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.

Local Investors Buy WP Magazine

New Ownership for FL Home Media LLC

Local Investors Buy WP Magazine

 

Winter Park Publishing Company LLC, a new company comprised of community leaders, has purchased the assets of Sarasota-based Florida Home Media, LLC, among them the award-winning Winter Park Magazine, which circulates primarily in Winter Park and Maitland. The purchase price was not disclosed.

In addition to Winter Park Magazine, the company publishes ArtsLife, the official magazine of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, and Florida Homebuyer Orlando, a consumer publication focused on the new-home industry.

Community Asset

“I’m pretty sure that an effort like this is unprecedented in this business,” said long-time editor and publisher Randy Noles, who is a shareholder and CEO of the new company. “People have come to regard Winter Park Magazine as a community asset and were very excited about the opportunity to be involved in this purchase.”

Florida Home Media was originally a spinoff of Sarasota Magazine and Gulfshore Life in Naples, both of which were owned by Dan Denton of Sarasota. Denton recently sold both highly successful magazines to national media companies.

Noles and Denton worked together for 18 years. Noles opened the Orlando division in 2004, and served as a consultant to the magazines in Sarasota and Naples.

“We could have gone the same route in the Orlando market and sought a national buyer,” said Denton, a member of the Florida Magazine Association Hall of Fame. “But given the character of Winter Park Magazine and its standing in the community, we thought it should be owned locally.”

Investors Stand In Line

Noles approached Allan E. Keen, CEO of The Keewin Real Property Company, and Richard J. Walsh, president of Knob Hill Group, requesting help in assembling an investor group to buy the company. Walsh was a co-founder of Winter Park Magazine and published it for three years until it was bought by Florida Home Media in 2012. Keen and Walsh agreed to lend their support and within weeks 44 local investors agreed to get involved.

Editorial Independence Intact

Noles emphasized that the Winter Park Magazine’s editorial independence would not be compromised. He noted the investor group includes people who hold a variety of opinions about local issues, but who are united in their belief that Winter Park is a special place.

“I have no experience in media assets, but my love for Winter Park and the amazing quality of Winter Park Magazine under Randy’s leadership made this an easy decision for Linda and me to invest, and to ask others to join,” said Allan Keen.

Local Ownership Is Key

Walsh added, “This investment not only ensures that a community asset remains under local ownership, but it’s also going to be enjoyable for our shareholders. All of them are proud of their community and view the magazine as the embodiment of that pride.”

In addition to Noles, Keen and Walsh, Theresa Swanson, publisher of Florida Homebuyer Orlando and a leader in the region’s new-home industry, will also be actively involved in the company’s management.

Community Owners

Larry and Joanne Adams; The Albertson Company, Ltd.; Richard O. Baldwin Jr.; Jim and Diana Barnes; Brad Blum; Ken and Ruth Bradley; John Caron; Bruce Douglas; Steve Goldman; Hal George; Michael Gonick; Micky Grindstaff; Marc Hagle; Larry and Jane Hames; Eric and Diane Holm; Garry and Isis Jones; Allan E. and Linda S. Keen; Knob Hill Group (Rick and Trish Walsh, Jim and Beth DeSimone, Chris Schmidt); Mitch Lasky; Drew and Paula Madsen; Kevin and Jacquelin Maddron; Kenneth J. Meister; Jack Myers; Ann Hicks Murrah; Jack Myers; Michael P. O’Donnell; Nicole and Mike OKaty; Bill and Jody Orosz; Martin and Ellen Prague; Serge and Kerri Rivera; Theresa Swanson; Sam Stark; Theresa Swanson; Randall J. Robertson; George Sprinkel; Philip Tiedtke; Roger Thompson; Ed Timberlake; Harold and Libby Ward; Warren “Chip” Weston; Thomas H. Yochum; and Victor and Jackie A. Zollo.

City to Reconsider Memory Care Center

Villa Tuscany Back on the Agenda

City to Reconsider Memory Care Center

map-asstd-living

In April 2017, Villa Tuscany Holdings (VTH) sued the City of Winter Park, challenging the Commission’s March 27 denial of their application to build a 41,000-square-foot memory care center at 1298 Howell Branch Road.

