Will Lee Road Get the Axe?

Axe-Throwing Venue Slated for Old Booby Trap Property

Will Lee Road Get the Axe?

Two local doctors plan to breathe new life into the 0.6-acre property at 2600 Lee Road, site of the double-domed Club Harem – variously known as the Booby Trap, Club Harem, Club Rio and Christie’s Cabaret — an adult entertainment venue with a lurid history.

The contract to purchase the land from the City for $950,000 was approved by a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Carolyn Cooper casting the dissenting vote. Local vascular surgeons Dr. David Varnagy and Dr. Manuel Perez Isquierdo plan to build an axe-throwing facility where the Booby Trap once stood.

Axe Throwing?

A popular pastime in Canada and a feature in lumberjack competitions, axe-throwing is now gaining popularity in the U.S.  According to Wikipedia, indoor axe throwing is a sport in which the competitor throws an axe at a target, attempting to hit the bulls eye as near as possible. Today there are commercial locations in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom where participants can compete, similar to dart throwing. For a video of axe throwing, follow the link below.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axe_throwing

City Buys High . . .

In 2015, the City purchased Club Harem at 2600 Lee Rd. for $990,000, an amount well above market value. Then-Mayor Ken Bradley pushed for the purchase in order to “eliminate alleged illegal activity” at the location. Stories about the building with the breast-shaped roof line include a 2008 undercover police investigation at Club Harem, which led to a lawsuit by its owners against the City. The case was quietly settled in 2011 when the City issued a check for $250,000 to the aggrieved parties.

Sells Low

Explaining her vote against the sale, Commissioner Cooper noted that since 2015, the City has invested around $1 million in the property. She said she thought the City should hold out for a better price. She pointed out that property values in this area have increased by 14 percent in the four years since the City’s purchase. City Manager Randy Knight acknowledged that the City was “not hurting for money” and that there was no pressing need to sell at this time. The City’s broker, Bobby Palta, suggested the City could counter the doctors’ offer with a higher price, but the Commission chose to do neither.

Is Axe-Throwing Conducive to Better Behavior?

In his remarks, Commissioner Todd Weaver wondered if an axe-throwing venue that plans to serve beer and wine was “conducive to better behavior than what was there before.” Even though he expressed concern over mixing alcoholic beverages with axe-throwing, he did vote in favor of the project.

At the time of publication, neither Dr. Perez Isquierdo nor Dr. Varnagy responded to requests for comment.

Why No Confidence

In WP’s Largest Public Works Project?

Why No Confidence

Guest Columnist Charley Williams

The planned Canopy project may be the largest public works project ever undertaken by the City of Winter Park. Approved in 2016, the Library, Events Center and Parking Garage referendum garnered a slim majority of 214 votes, out of over 10,618 votes cast.

 

 

Campaign Literature in 2015-16 Promised Cost Levels

New Library: $17,435,700
New Events Center: $ 3,004,943
Parking Deck: $ 3,004,943
Shared Costs: $ 8,405,496

(demolition, design/engineering, landscaping, site work)

Library Board to Raise: $ 2,500,000

TOTAL PROJECT COST $ 29,914,311 with a promised 15 percent contingency

Three years later, why does the public continue to be skeptical about the chances for success?

Why is public trust in this project, funded by taxpayer dollars, continuing to falter? The answers to these questions are not difficult. Look at the project track record over the past four years. Promises were made, then discarded. Trust evaporated. The trend line below speaks for itself.

Original Pledges

  • $29.9 million project with a 15 percent contingency
  • 50,000 square foot library
  • LEED-certified building including solar energy capacity
  • Multi-deck parking garage to ensure easy access, safety and security for patrons
  • Footprint that takes no more than 1 percent of MLK Jr Park acreage
  • A site suitable to build upon with no extraordinary contamination or soil stability issues
  • Storm water plan that could be addressed without taking more parkland
  • A transparent process open to public comment, with all commissioners kept in the loop
  • Project focus is a world class library and a community events center
  • Robust community fundraising support assured
  • CRA funds unlikely to be needed and should be reserved for other city priorities, like the purchase of the Post Office property.

