Happy Times at P&Z

Yes, You Read That Right

Happy Times at P&Z

The June Planning & Zoning Board meeting looked like it might be a contentious one. Several items on the agenda were repeats that had met with rigorous public opposition when they’d been to City Hall before. Among them were the old bowling alley property at 1111 W. Fairbanks and the Villa Tuscany Holdings property at 1298 Howell Branch Road. Also scheduled were requests by Z Properties to build an office building and parking lot, and by Sydgan for a zoning change — both in the Hannibal Square neighborhood. To round things out, there was a request for a lakefront lot split, something specifically forbidden in the Comprehensive Plan.

But, this time, the system worked for everyone. Staff and applicants were well-prepared with requests that fell squarely within the spirit of what the Comprehensive Plan spells out as good for the city – and everyone gave as good as they got.

Officers Chosen, Elevations Approved

The first order of business was the selection of Ross Johnston to Chair and Shelia DeCiccio to Vice Chair the P&Z Board for the coming year. This was followed by approval of final building elevations for the west end of the Winter Park Corners shopping center on Aloma and Lakemont and for the office building on the former bowling alley property at 1111 W. Fairbanks. Both sailed through with little or no discussion.

Villa Tuscany Forgets Memory Care

Villa Tuscany Holdings LLC was up next, but instead of another version of the memory care center at 1298 Howell Branch Rd., they presented a request to subdivide the property into four large residential lake-front lots. Former opponents of the memory care project, Barry Render and Nancy Freeman, spoke in support of the proposed residential subdivision, and P&Z voted to approve.

Z’s Dilemma . . .

The next issue was a complicated request by Z Properties for zoning and future land use changes at 301 N. Pennsylvania Ave. in the heart of the Hannibal Square neighborhood. The lot is 100 feet wide by 200 feet deep and has a split Future Land Use designation. The half fronting Pennsylvania Ave. is zoned commercial and the rear half is zoned residential. The applicant wanted to erect an office building on the commercial half, but to do that, he needed part of the residential half as a parking lot to satisfy the City parking requirements for the proposed office building. That would necessitate rezoning part of the land from R2, residential, to PL, parking lot.

Finds an Elegant Solution

The developer, Zane Williams, explained that he had approached this development “in a different way.” At the outset, he requested meetings with city planner Jeff Briggs and with Mary Daniels and several other neighbors from the west side community. In the course of these meetings, Williams learned that people living on the west side were deeply concerned about the rate at which the area is losing residential. So, Williams said, “What would happen if I give you a part of my land and build you a house there?”

Williams: “And I Learned Something in the Process”

Z Properties entered into a contract with the Hannibal Square Community Land Trust to build a new single-family home on 33 feet of the residential portion of the property and to deed over the home and the property to the Land Trust. The new home will be an affordable home in perpetuity. The new owner who eventually moves into the house will own only the building. Ownership of the land on which the home sits will remain with the Land Trust. Any profit the owner of the house might realize from a future sale is capped, ensuring the property will remain perpetual ‘affordable housing’ overseen by the Land Trust.

Lake Front Lot Split

Following Sydgan’s request for rezoning, which turned out to be an administrative ‘clean-up’ with no controversy attached, Amy Black came with her request to subdivide a large 3-acre parcel on Lake Killarney into three single-family one-acre lots. The amendment to the Comprehensive Plan allowing the lake-front split would apply only to Lake Killarney and would not affect any of the Chain of Lakes. The result of this lot split would be three so-called estate lots – one acre or larger – where now there is only one.

This lot split would also enable Ms. Black’s mother to remain in her home of many years with security in her retirement. “I know your job is to protect and do what’s best for the City and for the beautiful lake,” said Ms. Black, “while my main concern is for the health and well-being of my mother. We are confident that this action will honor and serve both interests.”

After being assured by the City attorney that the policy change applied only to Lake Killarney, and that nothing would change the ‘estate lot’ status of the property, P&Z voted to approve the request.

And everyone went home at a good hour, all the better for having participated in the process.

WP History Museum Launches Hotel Exhibit

WP History Museum Launches Hotel Exhibit

“Wish You Were Here: Hotels & Motels of Winter Park”

Mark your calendar – Thursday, June 7, 5:00 to 8:00 pm – The Winter Park History Museum will open its new exhibit, “Wish You Were Here: The Hotels and Motels of Winter Park.” This is a family friendly event that will feature food, friends and the music of Frank Sinatra.

Hotels and Rollins Built Winter Park

The vision Loring Chase and Oliver Chapman had for Winter Park consisted of two key elements. One was Rollins, established 1885, and the other was luxury hotels that would appeal to the wealthy ‘carriage trade’ from the northeast. To that end, they set aside three elevated five-acre lakefront lots for the large luxury hotels that became the Virginia Inn, the Seminole Hotel and the Alabama.

