Sprinkel Steps Down from Canvassing Board

Cooper to Serve Instead

Sprinkel Steps Down from Canvassing Board

Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel announced her decision to step down from this year’s Canvassing Board for the March 12 election. Commissioner Sprinkel declined to comment on her decision.

According to Communications Director Clarissa Howard, Commissioner Carolyn Cooper will take Sprinkel’s place on the Canvassing Board. Commissioner Cooper was unavailable for comment as of this writing.

Who Certifies the Votes After City Election?

City Charter Differs from Florida Election Law

Who Certifies the Votes After City Election?

Among the three people who will certify the votes in the March 12 election is Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel, a very public supporter of the candidacy of Commissioner Peter Weldon. In her introductory speech at Weldon’s campaign kickoff party, Sprinkel stated, “It is not important that we re-elect Pete Weldon, it’s imperative that we re-elect Pete Weldon.”

The City Commission named Sprinkel, along with Commissioner Greg Seidel and City Clerk Cindy Bonham to the three-member Canvassing Board at its Feb. 11 meeting. The board will oversee the certification of the March 12 election and, if necessary, an April 9 runoff.

Canvassing Board Decisions Can Be Critical in Close Race

In a very close election, the Canvassing Board can determine the outcome. Think back to the 2000 presidential race and the ‘hanging chads,’ or the more recent Florida Senate race in which there were numerous recounts – all the result of Canvassing Board decisions.

Who Can Serve?

Commissioner Peter Weldon is ineligible to serve on the Cavassing Board, as he is a candidate with opposition. Mayor Steve Leary stated he was “out,” indicating he would not serve, but offering no explanation. According to the City Attorney and the City Manager, Commissioner Carolyn Cooper could have been appointed to the March 12 Canvassing Board, even though she is unavailable April 9, should there be a runoff, but Commissioners chose Sprinkel instead.

Although Florida Statutes disqualify from canvassing boards anyone who has campaigned for one of the candidates, those rules don’t apply to the city, said City Attorney Kurt Ardaman and City Clerk Cindy Bonham, who serves as Winter Park’s Supervisor of Elections. The city has its own rules, which are spelled out in its charter, they said.

Sprinkel Responds

Asked about her thoughts on participating in the Canvassing Board, Commissioner Sprinkel replied, “I was trained with the League of Women Voters to work on elections. . . . The residents and voters of Winter Park have no reason to question my honesty. I am a great proponent of the democratic process, and do not question the democratic process.”

How Does State Define ‘Active Participant’ in a Campaign?

Florida statutes governing the selection of State and County Canvassing Boards disqualify any Canvassing Board member “. . .who is also an active participant in the campaign or candidacy of any candidate with opposition in the election being canvassed.”

“Active participation” is described as, “Being a member of an election or re-election committee for a candidate, public endorsement with or without financial support of a candidate; holding campaign signs, wearing a campaign tee-shirt, or other public display of support for a candidate; signing an endorsement card for a candidate; attending a candidate’s campaign fundraiser. . . .”

Municipalities Exempt from State & County Laws

The Florida Statute does not require municipalities to follow suit. The Winter Park City Charter is silent on the issue of a Canvassing Board member’s “active participation” and does not disqualify members for actively supporting a candidate.

Winter Park City Charter

According to the Winter Park City Charter, “No commissioner or mayor shall participate in the canvassing of the returns of an election for which said commissioner or mayor is a candidate or subject to recall. For any disqualified city commissioner or mayor, the city clerk shall act as the alternate canvassing board member.”

WP Supervises Its Own Elections – Orange County is a Contractor

Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said that while his office acts as a contractor to the City of Winter Park for the March 12 election, it does not supervise the election. As a contractor to Winter Park, Orange County rents the voting machines to the City, works with the City to design the ballot, and mails out, collects and tabulates Vote by Mail ballots.

The Winter Park City Clerk acts as the Supervisor of Elections for the City, and she works with the City Attorney to determine the duties and composition of the City’s Canvassing Board.

