What to do about Winter Park’s Infestation of Carpetbaggers?

Open Letter to the Mayor, Commissioners and my Winter Park Neighbors

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

What to do about Winter Park’s Infestation of Carpetbaggers?

Guest Columnist Todd C. Weaver

Population Threshold is a topic that rarely comes up in conversations about public policy, but it should, and particularly with regard to the proposed 18-unit Planned Urban Residential Development (PURD) on Aloma between Lakemont and Phelps.

What is Population Threshold?

A Population Threshold is the point at which the rate of increase of the per capita cost of public services is more rapid than the rate of increase in population. You’ve likely heard the false narrative that increasing the size of our tax base is good for Winter Park.

In the long run, nothing could be further from the truth.

Taxes Go Up as Thresholds Are Crossed

As population density increases, the cost per capita for public services increases at a faster rate than the population, and any increase in housing density never pays for itself. It gets paid for by increasing taxes on the entire population. Likewise, chances that an increase in the commercial tax base pays for itself are slim to none.

Winter Park boasts a fine staff of experts that oversees the functionality of our city services. These people can tell you that at certain thresholds, city service costs, which are funded by taxpayer dollars, must accommodate increases in development at certain trigger points or “thresholds.”

Hundreds of Miles of Buried Pipe and Conduit

Staff responsible for public works and utilities can tell you that we have hundreds of miles of piping and conduits buried under the City to handle sewage transfer, storm water and potable water. We also have a plan in place to use recycled water for irrigation, requiring more miles of underground piping. The same is true for the electric undergrounding effort, currently underway.

At some population threshold, the carrying capacity (size) of these pipes and conduits must be increased, at a substantial cost to present and future residents and businesses. Streets must be dug up, traffic rerouted, expensive horizontal drilling where traffic cannot be practically diverted, temporary diversions of flows during construction, additional pumping and lift stations, water treatment facilities, increased electric substation equipment . . . and the list goes on.

Public Safety Costs Increase

The cost of Public Safety rises commensurately. The frequency of police calls from high-density, multifamily developments is far greater than those from single family homes and most businesses. This requires increased patrols, call answering and staff. We need more manpower and more sophisticated firefighting and EMT equipment to handle high-density structures as development and population increase.

Traffic Increases

Increased density brings increased automobile traffic, adding to the nutrient loads draining into our lakes. We must compensate for the increased nutrient load in our waterways with expensive herbicides, increased labor and expensive aquatic equipment to handle tussocks, algae blooms and dredging exacerbated by development. Every time additional pavement or impervious surface is laid, storm water runoff increases, putting us closer to another threshold.

High Density = Variances

The development at Aloma and Lakemont is all too common a scenario. Despite having a Comprehensive Plan and zoning codes in place, a small number of players, who are well aware of the limitations of land use imposed by City regulations, now expect the Planning & Zoning Board and the Commission to roll over and grant their claims for significant variances, zoning changes and other non-compliant requests.

The developer, ANSAKA, LLC, bought four single family lots and one office lot. At the April 9 Commission meeting, the City will be asked to rezone them all — on the primary east-west corridor through the City. When combined, the lots do not meet the 2-acre minimum required by code to build such a development.

Profit Is Not Dependent on Zoning Changes

I’ve developed multiple commercial and residential properties in several Florida counties over the past 20 years. Never once did my company believe it had the right to ask for any variance to local or State codes. We were happy to have the assistance of municipal and county staff to guide us through the maze, and were content with a reasonable profit in every case.

Developers have a right to make a profit — that’s not the argument. What we have now in Winter Park, however, are a few developers who think it’s their right to maximize profits at the expense of Winter Park residents and businesses, and at the expense of our standard of living. These firms are like the carpetbaggers of the Reconstruction South, arriving with an empty bag, staying long enough to fill the bag with money, then leaving the townsfolk to deal with the resulting mess.

Asking Everyone to Use the Same Playbook

All we ask is that everyone play by the same rules — the rules we all agreed to in our Comprehensive Plan and zoning codes.

I respectfully ask the Commission to consider the above facts and logic and do the right thing by holding the line on our Comp Plan and zoning codes in the interest of your current and future constituents.

Sincerely,
Todd Weaver

Todd Weaver is a 22-year resident of Winter Park, and a 45-year resident of central Florida.
After graduating from UCF’s College of Engineering, Weaver spent much of 30 years as an aerospace & mechanical design engineer. He also attended UF Gainesville, taking graduate courses in biochemistry, veterinary medicine and other life sciences. He holds a Florida General Contractor license and has developed several residential and commercial properties.

