Local Mayors Fight for Home Rule

Have Our Elected Reps in Tallahassee Gone Off the Rails?

Local Mayors Fight for Home Rule

There is a group of bills making its way through the Florida legislature that would take away Home Rule from local governments and concentrate it at the state level. Leaders in Florida’s 410 municipalities and 67 counties are united in their opposition to the state legislature’s “one size fits all” approach to regulation of such things as short-term vacation rentals, Community Redevelopment Agencies and. . . trees? That’s right: trees.

Maitland Mayor Dale McDonald and Eatonville Mayor Eddie Cole attended the February 12 Commission meeting to show their solidarity with Winter Park and to urge all residents to demand that our representatives in Tallahassee oppose legislation that will preempt home rule.

Maitland Mayor Deplores ‘Arrogance’ of Elected State Reps

Speaking before the Commission, Mayor McDonald expressed his disillusionment with the “condescending arrogance” of our elected State representatives, “people we’ve known well – elected officials and legislators . . . who can pretend to be acting in your best interests, but who are not . . . .”

“The fear of leadership, the adversarial tones of the last couple of sessions, have been palpable,” said McDonald. “They will all remark on that. Our representatives in Tallahassee will tell you, ’Sorry, we can’t do anything, it’s the leadership. To get something, we’ve got to go along.’”

Whose Money Buys the Message?

McDonald noted, “It’s a whole lot easier to persuade one-hundred-odd legislators than it is 400 cities and 67 counties. But that’s their job. It’s not their job to make it easier for them to get paid – by the PACs and campaign contributions and so forth.” (The reader is encouraged to view Mayor McDonald’s complete remarks.)

A letter to Winter Park citizens from City Manager Randy Knight describes three bills that are particularly problematic.

Short-term Rentals

HB 773 prohibits cities from establishing ordinances specific to short-term vacation rentals. Online vacation rental sites like VRBO and Airbnb have generated brisk business in short-term, hotel-like rentals in residential neighborhoods. Problems include inadequate parking, noise and the presence of strangers in neighborhoods. Passage of HB 773 would prevent the City from locally regulating these businesses.

Community Redevelopment Agencies – CRAs

HB 17 and SB 432 would allow a CRA to be phased out if it is not reauthorized by a super majority vote of the body that created it. Winter Park’s CRA was created in the mid-90s and has been the catalyst for the renovation of the Hannibal Square commercial area, the Park Avenue street scape, construction of the Winter Park Community Center, numerous affordable housing and housing rehab projects and after-school programs.

Tree Trimming

With a school system that has dropped to 28th position nationally, according to Education Week, aging infrastructure and a fragile, over-taxed supply of fresh water, one would think our elected representatives in Tallahassee could find a better way to spend their time than developing tree-trimming regulations for cities like Winter Park and Eatonville.

Call to Action — It’s Not Too Late

Right Now — Email or phone your senators and representatives and tell them to oppose these bills and any others that prevent local government from maintaining the high standards that sustain the charm and character of Winter Park. Note — phone calls work as well as emails. They are recorded and they carry a lot of weight.

The vote is Thursday, Feb. 22, so there’s not a lot of time. It only takes a minute to Act Now. It’s time for Tallahassee to get back on track.

Senator Linda Stewart
stewart.linda.web@flsenate.gov
407-893-2422

Representative Mike Miller
mike.miller@myfloridahouse.gov
407-245-0588

Representative Robert “Bob” Cortes
bob.cortes@myfloridahouse.gov
407-262-7420

For complete lists:
FL Senate: <flsenate.gov/Senators/>
FL House of Representatives: flhouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/representatives.aspx

WP Celebrates Weekend of the Arts

Feb. 16 – 19 — All Over Town

WP Celebrates Weekend of the Arts

 

The weekend of Friday, February 16, through Monday, February 19, will mark the inauguration of Winter Park’s city-wide Weekend of the Arts Celebration.

Grab your Valentine and bring the kids – there will be something for everyone. The four-day weekend arts extravaganza will feature three dozen events at museums, galleries, theaters, public venues and outdoor spaces.

More than just a “Thing” in Central Park.