Vote March 12

Three candidates are on the ballot in the March 12 election: Weldon, who is running for his second term, Todd Weaver, who served on County and City Lakes and Waterways Boards, and Barbara Chandler, Manager of the Hannibal Square Heritage Center.

Weldon, Weaver Face Off at WP Chamber

Chandler Did Not Participate

Weldon, Weaver Face Off at WP Chamber

 

Commissioner Peter Weldon faced off against Todd Weaver, one of his challengers for Commission Seat #4, before an overflow audience at the Winter Park Chamber this morning. The third candidate for Seat #4, Barbara Chandler, did not participate in the Chamber debate.

Transportation a Key Issue

A good part of the discussion revolved around transportation, traffic and infrastructure. While automobile traffic was certainly an issue, alternative modes of transportation and the need for connectivity also figured prominently. The candidates discussed at length the opportunities for capital improvement and additions to City infrastructure.

Canopy Project & Mixed Use Development Discussed

The candidates offered their views on the state of the Canopy project and on the pros and cons of mixed use development on gateway corridors. One question about the possibility of a medical marijuana dispensary in Winter Park elicited confessions from both candidates that, in the past, they had indeed inhaled.

Thanks to Both Candidates

The tenor of the debate was cordial and lively. Both candidates seemed well-informed and thoroughly engaged in the community. Campaigning for office, and the devotion of time required to serve in office, represent a significant level of commitment. Both of these gentlemen deserve our appreciation for their willingness to serve this community.

First of Four Public Debates

This morning’s debate was the first of four debates that are open to the public. The remaining three are as follows.

Winter Park Public Library — February 20 at Noon
Rollins College — February 26, time TBA
University Club – February 27 at 6:30 pm
The Mayflower and Westminster Towers will host private debates, which only residents may attend.

Video of All Public Debates Here on the WP Voice

The Winter Park Voice will post video of all four public debates. Those who cannot attend a debate in person can view the video to see which of these candidates you will choose to represent you in Commission Seat #4.

Vote March 12.

VOTING HAS STARTED!

Get Your Vote by Mail Ballot – There’s Still Time

VOTING HAS STARTED!

Voting in the March 12, 2019 election has begun. Vote by Mail ballots are being sent out this week. There will be no early voting at the library for this election.

It’s easy to get your Vote by Mail ballot. Contact the Orange County Supervisor of Elections either online at https://ocfelections.com or call (407) 836-2070.

There is only ONE race on the ballot – Winter Park Commission Seat #4.

The ballot looks like this.

When we all vote, everybody wins!

Winter Park Land Trust Kickoff

Go Green on February 28 – 6:00 pm — WP Farmers Market

Winter Park Land Trust Kickoff

Grab your Valentine and get ready to party!

Farmers Market — February 28 at 6:00 pm
Come celebrate the establishment of the Winter Park Land Trust with friends, food and music. Find out how you can be part of the mission of creating, enhancing and connecting our urban parks and green space for everyone’s benefit and enjoyment.

What is a Land Trust?

A land trust is a private non-profit organization whose purpose is to conserve land in perpetuity. It enhances the character of the community by providing open green space for recreation, education, the protection of water and air quality, wildlife habitat, and agriculture.

Land trusts ensure lasting stewardship of conserved lands and waters by working with government to create long-term plans looking out over several generations. Land trusts connect the planning process to the public through membership in the organization. There are more than 1,200 land trusts across the U.S., ranging from all volunteer community-based organizations to large staffed land conservation non-profits with statewide or national territories.

Why Does Winter Park Need a Land Trust?

The 2015 – 2016 Winter Park Visioning Process revealed that expanding and connecting urban parks and green space is one of Winter Park citizens’ most important community values.

A community land trust plays an important role providing additional local open space, and it can supplement the ability of city government to provide and maintain green space.