Under the jurisdiction of a Special Magistrate, the City, represented by City Manager Randy Knight, has drawn up an agreement with Villa Tuscany Holdings to enable VTH to submit plans for a revised project. To read the entire document, click here.

According to the mediated settlement agreement, in early September VTH will submit plans for a re-designed memory care center to the City planning staff. After it goes through the Planning Department, the Commission will review the new application, which will include the mediated settlement agreement. The Commission will consider the agreement and the plans as one item.

What’s Changed?

The proposed agreement calls for a reduction in gross square footage from 41,352 to 30,896.

Although the redesigned building will be two stories instead of three, the maximum height will be reduced by only three feet. The number of on-site parking places will increase from 23 to 25 – which still represents a variance from the required 27 spaces.

The number of patient “units” drops from 51 to 46. Despite a significant reduction in rooms and in square footage, however, the number of patient beds is reduced by only one – for a total of 50.

Commission May Review in October — Date Flexible

The date has not yet been confirmed, but it is tentatively scheduled for the first Commission meeting in October.

News Update

No Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in WP

News Update

On June 9, 2017, the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 8A (SB 8A), the Medical Use of Marijuana Act, designed to establish regulations for the implementation of Amendment 2, which allows the sale of medical cannabis in the state of Florida.

Political Banana Peel

In what Commissioner Peter Weldon called a “political banana peel thrown under our feet,” the law makes county and municipal governments choose. Either they must treat medical marijuana dispensaries exactly the same way they treat pharmacies or they must ban them altogether.

Dispensaries Banned – For Now

On Monday, July 24, the Commission voted 4-1 to pass an ordinance banning medical cannabis dispensaries from the City of Winter Park. Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel cast the dissenting vote.

Medical Marijuana Supporters Seek to Overturn Law

Meanwhile, proponents of medical marijuana dispensaries are asking the courts to overturn the state law. If they are successful, adoption of the City ordinance automatically establishes a one-year moratorium, which would give the City time to understand the impact of the court ruling and to devise an alternative ordinance that would be in full compliance.

Editor’s Note: Readers wishing to comment on this latest development should scroll to the end of the full story and click the Comment link there.

Will of the Voters – Up In Smoke?

State Rules Restrict Medical Marijuana in FL Cities

July 26, 2017 / by Anne Mooney

At a special work session July 25, the Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Board moved to request the Commission enact an ordinance “to prohibit medical marijuana treatment center dispensing facilities within the boundaries of the city . . . .”

If the Commission passes it, this ordinance will repeal and replace a 2014 ordinance, No. 2981-14, which would have permitted dispensaries of non-euphoric medical cannabis in limited industrial and warehouse districts within the city.

Winter Park is among 88 municipalities and four counties (Osceola, Sumpter, Hernando and Columbia) considering prohibitions, moratoriums or other restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries.

Voters Want Medical Cannabis

On the November 8, 2016, ballot, Florida voters approved the Florida Medical Marijuana Legislation Initiative, also known as Amendment 2, with a decisive 71.3 percent of the vote. The measure went into effect January 3, 2017. The state legislature, however, neglected to establish the necessary rules and regulations for the implementation of Amendment 2 during their regular session.

House Speaker Wants to Make the Rules

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, however, objected to ceding power for making rules for implementation to the Florida Department of Health and called for a special legislative session to address medical marijuana legislation. “To just leave it to bureaucrats sitting over at the Department of Health,” he said, “I think would be a gross injustice.”

Gov. Scott: ‘Okay, Make the Rules’

On June 2, Governor Rick Scott called for a special session June 7 through June 9. He issued a statement, “Medical marijuana was approved by 71 percent of Florida voters in 2016, and I believe that it is the role of the Florida Legislature to determine how to best implement this approved constitutional amendment. I am glad that both the Florida Senate and House are moving toward crafting legislation to help patients, and I have added medical marijuana to the call for special session.”

Senate Writes the Rules . . .