The Path Forward

  • Price tag increased to $40+ million and is tilting toward $50 million
              Note: Taxpayer dollars restricted to the original $30 million bond limit
  • Greatly reduced contingency fund resulting from a challenging construction environment
  • Library size reduced to 34,400 square feet with no LEED certification
  • No parking garage, requiring consumption of more park space for parking lots
  • No traffic study of Morse & Harper to address congestion and safety issues
    Note: Plan proposed to model the entire Orange Avenue MLK Park region
  • Continued flooding of Morse and Harper with no approved storm water plan
              Note: Lake Mendsen is currently at capacity, per St Johns River WMD
  • Complex site issues with debris buried to 30-35 feet and muck.
              Note: Building site has been shifted west to avoid muck pockets.
  • Trees removed without public notice or involvement.
              Note: There is a moratorium on future tree removal.
  • Consumption of MLK Park acreage now in excess of 15 percent of park space, and
  • Lake Mendsen could be further expanded by taking 1-2 more park acres.
              Note: There is some effort to dial back the size of the project footprint.
  • Lack of Transparency — the last comprehensive public forum on the project was the April 9, 2018 City Commission Meeting approving Schematic Designs.
  • Tourism as priority pitched to Orange County Tourist Development Council (TDC) — our own “I-Drive.”
  • One commissioner was not informed of TDC meeting and the request for $6 million.
  • Fundraising from the community still not accounted for, though the deadline was April 2019.
  • CRA funds will likely be tapped to bail out this project.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr: still has not been honored as the namesake of this park.

What if This Were Your Own Health?

Citizens have not been presented with a satisfactory explanation for this list of discrepancies. This is the chance for the commission to step forward and demonstrate leadership.

If this project were a medical patient, we could say we have seen the X-Rays and indicators of a potential complication are all there.

If we wait seven more months, until January, when construction pricing comes due, we then face a crisis decision of whether to administer chemo or radiation or both. Why not take preventive measures now? Get a second opinion? If your health was at stake, what would you do?

Maybe change medical providers?

Can We Afford This Project?

For many, the fiduciary handwriting is on the wall: we cannot afford this project.

No wonder the citizenry is concerned.

Cost estimates and overruns will not diminish. Instead, they will likely increase. Change orders will become a major concern. Our Central Florida construction market is robust but stressed, increasing pressure on construction costs. That context has already been established with the I-4 Ultimate, Orlando Airport’s New South Terminal and the building boom.

Commissioners Need the Chance to Talk to One Another

At the June 10 Commission meeting, Commissioner Carolyn Cooper requested a workshop so the Commission as a whole could discuss various budget issues, including the Canopy and the CRA, without having to go through the City Manager. She was dismissed by Mayor Steve Leary, but her suggestion deserves reconsideration.

Recommendation: Give Us the Benefit of Your Shared Vision

Hold a Workshop.

Put the questions on the table and explore some answers together.

Educate a very concerned public.

How Much Can the Camel Carry?

In the case of the Canopy, it is reasonable to say that a $1,000 per square foot public works project is unacceptable. So, what is acceptable? $700 per square foot? $500 per square foot? $350 per square foot? That guide star needs to be established — or at least discussed – and the public needs to hear the discussion.

If we cannot attain that acceptable price per square foot, alternative scenarios need to be explored. When a project moves beyond 60 percent design, the time and money already invested make it increasingly difficult to say “no” or even to change tack.

Think Big: Where is Plan B?

The goal is to maximize all our assets to make this project the best it can be. For this reason, the process deserves heightened public involvement, heightened communication and heightened stewardship by our elected leaders.

Are our taxpayer dollars being wisely spent? If so, show us how.

That’s how public trust can be restored.

Orange Ave. Steering Committee Formed

As Part of Planning Process for Orange Avenue Overlay

Orange Ave. Steering Committee Formed

What do we do with 54 and one-half acres of valuable, under-developed business/commercial parcels — land along the segment of Orange Avenue that runs from 17-92 up to Fairbanks? The area contains 103 parcels, more than 90 percent of which are less than an acre. The largest is around 6 acres.

What’s an Overlay?

One thing we can do is a Zoning Overlay. An overlay is basically new zoning district that sits atop the existing zoning map, one that adds special restrictions and incentives to make a discrete, identifiable district, a district that can create cultural consistency and equilibrium and avoid piecemeal development.

According to the Center for Land Use Education (CLUE), “. . . regulations or incentives are attached to the overlay district to protect a specific resource or guide to development within a specific area. . . .Potential uses might include: Create a walkable community, connect pathways; Preserve and enhance a special district; Encourage economic development; Protect the quality of surface and groundwater and manage storm water. . . .” www.uwsp.edu/cnr/landcenter/

‘Blight’ on Orange Ave?

