Why No Confidence

In WP’s Largest Public Works Project?

Why No Confidence

Guest Columnist Charley Williams

The planned Canopy project may be the largest public works project ever undertaken by the City of Winter Park. Approved in 2016, the Library, Events Center and Parking Garage referendum garnered a slim majority of 214 votes, out of over 10,618 votes cast.

 

 

Campaign Literature in 2015-16 Promised Cost Levels

New Library: $17,435,700
New Events Center: $ 3,004,943
Parking Deck: $ 3,004,943
Shared Costs: $ 8,405,496

(demolition, design/engineering, landscaping, site work)

Library Board to Raise: $ 2,500,000

TOTAL PROJECT COST $ 29,914,311 with a promised 15 percent contingency

Three years later, why does the public continue to be skeptical about the chances for success?

Why is public trust in this project, funded by taxpayer dollars, continuing to falter? The answers to these questions are not difficult. Look at the project track record over the past four years. Promises were made, then discarded. Trust evaporated. The trend line below speaks for itself.

Original Pledges

  • $29.9 million project with a 15 percent contingency
  • 50,000 square foot library
  • LEED-certified building including solar energy capacity
  • Multi-deck parking garage to ensure easy access, safety and security for patrons
  • Footprint that takes no more than 1 percent of MLK Jr Park acreage
  • A site suitable to build upon with no extraordinary contamination or soil stability issues
  • Storm water plan that could be addressed without taking more parkland
  • A transparent process open to public comment, with all commissioners kept in the loop
  • Project focus is a world class library and a community events center
  • Robust community fundraising support assured
  • CRA funds unlikely to be needed and should be reserved for other city priorities, like the purchase of the Post Office property.

The Path Forward

  • Price tag increased to $40+ million and is tilting toward $50 million
              Note: Taxpayer dollars restricted to the original $30 million bond limit
  • Greatly reduced contingency fund resulting from a challenging construction environment
  • Library size reduced to 34,400 square feet with no LEED certification
  • No parking garage, requiring consumption of more park space for parking lots
  • No traffic study of Morse & Harper to address congestion and safety issues
    Note: Plan proposed to model the entire Orange Avenue MLK Park region
  • Continued flooding of Morse and Harper with no approved storm water plan
              Note: Lake Mendsen is currently at capacity, per St Johns River WMD
  • Complex site issues with debris buried to 30-35 feet and muck.
              Note: Building site has been shifted west to avoid muck pockets.
  • Trees removed without public notice or involvement.
              Note: There is a moratorium on future tree removal.
  • Consumption of MLK Park acreage now in excess of 15 percent of park space, and
  • Lake Mendsen could be further expanded by taking 1-2 more park acres.
              Note: There is some effort to dial back the size of the project footprint.
  • Lack of Transparency — the last comprehensive public forum on the project was the April 9, 2018 City Commission Meeting approving Schematic Designs.
  • Tourism as priority pitched to Orange County Tourist Development Council (TDC) — our own “I-Drive.”
  • One commissioner was not informed of TDC meeting and the request for $6 million.
  • Fundraising from the community still not accounted for, though the deadline was April 2019.
  • CRA funds will likely be tapped to bail out this project.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr: still has not been honored as the namesake of this park.

What if This Were Your Own Health?

Citizens have not been presented with a satisfactory explanation for this list of discrepancies. This is the chance for the commission to step forward and demonstrate leadership.

If this project were a medical patient, we could say we have seen the X-Rays and indicators of a potential complication are all there.

If we wait seven more months, until January, when construction pricing comes due, we then face a crisis decision of whether to administer chemo or radiation or both. Why not take preventive measures now? Get a second opinion? If your health was at stake, what would you do?

Maybe change medical providers?

Can We Afford This Project?

For many, the fiduciary handwriting is on the wall: we cannot afford this project.

No wonder the citizenry is concerned.

Cost estimates and overruns will not diminish. Instead, they will likely increase. Change orders will become a major concern. Our Central Florida construction market is robust but stressed, increasing pressure on construction costs. That context has already been established with the I-4 Ultimate, Orlando Airport’s New South Terminal and the building boom.

Commissioners Need the Chance to Talk to One Another

At the June 10 Commission meeting, Commissioner Carolyn Cooper requested a workshop so the Commission as a whole could discuss various budget issues, including the Canopy and the CRA, without having to go through the City Manager. She was dismissed by Mayor Steve Leary, but her suggestion deserves reconsideration.

Recommendation: Give Us the Benefit of Your Shared Vision

Hold a Workshop.

Put the questions on the table and explore some answers together.

Educate a very concerned public.

How Much Can the Camel Carry?

In the case of the Canopy, it is reasonable to say that a $1,000 per square foot public works project is unacceptable. So, what is acceptable? $700 per square foot? $500 per square foot? $350 per square foot? That guide star needs to be established — or at least discussed – and the public needs to hear the discussion.