Every Hotel Lobby Had a Land Sales Office

The purpose of the hotels was to appeal to the type of guest who was wealthy enough to invest in the town and intellectually liberal enough to create a community that would be attractive to the academics who would create Rollins.

The lobby of every luxury hotel featured a land sales office offering land for homesteads, commercial development and citrus production. Tours of citrus groves were a central feature of the sales presentations.

Hotels at Center of Community Life

As time passed, Winter Park became more established and the large hotels became centers of local community activity. Residents could buy memberships to use the hotels’ recreational facilities. The hotels provided a place for larger business and social events. It is fitting that Rollins has come full circle with the Alfond Inn, which serves as a watering hole for locals and as the repository for the Alfond family’s extensive collection of contemporary art – in addition to accommodating visitors from around the world.

Motels and Boarding Houses

The show will include a study of smaller boarding houses and hotels that accommodated the working class tourists and staff who traveled with the wealthy luxury hotel patrons. There will also be a section devoted to the classic Florida motels that grew up around Lake Kilarney and 17-92, which became popular tourist destinations in the 1940s.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.wphistory.org

or call 407-647-2330.

“The Canopy”

As a Brand, Will That Cover It?

“The Canopy”

Discussion of the new library-event center at Monday night’s May 14 Commission meeting seems to have raised more questions than answers.

How much will the library-event center cost?

After a dizzying hour-long discussion of design and building costs and possible sources of revenue, City Manager Randy Knight confirmed the total buildout of the Adjaye-designed library and event center, with all the add-alternates – the raked auditorium, the outdoor amphitheater, the porte cochere covering the entrance and a roof-top venue for the event center – will cost $37 million.

The Commission voted to proceed with the raked auditorium, the outdoor amphitheater and the porte cochere. While they did not approve the roof-top venue buildout, they voted to engineer the event center structure so the venue can be added at a later date. There is still no parking structure in the budget – or in the plans.

What About Parking?

Commissioner Cooper pointed out that everything she had read in the agenda packet about the rooftop venue talked about “doubling the amount of opportunity” to lease out the facility. “And what I would say to all of you,” she said addressing the other Commissioners, “the problem we have not resolved is parking. And for us to add on another venue . . . for me parking is a real problem.”

What about Operations & Maintenance?

Cooper also pointed out that, so far, there has been no move to fund the operation and maintenance of the facility. Mayor Leary had suggested that some funds could come from the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), and Cooper pointed out that CRA funds could be used both for parking and for operations and maintenance. Apparently the City is also seeking to raise money from state and county tourist development agencies.

Where Will We Get the Extra Money?

To complete the components that have been approved, the City is still around $7 million short, according to Jim Russel of Pizzuti Solutions. That means additional fund raising has become a necessity.

What Shall We Call It?

Majority thought from the dais, with Mayor Leary in the vanguard, was that if you have to raise money to build it, you must first brand it.

Former Commissioner Tom McMacken kicked off the branding discussion. He spoke as a member of the current Library Task Force – which has taken on the task of creating a brand to use in the fund raising effort. Task Force members include Sam Stark, Leslie O’Shaughnessy and McMacken, who also serves on the Library Board of Trustees.

“When we go out to the public to raise money,” said McMacken, “what we hear is ‘Don’t bring us the old library.’” McMacken stated that a brand is so important that the Library Board of Trustees has put its current fundraising activity on hold until the City has agreed upon a brand.

Canopy

McMacken explained that the Library Task Force had worked with Mark Calvert of Winter Park-based Evolve Design Group to come up with the brand “Canopy,” which was meant to encompass the new library, the event center and the entire campus upon which the facility will sit within Martin Luther King, Jr. Park. The Task Force proposed the various locations would be styled as ‘The Library at the Canopy,’ ‘The Event Center at the Canopy,’ and ‘MLK Park at the Canopy.’

Not So Fast, Says Sprinkel

The notion of including Martin Luther King, Jr. Park under the rubric of the Canopy drew immediate resistance from Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel, who very clearly did not want to rename the park. She said she would agree to assigning the name ‘Canopy’ to the library, event center and the porte cochere that joins the two buildings, but was firm that nothing should happen to diminish the identity of Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.

Mayor Steve Leary hastened to reassure Commissioner Sprinkel that renaming MLK Park was never the intent, but insisted, “We need a branding, something we can take out there to people to explain what this is.”

Why Not the ‘Winter Park’ Brand?

Commissioner Cooper pointed out that ‘Winter Park’ itself “is an already mature brand that is recognized as excellent.” She suggested the work of the Task Force might not yet be complete, and that before reaching a final decision they would be well-advised to seek further input from people on the name ‘Canopy’ and the accompanying branding language.

How Does ‘Canopy’ Relate to the Library?

