. “But I don’t see where the FRDAP grant was pointed out or considered by the Task Force,” she said. “Thus a major restriction on the viability of the site was ignored.” Hall pointed out that the City had made no attempt to inform voters of this issue at the time of the bond referendum.

Who Knew about the Grant?

In a January 30 email responding to a public records request from Beth Hall, City Clerk Cindy Bonham confirmed the City has no records of communications or materials about the MLK Park FRDAP grant being provided to the Library Task Force, to the Commission, to the Planning & Zoning Board, the Library Board, the Library Staff or to the trial court that heard the bond validation suit.

Road Not Taken

Referring to the FDEP requirement to replace all converted lands with land of similar value, Hall asked the Commission to remember the bowling alley property. “That it is gone is a failure of long-term vision and strategic thinking,” she said. “Maybe hearing other voices would have taken us another way, but we will never know, for that was the road not taken.”

When is a Canopy Not a Canopy?


Charley Williams displayed the City’s tree demolition legend, which identifies more than 60 trees that will fall victim to the chainsaw this spring. He suggested the City Communications Department might keep citizens abreast of what will transpire in MLK Park. He showed before and after pictures of mature live oaks that were removed January 26 to make way for the Civic Center demolition.

Williams urged Winter Park to “show some leadership” by heeding the advice of the Winter Park Forestry department to save mature specimen trees by root pruning and moving them to safety within the park. He pointed out that other cities have done this and that there are Winter Park residents ready and willing to privately fund the project. “We’ve already named it the Canopy,” said Williams. “Now I think we ought to walk the walk.”

‘We Keep Whittling Away Amenities While the Price Goes Up’

Kim Allen enumerated ways in which the Canopy project has changed since it started in 2016. The square footage of the library is significantly reduced. Elements of the buildings, like the porte cochere at the entrance, have either been eliminated or declared ‘alternatives,’ which the City can build only if it raises additional money. The $30 Million budget cannot accommodate many elements that would seem integral to the success of the project.

Sarah Sprinkel: “It Makes Me Mad”

In her closing comments, Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel decried having what she called “an issue that some people in this community have created for us.”

Cooper reiterated her suggestion to put the matter of the grants on the City Manager’s report so that people could see periodic updates of how the City is working through the issue. Cooper’s desire for this kind of transparency was not supported by her fellow Commissioners.

Leary: “It Just Seems to be One Thing After Another”

In his concluding remarks, Mayor Leary said, “Whether it’s trees outside, or whether it’s water . . . I mean, it’s one thing after another.”

3 Candidates Vie for Commission Seat #4

Cooper Unopposed for Seat #3

3 Candidates Vie for Commission Seat #4

Cooper Unopposed

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper will serve a fourth and final term as Commissioner in Seat #3. “I am gratified to have the support of so many Winter Park residents,” said Cooper, “and I look forward to serving those residents for the next three years.”

Incumbent Peter Weldon Seeks Second Term

Running on the slogan “Getting Results that Matter,” Commissioner Peter Weldon is seeking a second term on the City Commission. First elected in 2016, Weldon ran on a property rights oriented platform that promised to repeal the then-newly-passed Historic Preservation Ordinance. Immediately following his election, Weldon successfully accomplished that goal. His 2019 campaign points to the many positive things that have transpired in the City since 2016.

Candidate Todd Weaver

Weaver, a semi-retired aerospace engineer and engineering consultant, has lived in Winter Park for 22 years. He served on both Winter Park and Orange County Lakes and Waterways Boards and is founder of Friends of Lake Bell. He is running as a “common sense environmentalist” and says he believes “the city needs to seriously consider the choices it makes about infrastructure and what Winter Park will look like in ten or twenty years.”

Candidate Barbara Chandler

The race for Seat #4 recently heated up as a third candidate, Barbara Chandler, threw her hat into the ring to challenge incumbent Commissioner Peter Weldon and candidate Todd Weaver.

Chandler is Manager of the Hannibal Square Heritage Center. According to her website, Chandler is running on a “Families First” platform, vowing to keep Winter Park Family-Friendly. Chandler has not responded to WP Voice requests for information as of this writing, but any information she chooses to provide will be included in an updated version of this article.

