Lessons from Charleston

Quality of Life Drives Economic Development

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

Lessons from Charleston

Guest Columnist Bob Bendick

I recently traveled to in Charleston, South Carolina, to attended a gathering of people from around the country who are engaged in the conservation of large landscapes for their benefits to people and nature.

What Charleston Can Teach Us

We had the opportunity to take a field trip and to hear from several of the community leaders who have been involved in land conservation and historic preservation in the South Carolina Low Country over the last 30 years. While Charleston itself is much larger than Winter Park, and the Low Country region is larger than the Orlando Metropolitan Area, there are lessons from the Charleston experience relevant to Winter Park and Central Florida.

Knowles Cottage

Legacy of Structures & Green Space

Charleston has an important history and a legacy of historic structures and green space. The people of Charleston have cared for the historic fabric of the city and have adopted local ordinances to ensure that historic structures are protected and that the scale of new buildings in the downtown area fit in with the traditional scale of the community.

Charleston’s Green Belt

Similarly, both within the city and in surrounding areas, there has been a sustained effort to protect open space for its ecological, cultural, and recreational values. This has been accomplished by cooperation with federal agencies, by bonding to finance land acquisition in Charleston County, by creative development plans, and by private landowners donating the rights to develop their rural lands. As a result, there is now a greenbelt of conservation lands two-thirds of the way around the city, and there are many places where people can access parks, refuges and waterways.

Everyone’s History Matters

Another part of Charleston’s history is important to this story. Charleston was the point of entry into North America for a large number of the African slaves brought to this country prior to the Civil War. Charleston is sensitive to this aspect of its past, and has worked hard to ensure that the African American community and its history are recognized and respected as Charleston moves forward.

Public-Private Partnerships Strengthen City Character

One clear reason for the success of conservation and historic preservation in Charleston has been extraordinary cooperation among non-profit organizations, local government, state and federal agencies and private businesses working together to protect the character of the region. Economic development interests have recognized the value of Charleston’s heritage and have contributed to its protection. For example, Boeing made funds available to purchase a key parcel of forest land for conservation to offset the environmental impacts of the construction of its large new aircraft manufacturing plant at the Charleston Airport.

Southern Charm is Strong Economic Driver

The protection of the historic and environmental character of the Charleston Region has not been an impediment to the economy of the city and the surrounding area. In fact, the quality and character of life in Charleston has been a key stimulus to economic development. It has attracted second home construction, tourism and the location of high-wage manufacturing. All of this has made the Charleston region one of the fastest growing in the country.

Protecting Winter Park’s Character is a Wise Long-term Investment

The lessons for Winter Park and Central Florida seem clear–that protecting the historic and natural character, scale, attractiveness and diversity of Winter Park and the surrounding region should not be thought of as opposed to the economic well-being of the city and central Florida, but as a long-term investment in the assets of our community that will attract quality growth while providing a sense of place, history, and belonging to the people who live and work here.

Heaven on Wheels

Grant Chapel Hijacked Again

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

Heaven on Wheels

Guest Columnist Jan Hommel

Dan Bellows has hijacked Grant Chapel once again.

Hannibal Square developer Dan Bellows has managed to obtain the City’s okay to operate a commercial enterprise in a building zoned O-2 (office). Since the matter has not been before either the Planning & Zoning Board or the City Commission, one can only conclude the approval came through City staff.

Grant Chapel Served West Side Community Since 1935

According to the Friends of Casa Feliz website, Grant Chapel was built on Winter Park’s West Side in 1935 and served as a house of worship for the predominantly African American population for almost 70 years. When the congregation outgrew its location, Bellows recognized the development potential of its prime Hannibal Square location and purchased the building.
https://friendsofcasafeliz.wordpress.com/tag/winter-park-history/

For a few years, Bellows rented the property to Suzanne and Steve Graffham, who operated it as the “Winter Park Wedding Chapel.” They ran a photo studio and used the chapel primarily for destination weddings.