Three years ago, Weaver and two partners founded a Winter Park-based company, TruGrit Traction, which has designed and patented a new type of wheel for underground pipe-inspection robots. Weaver’s company supplies Winter Park’s Water & Wastewater Utilities Department with wheels for their camera robots, at no charge to the city. TruGrit Traction proudly engineers, manufactures and assembles all products in the USA, with sales in 50 states, Canada and the European Union.

Lurline Fletcher - October 4, 1943 – March 24, 2018

Winter Park Has Lost a Treasure

Lurline Fletcher – October 4, 1943 – March 24, 2018

Winter Park lost one of its own when Lurline Daniels Fletcher passed away the night of Saturday, March 24, 2018. Ms. Fletcher, who died of natural causes, was surrounded by her family. She was 74.

Born October 4, 1943, to Hurley Daniels and Hattie Magee Daniels in Foxworth, Mississippi, Lurline moved with her family to Winter Park at the age of five. She was married to Robert Lloyd Fletcher, who died in 1978. She is survived by two sisters, Arzolia MacDonald and Hurley Mae Donaldson and a brother-in-law, James Donaldson. A step brother, Arthur Hall, predeceased her.

Lurline is also survived by three children, Kem Fletcher Jones, Nanette Walthour and Vanallen Berry. She also had nine grandchildren, 26 great grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.

Lurline worked for many years at the Welbourne Avenue Nursery and Kindergarten as a teacher’s aide. She then attended nursing school, which she completed in the late 1970s, and subsequently went to work the Central Florida Kidney Center as a transporter.

Lurline was an active member of Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church for more than 50 years. She loved to travel and particularly enjoyed cruises. She traveled to Hawaii and the Caribbean, among many other places. Lurline’s daughter Nanette said, “After her children were grown, her life consisted of helping others and traveling.”

Her children describe her as a wicked, exacting card player. “She loved to play cards,” said daughter Kem. “She always knew every card that had been played, and she never let us get away with anything.”

Most Winter Parkers will remember Lurline as a strong voice at City Hall, speaking out for the preservation of the character of Winter Park’s West Side. “Commission meetings will never be the same,” said Sally Flynn. “There never will be another Lurline Fletcher.”

Charley Williams observed that when Lurline was asked to quiet down, she just spoke louder. “I hope Winter Parkers will honor Lurline’s memory by always showing up, like she did,” said Williams, “wearing shades and their very best hat.”

Services will be held Monday, April 2, at 11:00 a.m. at Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church at the corner of Pennsylvania and Lyman. The service will be conducted by Pastor Weaver Blondin. There will be a viewing at the church from 9:00 until 10:30 a.m. Lurline will be laid to rest at Washington Park Cemetery on Brewton Blvd. in Orlando. Tillman Funeral Home, 620 E. York St., Monticello FL 32344, is handling arrangements.

When asked for a word that described Lurline’s life, her children responded.
Kem: “Tenacity”
Nanette: “Family”
Vanallen: “Loving and caring”

Lurline’s legacy of civic engagement is as much a hallmark of Winter Park as are the live oaks that shelter the city she loved.

WP Mayor Leary Re-Elected

Low Voter Turnout

WP Mayor Leary Re-Elected

March 13, incumbent Steve Leary won a second term as Winter Park Mayor in a race featuring one of the lowest voter turnouts in recent memory. Of the approximately 21,000 registered voters, 4,602 cast votes. The tally was 3,313 for Leary and 1,289 for his opponent Jim Fitch.

In the last mayoral election in 2015, 6,722 voters cast ballots. Steve Leary defeated Cynthia Mackinnon by a narrow 302 vote lead. In 2012, 7,504 voters turned out to re-elect Mayor Ken Bradley. The count in that election was Bradley 5,381 to Nancy Miles’s 2,123.

Perhaps this year’s low turnout is not surprising, since to call the campaigns ‘low key’ would be an understatement. Even with what he described as a “limited campaign,” Fitch still garnered 28.01 percent of the vote.

“I am gratified by the support received by my stealth campaign,” Fitch told the Voice, “and I would not rule out another run for office or an appointment to a City Board.”

Mayor Leary has not responded to requests for comment, as of this writing.

Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Editors Note: The Voice has received the following letters. First is a response to a post on the Facebook page of “Jim Fitch for Mayor.” The second is a response to City Manager Randy Knight from FL Representative Bob Cortes.

 

To the Editor:

On March 7 at 2:40 pm, Pitt Warner posted to the Face Book page of “Jim Fitch for Mayor.” Although Warner subsequently removed his comment, I still believe it deserves an answer.