“I’m wondering,” said Cooper, “why the recommendation [Canopy] is so generic. I don’t see how it relates to learning, knowledge, reading, education, opportunity, or intellectual curiosity – all qualities associated with a public library. What would differentiate it from any other mixed-use development – in Winter Park or elsewhere?

“I could see where ‘Canopy’ conveys a sense of inclusion . . . one-stop shopping, maybe – but not wonder and learning. That doesn’t resonate with me.”

Library and Event Center Are Now ‘The Canopy’

Despite reservations about brand confusion and questionable appropriateness expressed in citizen comments following the Commissioners’ deliberation, the Commission voted 3-2 to name the entire complex designed by British architect David Adjaye “The Canopy.” Leary, Sprinkel and Seidel supported the motion. Dissenting votes were cast by Cooper and Weldon.

Empty Promises

New Library: Bait-&-Switch?

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

Empty Promises

Guest Columnist Peter Knowles Gottfried

Have you ever gone to a car dealership to investigate an incredibly good deal only to realize the “deal” really is too good to be true? Or perhaps you were enticed by an ad for a condo with water view only to find that “water” was a retention pond. This is how folks who voted for the proposed “Library-Event Center” must be feeling.

We were promised a beautiful 50,000 square foot Library and new Event Center at the corner of Harper Avenue and Morse Boulevard overlooking Lake Mendsen. We also voted for a parking structure that would adequately service both the new library and the event center. And finally, City literature told us, “The new library, event center and garage footprint will require less than 1percent of additional open space” within Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.

As it develops, however, the situation becomes more and more like being the customer at the car dealership anticipating a shiny new Highlander and being offered a used Yaris instead.

The 50,000 Square Foot Promise.

Let’s begin with the library campaign to win voter approval for a $30 million bond issue for the demolition of the existing Civic Center and the construction of the new library-event center and parking structure. Just about every piece of literature sent to voters spoke of the need for more library space, overcrowding in the youth section and insufficient computer lab space.

One election mailer asked, “What do you do when Winter Park’s Library … has to remove children’s books, even favorites, every time a new book arrives? …doesn’t have enough computers or digital labs? …can’t accommodate emergency rescue equipment above the first floor? …has no space for after-school tutoring rooms?”

Another mailer claimed, “Our children continue to lose out on learning opportunities and materials because of inadequate space.”

Grandma Promise

Grandparents, seniors, and adults will get “fully equipped technology labs with classes for seniors, students and entrepreneurs.” Another mailer promised, “Expanded and climate-controlled history center with exhibit space, genealogy lab and digitization to preserve our shared history.”

It is no wonder that the Library Board, the Commission and Citizens were excited about a new 50,000 square foot library. A letter from the then President of the Winter Park Library Board of Trustees to voters stated that the library would provide early childhood literacy areas, tutoring rooms, digital media labs, make the library safer, and provide for a new parking facility.

Where Did We Get 50,000 Sq.Ft?

Where did the “50,000-square-foot” number for the library appear? The Library Task Force, a committee authorized by the City Commission to come up with recommendations for the new library, stated in their final report that the estimated size of the library was 50,000 square feet, with the existing library at 33,742 square feet. We were getting an additional 16,206 square feet, a significant increase by any measure.

Following that, an email blast from the “yes for winter park library” Political Action Committee (PAC) clearly stated the proposed library was to be 50,000 square feet. That same email stated there would also be a one-story, 220-space parking deck.

The Winter Park Library staff sent an email to “Friends, Neighbors and Patrons” stating that the library will be 50,000 square feet and include a one-story parking deck for 220 cars. And finally, the City issued a Request for Qualifications for Library Design Consultant Services which clearly stated that the project will include “a new 240-space (sic) parking garage, a new 50,000 square foot library . . . .”

Honey, They Shrunk the Library

It must be a disappointment to the Library friends, neighbors and patrons to find that the new library will be barely larger than the existing library. Depending on whose numbers you use, we may be getting 867 or 991 additional square feet for a new library that everyone thought would provide significantly more space. The architect says the new library will be 34,661 square feet. Pizutti, the City’s program manager, says 34,785 square feet.

Parking Structure Promise

The reference to a parking structure is in the ballot language. The ballot clearly stated that $30 million in general obligation bonds were to be issued for the “purpose of financing the Winter Park Library and Event Center to include library facilities, civic meeting and gathering facilities and related parking structure, and improvements….” [emphasis added]

The City website shows the new plans for a library-event center with surface lots spread throughout MLK Park, including parking spaces at the community playground off Denning Drive.

Certificate Concerning Official Statement

On June 1, 2017 Mayor Steve Leary, City Manager Randy Knight and Finance Director Wes Hamil signed the Certificate Concerning Official Statement attesting to the truthfulness of statements made in the May 8, 2017 Bond Resolution.