If we cannot attain that acceptable price per square foot, alternative scenarios need to be explored. When a project moves beyond 60 percent design, the time and money already invested make it increasingly difficult to say “no” or even to change tack.

Think Big: Where is Plan B?

The goal is to maximize all our assets to make this project the best it can be. For this reason, the process deserves heightened public involvement, heightened communication and heightened stewardship by our elected leaders.

Are our taxpayer dollars being wisely spent? If so, show us how.

That’s how public trust can be restored.

Orange Ave. Steering Committee Formed

As Part of Planning Process for Orange Avenue Overlay

Orange Ave. Steering Committee Formed

What do we do with 54 and one-half acres of valuable, under-developed business/commercial parcels — land along the segment of Orange Avenue that runs from 17-92 up to Fairbanks? The area contains 103 parcels, more than 90 percent of which are less than an acre. The largest is around 6 acres.

What’s an Overlay?

One thing we can do is a Zoning Overlay. An overlay is basically new zoning district that sits atop the existing zoning map, one that adds special restrictions and incentives to make a discrete, identifiable district, a district that can create cultural consistency and equilibrium and avoid piecemeal development.

According to the Center for Land Use Education (CLUE), “. . . regulations or incentives are attached to the overlay district to protect a specific resource or guide to development within a specific area. . . .Potential uses might include: Create a walkable community, connect pathways; Preserve and enhance a special district; Encourage economic development; Protect the quality of surface and groundwater and manage storm water. . . .” www.uwsp.edu/cnr/landcenter/

‘Blight’ on Orange Ave?

According to Planning and Community Development Director Bronce Stephenson, the Orange Avenue corridor has been economically stagnant for a number of years. Those of us who make the daily drive up and down Orange Avenue have become accustomed to the vitality of disconnected stretches of it, like Designers’ Row and the area around Foxtail’s and the Brewstillery. Interspersed among these hubs of activity, however, are parcels that have produced little more than weeds and first responder training facilities since the 2008 recession.

Big Three Stakeholders

Most of that unlovely, under-used land belongs to three large landholders. The Big Three are Demetree Holdings, Holler enterprises and the City of Winter Park. Although most of us wouldn’t call Orange Avenue “blighted” – it’s ours, we’re used to it — Stephenson brings a fresh pair of Okie Eyes (Bronce hails from Tulsa) that see an exciting opportunity for redevelopment that will integrate redevelopment with the culture, spirit and ambiance of Winter Park.

Creation of a Third Place

Toward that end, Stephenson has formed a steering committee where citizens from across the political spectrum will come together, find common ground, and proffer recommendations for a reactivated community that will form a new “Third Place” in Winter Park. For the sake of discussion, a First Place is your home; the Second Place is your work place; the Third Place is where you go for recreation and social interaction. It’s your Fun Place. Stephenson wants to put that place on Orange Avenue.

Give Some to Get Some

A recurrent theme at the first Orange Avenue Overlay Steering Committee meeting was the perceived necessity for the larger stakeholders’ redevelopment plans to include infrastructure assistance for the many existing smaller stakeholders. In return for some increased density, large stakeholders would be expected to provide enhanced storm water retention. Many of the smaller businesses along Orange Ave. experience damaging flooding when there is a significant rain storm. This is caused by inadequate storm water management which, because of the size of their holdings, the Big Three have the opportunity to mitigate for the entire area. Another contribution the major landowners could make would be shared parking and what Stephenson calls “meaningful greenspace” – space everyone can use.

Community-Driven Project

Stephenson sees the Steering Committee as a useful tool to create a community-driven project instead of a developer-driven plan. “This will not be a project where everyone gets every single thing they want,” said Stephenson, “but the hope is that we will have enough people involved who feel like they have a voice and that everybody gets some special part of this . . . . To have an opportunity like this in a built-out city like Winter Park . . . is a unique opportunity and if we don’t get serious and do this now, we may miss the opportunity.”

Opportunity for Public Input Still Exists

Unique to this project is a robust page on the City website devoted entirely to the Orange Avenue Overlay. There you will find a 16-question citizen survey where you can share your thoughts. In addition, the Steering Committee meetings are posted on the City website under ‘Boards and Public Meetings.’ June meetings will be held in Commission Chambers at 5:30 pm June 12 and 26. Public participation is encouraged. https://cityofwinterpark.org/search/?q=Orange%20Avenue%20Overlay

Steering Committee Members

To assist the Planning staff with this project, Stephenson requested the formation of the Orange Avenue Overlay Steering Committee. The mayor and each commissioner appointed one member. In addition, a representative from each of 5 Advisory Boards and the original Winter Park Visioning Committee were asked to participate.