On June 9, 2017, the Florida State Legislature passed Senate Bill 8A (SB 8A), the Medical Use of Marijuana Act, designed to establish regulations for the implementation of Amendment 2.

SB 8A defined the medical conditions that qualified a patient for medical marijuana. It placed a cap on the number of retail dispensaries and medical marijuana treatment centers until April 1, 2020. It banned smoking medical marijuana. It banned doctors with a financial interest in marijuana growing or testing facilities from prescribing marijuana. It levied no tax on medical marijuana.

Locals Implement the Rules . . .or Not

The law also gave local county and municipal governments a choice. Either they can regulate medical marijuana dispensaries exactly the same way they regulate pharmacies . . . or they can ban them.

In short, the only way to regulate them is to ban them completely.

Commission to Decide at July 24 Meeting.

News Update: New England Ave. Project Denied

News Update: New England Ave. Project Denied


by Anne Mooney

On a 5-0 vote last night, the Commission denied BFC Holdings’ application to build a 52,600 square-foot mixed use complex at 158 E. New England Ave.

Fuzzy Parking Math Still Not Cleared Up

The basis for denial was the applicant’s failure to offer sufficient mitigation for the 80- to 100-space parking deficit (the exact number depends on who’s counting and how). Even though the City was prepared to grant an unprecedented concession of requiring three parking spots per 1,000 square feet of office/retail space – all other Class A office buildings in Winter Park are required to provide four spaces per thousand – BFC Holdings still came up short.

CBD Parking Study Now in Progress

When this project was tabled at the March 27 Commission meeting, Planning Director Dori Stone observed that the City’s parking studies needed updating. The City has since hired a consultant, Kimley-Horn, who is now in the midst of a parking assessment of the Central Business District (CBD). Commissioners suggested that allowing this project to go forward with such a large parking variance before they have the study results would be premature.

If the Parking Code is Wrong, Why Is It Still In Place?

Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel objected to the Commission being asked to grant what amounts to a change in the parking code for a single applicant. “Why is the code still in place, even when you are now telling us it shouldn’t be?” asked Sprinkel.

‘Class A Office in the CBD Is Different’

At the March 27 Commission meeting, Planning Director Dori Stone asserted that Class A office space in the CBD operated differently from Class A office space in any other part of Winter Park and could, therefore, be supported by three spaces per 1,000 square feet.

‘What Is Class A Office, Anyway?’

At the July 10 meeting, Planning Manager Jeff Briggs stated that staff “was having difficulty coming up with an agreed-upon definition of Class A office space.” Parameters for size and other characteristics of everything from hallways to conference rooms, which would set ‘Class A’ apart from Classes B or C, apparently do not exist.

Can Valet Parking Promise Be Enforced?

Referring to the applicant’s assurances that all visitors to the new complex would be required to use valet parking, either in the New England Avenue building garage or in the Bank of America garage across the street, Commissioner Greg Seidel questioned how the requirement to use valet parking would be enforced.

Unless the applicant enforces the valet parking, it probably will not be enforced at all, since Winter Park employs only one parking enforcement officer for the entire City.

Time to Close This Chapter

Commissioners asked the applicant for compromise. “The building is lovely,” they all agreed, “but it’s too big.” Commissioner Peter Weldon said he thought it was time to “close the chapter” on the application in its current form, and he moved to deny. The other four Commissioners agreed.

Duck the Summer Heat & You’ll Miss All the Fun

BFC Holdings is Back with New England Ave. Project

July 8, 2017 / by Anne Mooney

BFC Holdings will return to the Commission on Monday, July 10, with their proposal to build a 52,600 square-foot mixed use building at 158 East New England Avenue.

BFC Wants Big Variances

The proposal came before Planning & Zoning and then the Commission in March of this year. Neither body was able to reach a decision regarding the project, which requests variances for building height, third-floor setbacks and a significant parking deficit.

P&Z Can’t Decide

After hearing the application on March 7, P&Z was evenly divided, with a 3-3 vote. Rather than tabling again – as they had at the November 7, 2016 meeting — or denying the application, P&Z kicked it forward to the Commission.

