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.


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.

Historic Myth-Busters

Historic Preservation = Enhanced Property Values

Historic Myth-Busters

geri-2Dispelling one myth after the next, a panel of experts exposed the truth about historic preservation to a crowded room at the Winter Park Community Center.

The three panelists, who spoke October 29 at an event co-hosted by the Winter Park Voice and Friends of Casa Feliz, were Kathleen Kauffman, Historic Preservation Chief of Miami-Dade County, Christine Dalton, Historic Preservation Officer of the city of Sanford, and Richard Gonzalez, AIA, immediate past president of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. The panel was moderated by Senior Orlando Sentinel Columnist, Beth Kassab.

First came the news that Winter Park isn’t special in the struggle to save its heritage. Throughout Florida, rising land values are luring investors who gobble up older, smaller homes and replace them with massive, profit-making structures.

McMansions Thrive in Expensive Dirt

“It’s not just here,” said Kauffman. “It’s everywhere in the state.”

That news may have been small comfort to the more than 80 people attending the informational event. Most seemed concerned about protecting buildings that reflect the city’s heritage. The panel was held eleven days before the City Commission’s vote Nov. 9 to revise its historic preservation ordinance. Missing from the audience were the city staffers and most of the appointed board members, invited because they are involved in preservation decisions.

Property Value Fears Debunked

For those who did attend – interested residents, one member of the city’s Historic Preservation Board, Rebecca Talbert, and one City Commissioner, Carolyn Cooper – the panel had encouraging news, too. Fears about diminished property values and unhappy homeowners turn out to be myths. Cities with strong historic districts have healthy property values, satisfied residents and even happier real-estate agents, the panelists agreed.

Dalton, who described herself as “one of the most pro-development people you’re ever going to meet,” said she has heard claims that historic districts hurt property values, but she said, “That is not at all what we’re seeing” in Sanford.

“I get Realtors’ calls all the time asking, ‘When are you going to expand the size of the districts?'” she said, noting the strong demand for homes in Sanford’s historic districts.

No Documented Cases of Lowered Values

Kauffman said her research found no documented case anywhere that [a historic district] lowers property values. Instead, she found the opposite. People are motivated to buy when they know their investment in a historic home will be protected from the whims of indifferent neighbors, she said. Historic districts also tend to get more attention from City Hall when it comes to services and amenities, like street lights and utilities.

Still Plenty of Room for McMansions

Those who want to build homes not in keeping with historic guidelines still have plenty of choices, said Gonzalez. Most cities in Florida are like Winter Park, with only about five percent of its land considered historic, he pointed out. “So if you want to build a McMansion, go pick on that other 95 percent.”

When Kassab asked if people worry about having less control over their homes, panelists observed that preservation staff typically work closely to help homeowners. Ninety percent of requested changes in Sanford are minor ones dealt with easily by staff, Dalton said.

Preservation Staff Can Help Homeowners Save $$

“Most of the time we work with homeowners, we save them money,” said Kauffman, who regards historic preservation as “one added layer of value protection” for a property owner, rather than additional control. She noted that Miami-Dade doesn’t regulate a home’s interior or changes or additions to the back of a house.

Panelists identified several additional strategies for successful districts — creative incentives for property owners, an independent Historic Preservation Board with qualified members, and commitment to the importance of preservation.

“Getting the right people in positions of leadership is so important,” Dalton said.

Worth Protecting

Historic Preservation — Reports from the Front Lines

Worth Protecting

WP Voice & Casa Feliz to Host Panel Discussion
Historic Preservation — How Does It Work In the Real World?
When: October 29 – 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.
Where: Winter Park Community Center
             721 West New England Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789
Moderator: Beth Kassab, award-winning columnist of the Orlando Sentinel.
Panelists are among Florida’s foremost experts on historic preservation.
rickgRick Gonzalez, AIA, President of REG Architects in West Palm Beach, is the immediate past chairman of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation and an accomplished preservation architect. His resume includes the restoration of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and the 1916 Palm Beach County Courthouse.
kskKathleen Slesnick Kauffman, AICP, Preservation Chief of Miami-Dade County, oversees 127 individually designated sites, 43 archaeological sites and zones, 5 historic districts, and the 24 municipalities within the county that don’t have their own ordinance. She has served as the executive director of the Florida Trust and as the Historic Preservation Officer in Fort Pierce and Lake Park.
christinedChristine Dalton, is the Community Planner and Historic Preservation Officer for the City of Sanford. She is an adjunct professor at Rollins College where she teaches Introduction to Historic Preservation. 
It can seem a hollow exercise to argue historic preservation in the abstract. Does it enhance or diminish property values?  Is voluntary preservation truly effective, or is it the beginning of open season on historic structures? What, if any, is the tangible value of historic preservation in our communities?
Our Panelists all work within communities that have robust, long-standing historic preservation programs. As Winter Park grapples with the role of historic preservation in our community, our panel of experts will share their real-time experiences with historic preservation.
Please join us at the Community Center October 29 for a lively, informative discussion.

