Jim Fitch Will Run for Mayor

Jim Fitch Will Run for Mayor

Jim Fitch announced this morning that he intends to challenge Steve Leary in the race for Mayor of Winter Park. Fitch submitted the necessary documents to the City Clerk at 10:00 this morning, and the paperwork was forwarded to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections for certification.

In a statement, Fitch said, “Today, I filed to run for Mayor of Winter Park. This has not been an easy decision for my wife and me. My campaign will be limited. My website, www.jimfitchformayor.com gives details.

“One purpose of my candidacy,” said Fitch, “is to gauge the level of voter dissatisfaction with the current Commission. I am offering the voters of Winter Park a choice.  They will decide.”

At 5:00 pm, Fitch was still waiting to hear from the Orange County Supervisor of Elections, but since the number of petitions he submitted exceeds the requirements, it is very likely he will qualify to run.

Fitch Campaign Kickoff Cancelled

Will He Still Run?

Fitch Campaign Kickoff Cancelled

The Jim Fitch for Mayor campaign announced last weekend that the Fitch for Mayor campaign kickoff party, which was to be held at the Winter Park Country Club this evening, has been cancelled.

Fitch told the Voice, “There were disagreements within the campaign organization that were irreconcilable.”

Timing is a consideration, and Fitch is in the process of deciding how to proceed. He is committed to Winter Park and looks forward to serving in some capacity in the future.

Happy New Year Winter Park

Tell Us What Headlines You Would Like to See in 2018

Happy New Year Winter Park


The holiday lights, champagne and fireworks are over for another year. Now it’s time to get serious – to think about the coming year.

What headlines would you like to see in 2018?

In seven words or less, write the headlines you hope to see in 2018. Post your suggestions for the New Year in the ‘comments’ section below.

Remember – seven words. No personal attacks or profanity. Watch this space to learn what’s on the minds of your fellow Winter Parkers.

Here are a few suggestions we have already received from our readers. Add your own.

“Train Horns Banned at Winter Park Crossings”

“17-92 Thru Traffic Diverted to I-4”

“’Virtual’ Holiday Tree Moves to Ravaudage”

“Undergrounding Project Completed”

Jim Fitch to Run for Mayor

Will Leary Run for Re-Election?

Jim Fitch to Run for Mayor

No matter that the earliest date you can officially declare a run for office is more than a month off, Jim Fitch has announced he’s throwing his hat into the ring. Mr. Fitch will challenge incumbent Steve Leary in the 2018 mayoral election.

The Incumbent

Communications Director Clarissa Howard could neither confirm nor deny that Mayor Steve Leary will seek a second mayoral term, but sources confirm that Leary has picked up the documents he needs from the City to begin forming a campaign organization for a run in 2018.

First elected to the City Commission in 2011, Leary resigned his Commission seat in late 2014 to complete his successful 2015 run for mayor. Leary has been an active and visible mayor, and he has represented Winter Park in various regional organizations such as MetroPlan Orlando and the Florida League of Mayors. Leary has been a leader in the effort to build a library-event center in Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.

The Challenger

Jim Fitch, a Louisiana native, did his undergraduate work in mechanical engineering at LSU and later received an MBA in finance and real estate from Stanford University.

After a career in industry and real estate, Fitch moved to Haines City, FL in 2011, where he began a second career in public service. He served as a member of the Haines City Planning & Zoning Board, held a seat on the Board of Adjustments and chaired the Finance Advisory Board. Fitch and his wife Doriana moved to Winter Park in 2016.

Fitch says that he and his wife were drawn by the ‘city of homes’ character of Winter Park. His plans for the city, if he is elected, include formation of a Finance Advisory Board and an Architectural Review Board. He says he plans to adhere closely to the Comprehensive Plan adopted by the City in 2016.

“The people of this city devoted an enormous amount of time and effort to developing a Comprehensive Plan for how the city will look and how the city will grow,” said Fitch, “and I want to see Winter Park’s commitment to those ideals upheld.”

The Election – March 13, 2018

In Winter Park, the only 2018 election will be for mayor. The four Commissioners have either one or two years remaining in their terms. The candidate qualifying period begins at Noon on Tuesday, January 16, 2018 and ends Noon Tuesday, January 23, 2018. Election day is March 13, 2018. If a run-off election is necessary, it will be held April 10, 2018.