The execution and delivery of this Official Statement has been duly authorized and approved by the City. At the time of delivery of the Bonds, the City will furnish a certificate to the effect that nothing has come to its attention which would lead to believe that the Official Statement as of its date and as of delivery of the Bonds, contains an untrue statement of a material fact or omits to state a material fact which should be included herein for the purpose for which the Official Statement is intended to be used, or which is necessary to make the statements contained herein, in light of the circumstances under which they were made, not misleading.”

Wikipedia defines parking structure as, “A parking garage also called a multistory, parking structure, parking ramp, parking building, parking deck or indoor parking, a building designed for car parking . . . .”

Now the Commission has decided that a series of surface lots will take the place of the parking structure called for on the ballot. How might the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board regard some of these directives by the Commission regarding the new Library and Event Center?

Footprint-Will-Use-Less-Than-1-Percent-of Park-Land Promise

One of the documents circulated by the City and the Winter Park Library included a page that stated, “The total area of the new library, civic center, and garage “footprint” will require less than 1 percent of additional open space above the area where the existing parking lot and Civic Center now exist.”

A review of the site plan for the new library-event center and parking shows considerably more space taken than the 1 percent promised. In fact, the new facility is approximately 15 percent of the total MLK Park’s 26.8 acres, or about 8 percent of the total park in excess of the footprint of the existing Civic Center. Eight percent is significantly more green space lost than the 1 percent promised.

Footprint of New Library/Event Center and Surface Parking.

Shortly after voters approved the library/event center in the spring of 2016, a lawsuit was filed challenging the proposed location at MLK Park. No location had been specified in the ballot language.

The Judge in that case ruled that the ancillary documents provided prior to the election – mailers from the Library PAC, emails from the City, Library web pages and presentations by various committees — would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the library was to be built at MLK Park.

The same reasoning can be applied now. The voting public can reasonably conclude the City will build a 50,000 square foot library and event center, and an associated parking structure.

Winter Park voters have the right to question these un-kept promises and to decide if they are happy with the outcome. You can let your elected representatives know they might have some explaining to do by writing them at mayorandcommissioners@cityofwinterpark.org

Peter Knowles Gottfried is an environmental scientist who drew up one of the first plans for Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in 1985. He was a Winter Park Commissioner 1986 to 1996, and then served on the Planning & Zoning Commission from 2011 to 2017.

Straw Wars Comes to Winter Park

Let This Be the Last Straw!

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

Straw Wars Comes to Winter Park

Guest Columnists Dr. Leslie Poole and Charley Williams

Think globally, act locally. So, Winter Park, for the moment, Think Locally.

A Garbage Patch the Size of Texas

You may have been reading about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch–an area the size of Texas (or France, your choice). It’s located between California and Hawaii and contains an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic. This is the planet’s largest mass of plastic. The crisis is reflected in the photos you see of dying marine life – birds, sea turtles, whales and sharks, trapped in this plastic grip of death. They ingest tiny pieces of plastic that interfere with their digestive systems. Humans are not exempt. Scientists are finding plastic microfibers in the very water we drink.

Plastic Straws – One Culprit

Surprisingly those thin plastic straws in bars and restaurants – through which we sip without giving it a second thought — play a culpable role. And it’s something we can control.

According to the U.S. National Park Service, Americans use 500 million straws a day. Most never make it to the recycling bin.

WP Is Making Progress

Don’t get us wrong — Winter Park is making progress in fighting the plastic plague. Barnies is eliminating styrofoam carryout containers in favor of cardboard. Starbucks has devised a sippy-cup container with a wider mouth for its cold drinks, which negates the need for a straw. Many Winter Park establishments have a policy that if you bring your own reusable container – like a coffee cup — they will give you a discount. That’s progress. Be sure and thank them.

But at countless other establishments, plastic straws come with the territory. It’s a habit.

Just Say No

What to do? Change that habit! We have the power. It’s simple. Just say “No”.

Instruct the bartender or server not to bring you a straw and suggest the establishment abandon the use of plastic straws altogether. You have to do it up front when you sit down or are placing your order. Once that straw goes into the glass or is brought to the table, even if it is wrapped, it goes straight from the table into the trash. Nothing gained.

Leave It to Beaver?

The global good news: This year, scientists are prepared to launch the world’s first machine to clean up this mess. It was designed by a teenager no less. More at www.theoceancleanup.com

All Boats Rise on this Tide

Kudos to those Winter Park businesses which are leading the way. If you have new information or an experience, please share with the Voice. We’d all like to know. Awareness is the brightest path to long-term solutions.

Lead by example, learn by observing. All boats rise on this tide.

Read more:
National Geographic “Straw Wars: The Fight to Rid the Oceans of Discarded Plastic” (April 12, 2017; updated February 23, 2018)
https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/04/plastic-straws-ocean-trash-environment/

U.K. takes a leadership role: “The Queen Declares War on Plastic….”
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/02/11/queen-declares-war-plastic-david-attenborough-documentary/amp/

Dr. Leslie Poole is assistant professor of environmental studies at Rollins College

Charley Williams is past president, League of Women Voters, Orange County

Why, Oh Why?