According to Planning and Community Development Director Bronce Stephenson, the Orange Avenue corridor has been economically stagnant for a number of years. Those of us who make the daily drive up and down Orange Avenue have become accustomed to the vitality of disconnected stretches of it, like Designers’ Row and the area around Foxtail’s and the Brewstillery. Interspersed among these hubs of activity, however, are parcels that have produced little more than weeds and first responder training facilities since the 2008 recession.

Big Three Stakeholders

Most of that unlovely, under-used land belongs to three large landholders. The Big Three are Demetree Holdings, Holler enterprises and the City of Winter Park. Although most of us wouldn’t call Orange Avenue “blighted” – it’s ours, we’re used to it — Stephenson brings a fresh pair of Okie Eyes (Bronce hails from Tulsa) that see an exciting opportunity for redevelopment that will integrate redevelopment with the culture, spirit and ambiance of Winter Park.

Creation of a Third Place

Toward that end, Stephenson has formed a steering committee where citizens from across the political spectrum will come together, find common ground, and proffer recommendations for a reactivated community that will form a new “Third Place” in Winter Park. For the sake of discussion, a First Place is your home; the Second Place is your work place; the Third Place is where you go for recreation and social interaction. It’s your Fun Place. Stephenson wants to put that place on Orange Avenue.

Give Some to Get Some

A recurrent theme at the first Orange Avenue Overlay Steering Committee meeting was the perceived necessity for the larger stakeholders’ redevelopment plans to include infrastructure assistance for the many existing smaller stakeholders. In return for some increased density, large stakeholders would be expected to provide enhanced storm water retention. Many of the smaller businesses along Orange Ave. experience damaging flooding when there is a significant rain storm. This is caused by inadequate storm water management which, because of the size of their holdings, the Big Three have the opportunity to mitigate for the entire area. Another contribution the major landowners could make would be shared parking and what Stephenson calls “meaningful greenspace” – space everyone can use.

Community-Driven Project

Stephenson sees the Steering Committee as a useful tool to create a community-driven project instead of a developer-driven plan. “This will not be a project where everyone gets every single thing they want,” said Stephenson, “but the hope is that we will have enough people involved who feel like they have a voice and that everybody gets some special part of this . . . . To have an opportunity like this in a built-out city like Winter Park . . . is a unique opportunity and if we don’t get serious and do this now, we may miss the opportunity.”

Opportunity for Public Input Still Exists

Unique to this project is a robust page on the City website devoted entirely to the Orange Avenue Overlay. There you will find a 16-question citizen survey where you can share your thoughts. In addition, the Steering Committee meetings are posted on the City website under ‘Boards and Public Meetings.’ June meetings will be held in Commission Chambers at 5:30 pm June 12 and 26. Public participation is encouraged. https://cityofwinterpark.org/search/?q=Orange%20Avenue%20Overlay

Steering Committee Members

To assist the Planning staff with this project, Stephenson requested the formation of the Orange Avenue Overlay Steering Committee. The mayor and each commissioner appointed one member. In addition, a representative from each of 5 Advisory Boards and the original Winter Park Visioning Committee were asked to participate.

Bill Segal – Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB)

Jill Hamilton Buss – Transportation Advisory Board (TAB)

Laura Turner – Planning & Zoning (P&Z)

Lambrine Macejewski – Community Redevelopment Advisory Board (CRAB)

Bill Ellis – Keep Winter Park Beautiful and Sustainable Board (KWPB)

Bill Sullivan – WP Visioning Committee

Lamont Garber – Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel appointee

Sally Flynn – Commissioner Greg Seidel appointee

Sheila DiCiccio – Commissioner Todd Weaver appointee

Michael Dick – Commissioner Carolyn Cooper appointee

Phil Kean – Mayor Steve Leary appointee

The Timeline

Stephenson has set an ambitious timeline for the Planning staff and the Steering Committee, though he cautions the schedule is fluid. March and April were devoted to the initial public input meetings. Based on the input received, the team will use the summer months to draft plan documents, perform mobility studies and create renderings.

Fall 2019 should see introduction of draft documents for public review and comment. Draft documents will also go to various boards for their review and recommendation.

In late Fall 2019, the team hopes to bring the final draft of the Orange Avenue Overlay to the City Commission for a vote.

 

 

Canopy Chaos

Is Everybody Ready for the Next Phase?

