The City of Winter Park looks toward the future of transportation as discussion revs up at the April 23 Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Board regarding a proposed Electric Vehicle (EV) ordinance. The purpose of the ordinance is to bring forth regulations for EV charging, infrastructure and ways to handle development projects that were already in process prior to the EV ordinance.
FL Ranks in Top 5 for EV Sales
Florida ranks within the top five states for sales of electric and hybrid vehicles. In fact, a majority of buyers for electric and hybrid vehicles are located right here in Central Florida. By the year 2030, estimated annual national sales of EV’s will exceed 3.5 million vehicles, accounting for more than 20 percent of vehicle sales in the U.S.
Vehicles Running on Gas are 2nd Greatest Cause of Carbon Emissions
Currently, vehicles that burn fossil fuel – gasoline – are the second greatest cause of carbon emissions. Their replacement by electric cars will result in a reduction in the city’s carbon emissions, quieter and more livable streets and improved air quality.
WP Already Has 6 Charging Stations
Since 2011, Winter Park has installed six electric charging stations. Each charging station can charge two cars, one on either side. Stations are available to everyone, free of charge.
Electric Utility Companies Face Greater Demand for Power
For the sake of our state’s economy, infrastructure, and air quality, Central Florida must not only prepare for electric cars, but must be a leader in setting the stage for parking lots full of EVs. Utility companies, for example, will have to prepare for the increased demand for power as consumers charge their car batteries at home, at work or while shopping. Florida Power has already begun by increasing their capacity with solar panels, but there is more work to be done.
WP Ordinance Will Affect New Construction
The proposed Winter Park ordinance will require builders and developers to provide at least two electric charging stations in commercial parking lots that have more than 50 spaces. The ordinance also requires new residential and multifamily homes to include wiring built into the garage or common-use parking lot.
Incentives Are a Possibility
There may be incentives to help with the cost of wiring, such as a rebate from the utility company. An exact amount has not been determined but is under consideration. Some counties and cities provide rebates as high as $500.
WP Maintains Vision of Healthy, Sustainable Future
The above are just a few of the opening ideas which will go through much discussion. The good news is that the process has begun, and that Winter Park is staying consistent with its vision of promoting a healthy and sustainable future for all generations.
Sheila DeCiccio is an attorney with DeCiccio & Johnson. She has served on the Planning & Zoning Board for the past six years. She and her husband have been Winter Park residents since 1982. Their two children were born here and are being raised here.
The $6 million grant Winter Park seeks from Orange County could turn the events center that will replace the Rachel Murrah Civic Center into an international tourist destination.
On Tuesday, April 23, the City will learn the fate of its request for a $6 million Tourist Development Tax – Advisory Review Committee (TDT-ARC) grant. The money will come from the 6 percent tax levied on every overnight hotel or motel guest in Orange County. If the City receives the grant, it will use the money to close part of the funding gap in the Canopy project. Only the events center part of the project and the raked auditorium in the library may receive the funds. None of the other elements of the Winter Park Public Library are eligible to participate in the grant.
Tourism = Big $$$
Tourism is booming, leaving Orange County sitting atop a big pile of cash. Florida Statute 125.0104 mandates the 6 percent tax levied on every overnight Orange County hospitality guest be reinvested in the tourism industry. Originally, the money was intended for large projects, like expanding the I-drive convention center and sports stadiums.
In November 2016, the Orange County Commission amended the Tourist Development Plan to authorize using excess TDT funds for capital projects recommended by the ARC. The statute is still restrictive — for example, at least 40 percent of all revenues must be spent on advertising tourism — but non-profit attractions such as auditoriums, museums, performance venues and aquariums may now be funded with these dollars.
Criteria for TDT-ARC Grants
Capital projects recommended by ARC need not be “tourist-dense,” like the massive convention center or sports stadiums, but they must meet three criteria in the amended ordinance.
The project must drive tourism and work with the tourism industry.
The project must demonstrate sound financial planning and show a proven record to deliver the capital project on time.
The project will provide economic benefit to all of Orange County.
The ARC’s latest recommendations include the Orlando Science Center, The Orlando Philharmonic, the Holocaust Museum, the Orlando History Center and the Winter Park Canopy project. All except the Winter Park project are non-profits that are intended to benefit Orange County as a whole.
Community to Commercial . . . the Evolution
The Canopy project, as approved by voters in 2016, would have been ineligible for these tourist tax dollars. Promotional material assured voters that the majority of the project square footage and funding would go to build the library. The events center was mentioned as a smaller replacement for the existing Rachel Murrah Civic Center, and thus could not have been promoted as tourist draw. Literature the voters saw prior to voting for the library/events center referendum focused on enriching the Winter Park community by catering to our children and seniors and improving our park space and our quality of life.
Adjaye Design = Big $$$
The expense of building the Adjaye design, however, presented a quandary for city leaders. They found themselves in the position of having to choose which elements of the project they could build, since the $30 million from the bond issue fell short of covering cost estimates, which are around $40 million and climbing.