Bill Segal – Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB)

Jill Hamilton Buss – Transportation Advisory Board (TAB)

Laura Turner – Planning & Zoning (P&Z)

Lambrine Macejewski – Community Redevelopment Advisory Board (CRAB)

Bill Ellis – Keep Winter Park Beautiful and Sustainable Board (KWPB)

Bill Sullivan – WP Visioning Committee

Lamont Garber – Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel appointee

Sally Flynn – Commissioner Greg Seidel appointee

Sheila DiCiccio – Commissioner Todd Weaver appointee

Michael Dick – Commissioner Carolyn Cooper appointee

Phil Kean – Mayor Steve Leary appointee

The Timeline

Stephenson has set an ambitious timeline for the Planning staff and the Steering Committee, though he cautions the schedule is fluid. March and April were devoted to the initial public input meetings. Based on the input received, the team will use the summer months to draft plan documents, perform mobility studies and create renderings.

Fall 2019 should see introduction of draft documents for public review and comment. Draft documents will also go to various boards for their review and recommendation.

In late Fall 2019, the team hopes to bring the final draft of the Orange Avenue Overlay to the City Commission for a vote.

 

 

Winter Park Gears Up for Electric Vehicles

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

Winter Park Gears Up for Electric Vehicles

Guest Columnist Sheila DeCiccio

The City of Winter Park looks toward the future of transportation as discussion revs up at the April 23 Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Board regarding a proposed Electric Vehicle (EV) ordinance. The purpose of the ordinance is to bring forth regulations for EV charging, infrastructure and ways to handle development projects that were already in process prior to the EV ordinance.

FL Ranks in Top 5 for EV Sales

Florida ranks within the top five states for sales of electric and hybrid vehicles. In fact, a majority of buyers for electric and hybrid vehicles are located right here in Central Florida. By the year 2030, estimated annual national sales of EV’s will exceed 3.5 million vehicles, accounting for more than 20 percent of vehicle sales in the U.S.

Vehicles Running on Gas are 2nd Greatest Cause of Carbon Emissions
Currently, vehicles that burn fossil fuel – gasoline – are the second greatest cause of carbon emissions. Their replacement by electric cars will result in a reduction in the city’s carbon emissions, quieter and more livable streets and improved air quality.

WP Already Has 6 Charging Stations

Since 2011, Winter Park has installed six electric charging stations. Each charging station can charge two cars, one on either side. Stations are available to everyone, free of charge.

Electric Utility Companies Face Greater Demand for Power
For the sake of our state’s economy, infrastructure, and air quality, Central Florida must not only prepare for electric cars, but must be a leader in setting the stage for parking lots full of EVs. Utility companies, for example, will have to prepare for the increased demand for power as consumers charge their car batteries at home, at work or while shopping. Florida Power has already begun by increasing their capacity with solar panels, but there is more work to be done.

WP Ordinance Will Affect New Construction

The proposed Winter Park ordinance will require builders and developers to provide at least two electric charging stations in commercial parking lots that have more than 50 spaces. The ordinance also requires new residential and multifamily homes to include wiring built into the garage or common-use parking lot.

Incentives Are a Possibility

There may be incentives to help with the cost of wiring, such as a rebate from the utility company. An exact amount has not been determined but is under consideration. Some counties and cities provide rebates as high as $500.

WP Maintains Vision of Healthy, Sustainable Future

The above are just a few of the opening ideas which will go through much discussion. The good news is that the process has begun, and that Winter Park is staying consistent with its vision of promoting a healthy and sustainable future for all generations.

Sheila DeCiccio is an attorney with DeCiccio & Johnson. She has served on the Planning & Zoning Board for the past six years. She and her husband have been Winter Park residents since 1982. Their two children were born here and are being raised here.

Remembering Lurline

Remembering Lurline

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since West Side advocate and some-time gadfly Lurline Fletcher passed away. Lurline’s family has returned to Winter Park to mark the anniversary.

Tuesday, April 2, 4 to 6pm – Shady Park

On Tuesday, April 2, from 4:00 to 6:00 pm, family and friends will gather in Shady Park to celebrate the life and times of Lurline Fletcher. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to join the celebration.

So put on your craziest hat and your biggest sun glasses and come to Shady Park for food and fellowship in honor of Lurline’s legacy – which was . . . always showing up.

Open Letter to City Officials

Don’t Block W. Lyman Ave.

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

Open Letter to City Officials

Guest Columnist Janet Hommel

Dear Mayor Leary, Vice-Mayor Weldon, and City Manager Randy Knight:

We have a problem in Winter Park. You, as city leaders, are not fostering a culture of listening to residents, especially those on the Westside.

Recently, we pleaded with you not to sell Blake Yard. We begged you to consider making a community garden of the space. This was one of the last gems of city-owned urban greenspace.