Events are taking place all over the city. There will be live musical and theatrical performances and one-of-a-kind art exhibits. Mead Botanical Garden and the Winter Park History Museum are sponsoring events especially for children. Central Park has plenty going on, too, but this celebration showcases the City’s organizations in their own venues.

Micronesian Art at the Polasek

The Polasek Museum has an extraordinary show of Micronesian Art collected by local anthropologist Barbara Wavell. Entitled Island Objects: Art and Adaptation in Micronesia, the show features Wavell’s private collection from the Pacific Islands of Micronesia. The objects, which date from the 1800s to the present, illustrate ways in which traditional culture has adapted to external societal forces through periods of Spanish, German, Japanese, and American influence. The exhibit includes a broad range of objects such as carved wooden figures and storyboards, intricately patterned fans, navigation charts, and woven clothing and adornments. http://polasek.org/exhibitions/current/

Bierstadt at the Morse

The Morse Museum will unveil The Domes of Yosemite, the largest existing painting by Albert Bierstadt (1830 – 1902), which is on loan from the St. Johnsbury Athanaeum in Vermont. The 1867 painting, measuring 10 by 15 feet, has not been shown outside the Athanaeum since its installation there in 1873. Charles Hosmer Morse was a St. Johnsbury native and a student at the St. Johnsbury Academy. “[His] connection to St. Johnsbury is the reason the Athanaeum offered the painting for temporary display at the Morse Museum,” said Athanaeum Director Bob Joly. “We are delighted to share this national treasure with the Central Florida community, where Morse’s legacy has meant so much.”

Museums Open to the Public

The Cornell Fine Arts Museum, the Crealde School of Art and the Hannibal Square Heritage Center will all be open to the public. There are live theatrical performances at Rollins College’s Annie Russell Theatre and the Winter Park Playhouse. Tickets and reservations are required for the theatrical events.

Music All Over Town

If music is your thing, there are three Bach Festival concerts, live music at Casa Feliz and a Winter Park Institute 10th Anniversary celebration concert in Central Park. The Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts will feature jazz on closing night, February 19 (tickets required).

Bragging Rights

The nine square miles that are Winter Park are home to 21 arts organizations, 18 of which are taking part in this inaugural celebration. According to a 2015 study by Arts & Economic Prosperity, while Winter Park represents just 2 percent of the population of Orange County, 27 percent of all cultural spending in the county happens here. More than 1 million people annually attend arts events in Winter Park. Arts and culture in Winter Park created 1,649 full-time jobs and generated $46 million annually in economic activity.

That’s a lot to brag about, so be sure you take full advantage of this weekend-long opportunity to enjoy our WP Bragging Rights.

For a full list of organizations and schedule of events, go to https://cityofwinterpark.org/visitors/arts-culture/

Click on arrow at bottom of image below to view video produced by WP Communications Department

Happy New Year Winter Park

Tell Us What Headlines You Would Like to See in 2018

Happy New Year Winter Park


The holiday lights, champagne and fireworks are over for another year. Now it’s time to get serious – to think about the coming year.

What headlines would you like to see in 2018?

In seven words or less, write the headlines you hope to see in 2018. Post your suggestions for the New Year in the ‘comments’ section below.

Remember – seven words. No personal attacks or profanity. Watch this space to learn what’s on the minds of your fellow Winter Parkers.

Here are a few suggestions we have already received from our readers. Add your own.

“Train Horns Banned at Winter Park Crossings”

“17-92 Thru Traffic Diverted to I-4”

“’Virtual’ Holiday Tree Moves to Ravaudage”

“Undergrounding Project Completed”

Seidel, Leary Search for Common Ground

Did They Find Any?

Seidel, Leary Search for Common Ground

Mayor Steve Leary and Commissioner Greg Seidel met early the morning of November 29 to discuss where they stand on electrical undergrounding, a connectivity plan for city greenspace, traffic management and the possibility of forming an architectural review board.

The meeting was called by Commissioner Seidel, who sought commonality and support from Mayor Leary for more systematic planning on these issues. Seidel expressed his feeling that the City needs more detailed designs against which to measure its progress.