On the Branding of the Winter Park Library

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

Why, Oh Why?

Guest Columnist Michael Perelman

On March 26, 2018, the concept of creating a unique brand for the to-be-developed new Library and Events Center was brought to the Winter Park Commission. This concept arose from the Library and Events Center Task Force based on a recommendation by Sam Stark at the January 24, 2018 meeting of that Task Force. The recommendation presented was to use ‘The Canopy’ as the brand; this, is in spite of there being a local business already using that brand – the Canopy Café’.

The Commission made no determination at that meeting, but asked that the item be brought back with some style guides. This occurred on April 9 when a number of visuals were presented. These proposals included:

Winter Park Library at the Canopy 
The Venue at the Canopy
Rollin’s Softball at the Canopy
MLK Jr Park at the Canopy

On April 09, the Commission did not take a position, though Commissioner Seidel did highlight a concern about a ‘potential annexation’ of MLK Park.’ The proposal was tabled for further discussion at the next Commission meeting.

The topic did not appear on the agenda of the April 23 meeting; but, a number of members of the public (including myself) did raise the topic during the Citizen Comments part of the agenda. None spoke in favor of the branding concept; all were opposed.

To my mind, it is unclear why these new structures demand a unique brand. We already have a strong brand – Winter Park! Why must this be undermined? And, to suggest that MLK Park, and everything in it, should be a subset of the Canopy is to add insult to injury!

What we need is a ‘Winter Park Library,’ and a ‘Winter Park Events Center.’ These names are self-explanatory, and reflect our values as a community.

Lessons from Charleston

Quality of Life Drives Economic Development

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

Lessons from Charleston

Guest Columnist Bob Bendick

I recently traveled to in Charleston, South Carolina, to attended a gathering of people from around the country who are engaged in the conservation of large landscapes for their benefits to people and nature.

What Charleston Can Teach Us

We had the opportunity to take a field trip and to hear from several of the community leaders who have been involved in land conservation and historic preservation in the South Carolina Low Country over the last 30 years. While Charleston itself is much larger than Winter Park, and the Low Country region is larger than the Orlando Metropolitan Area, there are lessons from the Charleston experience relevant to Winter Park and Central Florida.

Knowles Cottage

Legacy of Structures & Green Space

Charleston has an important history and a legacy of historic structures and green space. The people of Charleston have cared for the historic fabric of the city and have adopted local ordinances to ensure that historic structures are protected and that the scale of new buildings in the downtown area fit in with the traditional scale of the community.

Charleston’s Green Belt

Similarly, both within the city and in surrounding areas, there has been a sustained effort to protect open space for its ecological, cultural, and recreational values. This has been accomplished by cooperation with federal agencies, by bonding to finance land acquisition in Charleston County, by creative development plans, and by private landowners donating the rights to develop their rural lands. As a result, there is now a greenbelt of conservation lands two-thirds of the way around the city, and there are many places where people can access parks, refuges and waterways.

Everyone’s History Matters

Another part of Charleston’s history is important to this story. Charleston was the point of entry into North America for a large number of the African slaves brought to this country prior to the Civil War. Charleston is sensitive to this aspect of its past, and has worked hard to ensure that the African American community and its history are recognized and respected as Charleston moves forward.

Public-Private Partnerships Strengthen City Character

One clear reason for the success of conservation and historic preservation in Charleston has been extraordinary cooperation among non-profit organizations, local government, state and federal agencies and private businesses working together to protect the character of the region. Economic development interests have recognized the value of Charleston’s heritage and have contributed to its protection. For example, Boeing made funds available to purchase a key parcel of forest land for conservation to offset the environmental impacts of the construction of its large new aircraft manufacturing plant at the Charleston Airport.

Southern Charm is Strong Economic Driver

The protection of the historic and environmental character of the Charleston Region has not been an impediment to the economy of the city and the surrounding area. In fact, the quality and character of life in Charleston has been a key stimulus to economic development. It has attracted second home construction, tourism and the location of high-wage manufacturing. All of this has made the Charleston region one of the fastest growing in the country.

Protecting Winter Park’s Character is a Wise Long-term Investment

The lessons for Winter Park and Central Florida seem clear–that protecting the historic and natural character, scale, attractiveness and diversity of Winter Park and the surrounding region should not be thought of as opposed to the economic well-being of the city and central Florida, but as a long-term investment in the assets of our community that will attract quality growth while providing a sense of place, history, and belonging to the people who live and work here.