Grant Chapel on the Move

In 2013, Bellows struck a deal with the City to move Grant Chapel from its original home on New England to its present site on Lyman Avenue close to the railroad tracks and across from the Farmer’s Market. At the time, Bellows assured the Commission that if they up-zoned the Lyman Ave. Chapel property from R-1 to O-2 (office), he would place the Chapel on the Historic Register as soon as the move was completed.

Grant Chapel Headed for Historic Preservation?

Delighted, the City Commission approved the Chapel’s R-1 zoning change to O-2. Its use as a wedding chapel and photo studio fit neatly into O-2 zoning. It looked like another historic Winter Park property was saved from the wrecking ball in the “move-it-or-lose-it” historic preservation strategy of those days.

Or Not

A funny thing happened on the way to the Historic Preservation Board, however. After its December 2013 move, the chapel was remodeled to include the addition of a basement with two staircases descending from the front façade. The landscaping on Lyman featured elaborate hardscaping, in stark contrast to the humble leafy lot where the chapel originally stood. By the time Bellows’ application reached the Historic Preservation Board (HBP), the board refused to add Grant Chapel to the Historic Registry.

Another ‘Golden Egg in an Unguarded Nest’

And once a listing in the historic registry was no longer a consideration, Bellows made even more changes to the building. Meanwhile, the historic landmark has been lost.

No More Grant Chapel

Now, Grant Chapel has been rebranded as Hudson’s Chapel & Cellar in Hannibal Square. This facility is prominently advertised in the newspaper and on its website as a “stunning venue for any event.” The website proclaims Hudson’s is suitable for parties of up to 60 guests, with catered food and beverages. While wedding ceremonies are welcome in the Chapel, Hudson’s promotes itself as perfect for all types of events — holiday parties, corporate events, birthday celebrations, etc.

But, wait. Hudson’s Chapel and Cellar, greater than its original size and with no additional parking, is still zoned O-2.

According to the City’s Land Development Code, (Sec. 58-73,) O-2 zoning means offices. There is a very short list of permitted uses. When the Commission approved the O-2 zoning, they were given to understand that the intended use of Grant Chapel was as a Wedding Chapel and photography business – two uses that fit neatly within 0-2 zoning.

Disturbing the Neighbors?

Types of business that are not permitted in buildings zoned O-2, because of the potential to disturb the neighbors, are “private and semi-private clubs, lodges, halls, and/or social centers and restaurants or lounges.”

Comp Plan Conflict – No Commercial on West Lyman

City approval of Mr. Bellows’ use of Grant Chapel as an event and party venue in O-2 zoning clearly requires up-zoning to C-1 (commercial). Hudson’s is now a Commercial Establishment . . . on West Lyman Avenue, which the Comp Plan says is to remain forever residential.

“But Everyone Knew. . .”

City Manager Randy Knight stated the Commission knew they were approving a party and event venue when they gave approval for the then-Winter Park Wedding Chapel to operate from the Lyman Avenue location as part of the O-2 zoning process.

Even Though There Was No Public Notice

Yet, the Winter Park Wedding Chapel did not operate as a party and event venue at either the New England or Lyman Avenue location. There is no evidence of a publicly noticed discussion of Bellows’ intent to turn Grant Chapel into a party and event venue. If the Commission intended for Bellows to operate a party and event center, why was the property not up-zoned to C-1?

Parking Rears Its Ugly Head . . . Again

Hudson’s Chapel already has minimal parking – parking that any city official, elected or otherwise, who has a critical eye might find inadequate for an event venue with a capacity of up to 60 guests. . .parking that will be further eroded by Bellows’ upcoming development of the Blake Yard property.

Bellows has hijacked Grant Chapel once. Shame on him. If we let him hijack it again, shame on us.

mayorandcommissioners@cityofwinterpark.org
Contact your elected representatives to insist that the use of Grant Chapel remain consistent with its 0-2 zoning.

Jan Hommel is a resident of the West Side neighborhood of Winter Park.

Hannibal Square Heroine

Won’t Take No for an Answer

Hannibal Square Heroine

WAWP_9-4-13_Martha_Hall_pic_1a_215x150.fwAt the October 24 Commission Meeting, Winter Park learned (if it didn’t know already) that Martha Bryant Hall is a force to be reckoned with. Since early summer, Mrs. Hall has sought to have the home she shared with her late husband, the Reverend Jerry Hall, placed on the Winter Park Register of Historic Places.