Land trusts in the United States are long-lived, because they are able to transcend the everyday operational responsibilities and the changes in personnel faced by local governments. They exist solely to support a permanent framework of parks and green space in cities and towns.

Vision and Mission Driven

“The mission of the Winter Park Land Trust is to plan, finance and manage the acquisition of land and interests in land to be used for the creation, expansion, improvement, and connecting of parkland and green space within and adjacent to the City of Winter Park.

Our vision is that the Land Trust will help to ensure that Winter Park and surrounding communities will be an area with sufficient parks and open space, where the footprint of existing parks will be increased, and wherever possible, parks and green spaces will be connected in order to balance and reduce the adverse impacts of increasing development and population density. Attractive green space will then always be an important asset and characteristic of the Winter Park area.”

To learn more, go to www.winterparklandtrust.org

Become a Member

By joining The Winter Park Land Trust, you can help with the process of permanent land acquisition for urban parks and greenspace in Winter Park. You can become a member now by going to the website address above – and come to the kickoff party to learn all about it!
The Winter Park Land Trust is supported through private, tax-deductible contributions. Your contribution is an effective way of acting upon your belief in creating a lasting legacy to secure the quality of life in Winter Park.

Make Way for the Wrecking Ball

Civic Center to Be Demolished This Week

Make Way for the Wrecking Ball

Controversy surrounding the city’s new library project dominated the January 28 City Commission discussions, even though it wasn’t on the agenda. This time around, criticism came from state officials, who aren’t happy with the City’s plans to build its new library and civic center at Martin Luther King Park. The state has even warned that the city could lose future grant money for parks if it doesn’t comply with the rules.

None of that is stopping the City from going full speed ahead with the project. Plans are underway to tear down the Rachel Murrah Civic Center this week and take the chainsaw to 60 trees at the park between now and April.

City Out of Compliance with State Grant Rules

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection notified the City Manager in a letter dated March 6, 2018 that the city had failed to follow the rules governing a grant it received in 1994 for improvements to Martin Luther King Park. Commissioner Carolyn Cooper and several citizens pleaded unsuccessfully with commissioners to hit the pause button to resolve the issue.

Seen in this context, and taking into account the City’s failure, so far, to come up with a clear plan to bring the Canopy project back in line with the $30 Million budget approved by the voters in 2016, the decision to proceed with such haste gives one pause.

Playing the Blame Game

“There is a small group that continues to protest this project and has gone to the State and has asked the State to overturn previous State grants, once again costing the citizens of Winter Park money,” said Leary. “If we have to pay back the State . . . uh, this is a small group who are shooting people in the foot. It’s an absurd request.”

FL Department of Environmental Protection

The notification of non-compliance came from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and concerned the 1994 grant for improvements to MLK Park under the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program (FRDAP). The grant required the City to dedicate the park, in perpetuity, “as an outdoor recreation site for the benefit of the general public.” [emphasis added]

City Version of Deed Restriction Unacceptable to FDEP

A March 6, 2018, letter from FDEP General Counsel’s office warned that the Public Dedication recorded by the City in January 2018, “does not meet the requirements of the rule and is not acceptable to the department.” The letter went on to state, “Failure to comply with the department’s rules can result in the City being declared out of compliance and therefore ineligible for further grants from the department.”

This could affect the City’s application for a FRDAP grant for improvements to the wetlands around Howell Branch.

But Wait – There’s More

A January 16, 2019 letter from FDEP stated, “It has also come to our attention that some or all of the City’s previous land and recreation grants do not have restrictive covenants recorded for the parks funded by our grants.” In addition to MLK Park, the letter contains a list of other FRDAP grants for locations such as Lake Baldwin Park, Mead Garden, Phelps Park and the Howell Branch Preserve, requesting the City to provide copies of the declarations of restrictive covenants for each within 60 days.

To read the full text, click here.

What’s a Deed Restriction?

A FRDAP grant to the City carries with it the requirement to publicly record with Orange County a covenant restricting the park to outdoor recreation, in perpetuity.