How About Community Rights?

How About Community Rights?


John Skolfield-2Historic Preservation brings to the fore strong opinions. While anger and emotion speak louder and are more readily heard, a quiet parsing of reality leads to better governance.

Let’s start with the old neighborhoods, homes of the 1920’s. I’ve a picture of ours under construction.  Homes like this were built by individuals with sensitivity to the surrounding neighborhood, born of pride in how one was perceived by friends and neighbors.

The “property rights” rallying cry is a bit curious when it comes from individuals who choose to live in this highly regulated city.  We willingly live with restrictions on setbacks, floor area ratios, height limitations, side wall articulation, etc.   ‘Don’t put your trash cart out a day early lest your neighbors suffer aesthetic degradation!’

Picture in your mind Park Avenue, a beautiful street of historic architecture, and replace all those buildings with downtown Celebration, Baldwin Park or Anytown USA. What do you have?

Would Saint Augustine be more beautiful if centuries-old homes could be replaced with contemporary lot-line-to-lot-line McMansions?  Have the historic areas of Charleston, SC, experienced a decline in value due to “government controls?” Do property owners have a right to replace beautiful with “ugly?”

Razing a slab-on-grade, shallow-pitched ranch house from the 1950s doesn’t warrant the level of community outrage that met the proposed demolition of Casa Feliz or the Capen House.  I get that, but the “art” we speak of stems from a time when home design and, indeed, our value as citizens, was focused outward.  The beauty, the scale and how a home presented itself to the neighbors passing by meant everything.  How the owner was perceived by the community was value enough.

Let us be good stewards of what we have. Let us persevere, and preserve.

Worth Protecting

Historic Preservation — What Does It Mean for Winter Park?

Worth Protecting

The Winter Park Voice and the Casa Feliz Parlor Series will present a panel discussion entitled “WORTH PROTECTING: Historic Preservation – What Does It Mean for Winter Park?


Thursday, October 29, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.


Winter Park Community Center

721 W New England Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789

As Winter Park struggles to balance the seemingly conflicting public benefits of historic preservation and private property rights, we look outside our city for some knowledge born of experience. Come learn from our panel of experts–preservation professionals from around Florida–who can speak to the virtues and the pitfalls of an ambitious preservation program. What has it meant for their cities, and what could it mean for ours?


Beth Kassab, Orlando Sentinel Columnist

Beth Kassab - 2014 Orlando Sentinel staff portraits for new NGUX website design.Senior Columnist Beth Kassab is an Orlando native who joined the Sentinel in 2001. She covered local government and the court system as well as tourism and aviation. She wrote the Sentinel’s business column before starting a local column in 2011. As a senior columnist, she tackles subjects ranging from education, transportation and politics to co-existing in Central Florida’s suburbs with bears and coyotes. She also has written about Historic Preservation. Beth won first place in column writing in 2015 from the Florida Society of News Editors. In 2014 she won first place for digital innovation for her series “Central Florida’s Other Best Downtown.” Beth graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism and currently serves on the advisory council for UF’s Journalism College. She lives in Oviedo with her husband and two young children. Her column runs in the Sentinel every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and is featured on


Christine DaltonChristine Dalton, Christine Dalton, AICP, is the Historic Preservation Officer and Community Planner for the City of Sanford

Ms. Dalton attended Goucher College for an M.A. in Historic Preservation, Rollins College for a B.A. in Environmental and Growth Management Studies, and holds an A.S. in Architectural Design and Construction Technology from Seminole State College. She is the staff liaison to Sanford’s Historic Preservation Board, and is the Seminole County Director for the Orlando Metro Section chapter of the American Planning Association.

Ms. Dalton is an adjunct instructor at Rollins College and teaches Introduction to Historic Preservation in the Environmental Studies and Sustainable Urbanism bachelor degree program. Ms. Dalton previously worked for Glatting Jackson (now AECOM) as an Environmental Technician, and is a member of the American Planning Association, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. In her spare time she loves to sail and travel abroad.