May Trigger an April 9 Runoff

If none of the candidates for Commission Seat #4 receives a majority of the vote in the March 12 general election — that means 50 percent plus one vote – that will trigger a runoff election between the two candidates who received the most votes. A runoff election, if necessary, will be held April 9.

Request Your Mail-in Ballot Today

Glitch in Orange County System Has Been Fixed

Request Your Mail-in Ballot Today

Call 407-836-8683 or 407-836-2070.

Readers have called and messaged, saying they were told by the Orange County Supervisor of Elections office that they would be unable to vote in the March 12 election.

That was due to an error in the Orange County system which has been corrected.

Winter Park voters vote ‘at large,’ not by precinct or district. All Winter Park Voters May Vote in the March 12 election.

Mail-in ballots are available now.

Call 407-836-8683 or 407-836-2070 to request your mail-in ballot today.

Budget Blows a Hole in the Canopy

Project Still Doesn’t Fit the Budget

Budget Blows a Hole in the Canopy

News Flash

A small item on the City Manager’s Report at the January 14 Commission meeting stated, “Library Design: Project pricing came back on design development drawings and the project is over budget.”

Getting the Project Back to the Level It Should Be

Commissioner Greg Seidel asked City Manager Randy Knight to elaborate. “Staff continues to work with the design team,” said Knight, “trying to bring the project in on the budget the Commission’s adopted. . . . Once we get the project to the level it should be,” Knight said, “I’ll be bringing [the design] back to the City Commission . . . along with some add-alt opportunities” so the Commission can decide if they will try to fund those and, if so, how.

Should We Wait to Demolish the Murrah Civic Center?

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper attempted to make a motion to delay demolition of the Rachel Murrah Civic Center and removal of surrounding trees until the Commission has a clearer idea of how they are moving forward with the Canopy project. Cooper was, however, ruled out of order by Mayor Steve Leary because, he said, the item was not on the agenda as an action item and had not been publicly noticed.

‘Small Group of Citizens Increased Costs’

Leary went on to state, “The only increased cost to taxpayers so far has been the lawsuit brought against the taxpayers and the voters in the city by a small group. That has cost us in legal bills; that has cost us in delays. So, additional monies that must be spent to move this forward, as of today, have not been due to overages because we’re still working through the budget.”

Citizens Sought to Prevent Library Location in MLK Park

Leary was referring to the Save Our Library WP PAC’s 2016 petition drive to prevent the new library from being located in Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Park. The PAC gathered 2,300 voters’ signatures in what was supposed to be a Citizens’ Initiative, which has no deadline. The City Clerk declared the petitions “insufficient,” insisting they constituted “reconsideration of a referendum,” for which the deadline had passed. The court upheld the City, and the library location was never put to a vote. According to the City Manager, the lawsuit cost the City $32,878 – slightly less than it would have cost to put the matter of location to a vote of the people.

Bond Validation Suit – ‘A Wise Investment’

The City also spent $168,881 on a Bond Validation Suit to protect the City from future legal challenge regarding the bond issue. The successful Bond Validation Suit had the added advantage of allowing the bonds to be sold at a more favorable rate. According to an attorney who was close to the situation, who asked not to be identified, “Any expenditures associated with the bond validation will be recovered over the life of the bonds and represents a wise investment on the part of the City.”

So, What Do We Know Now about Projected Costs for the Canopy?

A November 2018 email from City Clerk Cindy Bonham summarizes spending and funding sources on the Library-Event Center as of September 30, 2018.

On Nov 9, 2018, at 2:13 PM, Cindy Bonham <CBonham@cityofwinterpark.org> wrote:

Current Cost Projections

 


In a January 16 email to the Voice, City Manager Knight sent the most current figures available at that date which, he cautioned, are nowhere near final. “At the stage this spreadsheet was developed the base project would be 12.5 percent above budget,” he wrote. The “base project” he refers to is the library-event center without a single one of the add alternates – including the porte cochere at the entrance.

“Once the design team has managed to bring the cost of the base project to within budget,” wrote Knight, “we will present the Commission a list of add alternates that we think they may wish to consider along with potential ways to fund those alternates.”

Project Status – Only the Numbers Will Change

While Knight’s numbers will definitely change, the information he provided presents a good picture of the shape of the project and where each element now stands.