If the City converts this dedicated land to another use, according to the January 16 FDEP letter, the City must “. . .replace the removed property with property of similar size and value and replace any facilities (such as the walking trails around the current civic center that were part of the FRDAP grant) that will be removed by the new construction.”

Citizens Urge Caution

During public comment, several citizens urged the Commissioners to move cautiously with their demolition plans until the way forward is clearer.

“I see a tendency by the City to insulate itself from opposing views and from citizen input,” began Beth Hall. She pointed out that the original Library Task Force had considered multiple sites for the new library, MLK Park among them. “But I don’t see where the FRDAP grant was pointed out or considered by the Task Force,” she said. “Thus a major restriction on the viability of the site was ignored.” Hall pointed out that the City had made no attempt to inform voters of this issue at the time of the bond referendum.

Who Knew about the Grant?

In a January 30 email responding to a public records request from Beth Hall, City Clerk Cindy Bonham confirmed the City has no records of communications or materials about the MLK Park FRDAP grant being provided to the Library Task Force, to the Commission, to the Planning & Zoning Board, the Library Board, the Library Staff or to the trial court that heard the bond validation suit.

Road Not Taken

Referring to the FDEP requirement to replace all converted lands with land of similar value, Hall asked the Commission to remember the bowling alley property. “That it is gone is a failure of long-term vision and strategic thinking,” she said. “Maybe hearing other voices would have taken us another way, but we will never know, for that was the road not taken.”

When is a Canopy Not a Canopy?


Charley Williams displayed the City’s tree demolition legend, which identifies more than 60 trees that will fall victim to the chainsaw this spring. He suggested the City Communications Department might keep citizens abreast of what will transpire in MLK Park. He showed before and after pictures of mature live oaks that were removed January 26 to make way for the Civic Center demolition.

Williams urged Winter Park to “show some leadership” by heeding the advice of the Winter Park Forestry department to save mature specimen trees by root pruning and moving them to safety within the park. He pointed out that other cities have done this and that there are Winter Park residents ready and willing to privately fund the project. “We’ve already named it the Canopy,” said Williams. “Now I think we ought to walk the walk.”

‘We Keep Whittling Away Amenities While the Price Goes Up’

Kim Allen enumerated ways in which the Canopy project has changed since it started in 2016. The square footage of the library is significantly reduced. Elements of the buildings, like the porte cochere at the entrance, have either been eliminated or declared ‘alternatives,’ which the City can build only if it raises additional money. The $30 Million budget cannot accommodate many elements that would seem integral to the success of the project.

Sarah Sprinkel: “It Makes Me Mad”

In her closing comments, Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel decried having what she called “an issue that some people in this community have created for us.”

Cooper reiterated her suggestion to put the matter of the grants on the City Manager’s report so that people could see periodic updates of how the City is working through the issue. Cooper’s desire for this kind of transparency was not supported by her fellow Commissioners.

Leary: “It Just Seems to be One Thing After Another”

In his concluding remarks, Mayor Leary said, “Whether it’s trees outside, or whether it’s water . . . I mean, it’s one thing after another.”

3 Candidates Vie for Commission Seat #4

Cooper Unopposed for Seat #3

3 Candidates Vie for Commission Seat #4

Cooper Unopposed

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper will serve a fourth and final term as Commissioner in Seat #3. “I am gratified to have the support of so many Winter Park residents,” said Cooper, “and I look forward to serving those residents for the next three years.”

Incumbent Peter Weldon Seeks Second Term

Running on the slogan “Getting Results that Matter,” Commissioner Peter Weldon is seeking a second term on the City Commission. First elected in 2016, Weldon ran on a property rights oriented platform that promised to repeal the then-newly-passed Historic Preservation Ordinance. Immediately following his election, Weldon successfully accomplished that goal. His 2019 campaign points to the many positive things that have transpired in the City since 2016.

