Candidates Face Off at Rollins

Two Down, One to Go

Candidates Face Off at Rollins

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At Rollins College Bush Auditorium, Commissioner Greg Seidel once again faced his opponent for Commission Seat #1, Wes Naylor. This second of three debates was hosted by the Rollins College Democracy Project and was moderated by the Democracy Project Student Coordinator Destiny Reyes.

Candidates addressed questions about fostering economic development in the city, improving infrastructure, the role of education in the city, specifically as it relates to Rollins, and the importance of community involvement in local government.

An unabridged video of the debate is included here for those who were unable to attend.

The next debate will be held at the Winter Park Library March 10 at Noon.

Man Struck by Amtrak Train

Near 17-92 Overpass

Man Struck by Amtrak Train

train crossingPolice reported that a man walking on the train tracks just south of the 17-92 overpass was struck by an Amtrak train last night about 8:00 pm. Lieutenant Pam Marcum of the Winter Park Police Department said that an Amtrak employee called an ambulance, which transported the man to the hospital, where he later died.

Marcum described the man as an Hispanic male. His age and identity are being withheld pending further investigation and notification of next of kin. Marcum was unable to say at this time whether the death was accidental or the victim intentionally put himself in the path of the oncoming train.

Amtrak did not respond to requests for comment.

Candidates Face Off at Chamber Debate

City Has Money – How Should We Spend It?

Candidates Face Off at Chamber Debate

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Before a packed audience at the Chamber of Commerce early this morning, Commissioner Greg Seidel faced off against Wes Naylor, his challenger for Commission Seat #1.

A good part of the discussion centered on the swelling City coffers that have resulted from rising property values and redevelopment within the CRA district. The City experienced an 8 percent increase in revenue last year. The candidates discussed at length the opportunities for capital improvement and additions to City infrastructure.

Talk About Traffic, Taxes, Public Safety

Candidates took up the topics of roads, traffic, parking, the installation of a fiber optic “spine” through the City, and coordination of traffic planning with neighboring communities such as Orlando and Maitland.

Taxes and crime also got some attention. The recent rash of property crimes, coupled with the tragic death of young Roger Trindade, raised questions about the safety of Park Avenue and the need for increased police presence there.

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.

The Choice Is Yours

This morning’s debate was the first of three. The Winter Park Library will hold a debate March 10 at Noon, and Rollins College will hold an evening debate at Bush Auditorium on a date to be announced.

The Winter Park Voice will post video of all three debates. Even those who cannot attend one of the debates can view the video to see which one of these candidates you would choose to represent you in Commission Seat #1.

 

Vote March 14.

Every Day Is Training Day

At Winter Park Fire-Rescue

Every Day Is Training Day

WPFD-logoOutside, the morning is cool and sunny but inside, the old building at Progress Point is eerily dark, quiet. Suddenly, four fire fighters, each wearing 50 to 60 pounds of gear and carrying another 25 pounds of tools, burst into the room like figures in an action movie. They wear hoods and cannot see. They make plenty of noise. They conduct a quick “right hand search,” with two men proceeding into the room keeping their right hands on the wall. A third officer carries a Thermal Imaging Camera that is sensitive enough to detect the warmth from a fire fighter’s hand print on the wall. This is how they see.thermal handprint

Tangle Tunnel

The officer with the camera directs the men as they crawl under and over furniture, searching for fire and for victims. One of the obstacles they encounter is a “tangle tunnel.” A long plywood tunnel crisscrossed with wires and cords, the tangle tunnel replicates what a fire fighter would have to deal with if a ceiling has burned, leaving wires and fixtures dangling. The fully loaded fire fighter must crawl, blindfolded, through the 10-foot long space with his body at an angle to ensure the air bottle he carries on his back does not get hung up in the wires.

“We are frequently called at night,” explains Jimm Walsh, Division Chief of the Winter Park Fire-Rescue Department, “and if there is smoke — even in daylight — we can see nothing. So this is how we conduct our drills.”

Progress Point Being Put to Good Use . . .

Winter Park Fire – Rescue has set up their training facility in the old call center building at Progress Point on Orange Avenue. It is used not just by Winter Park, but also by other area fire companies, including Orlando.