The discussion, which lasted approximately an hour and a half, was often detailed and technical. We have included video of the meeting in its entirety to enable readers to judge for themselves where and when Leary and Seidel were able to find common ground.

Young Composers Return to DPAC

UCF, Orlando Phil Present 2017 National Young Composers Challenge

Young Composers Return to DPAC

Mark the date: Sunday, November 12, 1:00 to 5:00 pm, in the Walt Disney Theater at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Experience an unforgettable musical afternoon as the University of Central Florida, the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Young Composers Challenge (NYCC) join to present the 2017 Composium.

Bring the Family

Professional musicians from the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and the UCF faculty will perform classical compositions written by six young musicians aged 13 to 18. Dress is casual. Children are welcome. Admission is free. More information is available at http://www.youngcomposerschallenge.org.

Part Concert, Part Seminar

The Composium is part concert, part rehearsal, part recording session and part seminar. Winning compositions, chosen from thousands submitted by teen composers from around the world, are rehearsed, discussed and recorded before a live audience.

Founded in 2005, the NYCC is a non-profit charitable organization whose goal is to promote the creation of new orchestral music and foster the careers of the next generation of American composers. The purpose of the Composium is to build greater understanding of and support for symphony orchestras and the creation of new orchestral music.

‘You Will Never Again Hear an Orchestra in Quite the Same Way’

“The level of sophistication of these orchestral works is mind-blowing,” said Steve Goldman, Executive Director of the NYCC. “This is a rare chance to witness new orchestral works by America’s top young composers performed for the first time by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra.”

“Once you have attended a Composium,” said Goldman, “you will never listen to an orchestra performance in quite the same way again.”

‘Central Florida’s Commitment to Classical Music’

Dean Jeff Moore, of the UCF College of Arts and Humanities, said this event is good for the young composers, but also the Orlando community. “UCF is committed to providing access for people to pursue their passions,” said Moore. “The longtime partnership between UCF, the Orlando Philharmonic and now the NYCC demonstrates Central Florida’s commitment to the past, present, and future of classical music.”

‘Support for Young Composers is Essential to the Future of Music’

“The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra is proud to partner with UCF and the National Young Composers Challenge,” said Executive Director Christopher Barton. “This opportunity to support the development of our next generation of composers is both exciting for our audiences and essential to the future of music.”

National Young Composers Challenge is a 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization supported by grants and in-kind donations from the University of Central Florida, Rollins College, Full Sail University, Timucua Arts Foundation and the Goldman Charitable Foundation. http://www.youngcomposerschallenge.org

No Park Expansion

No Park Expansion

A 20,000-square-foot medical office building will occupy a lot once home to bowling lanes on Fairbanks Avenue near U.S. Highway 17/92.

City commissioners accepted an offer to buy the land from ComTech Properties for $3.5 million by a 4-1 vote, Commissioner Carolyn Cooper opposed. The site at 1111 W. Fairbanks Ave. has been coveted by some in Winter Park eager to expand Martin Luther King Park.

The city put the land out for bid in June, less than a year and a half after it bought the 1.63 acres from Rollins College for $2.9 million. The college had bought the bowling lanes site in 2013 for $2.85 million as part of a planned athletic field, but sold it to the city after it found another location.

The city used community redevelopment — or CRA — funds from its special downtown taxing district to pay for about a third of the purchase price to Rollins. The intent was to create turn lanes from Fairbanks Avenue onto Hwy. 17/92. There also was discussion at the CRA and city commission level about using the parcel to expand MLK Park.

Commissioner Cooper argued Monday the city should delay the sale “for now,” so it can study what effect the new city library will have on storm water drainage in the area. Hurricane Irma raised the need for more land to offset storm water, she said. Commissioner Greg Seidel voiced similar concerns, as did two residents who spoke to delay the sale. This area “was the TV stand-up spot” reporters used to show flooding from Irma, resident Charley Williams said.

Mayor Steve Leary said the agenda item was “never about park space and water,” but about needing space for traffic lanes. Arguments about stormwater were just another tactic to delay the sale, he said, and that could scare away prospective tenants in the office building and jeopardize the bid.

Power and Police Priorities

Power and Police Priorities

Winter Park’s electric utility and law enforcement emerged as partial winners in Winter Park’s budget debates. The city’s tax rate for 2018 will stay the same.