Pitt Warner wrote, “If the election cost the city a few thousand $, I’d say let’s indulge you. But $50,000 cost of an election is real money. I see no benefit to you, the city, different factions in WP. A total waste of energy and time.”

We have a Mayor who used a State of the City address to attempt to shame all those who would dare to criticize actions taken during his tenure or to question his priorities and agenda.

Now we see a vocal and ubiquitous supporter of the mayor suggesting that the elections process in Winter Park needs to be curtailed in some way because the $50,000 cost is too great and it is a waste of energy and time.

Is it just me or is there something not only offensive in Mr. Warner’s remarks at the candidate’s FB page, but some darker, more sinister element in the faction that feels emboldened by what they see as a lopsided victory for Leary on Tuesday?

I feel the comments by Pitt Warner are disrespectful, and I believe they seek to undermine the very foundation of the rules by which we live in a free society.

Is the idea that someone must achieve a certain percentage of the vote before they’re entitled to file to run? Is the idea that opposition to a popular mayor ought not be permitted?

Some residents in Winter Park might feel that the donation of $100,000 per year to DPAC is a waste of money. Which expenditure has the most value for the typical Winter Park resident?

Has this always been the political climate in this city? I am taken aback by it.

Thanks for your thoughts if you care to share them with me.

Beth Hall

 

 

In Response to the City Manager

Download Letter as PDF

Open Letter to Mayor Steve Leary

The Meaning of NO

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

Open Letter to Mayor Steve Leary

By Sally Flynn, Guest Columnist

Sally Flynn and her family have been residents of Winter Park since 1961.

On Friday, February 22, Mayor Steve Leary delivered his “State of the City” address to a capacity audience at the Alfond Inn. The event was a luncheon in the Alfond dining room, and those present paid either $40 per plate, for Chamber members, or $80 per plate for non-members.

Toward the end of his address, our Mayor made the following statement.
“We must pay special attention to how we treat one another,” he said. “We cannot be a special place if we treat each other in a common way. . . . The NO people who stand against everything but have no plausible alternative for all that they oppose . . . you cannot build a community on NO. It holds no value, it holds no hope and it holds no promise.”

When I last checked, Winter Park was a democracy in which everyone has the right to oppose something with which they do not agree. Mr Leary, is your problem with those who say NO simply that they do not support your agenda?

I believe NO means: NO more density, NO more diversion of our tax dollars to developers, NO more variances from our Comprehensive Plan and NO more selling public property without consent of the tax payers.

Mr Leary, you too are one of the NO people. You have said, quite clearly, NO to a tree ordinance that has teeth. You have responded NO to citizens who gather petitions. You said NO to a Historic Preservation Ordinance, one that represented a year’s work and was approved by the Historic Preservation Board and passed by the Commission. That ordinance was barely three months old when Peter Weldon was elected. You and Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel joined ranks with Weldon to weaken the ordinance, discouraging any serious historic preservation effort citizens of this City might wish to undertake.

When the citizens you have characterized as the “NO People” said YES to expanding Martin Luther King Jr. Park, you said NO and sold adjoining property. You said NO again to parks expansion when you refused to include language in the Comprehensive Plan that would have provided for the acquisition of the Post Office property, if it became available, to augment Central Park.

So, Mr. Leary, there are two sides to NO.

The NO People say Yes to leaders who possess the ability to see all sides of a question. The NO People say yes to leadership that represents all citizens, not just those who agree them. The NO People say yes to compliance with the Comprehensive Plan and the stewardship and preservation of the character of our City.

It is deeply troubling that you have chosen to use the State of the City address to single out those who do not embrace your agenda. You label us the NO People while, in the same breath, urging us to “pay special attention to how we treat one another.”

How does such open disrespect for opposing views, expressed by the mayor in such a public way, foster genuine accord among our citizens?

Local Mayors Fight for Home Rule

Have Our Elected Reps in Tallahassee Gone Off the Rails?

Local Mayors Fight for Home Rule

There is a group of bills making its way through the Florida legislature that would take away Home Rule from local governments and concentrate it at the state level. Leaders in Florida’s 410 municipalities and 67 counties are united in their opposition to the state legislature’s “one size fits all” approach to regulation of such things as short-term vacation rentals, Community Redevelopment Agencies and. . . trees? That’s right: trees.

Maitland Mayor Dale McDonald and Eatonville Mayor Eddie Cole attended the February 12 Commission meeting to show their solidarity with Winter Park and to urge all residents to demand that our representatives in Tallahassee oppose legislation that will preempt home rule.