Candidate Todd Weaver

Weaver, a semi-retired aerospace engineer and engineering consultant, has lived in Winter Park for 22 years. He served on both Winter Park and Orange County Lakes and Waterways Boards and is founder of Friends of Lake Bell. He is running as a “common sense environmentalist” and says he believes “the city needs to seriously consider the choices it makes about infrastructure and what Winter Park will look like in ten or twenty years.”

Candidate Barbara Chandler

The race for Seat #4 recently heated up as a third candidate, Barbara Chandler, threw her hat into the ring to challenge incumbent Commissioner Peter Weldon and candidate Todd Weaver.

Chandler is Manager of the Hannibal Square Heritage Center. According to her website, Chandler is running on a “Families First” platform, vowing to keep Winter Park Family-Friendly. Chandler has not responded to WP Voice requests for information as of this writing, but any information she chooses to provide will be included in an updated version of this article.

May Trigger an April 9 Runoff

If none of the candidates for Commission Seat #4 receives a majority of the vote in the March 12 general election — that means 50 percent plus one vote – that will trigger a runoff election between the two candidates who received the most votes. A runoff election, if necessary, will be held April 9.

Request Your Mail-in Ballot Today

Glitch in Orange County System Has Been Fixed

Request Your Mail-in Ballot Today

Call 407-836-8683 or 407-836-2070.

Readers have called and messaged, saying they were told by the Orange County Supervisor of Elections office that they would be unable to vote in the March 12 election.

That was due to an error in the Orange County system which has been corrected.

Winter Park voters vote ‘at large,’ not by precinct or district. All Winter Park Voters May Vote in the March 12 election.

Mail-in ballots are available now.

Call 407-836-8683 or 407-836-2070 to request your mail-in ballot today.

Budget Blows a Hole in the Canopy

Project Still Doesn’t Fit the Budget

Budget Blows a Hole in the Canopy

News Flash

A small item on the City Manager’s Report at the January 14 Commission meeting stated, “Library Design: Project pricing came back on design development drawings and the project is over budget.”

Getting the Project Back to the Level It Should Be

Commissioner Greg Seidel asked City Manager Randy Knight to elaborate. “Staff continues to work with the design team,” said Knight, “trying to bring the project in on the budget the Commission’s adopted. . . . Once we get the project to the level it should be,” Knight said, “I’ll be bringing [the design] back to the City Commission . . . along with some add-alt opportunities” so the Commission can decide if they will try to fund those and, if so, how.

Should We Wait to Demolish the Murrah Civic Center?

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper attempted to make a motion to delay demolition of the Rachel Murrah Civic Center and removal of surrounding trees until the Commission has a clearer idea of how they are moving forward with the Canopy project. Cooper was, however, ruled out of order by Mayor Steve Leary because, he said, the item was not on the agenda as an action item and had not been publicly noticed.

‘Small Group of Citizens Increased Costs’

Leary went on to state, “The only increased cost to taxpayers so far has been the lawsuit brought against the taxpayers and the voters in the city by a small group. That has cost us in legal bills; that has cost us in delays. So, additional monies that must be spent to move this forward, as of today, have not been due to overages because we’re still working through the budget.”

Citizens Sought to Prevent Library Location in MLK Park

Leary was referring to the Save Our Library WP PAC’s 2016 petition drive to prevent the new library from being located in Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Park. The PAC gathered 2,300 voters’ signatures in what was supposed to be a Citizens’ Initiative, which has no deadline. The City Clerk declared the petitions “insufficient,” insisting they constituted “reconsideration of a referendum,” for which the deadline had passed. The court upheld the City, and the library location was never put to a vote. According to the City Manager, the lawsuit cost the City $32,878 – slightly less than it would have cost to put the matter of location to a vote of the people.