In the wake of Hurricane Irma and complaints about outages, city commissioners figured out ways to make more money available to the electric utility fund. The biggest chunk — $1 million – will be transferred to the utility this budget year from the city’s water reserves. Another $425,000 would be freed up in the utility’s 2018 contingency funding by moving street-lighting from the utility to the general fund, where it had been in the past.

Not yet known is whether that the additional $1.425 million will speed up the city’s underground wiring or how much work could be accomplished. Although several commissioners said the money was intended to move forward with undergrounding, Mayor Steve Leary said some of the $1 million could go toward other improvements necessitated by the hurricane. City Manager Randy Knight estimated the city’s total storm-related costs at $5.5 million with much of that ultimately covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.

“The City has undergrounded just over six miles with the $3.5 million provided for the FY17 fiscal year,” said Clarissa Howard, the city’s communications director Tuesday. “It is extremely difficult to determine how much could be done with additional funds as each project is different and complexity can affect the cost.”

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper voted against the $1 million transfer, saying she preferred such fund-to-fund shifts be done as loans that are paid back. Both Mayor Leary and Commissioner Pete Weldon voted against putting street lighting back in the general fund.

NO BODY CAMERAS FOR POLICE

Police Chief Michael Deal was successful in winning an $862,000 increase in his department’s budget. In earlier budget talks, Mayor Leary had asked the department to cut its request by $200,000, but on Monday commissioners decided to approve the full request. They said they wanted the department to be competitive with other Central Florida departments in hiring new officers.

Commissioners, however, declined to budget the $120,000 Deal had sought for police body cameras. In earlier budget talks, only Mayor Leary had supported that request. Commissioner Weldon didn’t want the cameras to be used to make public safety a “political football,” and Chief Deal said he had seen no complaints of excessive force or racial profiling in the year he has been chief.

On Monday, Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel noted the police department’s healthy budget and said the chief could use the money for body cameras if he saw them as a priority. If the chief “can figure out a way to do it, fine,” she said.

NO TAX RATE INCREASE

Commissioner Weldon was unsuccessful in seeking a cut in the property tax rate to 3.9942 mills. That would have removed a half million dollars from the general fund. One mill equals $1 of tax for every $1,000 in assessed property value.

Weldon argued that the city’s coffers are healthy enough to sustain a lower rate. In addition, he said, the same millage will bring in more revenue because the city’s assessed property values have increased. Commissioners voted 4-1 to keep the rate at 4.0923 mills.

Stormy Weather Ahead

Will the Lights Stay On?

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

Stormy Weather Ahead

Peter K. Gottfried, Guest Columnist

Tropical Storm Maria has now become Hurricane Maria and is battering residents of the Caribbean — even as they are still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Irma. Too soon to tell if Maria will turn toward Central Florida, but one thing remains certain – the City of Winter Park is still not ready for a major hurricane.

This rotten utility pole at Stovin and Park Avenue fell during Hurricane Irma.

Storm Water Has No Where to Go . . .

Flooding occurs in the same areas of the City it always has – and thanks to continuing development without proper storm water management, it is getting worse. The City knowns about these areas, but continues to take a go-slow approach to addressing them.

. . . Except Into the Roads

Lake Mendsen within Martin Luther King Park – site of the proposed $30 million library-event center — is woefully inadequate to handle existing storm water drainage from the Winter Park Village, the Paseo Apartments and the CNL Heritage Center. Even a heavy afternoon thunder storm will cause flooding on Denning Drive and Harper Street. The construction of the new library, with its associated impervious surfaces, can only make things worse. Other areas of the City that routinely flood include the intersection of Kings Way and Fawsett Road and stretches of Palmer Avenue, where water rises to the curb top after an afternoon downpour.

High Rates Alone Won’t Keep the Lights On

Reliable electric power during major storms is a significant issue. Like many other customers in Winter Park, I was without power for a week following Hurricane Irma.