Three Ways to Vote

You can vote by mail, vote early or go to the polls on election day. The Orange County Supervisor of Elections website is http://ocfelections.com/votersguide.aspx#ways

To Request a Vote-by-Mail Ballot

1. Call 407-836-2070.
2. Request online.
3. Request fax or mail. Send your name, residential address, mailing address, date of birth, signature, and election(s) for which you are requesting a ballot to (407) 254-6598 or P.O. Box 562001, Orlando, FL 32856-2001.

For more municipal election information, contact the City Clerk’s office at 407-599-3277 or email cityclerk@cityofwinterpark.org.

Ravaudage $1.2M -- No Risk, No Gain

Voice Reader Heeds Commissioner’s Advice

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

Ravaudage $1.2M — No Risk, No Gain

Guest Columnist Jan Hommel

Editor’s Note: On November 20, Commissioner Peter Weldon posted the following comment on the Winter Park Voice Facebook group. The post was in response to a November 18 article in the Voice titled “Ravaudage Gets $1.2M in Infrastructure Costs.”

From Commissioner Peter Weldon

Here are the relevant facts.

The Ravaudage road agreement pertains to specific lengths of specific roads the city of Winter Park acquired when it annexed the property. The background and agreement text can be found beginning on page 27 of the November 13, 2017 commission meeting agenda packet.

These roads are the city’s responsibility. They currently do not have curbs, sidewalks, or proper drainage. The developer intends to improve these roads with drainage, curbing, parking, and sidewalks at or above city design standards, but has no obligation to do so.

The $1.2 [Million] potential payment to the developer is ONE HALF of city staff’s estimate of what we would have to pay to do the minimum amount of work required to bring these roads up to city standards. The developer is going to do all the work subject to city approval of the plans. The developer does not get paid unless the city approved work is completed.

The bottom line is that the city can realize fully improved roads with parallel parking and wider sidewalks than our minimum standards for one half the cost the city would have spent if the developer chose not to improve these roads.

Ms. Mooney and those trying to create a political conspiracy would better serve the city and our residents by being better informed before speaking.

Come on folks. Study the issues before speaking publicly.

Regards, Pete Weldon
Winter Park Vice Mayor

Voice Reader Jan Hommel Responds

Mr. Weldon:

Thank you for requesting Voice readers get the facts before expressing their opinions. I did that. Here’s what I found.

In 2013, the city of Winter Park annexed the property as Home Acres. It was zoned single family, residential, with existing roads that were adequate for their intended use. According to Public Works Director Troy Attaway on 7/24/2017, it would cost about $30,000 to bring the public roads up to city standards for residential use. Commissioner Carolyn Cooper pointed out that when the city annexed the property from Orange County, the county had made no commitment to improve the infrastructure in the development.

The developer, Mr. Dan Bellows, now wants the city to help him bring the roads up to “minimum standards” — for his use in a high-density, mixed commercial-residential development. Building and upgrading roads and sidewalks is a normal part of a developer’s cost of doing business. Windsong and the Lee Road extension built by the Whole Foods developer are prime examples.

Although it is not unprecedented for municipalities to contribute to infrastructure cost, this usually happens in a weak economy as part of a public-private partnership to help kickstart development.

City Manager Randy Knight stated that the city is under no obligation, legal or otherwise, to give this money to Mr. Bellows. He said the only reason to do so is if the Commission thought it would help spur economic development.

This does not apply to Ravaudage. When pushed, the only recent case Troy Attaway was able to cite of the city improving a roadway to benefit business was the Fairbanks roadway improvement, which is not comparable.

At the August 14, 2017 meeting, the Commission voted 5-0 to have staff provide an analysis of the economic benefit the $1.2M payout to Mr. Bellows. Apparently none was provided.

Troublesome Rationale

Commissioner Weldon, your rationale for this give-away was particularly troublesome. First, you stated it will give us control over the roads. Winter Park already has control over public right-of-way road improvement by developers.