Commission Can’t Decide

On March 27, the Commission couldn’t decide either. They were okay with the variance for 45 feet of building height, rather than the 40 feet permitted in C-2 zoning. They were also willing to go along with a vertical façade along Knowles Avenue with no setback or terracing on the third floor to break up the vertical mass of the 45-foot-high wall. But they just couldn’t solve the applicant’s fuzzy parking math. See Winter Park Sings the Parking Blues.

‘Back to the Drawing Board’

Concluding a meeting that lasted well beyond 10:00 p.m., the Commission unanimously voted to table the application, advising the applicant their project “was not ready for prime time,” and to “work things out” regarding the parking variances.

What’s Changed Since March 27th Meeting?

According to the July 10 Agenda Packet, City staff has “discussed parking issues and suggested changes with the applicant based on comments made by individual commissioners at the public hearing. However, the application is unchanged since the March 27th meeting.”

Only the Weather Has Changed

Apparently, the only things that have changed are the weather and the requirement for public notice. According to City Code, after a tabling the only people required to receive notice in the mail of a public hearing are property owners within 1,500 feet of the subject property. The hearing is, however, publicly advertised, as are all public meetings.

Form, Not Content

The application contains a draft Developer’s Agreement that was not included in the March 27th application. According to the Agenda Packet, the agreement incorporates approvals needed and commitments from the applicant made at the March 27th meeting. The draft, however, contains changes recommended by the City Attorney only “as to form but not content.”

Two Hearings Required for Approval

Since no decision was reached at three previous hearings, BFC still has to clear the hurdles. As a request for Conditional Use for a three-story building within the Central Business District, BFC’s application requires two more hearings. A July 10 Commission decision to approve the project would result in a second hearing July 24.

MLK Game Changer

Will Rollins Stadium Disappear from MLK Park?

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

MLK Game Changer

Guest Columnist — Charley Williams

At a June 15 Parks and Recreation Advisory Board workshop, the attending parks consultant stated that Rollins College and the City were contemplating moving the Rollins softball stadium out of MLK Park. Communications Director Clarissa Howard told the Voice that Rollins officials had indicated “a willingness to discuss the possibility,” though she could not confirm that such discussions are currently underway.

Whether these discussions occur now or in the future, if it turns out the stadium can be removed from its present location, a primary reason for relinquishing the bowling alley property would also be removed.

Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel wrote in a June 14, 2017, email: “The perpetual agreement Rollins has for the 3 million dollar (their money) lease for the softball stadium is not an attractive structure to view and disallows a long range view of the park. That is not within our purview to undo and would make extremely costly space.”

Costly or not, the stadium has outlived its usefulness. It is no longer regulation size and cannot support sanctioned play or host tournaments.

From Bowling Alley to Grand Allee

The possibility of removing the stadium opens up a whole new dynamic for MLK Park. If the bowling alley property were retained and added to the mix, it would create unobstructed sight views — a dramatic ‘view-shed’ from the planned library/events center on the north end of the park all the way to Fairbanks on the south. Winter Park would have a gateway feature with a Grand Allee, leading to a world-class library-event structure with green space in between. 

I hope the Mayor, Commissioners and City Manager do engage in discussions with Rollins to remove the stadium from the MLK footprint, and that they will reconsider the opportunity to create that unobstructed view through the park.

In the presence of such a possibility, would it not be wise to slow things down, to assume a wait-and-see stance? That kind of game changer would be a win for everyone.

Vice Mayor Goes Full Monty

Vice Mayor Goes Full Monty

On June 1, I wrote an article titled “Keep the Bowling Alley Property – Expand MLK Park” and published it in the Winter Park Voice.
http://winterparkvoice.com/keep-the-bowling-alley-property-expand-mlk-park/

The next day, June 2, Commissioner Peter Weldon circulated an email to Winter Park residents with a link to his own blog, Winter Park Perspective. Weldon’s instruction at the top of the email was: “Fellow Winter Park Residents, Please share with friends and neighbors.” Having received this email and concluding I was not alone in receiving it, I heeded Weldon’s instruction and posted his email in the comments section below my story.