Canopy Chaos

As the Commission voted 3 to 1 Monday night to move the Canopy project to the next phase, the discussion surrounding their decision raised more questions than answers.

Guaranteed Maximum Price Due in October

The Canopy project will move from the Design Development phase into the Construction Documents phase. This phase will conclude in October, when the design team will come back to the Commission with construction drawings and a guaranteed maximum price.

Weaver Wants to Slow Down

With only four commissioners present – Commissioner Carolyn Cooper was absent – Commissioner Todd Weaver tried to persuade the other three to ‘push the pause button’ on the project until the full Commission is present and has all the information necessary to move forward. After a heated exchange with Mayor Steve Leary, Weaver concluded his remarks but stopped short of making a motion to table the project.

Seidel Offers Conditional Support

Commissioner Greg Seidel seemed ambivalent about the decision. “So, I don’t want to make a decision not knowing what the cost is going to be,” said Seidel. “I’m okay to move forward to the next phase . . . and if we’re pretty close in dollars, it’s going to be hard to say no. But if it comes in at $50 or $55 million, we are going to have to have some more discussions . . . .”

Was There ‘Proper and Public Notice’ of Project Changes?

During public comment, former Commissioner Phil Anderson weighed in with a series of pointed questions to Commissioners, City Attorney, Bond Counsel and City Manager about whether “. . . they could guarantee that proper and public notice had been given to residents, bond holders and each commissioner” regarding the following five issues.

  1. The “material change in scope” eliminating approximately 14,000 square feet from the library;
  2. The “change in use” . . . emphasizing international convention tourism adjacent to the expanded Children’s Library program;
  3. The reduction in green space of MLK Park by approximately 2 acres;
  4. The “material changes” in the Total Construction Budget and Operating Expenses and that the City Manager has properly budgeted and reserved sufficient contingency and has a sufficient funding plan for the project in place;
  5. That qualified, licensed civil and structural engineers have approved the drawings and specifications and have certified that the design as budgeted . . . fully meets the existing . . . soil conditions, storm water and parking requirements; and that the City Manager and staff have opined as to sufficiency of those certifications?

Anderson suggested “postponing further action until the City Attorney and City Manager have confirmed the notice of and the content of these questions.”

How Much Will It Cost to Go to Construction Documents Phase?

The final question, posed by Commissioner Seidel, caused the most consternation. The question was, how much will it cost for the design team to create construction documents and come back to the Commission with a guaranteed maximum price? In other words, how much will it cost to go to the next phase?

City Manager Randy Knight said, ‘off the top of his head,’ he didn’t know. Seidel turned to the audience, where representatives of the architectural firm, the construction company and the owner’s representative were sitting, causing considerable back-and-forth among them, but none of them could come up with an answer either.

‘That Number Exists Somewhere’

Mayor Leary got the meeting back on track when he stated, “That number exists somewhere, so why don’t we move forward while you guys get us somewhere in the ballpark.” With that, Leary asked the City Clerk to read the roll. Leary, Seidel and Sprinkel voted in favor of moving forward to the Construction Documents phase, with Weaver casting the sole dissenting vote.

Footnote

City Manager Randy Knight later confirmed the cost of going to the Construction Documents phase is $640,000.

Winter Park Gears Up for Electric Vehicles

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

Winter Park Gears Up for Electric Vehicles

Guest Columnist Sheila DeCiccio

The City of Winter Park looks toward the future of transportation as discussion revs up at the April 23 Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Board regarding a proposed Electric Vehicle (EV) ordinance. The purpose of the ordinance is to bring forth regulations for EV charging, infrastructure and ways to handle development projects that were already in process prior to the EV ordinance.

FL Ranks in Top 5 for EV Sales

Florida ranks within the top five states for sales of electric and hybrid vehicles. In fact, a majority of buyers for electric and hybrid vehicles are located right here in Central Florida. By the year 2030, estimated annual national sales of EV’s will exceed 3.5 million vehicles, accounting for more than 20 percent of vehicle sales in the U.S.

Vehicles Running on Gas are 2nd Greatest Cause of Carbon Emissions
Currently, vehicles that burn fossil fuel – gasoline – are the second greatest cause of carbon emissions. Their replacement by electric cars will result in a reduction in the city’s carbon emissions, quieter and more livable streets and improved air quality.