Maitland Mayor Deplores ‘Arrogance’ of Elected State Reps

Speaking before the Commission, Mayor McDonald expressed his disillusionment with the “condescending arrogance” of our elected State representatives, “people we’ve known well – elected officials and legislators . . . who can pretend to be acting in your best interests, but who are not . . . .”

“The fear of leadership, the adversarial tones of the last couple of sessions, have been palpable,” said McDonald. “They will all remark on that. Our representatives in Tallahassee will tell you, ’Sorry, we can’t do anything, it’s the leadership. To get something, we’ve got to go along.’”

Whose Money Buys the Message?

McDonald noted, “It’s a whole lot easier to persuade one-hundred-odd legislators than it is 400 cities and 67 counties. But that’s their job. It’s not their job to make it easier for them to get paid – by the PACs and campaign contributions and so forth.” (The reader is encouraged to view Mayor McDonald’s complete remarks.)

A letter to Winter Park citizens from City Manager Randy Knight describes three bills that are particularly problematic.

Short-term Rentals

HB 773 prohibits cities from establishing ordinances specific to short-term vacation rentals. Online vacation rental sites like VRBO and Airbnb have generated brisk business in short-term, hotel-like rentals in residential neighborhoods. Problems include inadequate parking, noise and the presence of strangers in neighborhoods. Passage of HB 773 would prevent the City from locally regulating these businesses.

Community Redevelopment Agencies – CRAs

HB 17 and SB 432 would allow a CRA to be phased out if it is not reauthorized by a super majority vote of the body that created it. Winter Park’s CRA was created in the mid-90s and has been the catalyst for the renovation of the Hannibal Square commercial area, the Park Avenue street scape, construction of the Winter Park Community Center, numerous affordable housing and housing rehab projects and after-school programs.

Tree Trimming

With a school system that has dropped to 28th position nationally, according to Education Week, aging infrastructure and a fragile, over-taxed supply of fresh water, one would think our elected representatives in Tallahassee could find a better way to spend their time than developing tree-trimming regulations for cities like Winter Park and Eatonville.

Call to Action — It’s Not Too Late

Right Now — Email or phone your senators and representatives and tell them to oppose these bills and any others that prevent local government from maintaining the high standards that sustain the charm and character of Winter Park. Note — phone calls work as well as emails. They are recorded and they carry a lot of weight.

The vote is Thursday, Feb. 22, so there’s not a lot of time. It only takes a minute to Act Now. It’s time for Tallahassee to get back on track.

Senator Linda Stewart
stewart.linda.web@flsenate.gov
407-893-2422

Representative Mike Miller
mike.miller@myfloridahouse.gov
407-245-0588

Representative Robert “Bob” Cortes
bob.cortes@myfloridahouse.gov
407-262-7420

For complete lists:
FL Senate: <flsenate.gov/Senators/>
FL House of Representatives: flhouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/representatives.aspx

WP Celebrates Weekend of the Arts

Feb. 16 – 19 — All Over Town

WP Celebrates Weekend of the Arts

 

The weekend of Friday, February 16, through Monday, February 19, will mark the inauguration of Winter Park’s city-wide Weekend of the Arts Celebration.

Grab your Valentine and bring the kids – there will be something for everyone. The four-day weekend arts extravaganza will feature three dozen events at museums, galleries, theaters, public venues and outdoor spaces.

More than just a “Thing” in Central Park.

Events are taking place all over the city. There will be live musical and theatrical performances and one-of-a-kind art exhibits. Mead Botanical Garden and the Winter Park History Museum are sponsoring events especially for children. Central Park has plenty going on, too, but this celebration showcases the City’s organizations in their own venues.

Micronesian Art at the Polasek

The Polasek Museum has an extraordinary show of Micronesian Art collected by local anthropologist Barbara Wavell. Entitled Island Objects: Art and Adaptation in Micronesia, the show features Wavell’s private collection from the Pacific Islands of Micronesia. The objects, which date from the 1800s to the present, illustrate ways in which traditional culture has adapted to external societal forces through periods of Spanish, German, Japanese, and American influence. The exhibit includes a broad range of objects such as carved wooden figures and storyboards, intricately patterned fans, navigation charts, and woven clothing and adornments. http://polasek.org/exhibitions/current/

Bierstadt at the Morse

The Morse Museum will unveil The Domes of Yosemite, the largest existing painting by Albert Bierstadt (1830 – 1902), which is on loan from the St. Johnsbury Athanaeum in Vermont. The 1867 painting, measuring 10 by 15 feet, has not been shown outside the Athanaeum since its installation there in 1873. Charles Hosmer Morse was a St. Johnsbury native and a student at the St. Johnsbury Academy. “[His] connection to St. Johnsbury is the reason the Athanaeum offered the painting for temporary display at the Morse Museum,” said Athanaeum Director Bob Joly. “We are delighted to share this national treasure with the Central Florida community, where Morse’s legacy has meant so much.”