First, City Staff Recommends in Favor

A Staff Report prepared by City Planning Manager Jeff Briggs for the July 13 meeting of the Historic Preservation Board (HPB) recommended in favor of listing the Hall house at 331 Lyman Avenue. Mrs. Hall’s application was based on the age of the home – 58 years – and the significant contributions to the community of Reverend Jerry Hall.

HPB Tables the Request

Best Hall House3

Reverend Jerry Hall Residence

The minutes of the HPB meeting show that Mrs. Hall’s application was “continued,” however, and would not be heard at the July 13 meeting.

What the Ordinance Said At the Time

At the time of Ms. Hall’s application, the Historic Preservation Ordinance, No. 3024-15, stated, “The eligibility of any potential historic landmark, resource or district shall be supported by meeting applicable (sic) criteria based upon the National Register of Historic Places guidelines criteria (sic) for evaluation at the local, state or national level.”

(1) A quality of significance in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture is present in districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and associations; and

(2) At least one of the following:
i. That are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history, or
ii. That are associated with the lives of persons significant in our past, or . . . .

Five additional criteria follow which are not applicable in this case.

Then City Staff Recommends Against

Mrs. Hall’s request came to the HPB again on August 24, with a staff recommendation that the home at 331 Lyman Ave. not be placed on the Winter Park Register of Historic Places. The report, prepared by City Planning Director Dori Stone, stated the home had no architectural significance and that Reverend Hall had not been dead long enough.

“While Reverend Hall was an important figure to the community, he passed away in 2008,” Stone wrote in the report. “It is still too early to know how his legacy and contributions to the city, especially in the Hannibal Square area, will be determined.”

When Hannibal Square resident Mary Daniels rose to ask HPB members whether they knew of any document that stated a person had to be dead a certain length of time to be considered significant, she was told they did not.

Ordinance Was Under Review

The Historic Preservation ordinance was undergoing review at the time of the August meeting. It had been the widest plank in the campaign platform of Commissioner Peter Weldon, who had vowed to revise the ordinance if he were elected, which he was.

The minutes of the August 24 HPB meeting show that Ms. Stone stated: “. . .the initial staff report that Mrs. Hall received was a draft that did not properly cite the new historic preservation ordinance, and the final staff report was rewritten to cite the criteria of the new historic preservation ordinance.”

The HPB unanimously denied Mrs. Hall’s request for historic designation.

Perseverance Pays

On October 24, Mrs. Hall requested the City Commission reconsider her case and overturn HPB’s denial of her request for historic designation. Mrs. Hall and those who spoke on her behalf elicited a range of responses from the Mayor and Commissioners.

Sprinkel: “It’s the Merits of the Man, Not the House.”

Cooper: “It’s a Great Day for Winter Park.”

Weldon: “This Sets a Precedent that Will Be Difficult for Us.”

Seidel: “I Just Want to Apologize That You’re Even Here.”

Leary: “I Have Trouble Supporting This because of the Experts’ Opinions.”

The Commission voted 3 to 2 to approve Mrs. Hall’s request to place the home at 331 W. Lyman Ave. on the Winter Park Register of Historic Places.

Winter Park’s Historic Homes

Some Are More Historic Than Others

Winter Park’s Historic Homes

Best Hall House3On June 16, Martha Bryant Hall submitted a request to place her house at 331 W. Lyman Ave. on the City of Winter Park Register of Historic Places. She based her application on the age of the home, which was built in 1958, and on the contributions to the community by her late husband, the Reverend Jerry Hall, who owned the home from 1958 until his death in 2008.

City Encourages Voluntary Designation?

Although the City Staff and some Commissioners have had a lot to say about encouraging citizens to voluntarily place their homes on the Winter Park Register of Historic Places, a citizen who has a larger, grander home may receive more encouragement than one who has a more modest dwelling. And, if that modest dwelling stands in the way of someone’s larger, grander plan, an application for historic designation might be regarded with less interest.