Double-Density Cluster Housing

Coming to a Winter Park Neighborhood Near You

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

Double-Density Cluster Housing


Guest Columnist Jan Hommel

On Monday, April 23, developer Dan Bellows will ask the Commission to grant conditional use and associated variances for a rental apartment complex on the property at 301 W. Comstock – formerly City property known as the Blake Yard.

Each of the four rental units will have its own detached two-car garage with a 420- to 480-square foot “accessory living space” above it. To the casual observer, that would be a garage apartment. So, are there four apartments or eight?

Blake Yard sits between the Grant Chapel, the railroad tracks and the Lyman Avenue Villas. The property is easily accessible to Park Avenue via the new walking path on the tracks. The long promised silent train crossings, now under construction, further enhance the desirability of this lot.

About a year ago, the City saw a chance to cash in on Blake Yard. City reserves were at a low ebb at the time and needed bulking up, so it seemed an opportune time to issue a Notice of Disposal (NOD). According to the NOD, the property would be zoned R-2 and allow a maximum of four units. The property appraised at $450,000.

City-Owned Property Merits Special Consideration

The sale of city-owned property usually goes through a rigorous review process. After all, city staff and the Commission have a responsibility to ensure the City is not negatively impacted and receives full benefit from the sale.

Round One — Monkey Business at City Hall

The disposal of the Blake Yard property came before the April 10, 2017 Commission meeting. Two parties, Dan Bellows as Winter Park Redevelopment Agency Ltd., and Rowland and Co., with architect Phil Kean, submitted competitive bids for the property. Both bids were below the appraised value.

After lengthy discussion, the Commissioners decided not to accept either bid and asked Planning Director Dori Stone to negotiate with the two bidders to see if one or both would agree to meet the appraised value. Stone would then bring the issue back before the Commission at the next meeting on April 24, 2017.

Round Two – Back to the Drawing Board

At the April 24, 2017 meeting, following the second phase of the bidding, Dori Stone recommended that the property be sold to Bellows’ Winter Park Redevelopment Agency, Ltd. because he was the highest bidder by $1,000.

The commission was headed in that direction until Rosemary Hayes, the attorney for Rowland & Co., disclosed some information she had gotten from a public records search. She found that on Friday, April 14, 2017, before close of bidding, Rowland & Co. had bid $455,000. Bellows had submitted a bid that offered “$450,000 OR $1,000 higher than another bid.”

Ms Hayes’ public records request also revealed a communications thread between City staff and Mr. Bellows, which included information about the Rowland bid.

City Manager Randy Knight emphasized that all communications between Bellows and City staff occurred after the bidding was closed. Rowland & Co. and their attorney were not party to any of these communications, however.

On a motion to approve Bellows’. bid of $456,000, Mayor Leary and Commissioner Weldon voted yes. Commissioners Seidel, Sprinkel and Cooper voted no. The motion failed and the project was sent back out for bids.

Three’s a Charm

Finally, at the May 22, 2017 meeting, the Commission voted 3-2 to sell the property to Bellows’ Winter Park Redevelopment Agency Ltd. for $481,000. Cooper and Seidel voted no, but this time Sprinkel joined Weldon and Leary to approve the sale.

The sale received final approval on second reading at the July 24, 2017 Commission meeting.

A New High in High-Density Living

In April 2018, Bellows’ plans for the old Blake Yard sailed through Planning & Zoning on a unanimous vote to approve.

Bellows is seeking to introduce a new model for high density living in Winter Park. In the style of the James Gamble Rogers-designed Barbour House Apartments, Bellows plans to build four rental apartments, each with a detached two-car garage – and each of those two-car garages sports a second-floor “accessory living space.”

Pesky Conditional Use Requirement

According to code, the scale of buildings in R-2 should blend in with the neighborhood, in this case, single family homes and duplexes. Bellows’ proposed four-unit apartment building is hardly in keeping with either the adjacent Lyman Avenue Villas or the single family homes on Comstock.

Staff thinks the apartment building blends right in. Evidently Planning & Zoning did, too.

The Neighbors? Not So Much

Since this project requires a conditional use, neighbors’ concerns should have been addressed. Were they? No.

Despite the fact that the neighbors met with City staff to voice their concerns, hired an attorney and showed up in force at the P&Z meeting, their pleas fell on deaf ears. The neighbors should have kept their money and saved their effort.

Neighbors say the scale of the building is a problem. They worry about the variance Bellows received to place his looming building three feet closer to the new bike path than code allows.

Additionally, Bellows must take two valuable parking spaces from Grant Chapel — now Hudson’s Event Venue — to access the apartments from Lyman. The Chapel didn’t have enough parking in its old use. In its new incarnation, the event center is woefully under-parked.

And Those Garage Apartments?