Photo by Christian Cerda-Antomarchi

Photo by Christian Cerda-Antomarchi

Kathleen Kauffman, Historic Preservation Chief, Office of Historic & Archaeological Resources, Miami-Dade County

A Coral Gables native, Kathleen Slesnick Kauffman received her undergraduate degree in Historic Preservation from Mary Washington College, in Fredericksburg, VA, and her graduate degree in Historic Preservation from the University of Florida. Ms. Kauffman has served as the Historic Preservation Officer for the Town of Lake Park, FL and the City of Fort Pierce, FL. She authored historic preservation ordinances for both cities. Ms. Kauffman relocated to Tallahassee, FL to serve as the Executive Director of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. She has served as the Historic Preservation Chief of Miami-Dade County for the past seven years. She was recently awarded the Henriette Harris Award by Dade Heritage Trust (2015). She is extremely proud of her two daughters Olivia (9) and Julia (6), who keep her busy but entertained, along with their crazy dog Casey, a black Lab/Jack Russel mix.

Rick Gonzalez AIA, Immediate Past President, Florida Trust for Historic Preservation

Rick Gonzalez_resizeRick Gonzalez, AIA, founded REG Architects, Inc., with his father Ricardo in 1988 in downtown West Palm Beach.  Rick holds two architectural degrees from the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. and has studied design in Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Italy.  He is currently Vice-Chairman of the Florida Historical Commission and is the immediate past President of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation.  He has served on the Board of the Maryland Institute College of Art, and the Architectural Advisory Boards of the University of Florida and Catholic University of America.  His association with high-profile projects like Donald Trump’s Clubs at Mar-a-lago, West Palm Beach, Jupiter and Doral, the 1916 Palm Beach County Historic Court House, “The Harriet” at City Place, and the Lake Worth Beach Casino has led the firm to numerous awards for historic preservation and redevelopment.

Board Slogs Through Draft HP Ordinance

Segal Becomes Chairman

Board Slogs Through Draft HP Ordinance

illustration-hp-ordUsing some pretty intense persuasive tactics, Mayor Steve Leary prevailed and his candidates for the Historic Preservation Board (HPB), former County Commissioner Bill Segal, Winter Park resident Laura Armstrong and architect Phil Kean, finally won approval from the City Commission in a 3 – 2 vote, with Commissioners Carolyn Cooper and Greg Seidel dissenting.


Segal to Head HPB

At his first HPB meeting on August 12, Bill Segal was elected Chairman by the four members present – which included Segal himself — replacing Interim Chair Rebecca Talbert. Phil Wood was named Vice-Chair. The fourth member present was Genean McKinnon, who nominated both Segal and Wood. Talbert expressed her willingness to remain as either Chair or Vice Chair, but her motion failed for lack of a second.

Once the question of board leadership was settled, the first order of business was a review of the revisions to the draft Historic Preservation Ordinance that will come before the Commission at the November 9 meeting.

Stone and Hamner Champion Historic Preservation

Frank Hamner of the Citizens’ Group that has been working on the draft ordinance presented the latest version to the HPB. During the arduous page-by-page review, Hamner and City Planning Director Dori Stone found themselves in the curious position of defending historic preservation to the very board that is meant to champion the cause.

HPB Is Not So Sure

Discussion among the board members was more about the disadvantages the proposed ordinance would create for individual homeowners than about possible benefits to the City of preserving historic buildings and districts. “Everything we’re doing here creates an added burden,” said Segal.

Hamner pointed out that, unlike other cities, Winter Park has no means, other than the ordinance, to protect a truly historic home.

Segal Balks at CLG Status

Segal expressed concern about the City’s application to the State of Florida to become a Certified Local Government (CLG). He worried about “extra levels of government” and additional reporting requirements. Despite Stone’s assurances that the City already complies with most of the CLG requirements, and that CLG status would not put any appreciable extra burden on city staff, Segal could not be persuaded that it is a good idea for the City to apply for CLG status. “We just don’t know what we’re buying into,” said Segal.

What Is a CLG?

According to Florida Department of State, “Certified Local Governments are municipal and county governments which have made historic preservation a public policy through the passage of a historic preservation ordinance. Participation in the CLG program allows local governments to partner with other CLGs to share preservation ideas and experiences, as well as the opportunity to compete for CLG grants.”

Stone pointed out that the intention to achieve CLG status has been in the City’s Comprehensive Plan for the past 14 years, though the City has never made formal application to become a CLG.

The CLG grants tend to be small — $50,000 or less – but they have their merits. For instance, the last inventory of potential Winter Park historic assets was done in 2001. Since that time, much has changed. We are told there is no money in the budget to update the inventory, but if Winter Park had CLG status, it would qualify for a grant to complete the inventory. The inventory would cost in the neighborhood of $10,000 and is the type of project for which the grants are intended.