. . .As Is Some Previously Used Furniture

Using furniture and fixtures gleaned from defunct businesses and a few alleys, Fire Rescue training folks have created a mockup daycare center, a living room, an office, a child’s bedroom with bunk bed, and a playroom with toys. The tangle tunnels are placed at random. Amongst the jumble of furniture are mannequins – sand-filled “victims,” some child-size and some weighing as much as 220 pounds – dead weight that must be dragged to safety amidst chaos.

Firefighters at the Ready 24/7

Winter Park has 69 active firefighters (not including administrative personnel) — three women and 66 men. Of the 69, 57 are trained paramedics. Walsh estimates that 70 percent of their calls are medical emergencies. The remaining 30 percent he describes as “other” – fires, automobile accidents, hazmat and other types of emergencies. The department works a three-shift system, with firefighters on duty for 24 hours and off 48 hours. Each shift is covered by 23 firefighters.

Sole Provider of Emergency Medical Service

Winter Park Fire Rescue is the sole provider of emergency medical services within the city limits. Units respond from three fire stations, strategically located to cover the nine-square-mile area of Winter Park. The main station is on Canton Avenue, and the other two are located on Lakemont Avenue and Howell Branch Road. The department has two fully equipped ambulances, and while fire trucks cannot transport a patient to the hospital, each is equipped to provide advanced life support until an ambulance arrives.

Hours of Practice Build ‘Muscle Memory’

Each firefighter must complete a minimum of 20 hours of training a month. Most complete more than that. The array of knowledge required of a firefighter is, dare we say, awe-inspiring. In addition to knowing how to operate their equipment, drive the vehicles, practice the latest firefighting techniques and the latest medical emergency procedures, there is an ever-changing list of new information and equipment with which they must familiarize themselves.

“We are trying to build muscle memory,” said Jimm Walsh, “so that in an emergency situation, these people don’t have to think. They just act. It saves seconds, and seconds can save lives.”

They Know WP Like the Backs of Their Hands

Every firefighter must know the location of every single street in Winter Park. Even though the units have Siri to tell them where to go, technology can fail, so the firefighters must be able to demonstrate their knowledge of the area without technical assistance.

Firefighters study detailed engineering drawings of every commercial and multi-residential building in the city – and there are thousands of them. They learn the interior layouts, how to disable the alarm systems, where to turn off the electricity, where to turn on the water and the location of all fire hydrants in the vicinity of each building.

WPFD Earned Top Rating

All this effort has paid off. In 2013, after an on-site examination from the Insurance Services Office (ISO), the WPFD received a Class 1 rating – the highest possible. Criteria for the rating are community water supply, emergency communications (911) and the fire department itself.

Within the Fire Department, the areas evaluated include daily staffing, fire apparatus, training, equipment and pre-fire planning. WPFD is one of only three departments in the U.S. to receive Class 1 accreditation from the ISO. The classification is used by insurers to rate the risk of loss, which affects premiums paid by property owners.

Winter Park is a wonderful place to live. Everyone says so. So much goes on behind the scenes to make it that way. Thanks to these folks for looking out for us – 24/7.

Greg Seidel, Wes Naylor Vie for Commission Seat #1

Traffic Congestion, Public Safety Top Priorities

Greg Seidel, Wes Naylor Vie for Commission Seat #1

Three Candidate Debates

Open to the public and free of charge.

Welcome Center

151 W. Lyman Ave.
Friday, Feb. 10 – 8:00 am
Sponsored by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce

Winter Park Library

460 E. New England Ave.
Friday, March 10 – 12:00 Noon
Sponsored by the Winter Park Public Library

Rollins College

Bush Auditorium
Date to Be Determined
Sponsored by the Rollins College Democracy Project

Spring is right around the corner — which means yet another election cycle for the City of Winter Park. On March 14, there is one contest in Winter Park – Commission Seat #1.

Greg Seidel has held Commission Seat #1 since 2015, when Steve Leary resigned to run for mayor. As the three-year term for Seat #1 comes to a close, Seidel is looking for a second term, “to continue the work we’ve begun during my time on the Commission,” he says.