WP Already Has 6 Charging Stations

Since 2011, Winter Park has installed six electric charging stations. Each charging station can charge two cars, one on either side. Stations are available to everyone, free of charge.

Electric Utility Companies Face Greater Demand for Power
For the sake of our state’s economy, infrastructure, and air quality, Central Florida must not only prepare for electric cars, but must be a leader in setting the stage for parking lots full of EVs. Utility companies, for example, will have to prepare for the increased demand for power as consumers charge their car batteries at home, at work or while shopping. Florida Power has already begun by increasing their capacity with solar panels, but there is more work to be done.

WP Ordinance Will Affect New Construction

The proposed Winter Park ordinance will require builders and developers to provide at least two electric charging stations in commercial parking lots that have more than 50 spaces. The ordinance also requires new residential and multifamily homes to include wiring built into the garage or common-use parking lot.

Incentives Are a Possibility

There may be incentives to help with the cost of wiring, such as a rebate from the utility company. An exact amount has not been determined but is under consideration. Some counties and cities provide rebates as high as $500.

WP Maintains Vision of Healthy, Sustainable Future

The above are just a few of the opening ideas which will go through much discussion. The good news is that the process has begun, and that Winter Park is staying consistent with its vision of promoting a healthy and sustainable future for all generations.

Sheila DeCiccio is an attorney with DeCiccio & Johnson. She has served on the Planning & Zoning Board for the past six years. She and her husband have been Winter Park residents since 1982. Their two children were born here and are being raised here.

Libraries -- Essential to Community Health

WP Quest for 6M Tourist Dollars Nears the End

If the Money Comes – It Will Come at What Cost?

WP Quest for 6M Tourist Dollars Nears the End

The $6 million grant Winter Park seeks from Orange County could turn the events center that will replace the Rachel Murrah Civic Center into an international tourist destination.

On Tuesday, April 23, the City will learn the fate of its request for a $6 million Tourist Development Tax – Advisory Review Committee (TDT-ARC) grant. The money will come from the 6 percent tax levied on every overnight hotel or motel guest in Orange County. If the City receives the grant, it will use the money to close part of the funding gap in the Canopy project. Only the events center part of the project and the raked auditorium in the library may receive the funds. None of the other elements of the Winter Park Public Library are eligible to participate in the grant.

Tourism = Big $$$

Tourism is booming, leaving Orange County sitting atop a big pile of cash. Florida Statute 125.0104 mandates the 6 percent tax levied on every overnight Orange County hospitality guest be reinvested in the tourism industry.  Originally, the money was intended for large projects, like expanding the I-drive convention center and sports stadiums.

In November 2016, the Orange County Commission amended the Tourist Development Plan to authorize using excess TDT funds for capital projects recommended by the ARC.  The statute is still restrictive — for example, at least 40 percent of all revenues must be spent on advertising tourism — but non-profit attractions such as auditoriums, museums, performance venues and aquariums may now be funded with these dollars.

Criteria for TDT-ARC Grants

Capital projects recommended by ARC need not be “tourist-dense,” like the massive convention center or sports stadiums, but they must meet three criteria in the amended ordinance.

  1. The project must drive tourism and work with the tourism industry.
  2. The project must demonstrate sound financial planning and show a proven record to deliver the capital project on time.
  3. The project will provide economic benefit to all of Orange County.

The ARC’s latest recommendations include the Orlando Science Center, The Orlando Philharmonic, the Holocaust Museum, the Orlando History Center and the Winter Park Canopy project.  All except the Winter Park project are non-profits that are intended to benefit Orange County as a whole.

Community to Commercial . . . the Evolution

The Canopy project, as approved by voters in 2016, would have been ineligible for these tourist tax dollars.  Promotional material assured voters that the majority of the project square footage and funding would go to build the library.  The events center was mentioned as a smaller replacement for the existing Rachel Murrah Civic Center, and thus could not have been promoted as tourist draw.  Literature the voters saw prior to voting for the library/events center referendum focused on enriching the Winter Park community by catering to our children and seniors and improving our park space and our quality of life.

Adjaye Design = Big $$$

The expense of building the Adjaye design, however, presented a quandary for city leaders. They found themselves in the position of having to choose which elements of the project they could build, since the $30 million from the bond issue fell short of covering cost estimates, which are around $40 million and climbing.

First the promised parking deck was cast aside.   The library shrank by almost 14,000 square feet.  While the 2016 library promotional material stated it was “bursting at the seams,” the library now seems content with the addition of a mere 2,000 square feet.