August 19: The Slog Resumes

The August 12 meeting ground to a halt shortly before noon, as Genean McKinnon had to leave. With only three members seated, the board no longer had a quorum and could take no action. They resumed the long slog through the revisions on the afternoon of August 19. At that meeting, Dori Stone informed the board that they would receive a completed draft reflecting all proposed revisions, and that they would vote at their September meeting on whether to approve the ordinance.

Once the final draft has been approved by the HPB, it will go for public hearings in October and then for a final vote by the City Commission at the November 9 Commission meeting.

Winter Park: Unique for Not Being a CLG

So far, language stating that Winter Park will seek CLG status remains part of the existing Historic Preservation Ordinance. Sixty-eight Florida cities and 12 counties are Certified Local Governments. Most Florida cities that are known to have historic resources are CLGs – among them Tampa, St. Pete, Miami, Coral Gables, Sarasota, Orlando, and the list goes on until you get to the Ws, where you’ll find West Palm Beach, Windermere, and Welaka . . . but not Winter Park.

Why not?

There appears to be firm conviction on the part of Mayor Leary, some members of the Historic Preservation Board and certain denizens of the blogosphere that CLG status will introduce yet another layer of government and bureaucracy, which will be onerously burdensome to city staff – though city staff doesn’t seem to see it that way. Planning Director Dori Stone, who would be the local official responsible for administering the CLG program, informed the HPB that the City of Winter Park already fulfills nearly all the requirements for being a CLG, and that any additional staff work would perhaps entail an extra 8 to10 hours per year.

What do the Real CLGs Tell Us?

The folks at Preservation Winter Park were also curious about the amount of work required of CLGs and whether the burden outweighed the benefits. They contacted people with firsthand knowledge, among them local officials who administer the CLG program in West Palm Beach, Lakeland, Miami-Dade and the City of Orlando.

This is what they were told.

West Palm Beach: “In no way has it been a burden. One hour a year of completing a report and emailing minutes.”
Lakeland: “To my knowledge, Lakeland has not been burdened by our CLG status whatsoever.”
Miami-Dade: “It’s never been a burden to be a CLG.”
Orlando: Small amount of staff time for reporting to state and National Park Service.”

Is This How You Would Describe Winter Park?

In her email to Preservation Winter Park, Kathleen Slesnick Kauffman, Historic Preservation Chief of Miami-Dade County, wrote: “It is not a difficult or lengthy process to become a CLG, but the whole point of the program is to provide a benefit to cities or counties that have an expressed interest in saving their heritage, and have made it a priority to do so by having a strong preservation ordinance.”

She continued, “Is this how you would describe Winter Park?”

HP Ordinance - Path to Preservation or Slippery Slope?

WP Residents Duke It Out on Facebook

HP Ordinance – Path to Preservation or Slippery Slope?


For more than a year, the Historic Preservation Board (HPB) has worked to craft an Historic Preservation Ordinance that would be a big step on the city’s path to becoming a “Certified Local Government” (CLG). CLG status would qualify the City for state and federal funds to protect and promote the City’s historic assets.

HPB & Ad Hoc Committee Lead Parallel Lives

During the same time frame, an ad hoc committee of Winter Park citizens with diverse points of view formed to work toward a consensus on Historic Preservation. Committee members were Attorney Frank Hamner, Casa Feliz Director Betsy Owens, Attorney and Developer Dykes Everett, Architect and President of Mead Botanical Gardens, Inc., Jeffrey Blydenburg, Real Estate Broker Scott Hillman and Landscape Architect Stephen Pategas. Together they sought to understand Winter Park’s current regulations, the inventory of historic structures, trends regarding those assets and how Winter Park compares in these respects with other Florida cities.


HPB Includes Committee Suggestions in Draft Ordinance

Early this year, the ad hoc committee offered their suggestions to the HPB.  Although the HPB did not incorporate all the committee’s suggestions, they did adopt many of the recommended changes and, in February 2015, HPB voted unanimously to approve the draft ordinance.

The next step in the process was to present the draft ordinance to the citizens and receive their input. Two meetings – morning and evening –were scheduled Thursday, May 7, at the Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center.


Facebook Lights Up

Once the meetings were announced, the internet lit up. On Wednesday, April 29, Peter Weldon sent a “Winter Park Perspective” blast email urging residents in bold type to “Take Action to Protect Your Rights.”

“Small Group of Extremists”

“This proposal is being promoted by the Winter Park anti-development lobby,” wrote Weldon, “a small group seeking to impose their values without regard to your values . . . . We cannot let a small group of extremists limit our freedoms or put our equity at risk.”