Seidel – Civil Engineer

Seidel owns the Winter Park-based engineering and economics firm Balmoral Group, and has a 26-year career as a civil engineer. He has lived in Winter Park off and on since he was eight, when his father came to work at the Naval base. Greg and his wife Val are rearing two daughters in Winter Park and are active in the First United Methodist Church. Seidel serves on the school advisory council at Glenridge Middle School. Before he took his Commission seat in 2015, he served on the Winter Park Utility Advisory Board, which he chaired from 2011 to 2014. Seidel was instrumental in the utility undergrounding currently underway in Winter Park.

Naylor – Navy Veteran

Seidel is challenged by Wes Naylor, president of the Orlando-based consulting firm Coe & Naylor Group LLC. Naylor completed a 28-year career as a Naval officer and aviator. He is former commanding officer of the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division. He is a member of the Winter Park Police Pensions Board, St. Margaret Mary School Board, the Orlando Science Center Board and the Central Florida Partnership Board. Wes and his wife Lori have a 10-year-old daughter.

Traffic & Public Safety – Key Issues

In separate interviews with the Voice, both candidates expressed their concern for the safety and well-being of Winter Park residents and the need to manage the growing traffic congestion that is one result of the economic prosperity Central Floridians are enjoying. Watch the videos above to hear how each candidate plans to approach the issues that face Winter Park.

But, before you do – and however you decide – Do Decide. Cast Your Vote on March 14.

Winter Park’s Most Influential

Randy Noles Honored at Mead Botanical Garden

Winter Park’s Most Influential

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Randy Noles

On January 24, dozens of Winter Park “influentials” gathered to celebrate the work of Randy Noles, long-time editor and publisher of Winter Park Magazine. The crowd assembled to honor Noles’s contributions as community builder and, in particular, his support of Mead Botanical Garden, Inc., which hosted the reception.

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The Gazebros provided the music. L to R: Jack Byrd, Trevor Hall, Craig Taylor, Sheila Verde and Chip Weston. The Gazebros play at the Gazebo in Albert Park in College Park, at 6:30 on Tuesday evenings, weather permitting.

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Genean McKinnon

Katrina Jenkins

Katrina Jenkins

 

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Ned Cooper & Commissioner Carolyn Cooper

 

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Phil Kean

 

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Dr. Bahia Maroon

 

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Pat & Randy Robertson

 

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Janne Lane

 

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Dr. Jack Lane

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Steve Goldman, Peter Gottfried and Commissioner Peter Weldon

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L to R: Randy Noles, Steve Goldman, Randy Roberts, Thaddeus Seymour

 

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Ann and Tom McMacken

 

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Bob Hartnett (left) and Steve Foreman (right)

 

Ann Murrah

Ann Murrah

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Erika Spence and Debra Hendrickson

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Rafael Diez – Reprinted with permission — http://cartoonucaricatures.com

To mark the occasion, this character drawing by Rafael Diez was presented to Noles. Mead Botanical Garden Executive Director Cynthia Hasenau learned that Noles, himself, had an abbreviated career as a character artist. “That,” she said, “led me to commission this rendition of Randy enjoying a stroll in Mead Garden.”

Judge Denies Citizens’ PAC

Requests for Rehearing, Rewording Denied

Judge Denies Citizens’ PAC


city-libary-cogsAs 2017 gears up, the court continues to clear obstacles from the Winter Park Library’s path to Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Park. Judge Margaret Schreiber has denied the Save Our Library WP PAC’s requests for a rehearing of the bond validation suit and the removal of language specifying the library location from her ruling.

Petition Question Still Unanswered

The only matter still pending is a request that the court quash the Certificate of Insufficiency issued by City Clerk Cindy Bonham. The City maintains the petition is a “reconsideration of a referendum,” which must be filed within 30 days of the election. The PAC says their petition, which was filed in August well after the election, was an initiative seeking to establish an ordinance to prevent a library from being built in MLK Park. A Citizens’ Initiative, provided for in the City Charter, has no time limit.

City Fees Top $200,000

According to City Manager Randy Knight, the City’s legal fees, to date, amount to $201,759. Fees in the bond validation suit are $168,881, and fees in the dispute over the petition total $32,878.

Bond Validation Protects City, Saves Money in the Long Run

The bond validation protects the City from future legal challenge regarding the bond issue, and it will save the City money by allowing the bonds to be sold at a more favorable rate. Any expenditures associated with the bond validation will be recovered over the life of the bonds and, according to an attorney knowledgeable about the situation but who asked not to be identified, represents a wise investment on the part of the City.