Museums Open to the Public

The Cornell Fine Arts Museum, the Crealde School of Art and the Hannibal Square Heritage Center will all be open to the public. There are live theatrical performances at Rollins College’s Annie Russell Theatre and the Winter Park Playhouse. Tickets and reservations are required for the theatrical events.

Music All Over Town

If music is your thing, there are three Bach Festival concerts, live music at Casa Feliz and a Winter Park Institute 10th Anniversary celebration concert in Central Park. The Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts will feature jazz on closing night, February 19 (tickets required).

Bragging Rights

The nine square miles that are Winter Park are home to 21 arts organizations, 18 of which are taking part in this inaugural celebration. According to a 2015 study by Arts & Economic Prosperity, while Winter Park represents just 2 percent of the population of Orange County, 27 percent of all cultural spending in the county happens here. More than 1 million people annually attend arts events in Winter Park. Arts and culture in Winter Park created 1,649 full-time jobs and generated $46 million annually in economic activity.

That’s a lot to brag about, so be sure you take full advantage of this weekend-long opportunity to enjoy our WP Bragging Rights.

For a full list of organizations and schedule of events, go to https://cityofwinterpark.org/visitors/arts-culture/

Click on arrow at bottom of image below to view video produced by WP Communications Department

What’s in a Name?

Who Gets to Choose?

What’s in a Name?

The January 22nd Commission meeting concluded with a lively discussion about the library-event center. At issue was, what do we call it? And, more importantly, who gets to decide?

Naming Rights – Whose Right?

On the agenda that night was an ordinance and accompanying policy language that bestowed the privilege of granting naming rights upon the Mayor and City Manager. The Mayor and Commissioners Peter Weldon and Greg Seidel thought that was okay, but Cooper and Sprinkel weren’t having any of it. Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel stated that she was affronted by the notion that decision-making authority would rest anywhere besides with the Commission as a whole.

Cooper’s Compromise

After several attempts, Commissioner Carolyn Cooper was able to get support for an amendment to the policy, giving the final decision-making authority to the Commission for naming the library building in its entirety, the event center building in its entirety, and the complex as a whole.

The ‘City,’ for which read, City staff in consultation with the Mayor and/or the Winter Park Library Association, may still decide naming rights for a room or an amenity or a portion of the facility, based on the size of the donation and the wishes of the donor.

Library Task Force Wants Naming Rights, Too

Not 48 hours later, Tom McMacken, Leslie O’Shaughnessy and Sam Stark gathered early Wednesday morning at City Hall for a meeting of the Library Task Force (LTF). There, too, the discussion included parking (there’s not enough of it), and naming – except here it was called branding.

The difference, apparently, lies in the purpose to which the language is put. If an entity tasked with raising funds is attempting to attract substantial donors, the name is a brand – something to be sold to the highest bidder. Once the highest bidder has bought the brand and the check has cleared, she or he gets to name the thing for which they’ve paid.

“A Piece of White Toast”

Sam Stark observed that the name ‘Library-Event Center’ was about as exciting as a piece of white toast. “At some point, we need to name this thing,” said Stark. “We need to name it, brand it, and then sell it.”

Forming a Campus

Assistant City Manager Michelle Neuner pointed out that the community is anxious to see the park upgrades and the new library-event center treated as a single project. Feedback indicates community desire for the Commission to structure their discussions along those lines. Taking their cue from Neuner’s suggestion, the LTF discussion began to refer to the park with its upgrades and the library-event center project as a cohesive whole – a campus.

Creating a Brand

The Task Force entertained a motion to create a Branding Task Force, but since only the Commission can create a Task Force, they settled for a Branding Subcommittee of the Library Task Force. The Subcommittee would be comprised of representatives from the Parks & Recreation Department, the Library, the LTF and City staff. Representing the LTF would be Sam Stark, and representing the City will probably be Communications Director Clarissa Howard.

The motion to create the Branding Subcommittee will appear on the February 12 Commission meeting agenda to receive the Commission’s approval. Members of the Subcommittee will be identified at that meeting.

Project Will Be Branded by Spring

The LTF plans for the Subcommittee to report out at the April 9 Commission meeting with a brand name. It will be up to the Subcommittee to hammer out the most appropriate approach and to determine how to brand the project, and/or the buildings, and/or the entire campus.

When the branding is successful — and there is no reason to believe it won’t be — then the Library-Event Center will finally get a Name.

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.