Second, you wrote we will get quality roads for half the price. True, but if we can get something for half-price or for free, shouldn’t we take free? As a developer, it is in Mr. Bellows’ interest to put in high quality roads and sidewalks. Mr. Knight clearly stated that we did not HAVE to contribute anything to upgrade the roads.

No Risk?

Next you supported this plan because it was no-risk. True, nothing will be paid out until the city collects money from the project in the form of unrestricted impact fees and property taxes. I am appreciative of the fact that you didn’t want to put city money at risk by giving Mr. Bellows money up front, but at that point, your reasoning fails.

No Gain

If you truly believe that Mr. Bellows needs an infusion of cash from the city in order to hasten development in Ravaudage, then fund him up front. As Commissioner Seidel observed, the timing of the flow of funds, while protecting the city, does little to serve your stated purpose of speeding along development. It may be no risk, but it’s also no gain. Why spend $1.2 million when only Dan Bellows benefits?

In summary, Mr. Weldon, you, along with Ms. Sprinkel and Mr. Leary, voted to give $1.2 M to Mr. Bellows. This money was not necessary to have functioning roads. This taxpayer money was in ADDITION to the high density accommodations that Mr. Bellows already received. This $1.2 M is certainly not needed to encourage development in our very robust Winter Park economy.

Please know the voters are watching. We will be taking these fiscally irresponsible actions into consideration when we go to the polls.

Sincerely.

Jan Hommel

P.S. To the Voice readers, according to City Attorney Kurt Ardaman, this matter should come to the Commission again. Please voice your opinion to the Commission.

Seidel, Leary Search for Common Ground

Did They Find Any?

Seidel, Leary Search for Common Ground

Mayor Steve Leary and Commissioner Greg Seidel met early the morning of November 29 to discuss where they stand on electrical undergrounding, a connectivity plan for city greenspace, traffic management and the possibility of forming an architectural review board.

The meeting was called by Commissioner Seidel, who sought commonality and support from Mayor Leary for more systematic planning on these issues. Seidel expressed his feeling that the City needs more detailed designs against which to measure its progress.

The discussion, which lasted approximately an hour and a half, was often detailed and technical. We have included video of the meeting in its entirety to enable readers to judge for themselves where and when Leary and Seidel were able to find common ground.

Ravaudage Gets $1.2M in Infrastructure Costs

In a ‘No Risk’ Agreement with the City

Ravaudage Gets $1.2M in Infrastructure Costs

The City Commission voted 3 – 2 November 13 to give developer Dan Bellows a $1.2 Million reimbursement over a 10-year period for work on city roads in the Ravaudage development.

Ravaudage Background

The Ravaudage area, once known as Home Acres, was re-annexed in 2012 from Orange County into the City of Winter Park after Mr. Bellows had done some initial work on the property under the auspices of Orange County. Orange County permits allowed Bellows to build greater density and provide less green space than he would have under Winter Park rules. When the property went from Orange County jurisdiction back into Winter Park, the terms of the Orange County permits were honored by the City of Winter Park.

Bellows: ‘City Will Benefit’

The interior roads subject to the current agreement include Benjamin, Lewis, Loren, Glendon Pkwy and Kindel, which were paved by Orange County. As part of his redevelopment of the area into commercial, office, multifamily and residential land uses, Bellows proposes to rebuild roads in the City right of way, adding wide sidewalks, drainage inlets, curbing and on-street parking. Bellows’ justification for requesting partial reimbursement for permit fees is that the City will benefit from these improvements, therefore the City should bear part of the cost.

Cooper Sees Troublesome Precedent

Not everyone sees it that way. Commissioner Carolyn Cooper, who was out of town and phoning in to the meeting, noted that while Orange County had approved greater density, more leasable square footage and less green space, the County had never anticipated paying for infrastructure as part of the original agreement.

Cooper said she was opposed to granting Bellows’ request for three reasons. First, infrastructure contributions were not anticipated in Orange County’s original approval. Second, said Cooper, “Windsong and Whole Foods developers demonstrated that we can get quality development without having to give injections of taxpayer funds. And, lastly, it is not fair to other developers.”

“I am totally opposed,” Cooper concluded, “and find the precedent quite troublesome.”