Remember, 301 W. Comstock is zoned for four units. What code loophole allows four units to morph into eight? Here are staff’s arguments supporting the garage apartments:

  1. The space for the apartments is within the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) limits.
  2. The garage apartments won’t have separate utility hook-ups.
  3. The garage apartments don’t have kitchens. According to code, garage apartments are not allowed to have kitchens or cooking facilities. These will not have a 240 volt hook-up, so technically, there is no kitchen. This one got a laugh from those of us who forsake the microwave for the oven only at Thanksgiving.
  4. City code prohibits short-term rentals and subletting of garage apartments.

No Subletting? No AirBnB? Then What’s the Point?

The neighbors weren’t buying it — and you shouldn’t either. Subletting is more than likely. The garage apartments will make the rental price on the main apartments much more palatable if the tenant sublets or runs an AirBnB. Any way you look at it, the density will double.

There is no Enforcer

The City admits it is unable to police the “no subletting” rule, and they are certainly unable to police the rule against short-term rentals – AirBnB, etc. In fact, Dan Bellows prominently advertises a property on AirBnB, complete with photos of “Host Dan.”

If the units were Condos, with a proper Home Owners Association, perhaps the owners would police each other to prevent illegal subletting, but as rental units, there are no controls.

The neighbors are justifiably concerned about the “double density” of this project. Parking is inadequate for eight units. Residents and their guests will be forced to use nearby streets — Lyman and Comstock.

There is Still Time to Show Your Support – Monday, April 23

This project comes before the Commission on Monday, April 23. Please help stop this green-lighting of ill-conceived projects by the City, the Staff and Planning & Zoning.

Beware the Slippery Slope

If this level of density is allowed in one neighborhood, every neighborhood in town is vulnerable. We are all in this together. Let your voice be heard.

Write to MayorandCommissioners@cityofwinterpark.org, to ask them to reconsider their decision, and show up at the meeting on Monday, April 23rd.

Heaven on Wheels

Grant Chapel Hijacked Again

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

Heaven on Wheels

Guest Columnist Jan Hommel

Dan Bellows has hijacked Grant Chapel once again.

Hannibal Square developer Dan Bellows has managed to obtain the City’s okay to operate a commercial enterprise in a building zoned O-2 (office). Since the matter has not been before either the Planning & Zoning Board or the City Commission, one can only conclude the approval came through City staff.

Grant Chapel Served West Side Community Since 1935

According to the Friends of Casa Feliz website, Grant Chapel was built on Winter Park’s West Side in 1935 and served as a house of worship for the predominantly African American population for almost 70 years. When the congregation outgrew its location, Bellows recognized the development potential of its prime Hannibal Square location and purchased the building.
https://friendsofcasafeliz.wordpress.com/tag/winter-park-history/

For a few years, Bellows rented the property to Suzanne and Steve Graffham, who operated it as the “Winter Park Wedding Chapel.” They ran a photo studio and used the chapel primarily for destination weddings.

Grant Chapel on the Move

In 2013, Bellows struck a deal with the City to move Grant Chapel from its original home on New England to its present site on Lyman Avenue close to the railroad tracks and across from the Farmer’s Market. At the time, Bellows assured the Commission that if they up-zoned the Lyman Ave. Chapel property from R-1 to O-2 (office), he would place the Chapel on the Historic Register as soon as the move was completed.

Grant Chapel Headed for Historic Preservation?

Delighted, the City Commission approved the Chapel’s R-1 zoning change to O-2. Its use as a wedding chapel and photo studio fit neatly into O-2 zoning. It looked like another historic Winter Park property was saved from the wrecking ball in the “move-it-or-lose-it” historic preservation strategy of those days.

Or Not

A funny thing happened on the way to the Historic Preservation Board, however. After its December 2013 move, the chapel was remodeled to include the addition of a basement with two staircases descending from the front façade. The landscaping on Lyman featured elaborate hardscaping, in stark contrast to the humble leafy lot where the chapel originally stood. By the time Bellows’ application reached the Historic Preservation Board (HBP), the board refused to add Grant Chapel to the Historic Registry.

Another ‘Golden Egg in an Unguarded Nest’

And once a listing in the historic registry was no longer a consideration, Bellows made even more changes to the building. Meanwhile, the historic landmark has been lost.

No More Grant Chapel

Now, Grant Chapel has been rebranded as Hudson’s Chapel & Cellar in Hannibal Square. This facility is prominently advertised in the newspaper and on its website as a “stunning venue for any event.” The website proclaims Hudson’s is suitable for parties of up to 60 guests, with catered food and beverages. While wedding ceremonies are welcome in the Chapel, Hudson’s promotes itself as perfect for all types of events — holiday parties, corporate events, birthday celebrations, etc.

But, wait. Hudson’s Chapel and Cellar, greater than its original size and with no additional parking, is still zoned O-2.

According to the City’s Land Development Code, (Sec. 58-73,) O-2 zoning means offices. There is a very short list of permitted uses. When the Commission approved the O-2 zoning, they were given to understand that the intended use of Grant Chapel was as a Wedding Chapel and photography business – two uses that fit neatly within 0-2 zoning.