From: Pete Weldon
Subject: A Few Trees, Lots of Concrete, Little Expanded Park, Lots of Your Money
Date: June 2, 2017 at 10:10:05 AM EDT

Fellow Winter Park Residents,
Please share with friends and neighbors.

NEW POST:  A Few Trees, Lots of Concrete, Little Expanded Park, Lots of Your Money   (click to read on-line)
The editor of Winter Park Voice, Anne Mooney, has stopped her pretense of providing “news” and has gone public with her true purpose, that being to use her blog and Facebook page to promote her policy prescriptions for Winter Park. Notably, these prescriptions are underpinned by conspiracy theories and based not on fact, but on suspicion that those who actually spend their time serving the city must have some unjust ulterior motive, because they don’t share her views.

I am going “full monty” on this because the people of Winter Park deserve to understand the manipulation. I expect, and believe you deserve, city policy driven by full and thoughtful debate, not driven by political manipulation from people for whom a political agenda supersedes respect for the facts and respect for those who serve our community.

Ms. Mooney’s latest piece exposes her efforts as a significant disservice to Winter Park.
Please read: “Keep the Bowling Alley Property – Expand MLK Park,” and then go here for some facts.

Sincerely, Pete Weldon 
Vice Mayor of Winter Park

Who Puts Up Comments on Voice Site?

Only two people can post anything on the WP Voice website – the editor and the web developer. Comments input on the site are held for moderation and must be approved, and only then are they posted. Comments containing personal attacks and inappropriate language are not posted. Comments may be edited to remove inappropriate language. No reader has direct access to the site.

Originally, I posted Commissioner Weldon’s email under the title “Pete Weldon.” He did not post it; I did.

“John Dough” Weighs In

Very soon after, a person writing as “John Dough” responded to Weldon’s comment. I moderated Dough’s comment and posted it. It appears beneath Weldon’s post, as it was written in response to Weldon’s comment, not to the article.

Those of you who have posted on the Voice website know that there is a way for you to post with a pseudonym and a way to hide your email address. “John Dough” posts frequently and takes advantage of these features. When his or her post arrives via email, the only information visible to the moderator is the IP Address of the computer. The right to post an anonymous comment has been the policy of the Voice since its inception, and it will remain Voice policy.

Weldon Response

The next day, June 3, Commissioner Weldon sent the following email.

From: Pete Weldon
Sent: Saturday, June 3, 2017 9:16 PM
To: anne mooney <annemooney@earthlink.net>
Subject: Problem

Ms. Mooney,
I note a comment here: http://winterparkvoice.com/keep-the-bowling-alley-property-expand-mlk-park/ under my name that I did not post. It appears the person commenting anonymously as “John Dough” created the comment under my name so he or she could write a response, pretending it was a response to something I posted.

I ask that you immediately remove the comment using my name, along with the response.

I ask that you send me the identifying Internet information on the comment under my name. This would include email address and IP address along with other information tracked by your blog software.

I ask, as I have before, that you limit comments to the Winter Park Voice Facebook page where the author needs to have a verified identity. I hope you will someday contribute to minimizing politically motivated manipulation of the facts, rather than facilitating such behavior.

Regards, Pete Weldon

Another Email Arrived June 5

From: Pete Weldon
To: ‘anne mooney’ <annemooney@earthlink.net>
Subject: RE: Problem
Date: Jun 5, 2017 11:42 AM

Ms. Mooney,
The fraudulent comment under my name is still present: https://www.drphillipscenter.org/cart/reserve-seats.stml?perf_id=5797.[sic]

I am looking into legal action and encourage you to remove the comment and the response immediately.

I also ask that after removing the comment and response, that you post a comment noting what happened and tell your readers what changes you will make in your site policies to avoid abetting such fraud. I point out that your failure to have and to enforce policies intended to avoid such fraudulent behavior is a tacit endorsement of such behavior.

Regards, Pete Weldon

June 6 — Weldon wrote to correct the typographical error in the link.

From: Pete Weldon
Sent: Jun 6, 2017 12:17 PM
To: ‘anne mooney’
Subject: RE: Problem

Ms. Mooney,
The link below is a typo. The correct link is: http://winterparkvoice.com/keep-the-bowling-alley-property-expand-mlk-park/.