Parts of the project once thought essential in early discussions became add alternates (“add-alts”) that could be included only if the City could secure additional funding. The porte-cochere over the entrance, thought to be a necessity given our weather,  became a million-dollar-plus add-alt.  Then the much touted roof-top venue fell into the add-alt column, soon to be joined by the outdoor amphitheater and the raked seating in the library auditorium.

What was left in the budget besides the shrunken library?

The project now has no parking structure and an expanded event center.  Pre-bond referendum material cited an 8,000 square foot replacement for the Rachel Murrah Center. The Adjaye-designed event center is over 13,000 square feet.

Revenue Source Prevails Over Library Services?

The expanded event center will bring in revenue for the city.  The various venues can be rented out for top dollar, and local businesses can expect to benefit from the increased traffic at the event center.  While libraries provide public services and cost money to run, the event center will provide a revenue stream and benefit those wealthy enough to rent a venue.

Will the Grant Fix the Money Problems?

If the Orange County Board of Commissioners approves the $6 million grant, the funds will not arrive in Winter Park until well after the project is scheduled to be completed.  The first payment of $3 million dollars is due from the County in 2022, with a second allotment in 2024.  The projected completion date for the Canopy is Spring, 2021.

Weaver Bests Weldon in Runoff

Wins Winter Park City Commission Seat 4

Weaver Bests Weldon in Runoff

Anne Mooney & Janet Hommel

In Winter Park’s first run-off election, voters sent incumbent Pete Weldon packing and handed Todd Weaver a comfortable 285-vote victory — a margin of 4.6 percent.

High Turn-out Despite Rain

Typically, run-off elections draw fewer voters, but voter enthusiasm generated by this runoff was high. Vote-by-Mail was greater than normal. As the last ballot was counted, more than 700 additional voters had cast ballots in the runoff. That’s an increase of 13 percent over the vote in the March 12 general election.

Did Republican Electioneering Steer Voters to the Polls?

The Winter Park City Charter mandates that Commission races be non-partisan, but since 2012, the Orange County Republican Executive Committee (OCREC) has ignored the Charter and played an active role in Winter Park elections. Here is one example of an OCREC mailer sent on the eve of the April 9 runoff.

Republican voters were subjected to a barrage of OCREC-sponsored mailers, emails and robo-calls. Weldon won big in the heavily Republican Precinct 1, where voter turnout was up 15 percent. OCREC electioneering seemed to have less impact elsewhere, however, and Weaver easily carried the other four precincts.

The Chandler Effect and Lee Road

Weaver also appears to have benefited from the endorsement of former candidate Barbara Chandler. Almost half of Ms. Chandler’s votes in the March 12 general election came from Precinct 4, which includes both the traditional West Side neighborhood and the Lee Road corridor. Weaver targeted the Lee Road neighborhoods with a message about controlling traffic and development and had his best results in Precinct 4.

Did the Run-Off Deliver a Message about the Canopy Project?

High voter turn-out and a clear win for Weaver may make the City sit up and take notice. The main plank in Weaver’s platform was that the Canopy Project has gone astray. He pointed out that the project – particularly the events center — is over budget and not delivering what the voters were promised – a bigger library. Weaver suggested we hit the pause button and re-evaluate the project in light of current cost projections and City leaders’ plans to use the Canopy events center to attract tourist dollars.

Chandler Endorses Weaver

Chandler Endorses Weaver

 

Former candidate Barbara Chandler today announced her endorsement of Todd Weaver for City Commission Seat #4 in the April 9 run-off election.

“I speak for myself as a former candidate, and I am honored to be joined in my endorsement by The Friends of West Winter Park,” said Chandler. “We were able to go back and look at the questions the community had posed, and we felt that Todd was more in line with the values we espouse. One of the things that drew us to him during the Forum and during a brief meeting this morning was his willingness to help establish some type of Neighborhood Council and also a Coop for minority-owned businesses.”

Weaver said he was pleased and honored to have the support of Chandler and the Friends of West Winter Park. “My goal is to help them bring together the West Side community and remove the roadblocks to a more robust participation in Winter Park City government.”

As of this writing, Commissioner Peter Weldon could not be reached for comment.

Weaver & Weldon Face Off at West Side Forum

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

Weaver & Weldon Face Off at West Side Forum

Guest Columnist Janet Hommel


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

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

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

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

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

Be sure to vote April 9!