“First Step Down the Slippery Slope . . .”

And with that, they were off and running. The lively debate that began on the internet spilled into the Welcome Center on the morning of May 7. The first speaker to take the podium was Winter Park resident Brian Thomas, who called the draft ordinance “The first step down the slippery slope.”

Peter Weldon spoke next to express his support for historic designation of individual properties, explaining that his opposition was to the designation of historic districts.



Frank Hamner: “Property Rights Guy”

Frank Hamner, a member of the ad hoc citizens’ committee, rose to explain that the focus of his group was on the educational value of their effort. He identified himself as “a property rights guy,” but said he believed there are historic assets in Winter Park that do need to be preserved. 

WP Ordinance Weakest in FL

Casa Feliz Executive Director Betsy Owens, also a member of the ad hoc committee, pointed out there are fewer than 10 districts in Winter Park that would qualify for historic designation. She went on to compare Winter Park’s proposed ordinance with those of other Florida Cities, noting that the proposed ordinance would lift Winter Park from having the weakest ordinance in the state to being “simply among the weakest.”


Commissioners Resist Move to Change HPB

Less than a week later, at the May 11 City Commission meeting, Historic Preservation was again at the forefront. Mayor Steve Leary brought forth nominations for all the boards that had members rotating off. Three of those nominations were for the Historic Preservation Board. Former Orange County Commissioner Bill Segal and Winter Park architect Phil Kean were nominated for regular board seats, and Winter Park resident Laura Armstrong was nominated as alternate.

Commissioner Tom McMacken requested that all board appointments be approved except for the Historic Preservation Board. The Commission voted 3 to 2 to approve the other board appointments and to discuss the HPB nominations separately. Mayor Leary and Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel cast the dissenting votes.


McMacken Urges: Delay HPB Appointments

McMacken then requested that the Commission delay any appointments to the HPB until the proposed ordinance had been brought before the Commission and had been voted either up or down. “I just hate to change pitchers at the bottom of the ninth inning,” said McMacken. “Putting new people on there now sets the dial back, and I don’t want to see [the ordinance] delayed any further.”

A lively discussion ensued in which the Mayor said, based on public comments at the May 7 meetings, he thought perhaps the ordinance should not move forward. Leary argued that the two nominees, Kean and Segal, would contribute to the process.

Commissioners: Don’t Derail a Year’s Work

Commissioners McMacken and Carolyn Cooper emphasized that their objections to the appointments had nothing to do with the appointees. They simply wanted the HPB to have the chance to bring more than a year’s work on the ordinance to a conclusion.

McMacken and Cooper argued that one important component of the proposed ordinance has to do with specific criteria for board composition. Compliance with board composition criteria set by state and federal agencies would be necessary for Winter Park to achieve CLG status. Preserving the present composition of the board, even if the number is reduced from 7 to 5, would avoid the possibility of appointing someone who might not fit the revised criteria.

Phil Kean and Bill Segal Turned Down

At the end of the day, the Commissioners voted separately on each of the three nominees. Phil Kean and Bill Segal were voted down, 3 to 2, with Leary and Sprinkel again casting dissenting votes.


Laura Armstrong Appointed to HPB

In a surprise turn, Commissioner Greg Seidel voted in favor of the alternate candidate, Laura Armstrong, whose qualification was that she had once placed her home on the historic register. So Ms. Armstrong took a full board seat, leaving one vacant full board seat and one vacant alternate seat.

Asked why he had voted for Ms. Armstrong, Commissioner Seidel said that she was the only candidate who had mentioned historic preservation on her application.


Back to Facebook

Once again, the internet lit up. Phil Kean and Bill Segal both posted their disappointments on Facebook. Kean wrote in his post,“If you are a citizen of Winter Park, please reach out to the three commissioners that voted me not qualified and let them know that I would make a great board member. They are Carolyn Cooper, Greg Seidel and Tom McMacken. MayorSteveLeary andSarah Sprinkelsupported me. I want to thank you in advance for your help in this.”

Bill Segal had a somewhat more philosophical view on the matter, though he did acknowledge that he was disappointed. He wrote on Facebook, “. . .just remember life is a two way street, everything doesn’t have to be all one way or the other, and when you find yourself so passionate about an issue that is not life or death, often it is a good time to listen to new voices, and new ideas. Sounds like the same people have been battling over the same stuff for far too long.”

Steve Leary, still insisting that the vote was ‘about the people’, posted on May 12: “I do not believe it productive to criticize my fellow commission members or theorize on their rationale for voting against Phil and Bill. Rather, I am hopeful that Commissioner(s) Seidel, McMacken, and/or Cooper will reconsider Mr. Kean and Mr. Segal for appointment to the HPB.”