Criteria for Designation

The Historic Preservation Ordinance, No. 3024-15, which has been written and re-written since the last election cycle, is ambiguous at best. Click the link below and see Sec. 58-456.

The first criterion reads as follows;
a. A quality of significance in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture is present in . . .buildings, structures, and objects that possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and associations; and . . .

If the City Staff determines that the building in question somehow matches the above paragraph – which is written as a statement and not as one or more criteria — then it must also meet one of seven additional criteria. The ordinance continues to paragraph (b) thusly.

b. At least one of the following:
i. That are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or
ii. That are associated with the lives of persons significant in our past; or . . . . [five more criteria, which you can read by clicking here].

That the Hall residence was built in 1958 is, in itself, significant. That was the year the City of Winter Park displaced 18 families by eminent domain to create Lake Island Park, now known as Martin Luther King, Jr. Park. Reverend Hall and his family were obliged to move out of Lake Island Estates and into the Hannibal Square neighborhood to make way for the park.

July Staff Report – thumbs-up

A City Staff Report dated July 13, 2016, states that Planning Staff determinations are:

• The home has no distinctive architectural significance but it is being part of the post-war development of West Winter Park is significant.
• The designation would be based upon the importance of Reverend Hall and his contributions to the Hannibal Square neighborhood.
• In such cases, if a future demolition to HPB [Historic Preservation Board] were requested, the HPB could approve provided the replacement structure was architecturally compatible with the traditional neighborhood styles.

In conclusion: “Staff recommendation is for listing in the Winter Park Register of Historic Places as a historic resource property.”

August Staff Report – thumbs-down

A month later, on August 24th, the Staff Report read, “. . .while Reverend Hall was an important figure to the community, he passed away in 2008. It is still too early to know how his legacy and contributions to the city, especially in the Hannibal Square area, will be determined.”

No Historic Merit
At the August 24 meeting of the Historic Preservation Board, City Planning Director Dori Stone first stated that staff’s decision to deny historic designation to the Hall home was based solely on the architectural merits of the house. Stone pointed out that there are “literally thousands” of these houses all over Winter Park, and that the Hall residence is in no way unique or “even at risk.” She pointed out that the high rate of redevelopment was not limited to Hannibal Square, but was occurring all over the city. “Hannibal Square is not alone,” said Stone.

‘Too Soon to Tell’ About Rev. Hall

But then, despite her earlier assurance that the decision was based only on the architectural merit of the structure, Stone turned to the question of Reverend Hall’s legacy. “As for Reverend Hall’s legacy,” said Stone, “he only passed away in 2008, so it is premature to say what his legacy is at this time.”

Stone said the Planning Staff had consulted preservationists in other communities, who suggested an appropriate period of time might be 50 years [after Hall’s death], the same as for a structure. Stone did not identify those she consulted, and she declined the Voice’s request for comment and clarification.

‘Come Back in 50 Years’

While 50 years may or may not be an appropriate period to measure the impact of an individual life on a community, it is safe to say the little green house at 331 W. Lyman Ave. probably will not be standing — in the unlikely event that discussion ever takes place.

Martha Bryant Hall told the Voice that Ms. Stone had informed her in advance of the HPB meeting that her request had been denied. Hall said Stone told her, “Your husband just hasn’t been dead long enough.”

Narrow Definition of ‘Historic’

Dr. Julian Chambliss, Chair of the History Department at Rollins College, observed that Winter Park seems to take a very narrow definition of historic preservation. While nationally, preservationists are more interested in protecting the vernacular culture and architecture of a given community within the context of a given time, Winter Park seems to want to rely solely on the architectural merit of the individual structure.

“If you look at the key issues for the post-World War II black community,” said Chambliss, “they included civil rights, education and desegregation. Reverend Hall was deeply involved in that local narrative. The local efforts were key to supporting the broader national narrative of the transformation of our community.”

“To say it is still ‘too early’ to know how Reverend Hall’s legacy and contributions will be determined,” said Chambliss, “is tantamount to saying that the Hannibal Square community is still a work in progress. In fact, Hannibal Square is a fully functioning community whose origins pre-date those of Winter Park itself.”