First the promised parking deck was cast aside. The library shrank by almost 14,000 square feet. While the 2016 library promotional material stated it was “bursting at the seams,” the library now seems content with the addition of a mere 2,000 square feet.
Parts of the project once thought essential in early discussions became add alternates (“add-alts”) that could be included only if the City could secure additional funding. The porte-cochere over the entrance, thought to be a necessity given our weather, became a million-dollar-plus add-alt. Then the much touted roof-top venue fell into the add-alt column, soon to be joined by the outdoor amphitheater and the raked seating in the library auditorium.
What was left in the budget besides the shrunken library?
The project now has no parking structure and an expanded event center. Pre-bond referendum material cited an 8,000 square foot replacement for the Rachel Murrah Center. The Adjaye-designed event center is over 13,000 square feet.
Revenue Source Prevails Over Library Services?
The expanded event center will bring in revenue for the city. The various venues can be rented out for top dollar, and local businesses can expect to benefit from the increased traffic at the event center. While libraries provide public services and cost money to run, the event center will provide a revenue stream and benefit those wealthy enough to rent a venue.
Will the Grant Fix the Money Problems?
If the Orange County Board of Commissioners approves the $6 million grant, the funds will not arrive in Winter Park until well after the project is scheduled to be completed. The first payment of $3 million dollars is due from the County in 2022, with a second allotment in 2024. The projected completion date for the Canopy is Spring, 2021.
In Winter Park’s first run-off election, voters sent incumbent Pete Weldon packing and handed Todd Weaver a comfortable 285-vote victory — a margin of 4.6 percent.
High Turn-out Despite Rain
Typically, run-off elections draw fewer voters, but voter enthusiasm generated by this runoff was high. Vote-by-Mail was greater than normal. As the last ballot was counted, more than 700 additional voters had cast ballots in the runoff. That’s an increase of 13 percent over the vote in the March 12 general election.
Did Republican Electioneering Steer Voters to the Polls?
The Winter Park City Charter mandates that Commission races be non-partisan, but since 2012, the Orange County Republican Executive Committee (OCREC) has ignored the Charter and played an active role in Winter Park elections. Here is one example of an OCREC mailer sent on the eve of the April 9 runoff.
Republican voters were subjected to a barrage of OCREC-sponsored mailers, emails and robo-calls. Weldon won big in the heavily Republican Precinct 1, where voter turnout was up 15 percent. OCREC electioneering seemed to have less impact elsewhere, however, and Weaver easily carried the other four precincts.
The Chandler Effect and Lee Road
Weaver also appears to have benefited from the endorsement of former candidate Barbara Chandler. Almost half of Ms. Chandler’s votes in the March 12 general election came from Precinct 4, which includes both the traditional West Side neighborhood and the Lee Road corridor. Weaver targeted the Lee Road neighborhoods with a message about controlling traffic and development and had his best results in Precinct 4.
Did the Run-Off Deliver a Message about the Canopy Project?
High voter turn-out and a clear win for Weaver may make the City sit up and take notice. The main plank in Weaver’s platform was that the Canopy Project has gone astray. He pointed out that the project – particularly the events center — is over budget and not delivering what the voters were promised – a bigger library. Weaver suggested we hit the pause button and re-evaluate the project in light of current cost projections and City leaders’ plans to use the Canopy events center to attract tourist dollars.
Former candidate Barbara Chandler today announced her endorsement of Todd Weaver for City Commission Seat #4 in the April 9 run-off election.
“I speak for myself as a former candidate, and I am honored to be joined in my endorsement by The Friends of West Winter Park,” said Chandler. “We were able to go back and look at the questions the community had posed, and we felt that Todd was more in line with the values we espouse. One of the things that drew us to him during the Forum and during a brief meeting this morning was his willingness to help establish some type of Neighborhood Council and also a Coop for minority-owned businesses.”
Weaver said he was pleased and honored to have the support of Chandler and the Friends of West Winter Park. “My goal is to help them bring together the West Side community and remove the roadblocks to a more robust participation in Winter Park City government.”
As of this writing, Commissioner Peter Weldon could not be reached for comment.
Former Winter Park city commission candidate Barbara Chandler and The Friends of West Winter Park hosted a lively sharing of ideas on Tuesday, March 26 at the Winter Park Community Center. Commission candidates Todd Weaver and Peter Weldon were invited to engage directly with West Side families, elders, community leaders and small business owners in a moderated question-and-answer forum.
Chandler emphasized that this was not a debate, but an opportunity “for candidates to sit with our community . . . to learn what our issues and values are. We also want to make sure our community gives each candidate a chance to be heard.”
“Since election day March 12,” Chandler went on, “West Side Winter Parkers have been asked who we’ll be supporting in the run-off election April 9. Just like all Winter Parkers,” said Chandler, “we’ll be voting for the candidate who supports our values and community.”
Despite Chandler’s insistence that the forum was not a debate, the candidates wasted no time throwing jabs and punches. Most of the questions for the candidates dealt either with minority representation or issues specific to the West Side, such as the CRA.
Chandler’s frequent attempts to maintain decorum and her reminders to both candidates and audience to show proper respect fell victim to the emotion brought out by this hotly contested race.