I trust you will remove this fraudulent comment using my name and the related response. It has now been 3 days since the initial request.

Regards, Pete Weldon

Comment Heading Revised

In response to Weldon’s request, I changed the heading above Weldon’s comment to read, “Emailed to residents by Peter Weldon and posted here by WP Voice staff.”

On June 19, Weldon sent the following message.

From: Pete Weldon
To: anne mooney <annemooney@earthlink.net>
Subject: Using my Name without my permission
Date: Jun 19, 2017 4:41 PM
Ms. Mooney,

I see you have changed the title of the fraudulent comment under my name. Link: http://winterparkvoice.com/keep-the-bowling-alley-property-expand-mlk-park/.

The title now reads: Emailed to residents by Peter Weldon and posted here by WP Voice staff
June 2, 2017 at 4:20 pm

This is dishonest.

What would be honest is for you to:

Remove the comment along with the response by “John Dough.”
Write a story that you email to your list and post on the WPV Facebook page with a detailed history of how you allowed an anonymous source to fraudulently post a comment under my name and then allowed comments on the fraudulent comment.
Clarify that your [sic] chose to pretend “WP Voice staff” posted the comment when in fact you did not.
The story would include a link to my actual blog post referenced but not linked in the fraudulent post: http://www.winterparkperspective.org/2017/06/02/no_trees_lots_of_concrete_no_park_lots_of_money/.

I certainly hope you come to better understand your responsibility as a paid commentator.

Regards, Pete Weldon

Enter: The First Amendment Foundation

Although I never personally responded to any of Weldon’s emails, I did seek assistance from the First Amendment Foundation.

On June 20, First Amendment Foundation President, Barbara Petersen wrote to Mr. Weldon advising that, as an elected official and public figure, his correspondence constitutes public record. Since Mr. Weldon sent the emails to the Voice editor, they were obtained lawfully and the Voice has the right to publish them. As editor of the Winter Park Voice, I am a journalist protected by the First Amendment.
[To read the full text of the First Amendment Foundation letter to Mr. Weldon, click here.]

Weldon Responds to F.A.F.

From: Pete Weldon <pete.weldon@cityofwinterpark.org> To: Barbara Petersen <Sunshine@floridafaf.org>
Cc: anne mooney <annemooney@earthlink.net>
Subject: RE: Letter from FAF concerning emails to Anne Mooney, editor, Winter Park Voice
Date: Jun 20, 2017 7:06 PM
Barbara,

It is indeed humorous to receive your letter!

I am a supporter of the sunshine law and take it very seriously. I feel badly that you took your time to write a two page letter informing me of what I already know and act upon.
I never questioned anyone’s right to re-publish anything.

It is Ms. Mooney’s sanctimonious request for you to question my requests to her that should receive your attention. Ms. Mooney has a long track record of pretending to provide “news” to Winter Park residents when the facts are clear that she is purely a political actor, offering commentary and writing on subjects only supportive of her positions, and those of residents who confidentially fund her. While legal, there is nothing transparent in the “Sunshine” sense about anything Ms. Mooney writes or distributes. She blatantly coordinates behind the scenes with commissioners and others to push out emails and blog posts timed and designed to promote a political agenda (exactly the back room dealing the Sunshine Law is intended to prevent). Her request to you to admonish and question me about transparency and the sunshine law is the laughable height of hypocrisy.

You are being used.

Here are the facts:

On or about June 2nd someone posted a copy of an email I wrote as a comment on Ms. Mooney’s blog. There is no problem in duplicating what I wrote, provided the person posting the comment identify themselves and note that they are copying my email. The problem is that this comment was shown as being placed on the blog by me under my name, when in fact I did no such thing. Further, the comment was something I would never have offered on Ms. Mooney’s blog. Someone fraudulently used my name as the person posting the comment. The content of the comment is not in question. Fraud includes a person or thing intending to deceive others. Someone, perhaps Ms. Mooney but she has not come forward, posted the comment pretending to be me, thereby intending to deceive others that I in fact posted the comment when I did not.