And perhaps they will reconsider – after the ordinance has come before the Winter Park City Commission and has either passed or failed.

Did City Risk Breaking Law to Keep Report from Press?

Consultant Says WP Historic Preservation Has “Serious & Fundamental” Problems. Report May Not Be Welcome at Commission

Did City Risk Breaking Law to Keep Report from Press?

As 2013 comes to a close, a quick review of Winter Park City Hall news stories reveals that there are several key issues that Winter Parkers seem destined to struggle with.

Historic preservation, Park Avenue restaurant zoning, tree canopy / green space preservation and high-density development are prime examples.

Historic preservation has been front and center during the festive month leading up to the City’s Christmas break, making more than one appearance in the headlines over the last thirty days.

Capen House Voyage & Consultant’s Report Puts Historic Preservation Front and Center.

In December, the triumphant voyage(s) of Capen House across Lake Osceola – saved from the wrecking ball by a dedicated group of citizens and non-profit organizations – is likely to be remembered as an enduring symbol of the community’s commitment to historic preservation. However, the very same citizens who saved Capen House also have been working for months to ensure that the City’s Historic Preservation ordinance is strengthened in favor of homes like Capen House that may be threatened in the future.

The focus of these citizens and various preservation-oriented organizations has been a process that is not unfamiliar to city residents who pay attention to City policy: the long, sometimes tedious business of modifying City ordinances.

Even though the process of modifying an ordinance carries with it a fair share of eye-glazing detail – in Winter Park, the process often includes a bit of drama as well. A case in point is the tense stand-off between Columnist Beth Kassab and City officials.

Sentinel Columnist Beth Kassab Requests Consultant Documents. City Stalls.

At issue were documents created by a consultant, Myles Bland, who had been hired by the City to study and suggest changes to the City’s Historic Preservation ordinance. On November 13, Ms. Kassab had requested an advance look at the report/notes/supporting documents that the consultant had submitted to the City prior to his appearance in front of the Historic Preservation Board (HPB).

Kassab Document Request      Consultant First Draft – 11/5/13

On the day of the hearing, Winter Park Voice also requested a digital copy of the presentation document the consultant had sent to the City.

As of 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 14 – the day of the hearing – the City had not fulfilled either request.

Historic Preservation Boss Orders Staff to Stop Talking to Kassab.

A subsequent public records request by the Voice yielded documents showing that the City had received a draft of presentation-related documents from Mr. Bland a week and a half before the November 14 HPB meeting.

We also uncovered an email sent by department director Dori Stone to her staff and Clarissa Howard – on the night before the meeting – shutting down all direct communication with Ms. Kassab:


“On behalf of all of the Planning Dept., we will not be communicating directly with Ms. Kassab on this or any other issue in the future. Clarissa, we will attempt to respond to her requests in a timely manner subject to public records rules. As for clarification, I don’t pay consultants to talk to the press on my dime. That’s why we have meetings. If Ms. Kassab has any issues with this, she is welcome to discuss it with [ City Attorney ] Larry Brown.”

Communication Shutdown Email

On Wednesday night, 16 minutes after Dori Stone’s email to her staff, consultant Bland emailed his completed Power Point presentation to Historic Preservation staffer, Lindsey Hayes. The next morning, November 14, at 11:11 a.m., Ms. Hayes forwarded Bland’s Power Point presentation to Dori Stone and Randy Knight, but not to Ms. Kassab.

Consultant Presentation/Report      Hayes Forwards Report to Stone

That evening, at the start of the HPB meeting, Ms. Hayes handed the Voice a hard-copy printout of the consultant’s presentation, stating that she was unable to find a way to send the presentation digitally as requested.

Did City Risk Breaking Law Just to Keep from Being Scooped by the Press?

City documents obtained by the Voice show that the City waited another day – until Nov. 15, the day after the HPB meeting – to post the consultant’s digital Power Point presentation on the City website. On that same day, the City sent the digital Power Point file to the Voice in response to our Nov. 14 request for the “consultant’s report.”

Consultant Presentation Draft – Sent 11/5      Consultant Presentation Final – Sent 11/13

Documents obtained by the Voice – and the sequence of events described above – appear to show that the City understood that press requests for the consultant’s “report” included the Power Point file that Mr. Bland used to illustrate his spoken presentation to the HPB. Email from Ms. Hayes to her supervisor, Dori Stone on Nov. 13, the day before the hearing, appears to confirm that the consultant’s report/presentation was withheld from the press to ensure that the report did not appear in the press before it was presented at the HPB meeting. Here is a key exchange between Ms. Hayes and department head Dori Stone on Nov. 13 referring to Beth Kassab’s request for the consultant’s report:

Hayes to Dori Stone:
“Re emails below – what part of ‘I don’t have a copy’ doesn’t she get and why should the media get an advance copy of a presentation the city paid for?”