Seidel Searching for the ‘Win-Win’

“I don’t see the win-win here,” Seidel told the Voice. “There is no tangible value to the City for doing this work. The city doesn’t need to improve these roads — Dan Bellows does. On the other hand, the intersection at Lee Road and Executive Drive needs a signal. I would be happy for the City to contribute money to that improvement, because the entire city would benefit.”

Leary, Weldon, Sprinkel See Benefit to City

Mayor Steven Leary supported Bellows’ request, noting that the planned improvements will meet or exceed Winter Park standards. Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel agreed and made a motion to approve. Commissioner Peter Weldon, who seconded the motion to approve, said he could support the deal because, “We get control over the roads, essentially.”

No Risk

Public Works Director Troy Attaway explained that the ‘no risk’ aspect of the agreement refers to the fact that Bellows’ company will receive no reimbursement of fees until the City has received a portion of the permitting fees from him and has seen an increase in ad valorem taxes from the property.

This is not the first time the Commission has been generous with Mr. Bellows. In January 2015, Leary was one of three commissioners who approved a variance for Ravaudage in which one building went from four to six stories while the height of an alternate building was reduced.

The Winter Park-Maitland Observer reported that during the week preceding the 2015 vote, contributions from five corporate entities associated with Mr. Bellows were deposited into the coffers of Leary’s mayoral campaign. See campaign report.

At the time, Leary denied taking campaign contributions from Bellows and accused his opponent of making “spurious connections” between him, Bellows and the money. “Dan Bellows has not made a single contribution to my campaign to this day,” Leary told the Observer. “He has nothing to do with those LLCs.”

Bellows also denied having ownership in the LLCs. The Observer reported, however, that Winter Park City Commission records showed Bellows has represented at least three of those entities before the Commission. Minutes from July 8, 2013 City Commission meeting list Bellows’ name alongside CRDI LLC. At the April 12, 2010 meeting, Bellows represented Venetian LLC, and he represented WFG LTD in a meeting five months later.

Commission Approves Request

The Commission approved the agreement with Bellows on a 3 – 2 vote, with Cooper and Seidel dissenting. The table below, which appears on page 30 of the November 13, 2017 Commission Agenda Packet, shows how the developer will be reimbursed over a 10-year period.

What Two People Saw

When the Library-Event Center Concept Was Unveiled

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

What Two People Saw

On the evening of November 1, Sir David Adjaye, lead architect on the library-event center, revealed his conceptual design before a capacity crowd in the Rachel Murrah Civic Center, which the new building will eventually replace.

Sir David’s presentation was broadcast live via several media outlets, and a video recording of the presentation is still available on the City Website.

This being Winter Park, now that most people have seen it, everyone has an opinion about it. Impressions of Adjaye’s concept offered here by two of our readers broadly reflect the views of our citizens. If your views differ, we invite you to weigh in.

While everyone’s view matters, the views that matter most will be those of the Commissioners. They will decide on Monday, November 13, whether or not we move forward with the concept as proposed.

If the City adopts the concept, Commissioners and City staff must determine how to accomplish the task within the confines of the site and the budget. If the City decides to go another direction, the Commission will assume the responsibility for guiding us down that path, as well. The Commission’s task is not an easy one.

 

In Praise of Adjaye’s Design

Guest Columnist Beth Hall

I was prepared to dislike the design proposal from Sir David Adjaye and his colleagues. Aside from his Museum of African American History in Washington, D.C., I had seen little from him that I could appreciate or to which I could relate. But when I heard his presentation and saw his concept for Winter Park, I was surprised to the upside. Every time I review the slides and the various elements of the presentation, I like it more.

What is presented here is my perception of the design concept. What is not presented here is a defense for the park location or for the $30 million budget. The bond referendum passed. The issues have been litigated, in the court system as well as in the court of public opinion. Now, we must move on.

What I see in Sir David’s concept are deceptively simple, yet uniquely appropriate, shelters to hold all of the activities and all of the people which will occupy them for years to come. I see a design which bears no time stamp. In the words of Raymond Loewy, “Good design does not become obsolete.”

The structures acknowledge their placement in a lovely park with water views. They take maximum advantage of these, even including a stage at the water’s edge, designed to make the most of the slope to the water. One enters from Morse Blvd. at ground level and advances onto the plaza and into a vantage point from which to survey the park and green space beyond.