Is $30 Million Enough?

From these numbers, it would appear the original $30M budget, which was supposed to include a comfortable cushion, barely covers two of the three items on the March 15, 2016 ballot, which called for a library, events center and associated parking structure.

The associated parking structure has morphed into expanded surface parking on and around MLK Park. The library has gone from 50,000 square feet to a little over 34,000 square feet. The event center will be slightly larger than the current Civic Center, estimated at 12,600 square feet.

The enhancements envisioned for the project, such as the porte cochere at the entrance, the exterior amphitheater, the interior raked auditorium and the rooftop venue stand to shoot the budget into the stratosphere, adding between $10 and $14 Million to the cost of a $30 Million project.

The Real Work Begins

To bring this Canopy dream to fruition will take some serious compromise and fundraising of mythic proportion.

Winter Season Opens at CFAM

Brilliant Color, Dark Humor and an Examination of ‘Place’

Winter Season Opens at CFAM

Rollins College Cornell Fine Arts Museum (CFAM) launches its Winter 2019 season today with a thought-provoking exhibit featuring favorites from the permanent collection and the debut of several new acquisitions. The show builds conversations around notions of ‘place’ – the city, places of devotion, landscape, the politics of place and the experience of place beyond the immediate.

What is place?
What is home?
Where do you fit – and how?
This is the essence of “The Place as Metaphor.”

Rococolab – Brilliant Color, Dark Humor

Of particular note is the gallery devoted to “The De la Torre Brothers: Rococolab.” Collaborating artist-brothers Einar and Jamex De la Torre live and work in Ensenada, Mexico and San Diego, California. Their dynamic, baroque-inspired glass work is the product of their bicultural life, which floats freely between Mexico and the U.S.

Though they are widely known in international art circles, this is the De la Torre brothers’ first solo museum exhibition in Florida. Organized by CFAM Curator Gisela Carbonell, the presentation of their work invites consideration of some of the most pressing issues in contemporary culture. Using bright light, vivid color and some very dark humor, the De la Torre brothers’ work speaks a visual language to which contemporary viewers can easily relate.

Bicultural, Bilingual English and Spanish

As you walk into the gallery, the grouping of intricate images waits, like gifts in a box, for you to unpack each one. Open them up and discover inside the beauty, joy, dark humor and scary truths they contain. The exhibit is accompanied by an illustrated booklet, available in the museum store, which is written both in English and in Spanish.

CFAM is located at 1000 Holt Avenue on the Rollins campus. It is open Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free in 2019, courtesy of PNC Financial Services Group. To check hours and special programs, visit the website at Rollins.edu/cfam

The show will be on view from January 17 to May 12, 2019.

Rollins to Get Major Facelift

Residential Capacity Will Double

Rollins to Get Major Facelift

The Rollins campus is about to get some major upgrades. The college unveiled plans to double student dormitory space and provide around 600 additional parking spaces in a new garage at the site of the current surface lot on Fairbanks and Ollie Avenue.

The architectural style of the new buildings will be consistent with the current Rollins style, and the new buildings will be constructed to minimize the appearance of mass – but they are going to be a whole lot bigger.

“We Are Not Growing the College”

In a presentation to the Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Board, Rollins President Grant Cornwell stated that Rollins has no intention of becoming any larger than it is now. “We are not growing the college,” said Cornwell, “we are simply adding residential capacity.” Cornwell added that, in his view, Rollins is ‘where it should be’ and there is no intention to increase its size.

40 Percent of Students Live Off Campus

Cornwell explained that, at present, 40 percent of the student body must reside off campus because of the shortage of student housing. McKean Hall, the current 60-year-old dormitory, has 250 to 275 beds, providing space for only the freshman and sophomore classes.

Student Housing Capacity Will Double

Rollins plans to build 250,000 square feet of new dormitories with approximately 500 beds and rooms for three Resident Advisors in the area immediately surrounding McKean Hall. Students will continue to inhabit McKean Hall until the new dorms are completed. When the new dorms are finished, McKean Hall will be demolished and a large swimming pool and patio will be built in the center courtyard, surrounded by the new dorms. This will enable the college to bring the entire junior class back onto campus.