Hayes to Clarissa Howard on the same day (also forwarded to Stone):
“…as a matter of process, the HPB should hear the recommendations before they read an edited version in the media.“

Hayes Email to Stone      Hayes Email to Howard

In an effort to clarify the City’s handling of requests for these documents, the Voice interviewed several City staffers, including City Manager Knight. Mr. Knight told the Voice that he was not involved in decisions made by Ms. Stone, Ms. Hayes or others concerning media requests for consultant information prior to the Nov. 15 HPB meeting.

In response to Voice questions about apparent “gaps” in written documentation of certain related matters, more than one City staffer confirmed that business inside the City is often transacted person-to-person/verbally with no written record of some discussions and related decision-making processes.

Legal Expert Believes Public Records Disclosure Law May Have Been Broken.

Soon after the HPB meeting in November, the Voice consulted with experts in Chapter 119 Public Records Disclosure law in an attempt to learn whether City actions may have run afoul of Florida statutes requiring disclosure of public records. According to Barbara Petersen, President of Florida’s First Amendment Foundation, the apparent facts of the case seem to support what “appears to be a violation of Florida Public Records Disclosure law.”

Ms. Petersen also confirmed that once a consultant’s draft or related documents are submitted to the City – and/or shared for staff review – the documents become public record and must be released to the press and public “promptly and in good faith” when requested.

Ms. Petersen indicated that ignorance of the law is no defense for City officials and staffers and – if the City is shown to have willfully withheld documents – it could be subject to prosecution by the State Attorney and charged with a 1st Degree Misdemeanor as follows:

119.10 Violation of chapter; penalties.—

(1) Any public officer who:

(a) Violates any provision of this chapter commits a noncriminal infraction, punishable by fine not exceeding $500.

(b) Knowingly violates the provisions of s. 119.07(1) is subject to suspension and removal or impeachment and, in addition, commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

(2) Any person who willfully and knowingly violates:

(a) Any of the provisions of this chapter commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

(b) Section 119.105 commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

History.—s. 10, ch. 67-125; s. 74, ch. 71-136; s. 5, ch. 85-301; s. 2, ch. 2001-271; s. 11, ch. 2004-335.

Kassab Column Suggests City Motive for Withholding Documents.

In her column published in the Sentinel on November 22, Ms. Kassab accused the City of improperly withholding the documents she had requested in the days leading up to a Historic Preservation Board hearing.

Ms. Kassab’s column, entitled “Winter Park withheld public report on historic preservation,” began with a simple declarative sentence: “Don’t Trust Winter Park City Hall.”

Ms. Kassab’s column included this passage:

“The city’s denial wasn’t a simple oversight. The emails included a message from Hayes that suggests a decision was made to keep the report out of sight until the meeting.

She noted my request in an email to Bland, and wrote to him, ‘….I have let our Communications Director, Clarissa Howard, know that an advance copy is not available. All respect to the paper, the HPB (Historic Preservation Board) should be the first to hear your comments.’

That’s not the way Florida’s public-records law works. It says nothing about giving appointed or elected officials first dibs on information. Or picking and choosing which records you would like to make public and which ones you’d rather not.

Howard said my request was misunderstood. She said Hayes considered the draft by the consultant to be ‘talking points’ and not pertinent to my request for the report. Oh, please.”

City Manager Knight Responds: “There Was No Cover-Up Here.”

Kassab’s assertions appeared to anger City Manager and other high-level City staffers. In the City’s November 25 Commission meeting, three days after the column was published, Mr. Knight refuted Ms. Kassab’s claims, indignantly stating that “At the time she asked for the report, it did not exist . . .We had no draft report . . . We had draft talking points.”

The Voice requested documents that could verify the City’s claim that consultant Bland had provided only “talking points” instead of a draft of his report and/or his Power Point slide presentation. In response, the city provided an email containing the words “speaking points” in the body of an email entitled “Draft 1.”

However, that email also included an attachment entitled “WPK Slides Rough Draft for LH Only.doc

Citizens Voice Dissatisfaction With City’s Historic Preservation Actions and Policies.

During the Commission meeting’s Public Comment segment, Joan Cason reminded the Commission that “Florida law states the public is entitled to review draft reports and not just final products . . . ” Cason criticized the City for refusing to give Kassab documents “to which she was legally entitled . . .” Cason laid the blame squarely on the City, saying “. . . this is clearly unacceptable behavior on the part of the City . . .”