I would be very surprised if everyone embraced the concept Sir David showed us. This speaks more to his artistry than it does to the amount of time he did or did not spend in Winter Park.

The winning aspects of the design are many — the column-less, ultra-flexible interior space, the inspired roof line that provides both rain and sun protection, the expansive windows that function to bring the outside in while fostering line-of-sight-contact among users of all spaces, and the thoughtful consideration of the prevailing winds in placing the structures.

Weather control is not possible at the current library any more than it will be at the new one, but Adjaye tried his best to mitigate it. The summer and winter solstices found their way into his renderings. Sun and warmth will be allowed to penetrate most deeply in winter, far less in summer when the roof line creates an angled barrier.

Low maintenance yet highly versatile concrete and glass comprise the exterior makeup of the buildings. The massive glass panes are slanted. Observe any air control tower and some department store windows to recognize this is done to maximize visibility and reduce glare. I suspect it will also help with heat reduction.

The commission must thoroughly explore this before they sign off. Folks have expressed a concern that this glass will turn the library into a massive oven under the Florida sun. I doubt Sir Adjaye just forgot Florida is a subtropical hot environment, but heating and cooling costs will matter.

I am struck by the playfulness of the design and the lightness of feel. It makes me think of parachutes. Adjaye said he hoped it felt like one had placed a “perfect tent” in this lovely place.

It’s true. There is no building in Winter Park that looks like this. Still, there are familiar elements. I think it can belong.

Against the backdrop of this inspiring design, talk of cost over-runs, storm water management and parking issues have reared their ugly heads. We are at a cross roads.

Our Commissioners face a difficult decision.

Open Letter to Mayor & Commissioners

By Guest Columnist William Deuchler

Thank you for scheduling the special meeting to allow the public a first glimpse of the conceptual design for the new Library and Civic Center. It was helpful and informative, but also very disappointing to me.

During the first couple of minutes of Sir David’s talk, I thought that just maybe we might have a chance for a design that would truly add to the character of Winter Park.  He talked about the unique ecology of Florida.  He pointed to our history and some of the architectural history of our town.  Although Sir David spoke of how those things would influence his design, when the design was unveiled, I saw no reference either to our history or to our unique setting.

Consider this if you will. What do people say is so charming about our town after a first visit?  I believe the answer is, clearly, Park Avenue.  And what is so charming about Park Avenue? People love the historic character of the buildings, the inviting human scale of the streetscape and the understated elegance which is, at the same time, modern and highly functional.

Now, what is the one building that is conspicuously out of character with the rest of Park Avenue? That would be City Hall, a contemporary, mid-century modern building. City Hall is a “statement” building that shouts, “I’m different, I want to be noticed for myself.”

Do we really want another “statement” civic building? It will certainly be the most significant and visible project in the general downtown area.  It may also be the LAST and largest civic building built in Winter Park — at least until the current City Hall is renovated.

Why not have a legacy building that is consistent with the character of Winter Park?  Even Disney knew that you don’t build a Tomorrow Land structure on Main Street.

I also have reservations about the proposed design from a practical perspective — in particular, the requirement for exterior transit and the amount of glass used in the concept. The fact that, to enter the Library or Event Center, one would have to walk outside after being let off is silly for our climate.  Anyone who has been caught in one of our summer rainstorms knows that if you are outside, you are going to get wet.  It’s hot in Florida most of the year.  People prefer to get out of the sun and into air conditioning as quickly as possible.

I doubt if the plaza areas Adjaye envisions would be used more than three to four months per year.  Even when the weather is cool, the Florida sun reflecting off those expansive glass windows will likely make the ‘Belvedere’ unbearable.

Turning to the interior spaces, just ask anyone who lost trees in the hurricane what happened to the temperature of their home.  Unless you have a tree canopy above that building, it is going to be one big furnace on the inside, no matter how much engineering goes into those elegantly canted sides – this is Florida!

I urge the Commission to vote NO to the conceptual design as presented.  It will be painful, but there’s still time to cut our losses, thank Sir David for his effort, and get an architect who isn’t going to create “Leary’s Folly,” someone who will design a building that really does reflect our #1 value of, “Honor our historic and cultural features throughout Winter Park.”