Is the House in Someone’s Way?

Eight people submitted letters or emails in support of Mrs. Hall’s request to designate her home, and one party opposed it. Opposition came in the form of two letters from Kim C. Booker, Attorney at Law. The text of the two letters was identical, but in one letter Ms. Booker represented Winter Park Redevelopment Agency, Ltd. and in the other she represented Morney Partnership, Ltd. Both are companies of developer Dan Bellows.

Bellows and the Hall Family Have a History.

In June 2004, then WESH2 Anchor Wendy Chioji began her report, “Imagine answering your door one day and a man is standing there, saying he now owns half your house.

“That is what happened to the Rev. Jerry Hall, 89,” said Chioji. “The man at the door . . . – controversial businessman Dan Bellows.”

Bellows had indeed acquired a half interest in the Hall house at 300 S. Virginia Ave. Hall built the house for his daughter Catherine, retaining half ownership and giving Catherine the other half. After Catherine’s death, Hall moved into the house, planning to leave his half to Catherine’s children, but, upon Catherine’s death, her husband Clifford and their two children had already inherited their half, which they sold to Bellows.

That made Rev. Hall and Bellows co-owners of the house. Rev. Hall ended up selling his half to Bellows. And that is how the Halls came to reside at 331 W. Lyman.

Preservation Rule: Friendly or Divisive?

Preservation Rule: Friendly or Divisive?

A new alliance of Winter Park commissioners is ready to thumb its nose at a historic preservation rule and return to the good old days of four months ago.

Mayor Steve Leary, Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel and newly elected Pete Weldon want to resurrect a rule that 67 percent of a neighborhood must agree to form a historic district.

Last December, when a former commission majority reduced that threshold to 50 percent plus one, Sprinkel and Leary opposed it. Now Weldon is in their camp and leading the charge as part of a new majority. He won his seat by defeating incumbent Tom McMacken, an avid preservationist.

City residents don’t want to be forced into historic districts, Weldon insisted, likening them to homeowners associations. Requiring a 67 percent vote would create “a more friendly attitude among the neighbors.”

Sprinkel and Leary blamed the 50-percent-plus-one vote for making things “divisive” in the city.

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper saw it another way. Weldon won by less than 51 percent and the library bond issue by only 51 percent, she said. “Fifty percent plus one is democracy.”

Commissioner Greg Seidel argued he has seen no negative effects from the lower threshold and, besides, no neighborhoods have sought to form a historic district since December. Raising the threshold back to 67 percent, he said, would surely be divisive and would keep the commission from addressing more important matters, such as traffic and underground power lines. “This will just distract us,” he said. He bluntly challenged the board. “If you guys really don’t like it [the historic ordinance] that much, why don’t you just vote it out? You’re going to have the same uproar.”

Later, Seidel questioned what the commission was doing to address residents’ biggest concern. “When I ran for election, the big campaign issue was, What was I going to do to save the character of the city?” he said. “What I see the vote doing today is going in the opposite direction.”

The mayor disagreed. Leary listed three projects – the current golf course refurbishing, the Rollins College Alfond Inn and the new civic center/library – as evidence of recent actions that save the city’s character. When Seidel noted that residents might see some of those as problems, Leary shrugged. “There you go. You’re going to have an argument on everything.”

Despite the meeting’s strongly worded exchanges, commissioners reached significant compromises on historic preservation. They rejected an “opt-out” clause that would have let homeowners off the hook if they didn’t like their historic district’s rules. Leary and Sprinkel said they were satisfied reinstituting the 67 percent requirement. Commissioners also agreed to include “voluntary preservation” as a way to achieve the ordinance’s objectives, and to develop a  more detailed process for deciding a structure’s historic value.

Most commissioners also agreed the Historic Preservation Board should keep its power to grant variances to historic structures. Weldon had wanted to give that power to the Board of Adjustment, which is tougher on allowing exceptions to the building code. He said some people list their houses as historic to “game the system” and more easily receive variances..