In response to Ms. Cason and to questions from the dais, City Manager Randy Knight mounted a spirited defense of his staffers’ actions, strongly stating “There was no cover-up here . . . [ Kassab’s ] trying to make it look like we’re trying to cover something up . . . that simply wasn’t the case.”

Mr. Knight then added a caveat to his comments, admitting that Kassab had expanded her request in a subsequent email: “In one of her follow-up emails she added the line something like ‘or anything else.’ At that point, we should have given her the talking points – but nobody directed Lindsey Hayes to not provide anything.” (Click “Kassab Document Request” button above.)

Public Commenter Sally Flynn to Commission: “I am ashamed and I hope you are ashamed.”

Sally Flynn followed Ms. Cason, saying from the podium that the City’s Historic Preservation consultant has been kept from delivering his report directly to the Commission, asking, “Why did we pay to have a consultant – an excellent one?”

Ms. Flynn issued a call to Winter Parkers: “I want all the citizens to hear: Mr. Bland said our historic treasures are in peril and that we, Winter Park, have the worst preservation ordinance he has seen of any city in Florida. I am ashamed and I hope you are ashamed.”

Ms. Flynn’s comments laid bare the dissatisfaction that has simmered within the preservation community for a long time – and which has led to criticism of the Historic Preservation Board and the City’s existing Historic Preservation ordinance that – per the City’s own consultant – is considered to be weak and ineffective.

The ongoing dissatisfaction within the preservation community has motivated a citizens’ group to create their own report and recommendations for improving historic preservation in Winter Park. Their interaction with Winter Park’s Historic Preservation Board will be explored in Part Two of this story.

Commissioner Cooper Issues Challenge: Allow Consultant to Speak to Commission.

Ms. Cooper responded to comments from Ms. Cason and Ms. Flynn saying “I actually am embarrassed for the Commission and for the City . . . I believe we should give Mr. Bland an opportunity to present his report to the Commission.” ” Cooper said she anticipated that the consultant’s report “. . . would receive a public vetting at least equal to the vetting that was given to the Economic Development Board with Silvia Vargas. I didn’t know we had made that decision as a Commission not to hear it . . .”

Mayor Bradley and Commissioner Sprinkel jumped into conversation seeming to offer hope that the consultant’s report might be heard by the Commission. However, the Mayor quickly modified his response saying, “Whether we hear it or not, there’s dozens of consultants that this City uses in numerous ways – and I don’t believe every report comes to the Commission . . .” to which Cooper responded: “No, just the ones that are important like the Economic Development and historic preservation.”

Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel followed up Mayor Bradley’s comments, moving beyond whether the consultant would appear before the Commission:

“Let me tell why this is frustrating to me: I didn’t like that article in the paper [ Kassab’s column ] because I thought it was very unfair to the City . . . We have citizens that are accusing us of things that we haven’t – not only have not done . . . but this hasn’t gotten here [ to Commission ] yet . . . I don’t know about you, but I’m not doing any of that stuff . . . I really don’t like the fact that somebody’s trying to create an issue . . . Don’t start thinking that somebody has some ulterior motive – because I know I don’t have one and I know my friends up here don’t have them either. So, please give us an opportunity to let the process work.”

Commissioner Leary Defends Commission/City Actions. Frustrated by Citizen “Lectures.”

Commissioner Leary ended the Commission meeting with the last word on the City’s handling of the HPB consultant’s report. He appeared to reject Commissioner Cooper’s request for an appearance by the consultant, suggesting instead that the HPB is the appropriate venue for input from the consultant and citizen groups who are seeking to upgrade the City’s existing Historic Preservation ordinance.

“Occasionally we are accused of things up here that are just simply not true. We are taking our time with things. We have asked for studies. We inherited the current Historic Preservation ordinance. We are the first ones looking at it to address some of the holes in it . . . I think this Commission’s been pretty activist in trying to make sure that some of the things that we have been handed, we maintain and update for current needs of our community. So it is a bit frustrating to sit up here and be pointed out and lectured and told that people are embarrassed by how we’re handling things when we’re actually acting to address opportunity areas.”

Coming next: Historic Preservation Policy / Part Two

The Voice takes a closer look at the City’s handling of proposed changes to Winter Park’s historic preservation ordinance – and the interaction among the City Commission, the Historic Preservation Board and an advisory panel of citizen preservationists. For purposes of comparison, we also examine the City’s handling of the Fine Dining ordinance change process – which, unlike the historic preservation process, was primarily driven by a citizen task force.