Bond Validation Suit – ‘A Wise Investment’

The City also spent $168,881 on a Bond Validation Suit to protect the City from future legal challenge regarding the bond issue. The successful Bond Validation Suit had the added advantage of allowing the bonds to be sold at a more favorable rate. According to an attorney who was close to the situation, who asked not to be identified, “Any expenditures associated with the bond validation will be recovered over the life of the bonds and represents a wise investment on the part of the City.”

So, What Do We Know Now about Projected Costs for the Canopy?

A November 2018 email from City Clerk Cindy Bonham summarizes spending and funding sources on the Library-Event Center as of September 30, 2018.

On Nov 9, 2018, at 2:13 PM, Cindy Bonham <CBonham@cityofwinterpark.org> wrote:

Current Cost Projections

 


In a January 16 email to the Voice, City Manager Knight sent the most current figures available at that date which, he cautioned, are nowhere near final. “At the stage this spreadsheet was developed the base project would be 12.5 percent above budget,” he wrote. The “base project” he refers to is the library-event center without a single one of the add alternates – including the porte cochere at the entrance.

“Once the design team has managed to bring the cost of the base project to within budget,” wrote Knight, “we will present the Commission a list of add alternates that we think they may wish to consider along with potential ways to fund those alternates.”

Project Status – Only the Numbers Will Change

While Knight’s numbers will definitely change, the information he provided presents a good picture of the shape of the project and where each element now stands.

Is $30 Million Enough?

From these numbers, it would appear the original $30M budget, which was supposed to include a comfortable cushion, barely covers two of the three items on the March 15, 2016 ballot, which called for a library, events center and associated parking structure.

The associated parking structure has morphed into expanded surface parking on and around MLK Park. The library has gone from 50,000 square feet to a little over 34,000 square feet. The event center will be slightly larger than the current Civic Center, estimated at 12,600 square feet.

The enhancements envisioned for the project, such as the porte cochere at the entrance, the exterior amphitheater, the interior raked auditorium and the rooftop venue stand to shoot the budget into the stratosphere, adding between $10 and $14 Million to the cost of a $30 Million project.

The Real Work Begins

To bring this Canopy dream to fruition will take some serious compromise and fundraising of mythic proportion.

Winter Season Opens at CFAM

Brilliant Color, Dark Humor and an Examination of ‘Place’

Winter Season Opens at CFAM

Rollins College Cornell Fine Arts Museum (CFAM) launches its Winter 2019 season today with a thought-provoking exhibit featuring favorites from the permanent collection and the debut of several new acquisitions. The show builds conversations around notions of ‘place’ – the city, places of devotion, landscape, the politics of place and the experience of place beyond the immediate.

What is place?
What is home?
Where do you fit – and how?
This is the essence of “The Place as Metaphor.”

Rococolab – Brilliant Color, Dark Humor

Of particular note is the gallery devoted to “The De la Torre Brothers: Rococolab.” Collaborating artist-brothers Einar and Jamex De la Torre live and work in Ensenada, Mexico and San Diego, California. Their dynamic, baroque-inspired glass work is the product of their bicultural life, which floats freely between Mexico and the U.S.

Though they are widely known in international art circles, this is the De la Torre brothers’ first solo museum exhibition in Florida. Organized by CFAM Curator Gisela Carbonell, the presentation of their work invites consideration of some of the most pressing issues in contemporary culture. Using bright light, vivid color and some very dark humor, the De la Torre brothers’ work speaks a visual language to which contemporary viewers can easily relate.

Bicultural, Bilingual English and Spanish

As you walk into the gallery, the grouping of intricate images waits, like gifts in a box, for you to unpack each one. Open them up and discover inside the beauty, joy, dark humor and scary truths they contain. The exhibit is accompanied by an illustrated booklet, available in the museum store, which is written both in English and in Spanish.

CFAM is located at 1000 Holt Avenue on the Rollins campus. It is open Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free in 2019, courtesy of PNC Financial Services Group. To check hours and special programs, visit the website at Rollins.edu/cfam

The show will be on view from January 17 to May 12, 2019.