Winter Park Land Trust Kickoff

Winter Park Land Trust Kickoff

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

Grab your Valentine and get ready to party!

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

What is a Land Trust?

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

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

Why Does Winter Park Need a Land Trust?

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

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

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

Vision and Mission Driven

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

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

To learn more, go to www.winterparklandtrust.org

Become a Member

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

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Rollins Panel on WP Future Draws Capacity Crowd

Rollins Panel on WP Future Draws Capacity Crowd

A standing-room-only crowd filled Rollins’ Suntrust Auditorium last night as panelists engaged the audience in a lively discussion about Winter Park’s future.

An audience of Winter Park residents and Rollins students joined panelists, former Commissioner Pam Peters, Entrepreneur Steve Goldman, Architect Phil Kean and Mayor Steve Leary, to explore how our city will navigate the opportunities and the issues facing it now and in the years to come.

Videos are in two parts, below, and last about an hour total.

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Lessons from Charleston

Lessons from Charleston

Quality of Life Drives Economic Development

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.

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Heaven on Wheels

Heaven on Wheels

Grant Chapel Hijacked Again

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.

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Hannibal Square Heroine

Hannibal Square Heroine

Won’t Take No for an Answer

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.

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Winter Park’s Historic Homes

Winter Park’s Historic Homes

Some Are More Historic Than Others

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.

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