Goal is to Increase Quality of Student Learning Experience

“Our primary goal is to increase the quality of the student learning experience by bringing them back into campus life,” said Cornwell. “What students learn outside the classroom, living with their peers, going to lectures, athletic events, musical events – and just the very dynamic of campus life – is part of the value that we bring.”

Current Student Housing Out of Date

Secondly, while Rollins is well ranked among liberal arts colleges, it is in what Cornwell described as a fierce competitive market. The current residential housing stock is old and out of date and does not live up to the expectations of students and their parents. “So,” said Cornwell, “we are both serving our mission and competing in a market.”

‘This is One Way for Rollins to be a Better Neighbor’

“The third reason,” said Cornwell, “is also important to us. We think this is a way for Rollins to be better neighbors.” Drawing a chuckle from the audience, Cornwell acknowledged that while Rollins’ 18- to 23-year-old students are all wonderful, they are not always wonderful neighbors. We think we will be a better neighbor to Winter Park if more of our students are brought back into the flow of campus life, Cornwell said.

On Campus Parking Will Be Safer

Cornwell pointed out that the new parking garage will free up spaces in the Sun Trust garage and will reduce the need for students and faculty to cross Fairbanks Avenue on foot. On campus parking should also take a good many student vehicles off the streets of Winter Park.

Construction Project on a Fast Track

Rollins hopes to complete construction and have the new dorms ready for occupancy by the beginning of the 2020 Fall term.

P&Z approved the application unanimously. The project will move forward to the Commission at the second January meeting.

Beards Sprout, Nails Glitter

To Show Support for WPPD Officer in Need

Beards Sprout, Nails Glitter

Master Police Officer John Reynolds

Winter Park’s Finest changed their dress code for the holidays. Unaccustomed facial hair on the men and festive fingernails on the women celebrate “No Shave, Pretty Nails December.” 

Unfortunately, the reason is not all mistletoe and holly and it is anything but jolly. This is a fundraising effort on behalf of Master Police Officer John Reynolds, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer last spring. Many Winter Parkers know this 47-year-old husband and father of two as a Resource Officer at Lakemont Elementary School. Reynolds is a 15-year veteran on the Winter Park Police Force and well liked in the community.

He needs our help.

His earlier treatments were not effective, so Officer Reynolds now must travel to New York for treatment. The treatments are every other week, and travel expenses for Reynolds and his wife are not covered by insurance.

“This is a long road for the family,” said newly-bearded Police Chief Michael Deal. “They just hit a new deductible in October – and the travel will not be covered. We are doing our best to help the family – and we sure could use some help from the community.”

To support Officer John Reynolds, please click here:

https://www.gofundme.com/fnncmt-help-john-kick-cancer

You may also send donations to Officer John Reynolds c/o Captain Pam Marcum, Winter Park
Police Department, 500 N. Virginia Drive, Winter Park FL 32789.

2019 Commission Hopefuls

Cooper, Weldon & Weaver . . . so far

2019 Commission Hopefuls


Although it won’t begin in earnest until after the holidays, rumblings are already audible.

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper, Seat #3, Commissioner Peter Weldon, Seat #4 and challenger Todd Weaver have all declared their intention to run for Winter Park City Commission.

Weldon, originally elected in 2016, will seek a second term. Long-time Winter Park resident Todd Weaver will challenge Weldon in the race for Seat #4.

To date, no challenger has announced opposition to Carolyn Cooper in the race for Seat #3. Cooper is seeking a fourth and final term. Commissioners’ service is limited to four 3-year terms in office.

There is plenty of time for a challenger to make his or her intentions known. The official filing dates to run for Winter Park Commission are January 17 – 22, 2019.

The election is March 12, 2019.

Rollins Panel on WP Future Draws Capacity Crowd

Rollins Panel on WP Future Draws Capacity Crowd

A standing-room-only crowd filled Rollins’ Suntrust Auditorium last night as panelists engaged the audience in a lively discussion about Winter Park’s future.

An audience of Winter Park residents and Rollins students joined panelists, former Commissioner Pam Peters, Entrepreneur Steve Goldman, Architect Phil Kean and Mayor Steve Leary, to explore how our city will navigate the opportunities and the issues facing it now and in the years to come.

Videos are in two parts, below, and last about an hour total.