Disturbing the Neighbors?

Types of business that are not permitted in buildings zoned O-2, because of the potential to disturb the neighbors, are “private and semi-private clubs, lodges, halls, and/or social centers and restaurants or lounges.”

Comp Plan Conflict – No Commercial on West Lyman

City approval of Mr. Bellows’ use of Grant Chapel as an event and party venue in O-2 zoning clearly requires up-zoning to C-1 (commercial). Hudson’s is now a Commercial Establishment . . . on West Lyman Avenue, which the Comp Plan says is to remain forever residential.

“But Everyone Knew. . .”

City Manager Randy Knight stated the Commission knew they were approving a party and event venue when they gave approval for the then-Winter Park Wedding Chapel to operate from the Lyman Avenue location as part of the O-2 zoning process.

Even Though There Was No Public Notice

Yet, the Winter Park Wedding Chapel did not operate as a party and event venue at either the New England or Lyman Avenue location. There is no evidence of a publicly noticed discussion of Bellows’ intent to turn Grant Chapel into a party and event venue. If the Commission intended for Bellows to operate a party and event center, why was the property not up-zoned to C-1?

Parking Rears Its Ugly Head . . . Again

Hudson’s Chapel already has minimal parking – parking that any city official, elected or otherwise, who has a critical eye might find inadequate for an event venue with a capacity of up to 60 guests. . .parking that will be further eroded by Bellows’ upcoming development of the Blake Yard property.

Bellows has hijacked Grant Chapel once. Shame on him. If we let him hijack it again, shame on us.

mayorandcommissioners@cityofwinterpark.org
Contact your elected representatives to insist that the use of Grant Chapel remain consistent with its 0-2 zoning.

Jan Hommel is a resident of the West Side neighborhood of Winter Park.

Those Yellow Signs – They’re Back!

Neighbors Protest Aloma Townhome Development

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

Those Yellow Signs – They’re Back!

Guest Columnist Beth Hall

The city Commission is now all that stands between a group of Osceola/Lakeview Planning District residents and a development proposal which threatens to destroy the single family character of their neighborhood, as well as that of a block on the north side of Aloma between Phelps and Lakemont Avenues.

No Density Signs are Back

City Planning staff and the Planning and Zoning Board have given the high-density, 18 town home project a big thumbs up, despite the fact that it will strip four of the five lots of their single family R-1A status. Residents adjacent to and directly behind the project are up in arms.

Planning Staff Recommends PURD

City Planning staff has worked with the applicant, Ansaka LLC, on the project for close to 18 months and are now recommending approval. The project takes the maximum conceivable density under the Planned Unit Residential Development (PURD) and R-3 zoning classifications, then adds four additional housing units.

Comp Plan Provides for Preservation of Single Family Zoning

The Comprehensive Plan provides that single family homes in this district are to be “preserved.”  City planning staff maintains that this is true of 98 percent of the planning district, but not on this part of Aloma. The growing number of yellow “No Density” signs sprouting along Aloma suggests that prospective neighbors beg to differ.

Ironically, during the same 18-month period the Planning Staff was working with the applicant, the City’s Comprehensive Plan was undergoing its periodic revision process. Despite countless staff hours and numerous community meetings, including Commission meetings, the Comp Plan still calls for the single-family R-1A designation of these parcels west of the corner of Lakemont and Aloma to remain undisturbed.

P&Z Grants Approval December 2017

Planning and Zoning took up Ansaka’s application on December 5, 2017. They approved it over the objections of the residents who appeared and spoke in opposition.

P&Z recommended the applicant hold a community meeting to discuss an appropriate “buffer” between the project and the adjacent single family homes to the north and west of the micro-community before the project went to public hearing at the January 6, 2018, Commission meeting.

Ansaka Slows Down Application Process

Ansaka skipped the January 6 Commission meeting, and finally held a community meeting on March 1, 2018. It is unclear how attendees were notified of the meeting. The applicant chose to postpone the public hearing until March 26, 2018.

City Staff Hits Speed Bump

Then, a glitch in the City’s public notification process necessitated a delay for two more weeks, until Monday, April 9, because of the City’s inability to verify that it had provided adequate public notice in all its required forms, including publication.

Speed Bump Slows Ansaka

The Applicant made clear his intention to proceed on March 26, but was unsuccessful. The project was pulled from the March 26 agenda and rescheduled to April 9. The intervening two weeks have seen a surge in awareness of the project throughout the neighborhood and throughout the City.

Neighbors Ask Commission to Step into the Breach

At this moment, residents of the neighborhood near the project are holding out hope that the city Commission will give their already established property rights priority over those of a developer who bought land speculating that he could rezone it, change the future land use map, and amend our Comprehensive Plan.

Who will prevail?