PAC: City Could Have Avoided Additional Fees

According to citizens associated with the Save Our Library WP PAC, the City would not have incurred the $32,878 in fees if they had acknowledged the citizens’ petition initiative. Michael Poole, president of the PAC, told the Voice, “This expenditure could have been avoided by allowing the voters a say in the location of the library – either by including location language in the March 15, 2016 ballot, or by accepting the citizens’ petition as an initiative and allowing the voters to express their preference that way. If the City had put the location to a vote, it would not have cost them anything.”

 

Election Looms

Election Looms

City Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel will start her third term in office this March without opposition, but Commissioner Greg Seidel faces a challenge to his second term on Seat 1: Wes Naylor, whom Mayor Steve Leary appointed to the city’s Police Pension Board five months ago.

How those developments will affect the board’s future approach to zoning and planning is anyone’s guess. Even before the election, commissioners this week showed they can act unpredictably on such matters.

Unforeseen Zoning Votes

Sprinkel, who often agrees with Leary on zoning issues, did just that with most items on Monday’s agenda. But she joined forces with Commissioner Carolyn Cooper to oppose a relatively minor lot-split request, defeating it in a 2-2 vote from which Seidel abstained because the applicant was building him a home.

Later, Seidel, who often sides with Cooper on zoning matters, found a third ally to defeat a contentious request affecting a westside neighborhood.

The applicant, Morgan Bellows, wanted to rezone a single-family lot on Comstock Avenue to higher density R2 so he could build a large single-family house. R2 zoning would give him an extra 600 extra square feet so the house could be 4,300 square feet.
Seven residents made impassioned pleas against the project because of the cumulative effect such rezonings and larger structures would have on the small westside community.

Racism an Issue?

“Inch by inch, block by block, you start changing,” said Martha Hall about her neighborhood. She recounted the history of efforts to remove blacks from west Winter Park starting in the 1800s. “You all may look at it in a different manner, but when you look at racism, when you look at discrimination, it happens. I always say, there’s a zebra and can a zebra change its stripes? You all continue to make the same decisions” on westside development.

Opponents weren’t optimistic their arguments would be heard. The Planning and Zoning Commission had voted 2-2 on the request, with board member Randall Slocum abstaining because he was working for Bellows. On Monday, city commissioners also heaped high praise on Bellows’ application and design.

Commissioner Pete Weldon even chided Hall by name. “I am sick and tired of people coming here and associating the performance, the judgment, and the thought processes of the people who serve this community as racist, and I don’t want to hear it again, Miss Hall.” Leary agreed the racism words “disgusted” him.

“You will hear it again,” a woman in the audience called out.

Then Weldon did the unexpected. He said he was voting against the rezoning, “not because the neighbors are all against it, not because Miss Hall thinks I’m a racist, but because in my judgment it is an accommodation without strategic purpose for the neighborhood or the city.”

Interviewed after the meeting, Hall, surprised by the 3-2 vote, said, “I was pointing out history and what has happened through the years and what continues to happen. I didn’t call anyone up there racist.” She said it’s important to talk about issues like racism to address them. “When a person can’t sit down and talk about it, something is wrong.”

Parking Lot Nixed

Perhaps the most unexpected vote of the evening was the commission’s unanimous denial of Phil Kean Designs’ request for a parking area in a residential neighborhood. The Fairbanks Avenue business wanted to rezone a single-family lot behind the business, making the front portion R2 and the back portion parking for Kean’s business.
Planning and Zoning had voted 3-2 for approval, and city planners argued that fencing would shield neighbors from the parking. Commissioners also heaped high praise on Kean, a luxury home developer, but Weldon moved to deny the request, with Cooper seconding. The rezonings were defeated 5-0.

March Election

In addition to the Seat 1 election, the city election on March 14 will include a charter question changing the way the city handles multi-candidate races. Currently, the city holds a primary race in February when there are more than two candidates. The charter amendment would put the first ballot in March and hold a runoff, if needed, in April.
Seidel is on the ballot again after two years because he ran successfully for the remainder of Leary’s term after Leary resigned to run for mayor in 2015. Seidel previously served on the city’s Utility Advisory Board as its chairman. He is vice president of a Winter Park-based civil engineering firm and has lived in the city 16 years. Naylor, a retired Naval officer, is president and managing partner of an Orlando consulting group serving businesses seeking military contracts. He moved to Winter Park five years ago.