Several residents at the meeting objected to returning to the 67 percent rule.”Let the ink dry on the paper before we change it,” said Drew Krecicki. “Let’s chill out and give it a year.”

Frank Hamner, who assisted the task force that last year revised the preservation ordinance, said the only other times the city demands a 67 percent vote is when a neighborhood  decides whether to tax itself to make improvements, such as to put in sidewalks.

No dates have been set for the public hearings and formal votes on the proposed changes.

Weldon’s Historic Preservation Promise

Weldon’s Historic Preservation Promise

Commissioner Peter Weldon is a man of his word. The following video captures one of Weldon’s most direct and articulate campaign promises – to reverse what he sees as the negative aspects of the current Historic Preservation Ordinance.

He delivered this speech at the November 23, 2015 Commission meeting, where the Historic Preservation Ordinance had just passed the first reading on a 3-2 vote.

To read entire story, click here.

At his first Commission meeting as a newly-elected Commissioner, Weldon presented a three-page document to fellow Commissioners outlining changes he would make to the existing historic preservation ordinance. To read the entire document, click here (document will download).

The Three-Step Weldon Plan

The first of three steps Weldon proposed is to “encourage voluntary preservation and protection of historic structures. . . .”

Voluntary designation of individual homes has seen an encouraging uptick recently. It is difficult to understand, however, how these individually designated homes would voluntarily protect themselves, especially if they change ownership. It would seem that some municipal authority would have to come into play to protect these homes, either from demolition or from out of scale renovation, which could conceivably affect the new owners’ property rights.

Two-Thirds Vote for Historic District

The second step would be to reverse the measure that requires a 50 percent plus one vote to designate an historic district. That threshold would revert to a two-thirds vote under the Weldon plan.

Several comments on this website have observed that the City has received no applications for historic districts since the revised ordinance passed in December 2015, begging the question of how long it takes to get 50 percent plus one of Winter Parkers to agree to anything – much less two-thirds.

Opt-Out Provision

Step three involves an “opt-out” provision, exempting any owner voting against inclusion in a proposed district from “Certificate of Review oversite [sic]” unless their property has already been designated at the time of the vote.

National Register Status

Weldon goes on to propose issues for study and recommendation by the Historic Preservation Board. Among those is the matter of incentives for voluntary designation. He suggests that one incentive for owners of historically significant properties is “to help owners apply for National Register status and then to provide a small level of City support for maintaining such properties when National Register status is granted.”

National Register designation does convey a certain cache to the structure and recognition to the owner. It does not, however, provide any protection. Only the City has the power to protect its historic assets.

If the City chooses to do so.

The Commissioners agreed to take up Weldon’s proposal at the coming April 11, 2016 meeting.

Historic Preservation Ordinance Update

Second Reading Gets Thumbs UP from Commission

Historic Preservation Ordinance Update


Ordinance Passes on 3-2 Vote

The Commission voted December 14 to approve the Historic Preservation ordinance as presented. To see the full text of the ordinance, click here.

Mayor Steve Leary and Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel maintained their opposition to the ordinance, while Commissioners Greg Seidel, Tom McMacken and Carolyn Cooper voted to approve. After considerable maneuvering on the part of the Commissioners, Tom McMacken summed up what the ordinance will and will not do, stressing that the ordinance does not create districts. “It [establishes] a process that allows people to apply,” said McMacken. “If they meet certain criteria, it goes to the [Historic Preservation] Board, and then it comes to us, and at the end of the day, we are the ultimate arbitrators.”

 

HP Board Still Working on Incentives

Following the Commission vote, City Planning Director Dori Stone explained that the Historic Preservation Board had requested more time to work on a package of incentives the City would offer to individuals and districts seeking to designate their properties. The Board is expected to report back to the Commission in February 2016.

Video: Historic Preservation Panel

Worth Protecting: Reports from the Front Lines

Video: Historic Preservation Panel


In October 2015, close to 100 residents came to the Winter Park Community Center to hear a panel of experts discuss their experiences as historic preservation officers in Florida communities that have robust historic preservation programs. The intent of the discussion was to explore what historic preservation means to communities that are actually doing it, rather than further the debate that had already raged for months in the Winter Park blogosphere.