Shortly after, someone commented on the comment falsely ascribed to me, indicating that the commenter either believed I had posted the comment or was the person posting the comment using my name, and did so to create a context to provide their comment.

Sometime recently, at least 10 days after I brought this to Ms. Mooney’s attention, without responding to me, Ms. Mooney changed the author text of the comment to read, “Emailed to residents by Peter Weldon and posted here by WP Voice staff June 2, 2017 at 4:20 pm.” Which is false. Ms. Mooney conveniently removed my name as the author of the post many days after the actual posting, not on June 2nd. All those reading the post prior to Ms. Mooney’s edit were misled and Ms. Mooney has done nothing to correct the record. She has either committed or abetted fraud, or both.

My apologies on behalf of Ms. Mooney for wasting your time.

Regards, Pete Weldon

A Masterplan to Nowhere

Guest Columnist – Charley Williams

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

A Masterplan to Nowhere

One week ago, the Winter Park City Commission voted 3-2 to move forward with the sale of a gateway property contiguous to one of the city’s benchmark parks: MLK Park, future site of the new Library/Events Center complex. The 1.5 acre parcel, known as the Bowling Alley property, could have become a functional green space entranceway to our city. But a gateway argument did not capture this Commission’s imagination.

Illustration Courtesy of Michael Planning

Citizens are now left with serious questions about how all our expensive studies, workshops and summary reports can come together to form a cohesive plan for parks, ball fields, green space, partnerships, trails and connectivity, supported with the necessary implementation budget.

Our Parks Masterplan (2008 Wade-Trim) is now 10 years out of date. This is the document which should be guiding our next steps, not only with current decisions surrounding MLK Park, but all our future parks discussions. First things first.  Let’s hope the City Commission adopts a budget for this badly needed roadmap (estimate: $120,000) and expedites implementation. We are coming late to this party.

If you are not familiar with the 2008 Parks Masterplan, I invite you to take a look: Scroll down to the very bottom of the page:
https://cityofwinterpark.org/departments/parks-recreation/administration/publications/

Other questions which merit attention: Will Winter Park have a “Great Park” one day? Where is that plan?  What is the vision? What green space parcels has the City acquired in the past 2 years? 4 years? 6 years? Are we keeping pace with need and more importantly, with our required 10 acres of park space/per 1,000 resident formula, now that our population has reached 30,000?

The 2008 Parks Masterplan states that “seventy-nine (79) acres of additional parkland are required by 2028 (note: that’s in 10 years) to meet existing and projected demand for parks and recreational facilities” (Recommendation 3.1).

Where will this new park land come from? At what price?

According to Wade-Trim, “The estimated cost to meet projected demand for parkland by 2028 is $41.3 million. This would require approximately $13.1 million of land acquisition every 5 years, or approximately $2.6 million annually.” (Section 7.2, Estimated Costs Associated with Projected Demand)

The report also highlights an 8 multi-purpose playing field deficit for our children by 2028. (Recommended Action 3.4)

And let’s not forget this recommendation. “City of Winter Park Parks and Recreation Masterplan should be updated at least every 5 years to reflect any shift in development trends and desires of the community.” (Recommended Action Step 3.5)

It would appear that we are making decisions in a vacuum. The budget for the MLK Park future usage exercise with GAI consultants is in the range of $50,000 in CRA monies. Yet there is apparently no cross-reference with our own Winter Park Parks Masterplan needs and capacity issues, because it is 10 years out of date.

Interesting as well, our Winter Park Vision plan was submitted on June 9, 2016, and has been sitting on a shelf for the past year. Why pay $200,000 for a plan we are not going to fund or implement? Are these exercises meant to be moot?

Said the Cheshire Cat to Alice, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”
From ‘Alice in Wonderland’
By Charles Lutwidge Dodgson writing under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll.

Charley Williams provides the marketing for a local civil engineering firm working on such infrastructure projects as Sunrail, Wekiva Parkway, I-4 and the new South Terminal at Orlando International Airport. He has been a Winter Park resident for twelve years.