We, the taxpayers, are going to spend 30 million of our tax dollars on this project. It’s worth taking the time to get this project right.

Adjaye to Reveal Library Design Concept

Nov. 1 at the Rachel Murrah Civic Center

Adjaye to Reveal Library Design Concept

Architect Sir David Adjaye will present his long awaited conceptual design of the new Winter Park Library & Event Center.

Wednesday, Nov 1, 5:30 to 7:30 pm
Rachel D. Murrah Civic Center
1050 W. Morse Blvd.

The event will be a special meeting of the Winter Park City Commission. Mayor Steve Leary will open the meeting and introduce members of the library-event center design team, which will feature lead architect Sir David Adjaye. Public input will follow the formal presentations.

Library-Event Center Design Team

The design team assembled for this project are Pizzuti Solutions, the Owner’s Representative that will work with City staff to manage the project, budget and schedule; HuntonBrady Architects, which will develop the signature architectural design in partnership with Adjaye Associates; and the construction management team, which will consist of Brasfield & Gorrie and Lamm & Company.

Sir David Adjaye

Sir David Adjaye was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and named one of 2017’s 100 most influential people by TIME magazine. His firm is known for its innovative approach to library design. Adjaye’s projects include the award-winning Idea Stores in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African-American History & Culture, which opened September 2016 in Washington, D.C.

Listen to Live Broadcast

Those unable to attend can watch the presentation broadcast live on the following outlets.
cityofwinterpark.org/facebook
cityofwinterpark.org/#nextchapterwp
Orange TV Channels:

Spectrum (formerly BrightHouse) Channel 488
Comcast® – Channel 9
CenturyLink® – Channel 1081 (HD) Channel 81 (SD)
WSWF (digital over the air) Channel 10 – 2

Young Composers Return to DPAC

UCF, Orlando Phil Present 2017 National Young Composers Challenge

Young Composers Return to DPAC

Mark the date: Sunday, November 12, 1:00 to 5:00 pm, in the Walt Disney Theater at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Experience an unforgettable musical afternoon as the University of Central Florida, the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Young Composers Challenge (NYCC) join to present the 2017 Composium.

Bring the Family

Professional musicians from the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and the UCF faculty will perform classical compositions written by six young musicians aged 13 to 18. Dress is casual. Children are welcome. Admission is free. More information is available at http://www.youngcomposerschallenge.org.

Part Concert, Part Seminar

The Composium is part concert, part rehearsal, part recording session and part seminar. Winning compositions, chosen from thousands submitted by teen composers from around the world, are rehearsed, discussed and recorded before a live audience.

Founded in 2005, the NYCC is a non-profit charitable organization whose goal is to promote the creation of new orchestral music and foster the careers of the next generation of American composers. The purpose of the Composium is to build greater understanding of and support for symphony orchestras and the creation of new orchestral music.

‘You Will Never Again Hear an Orchestra in Quite the Same Way’

“The level of sophistication of these orchestral works is mind-blowing,” said Steve Goldman, Executive Director of the NYCC. “This is a rare chance to witness new orchestral works by America’s top young composers performed for the first time by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra.”

“Once you have attended a Composium,” said Goldman, “you will never listen to an orchestra performance in quite the same way again.”

‘Central Florida’s Commitment to Classical Music’

Dean Jeff Moore, of the UCF College of Arts and Humanities, said this event is good for the young composers, but also the Orlando community. “UCF is committed to providing access for people to pursue their passions,” said Moore. “The longtime partnership between UCF, the Orlando Philharmonic and now the NYCC demonstrates Central Florida’s commitment to the past, present, and future of classical music.”

‘Support for Young Composers is Essential to the Future of Music’

“The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra is proud to partner with UCF and the National Young Composers Challenge,” said Executive Director Christopher Barton. “This opportunity to support the development of our next generation of composers is both exciting for our audiences and essential to the future of music.”

National Young Composers Challenge is a 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization supported by grants and in-kind donations from the University of Central Florida, Rollins College, Full Sail University, Timucua Arts Foundation and the Goldman Charitable Foundation. http://www.youngcomposerschallenge.org