Save Our Library PAC Disputes Judge’s Ruling

Requests Rehearing to Present New Evidence

Save Our Library PAC Disputes Judge’s Ruling

city-libary-cogsThe Save Our Library WP PAC has filed two motions with Orange County Circuit Court requesting a rehearing of the library bond validation suit and asking Judge Margaret Schreiber to amend her Final Judgment, issued December 7, 2016.

PAC Wants to Present New Evidence

The request for rehearing is to present evidence, not presented at the hearing on October 20, 2016, that contradicts the City’s position that the new library-event center complex can only be built in Martin Luther King, Jr., (MLK) Park.

Memory Jog for City Manager

The evidence in question is video of City Manager Randy Knight speaking April 21, 2016 at a public meeting about the library. In the video, Knight states that the library could be built in a location other than MLK Park. At the October court hearing, Knight testified that he could not recall whether or not he had made that statement at the April meeting.

PAC Asks Judge to Strike 3 Paragraphs

The motion to amend the Final Judgment asks the Judge to eliminate paragraphs #26, #34 and #35 of the Final Judgement. Click Here to read Final Judgment.

Paragraph #26 refers to the PAC’s petition as a “reconsideration of the Bond Ordinance,” and states that the petition is now barred because it failed to meet a 30-day deadline for filing.

‘Reasonable Voter’ Paragraph Questioned

Paragraph #34 holds that a reasonable voter, upon reading the bond ordinance, would have understood that the new complex was to be built on the site of the existing Civic Center, and Paragraph #35 states that the MLK site was a matter of public record because of the motion passed at the October 26, 2016 commission meeting.

No Decision Reached in Separate Case

The PAC’s requests are based on a separate action filed in the Ninth Circuit Appellate Division in which they claim their petition is a Citizens’ Initiative and does not seek reconsideration of the bond ordinance. They hold that, because the intended location of the new complex did not appear anywhere on the ballot, the voters did not knowingly vote to locate the complex in MLK Park. They voted only to approve the library bonds.

No One Contested the Bond Validation

“In the bond validation case,” said PAC President Michael Poole, “the judge was asked only to validate the bonds. No one contested that. I do not know how [Judge Schreiber] could also decide on the library location when the location language appeared nowhere on the March 15 ballot. And the decision as to whether our petition constituted a reconsideration of the bond ordinance or not has nothing to do with validating the bonds.”

PAC: Court Lacks Jurisdiction

The PAC’s Motion to Alter or Amend Final Judgment states that paragraphs #26, #34 and #35 refer to, “. . .a collateral issue to the bond validation proceedings and [we] respectfully believe the Court does not have jurisdiction over this issue. The Court is aware that a Writ of Certiorari has been filed with the Ninth Judicial Circuit . . . . This case is pending and specifically addresses [these issues].”

The pending case is before a three-judge panel in the Ninth Circuit Appellate Division. Poole says they do not know when the panel will issue their ruling.

2016 Finale - Commission Approves Comp Plan

Nixes High-Density Provisions

2016 Finale – Commission Approves Comp Plan

homepage-button-comp-planAfter a marathon meeting that lasted well into Monday night, the Commission voted to accept a revised Comprehensive Plan. They concluded their final meeting of 2016 by voting to send it to Tallahassee for review by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Commissioners Listened

The revised plan underwent further revision, much of it resulting from citizens’ expression of their opinions and wishes to the Commissioners. In the words of Mayor Steve Leary, “We listen. We may not agree, but we listen.” Clearly, they did.

‘Urban Scale’ Heights Reduced

Two major revisions agreed to by the commissioners were the removal of four-story building height on North Denning and eight-story “urban scale” buildings along Fairbanks west of I-4.

R-4 Zoning Removed

Commissioner Peter Weldon made a motion, which the Commission approved, to remove the high-density residential land use category that allows for an R-4 zoning district.

This concluded the first reading of the ordinance to adopt the new Comp Plan. The second and final reading is set for April 2017.