Let’s Bring Our Infrastructure Into the 21st Century

Winter Park purchased the electric utility from Progress Energy/Florida Power in 2005 with a promise to underground all lines within 10 years. According to the City website, that target completion date has moved out to 2026. Progress is measured in terms of how many miles of line have been undergrounded rather than the number of additional customers served. The current debate is less about how and when to underground and more about how to pay for it. For information about undergrounding in your area, go to https://gispublic.cityofwinterpark.org/ugstatus/

Editor’s Note: The City of Winter Park issued a statement that said undergrounding timeline was 20 years.

Winter Park can do better. There is no reason we should scramble every time there is a major storm. Let’s bring our infrastructure up to date so we can have some peace of mind when the next storm hits.

Peter K. Gottfried is President of Natural Systems Analysts, Inc. which provides technical and scientific support to the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Bureau of Land Management. He served as a City Commissioner and on the Planning and Zoning Board, Lakes and Waterways Board and, currently, on the board of Mead Botanical Garden.

Local Investors Buy WP Magazine

New Ownership for FL Home Media LLC

Local Investors Buy WP Magazine

 

Winter Park Publishing Company LLC, a new company comprised of community leaders, has purchased the assets of Sarasota-based Florida Home Media, LLC, among them the award-winning Winter Park Magazine, which circulates primarily in Winter Park and Maitland. The purchase price was not disclosed.

In addition to Winter Park Magazine, the company publishes ArtsLife, the official magazine of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, and Florida Homebuyer Orlando, a consumer publication focused on the new-home industry.

Community Asset

“I’m pretty sure that an effort like this is unprecedented in this business,” said long-time editor and publisher Randy Noles, who is a shareholder and CEO of the new company. “People have come to regard Winter Park Magazine as a community asset and were very excited about the opportunity to be involved in this purchase.”

Florida Home Media was originally a spinoff of Sarasota Magazine and Gulfshore Life in Naples, both of which were owned by Dan Denton of Sarasota. Denton recently sold both highly successful magazines to national media companies.

Noles and Denton worked together for 18 years. Noles opened the Orlando division in 2004, and served as a consultant to the magazines in Sarasota and Naples.

“We could have gone the same route in the Orlando market and sought a national buyer,” said Denton, a member of the Florida Magazine Association Hall of Fame. “But given the character of Winter Park Magazine and its standing in the community, we thought it should be owned locally.”

Investors Stand In Line

Noles approached Allan E. Keen, CEO of The Keewin Real Property Company, and Richard J. Walsh, president of Knob Hill Group, requesting help in assembling an investor group to buy the company. Walsh was a co-founder of Winter Park Magazine and published it for three years until it was bought by Florida Home Media in 2012. Keen and Walsh agreed to lend their support and within weeks 44 local investors agreed to get involved.

Editorial Independence Intact

Noles emphasized that the Winter Park Magazine’s editorial independence would not be compromised. He noted the investor group includes people who hold a variety of opinions about local issues, but who are united in their belief that Winter Park is a special place.

“I have no experience in media assets, but my love for Winter Park and the amazing quality of Winter Park Magazine under Randy’s leadership made this an easy decision for Linda and me to invest, and to ask others to join,” said Allan Keen.

Local Ownership Is Key

Walsh added, “This investment not only ensures that a community asset remains under local ownership, but it’s also going to be enjoyable for our shareholders. All of them are proud of their community and view the magazine as the embodiment of that pride.”

In addition to Noles, Keen and Walsh, Theresa Swanson, publisher of Florida Homebuyer Orlando and a leader in the region’s new-home industry, will also be actively involved in the company’s management.

Community Owners

Larry and Joanne Adams; The Albertson Company, Ltd.; Richard O. Baldwin Jr.; Jim and Diana Barnes; Brad Blum; Ken and Ruth Bradley; John Caron; Bruce Douglas; Steve Goldman; Hal George; Michael Gonick; Micky Grindstaff; Marc Hagle; Larry and Jane Hames; Eric and Diane Holm; Garry and Isis Jones; Allan E. and Linda S. Keen; Knob Hill Group (Rick and Trish Walsh, Jim and Beth DeSimone, Chris Schmidt); Mitch Lasky; Drew and Paula Madsen; Kevin and Jacquelin Maddron; Kenneth J. Meister; Jack Myers; Ann Hicks Murrah; Jack Myers; Michael P. O’Donnell; Nicole and Mike OKaty; Bill and Jody Orosz; Martin and Ellen Prague; Serge and Kerri Rivera; Theresa Swanson; Sam Stark; Theresa Swanson; Randall J. Robertson; George Sprinkel; Philip Tiedtke; Roger Thompson; Ed Timberlake; Harold and Libby Ward; Warren “Chip” Weston; Thomas H. Yochum; and Victor and Jackie A. Zollo.