Co-hosted by the Winter Park Voice and Friends of Casa Feliz, the featured speakers were Rick Gonzalez, AIA, President of REG Architects in West Palm Beach, Kathleen Kauffman, Historic Preservation Chief, Miami-Dade County, and Christine Dalton, Historic Preservation Officer of the City of Sanford and Adjunct Professor at Rollins College. The Panel was moderated by Orlando Sentinel Senior Columnist Beth Kassab.

To watch a video of the full debate, click here.

video-play-with-logos

Preservation Ordinance Survives Wrecking Ball

Second Reading December 14

Preservation Ordinance Survives Wrecking Ball

Once again, Winter Park citizens crowded the Commission Chamber to hear the second of two “First Readings” of the proposed Historic Preservation Ordinance. Because it was the last item on the November 23 agenda, everyone who wanted one had a seat, but most of the seats were occupied.

Ordinance Read as Amended Nov. 9

The proposed ordinance was brought before the Commission bearing the amendments agreed upon at the first “First Reading” November 9. The substantive nature and sheer number of amendments created the necessity for the second First Reading. To read about the amended ordinance, click here.

City Planning Director Dori Stone offered two clarifications in the language of the proposed ordinance. She stated that when the City receives a petition for designation of an historic district, votes are counted as one vote for each property. A property with multiple owners has only one vote, with the assumption that the property owners agree.

Stone further stated that votes for an historic district would be mailed to the City Clerk to be opened and counted on a predetermined date.

No Money for Financial Incentives

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper inquired about the incentives for property owners who wish either to designate an individual home or to create a district. She was assured by City staff that suggested incentives would be a part of the Second Reading, scheduled to occur at the November 23 Commission meeting. Presently, said Stone, there is no City funding available for financial incentives for historic preservation. She said the Commission would have to create a fund for this purpose as part of the City budget.

Speakers Evenly Divided Pro vs. Con

Citizens present seemed to be evenly divided for and against approval of the proposed ordinance. Fourteen spoke, seven for and seven against, including one who delivered an impassioned campaign speech in opposition to the ordinance.

Commissioners Vote 3 – 1 In Favor

None of the Commissioners changed course. Commissioners Greg Seidel, Carolyn Cooper and Tom McMacken voted in favor of the proposed ordinance as amended. Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel voted against. Mayor Leary was absent.

Commission Moves to Adopt Historic Preservation Ordinance

Final Decision Due in December

Commission Moves to Adopt Historic Preservation Ordinance

At last night’s Commission meeting, a standing-room-only crowd hung in there for nearly seven hours while the Commissioners hammered out a compromise version amending Chapter 58 “Land Development Code” Article VIII, “Historic Preservation.” The main motion, to adopt the revised ordinance, passed on a 3 – 2 vote, with Commissioners Seidel, Cooper and McMacken voting in favor and Commissioner Sprinkel and Mayor Leary voting against.

Eleven Amendments

This was the first First Reading of the Historic Preservation Ordinance (yes, you read that right; there will be another First Reading –- more on that later). Of the dizzying array of 18 proposed amendments, 11 passed.

Historic District Requires 50 Percent Plus One

Of particular note, the threshold for formation of an historic district was lowered from 67 percent of homeowners in the proposed district – or 58 percent, depending upon which version you read — to 50 percent plus one. The minimum number of homes required to form an historic district will be 12.

Second First Reading Nov. 23

City Attorney Kurt Ardaman advised that the number of substantive changes to the ordinance necessitates a second First Reading of the ordinance, reflecting last night’s changes. The next First Reading will be Monday, November 23. At that meeting, the Commission will also discuss recommended incentives for Historic Preservation, a discussion that was tabled at last night’s meeting due to time constraints.

Second Reading Dec. 14, Probably

Because November 23 will also be a First Reading, a re-run of last night’s amendment marathon is possible. In that case, there could conceivably be a third First Reading. If the revised ordinance survives the second First Reading more or less intact, however, there will be a Second Reading at the December 14 Commission meeting. The Second Reading will determine the final outcome.