News Update

No Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in WP

News Update

On June 9, 2017, the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 8A (SB 8A), the Medical Use of Marijuana Act, designed to establish regulations for the implementation of Amendment 2, which allows the sale of medical cannabis in the state of Florida.

Political Banana Peel

In what Commissioner Peter Weldon called a “political banana peel thrown under our feet,” the law makes county and municipal governments choose. Either they must treat medical marijuana dispensaries exactly the same way they treat pharmacies or they must ban them altogether.

Dispensaries Banned – For Now

On Monday, July 24, the Commission voted 4-1 to pass an ordinance banning medical cannabis dispensaries from the City of Winter Park. Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel cast the dissenting vote.

Medical Marijuana Supporters Seek to Overturn Law

Meanwhile, proponents of medical marijuana dispensaries are asking the courts to overturn the state law. If they are successful, adoption of the City ordinance automatically establishes a one-year moratorium, which would give the City time to understand the impact of the court ruling and to devise an alternative ordinance that would be in full compliance.

Editor’s Note: Readers wishing to comment on this latest development should scroll to the end of the full story and click the Comment link there.

Will of the Voters – Up In Smoke?

State Rules Restrict Medical Marijuana in FL Cities

July 26, 2017 / by Anne Mooney

At a special work session July 25, the Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Board moved to request the Commission enact an ordinance “to prohibit medical marijuana treatment center dispensing facilities within the boundaries of the city . . . .”

If the Commission passes it, this ordinance will repeal and replace a 2014 ordinance, No. 2981-14, which would have permitted dispensaries of non-euphoric medical cannabis in limited industrial and warehouse districts within the city.

Winter Park is among 88 municipalities and four counties (Osceola, Sumpter, Hernando and Columbia) considering prohibitions, moratoriums or other restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries.

Voters Want Medical Cannabis

On the November 8, 2016, ballot, Florida voters approved the Florida Medical Marijuana Legislation Initiative, also known as Amendment 2, with a decisive 71.3 percent of the vote. The measure went into effect January 3, 2017. The state legislature, however, neglected to establish the necessary rules and regulations for the implementation of Amendment 2 during their regular session.

House Speaker Wants to Make the Rules

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, however, objected to ceding power for making rules for implementation to the Florida Department of Health and called for a special legislative session to address medical marijuana legislation. “To just leave it to bureaucrats sitting over at the Department of Health,” he said, “I think would be a gross injustice.”

Gov. Scott: ‘Okay, Make the Rules’

On June 2, Governor Rick Scott called for a special session June 7 through June 9. He issued a statement, “Medical marijuana was approved by 71 percent of Florida voters in 2016, and I believe that it is the role of the Florida Legislature to determine how to best implement this approved constitutional amendment. I am glad that both the Florida Senate and House are moving toward crafting legislation to help patients, and I have added medical marijuana to the call for special session.”

Senate Writes the Rules . . .

On June 9, 2017, the Florida State Legislature passed Senate Bill 8A (SB 8A), the Medical Use of Marijuana Act, designed to establish regulations for the implementation of Amendment 2.

SB 8A defined the medical conditions that qualified a patient for medical marijuana. It placed a cap on the number of retail dispensaries and medical marijuana treatment centers until April 1, 2020. It banned smoking medical marijuana. It banned doctors with a financial interest in marijuana growing or testing facilities from prescribing marijuana. It levied no tax on medical marijuana.

Locals Implement the Rules . . .or Not

The law also gave local county and municipal governments a choice. Either they can regulate medical marijuana dispensaries exactly the same way they regulate pharmacies . . . or they can ban them.

In short, the only way to regulate them is to ban them completely.

Commission to Decide at July 24 Meeting.