After you up-zoned and sold Blake Yard, we fought the intrusion of an 8-unit cluster housing apartment building on Comstock, a street of single family homes. Again, you didn’t consider residents’ concerns.

Now you have a proposal to bisect W. Lyman Avenue at New York. You will cut off the Westside from Park Avenue. I read in the agenda item that the Chamber of Commerce is in favor of this change. I note further that staff will reach out to local businesses and will take this concept to the Transportation Advisory Board and the CRA Advisory Board for further review.

What’s missing here? Oh, them! Has it occurred to you to ask what the residents think — especially those on the Westside who will be most impacted?

What would be your reaction if the city were going to cut your street in half, making your block a dead end and forcing you to reroute to reach the other side of town? Imagine further that the city didn’t inform you of this, but rather sought input only from the neighbors on the other half of the bisected street – all of whom were commercial.

Now, try to imagine how we on the Westside feel.

Ignored. Again.

Sincerely,

Janet Hommel

258 W. Lyman Avenue
Winter Park, Florida

Winter Season Opens at CFAM

Brilliant Color, Dark Humor and an Examination of ‘Place’

Winter Season Opens at CFAM

Rollins College Cornell Fine Arts Museum (CFAM) launches its Winter 2019 season today with a thought-provoking exhibit featuring favorites from the permanent collection and the debut of several new acquisitions. The show builds conversations around notions of ‘place’ – the city, places of devotion, landscape, the politics of place and the experience of place beyond the immediate.

What is place?
What is home?
Where do you fit – and how?
This is the essence of “The Place as Metaphor.”

Rococolab – Brilliant Color, Dark Humor

Of particular note is the gallery devoted to “The De la Torre Brothers: Rococolab.” Collaborating artist-brothers Einar and Jamex De la Torre live and work in Ensenada, Mexico and San Diego, California. Their dynamic, baroque-inspired glass work is the product of their bicultural life, which floats freely between Mexico and the U.S.

Though they are widely known in international art circles, this is the De la Torre brothers’ first solo museum exhibition in Florida. Organized by CFAM Curator Gisela Carbonell, the presentation of their work invites consideration of some of the most pressing issues in contemporary culture. Using bright light, vivid color and some very dark humor, the De la Torre brothers’ work speaks a visual language to which contemporary viewers can easily relate.

Bicultural, Bilingual English and Spanish

As you walk into the gallery, the grouping of intricate images waits, like gifts in a box, for you to unpack each one. Open them up and discover inside the beauty, joy, dark humor and scary truths they contain. The exhibit is accompanied by an illustrated booklet, available in the museum store, which is written both in English and in Spanish.

CFAM is located at 1000 Holt Avenue on the Rollins campus. It is open Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free in 2019, courtesy of PNC Financial Services Group. To check hours and special programs, visit the website at Rollins.edu/cfam

The show will be on view from January 17 to May 12, 2019.

Rollins to Get Major Facelift

Residential Capacity Will Double

Rollins to Get Major Facelift

The Rollins campus is about to get some major upgrades. The college unveiled plans to double student dormitory space and provide around 600 additional parking spaces in a new garage at the site of the current surface lot on Fairbanks and Ollie Avenue.

The architectural style of the new buildings will be consistent with the current Rollins style, and the new buildings will be constructed to minimize the appearance of mass – but they are going to be a whole lot bigger.

“We Are Not Growing the College”

In a presentation to the Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Board, Rollins President Grant Cornwell stated that Rollins has no intention of becoming any larger than it is now. “We are not growing the college,” said Cornwell, “we are simply adding residential capacity.” Cornwell added that, in his view, Rollins is ‘where it should be’ and there is no intention to increase its size.

40 Percent of Students Live Off Campus

Cornwell explained that, at present, 40 percent of the student body must reside off campus because of the shortage of student housing. McKean Hall, the current 60-year-old dormitory, has 250 to 275 beds, providing space for only the freshman and sophomore classes.

Student Housing Capacity Will Double

Rollins plans to build 250,000 square feet of new dormitories with approximately 500 beds and rooms for three Resident Advisors in the area immediately surrounding McKean Hall. Students will continue to inhabit McKean Hall until the new dorms are completed. When the new dorms are finished, McKean Hall will be demolished and a large swimming pool and patio will be built in the center courtyard, surrounded by the new dorms. This will enable the college to bring the entire junior class back onto campus.

Goal is to Increase Quality of Student Learning Experience

“Our primary goal is to increase the quality of the student learning experience by bringing them back into campus life,” said Cornwell. “What students learn outside the classroom, living with their peers, going to lectures, athletic events, musical events – and just the very dynamic of campus life – is part of the value that we bring.”

Current Student Housing Out of Date

Secondly, while Rollins is well ranked among liberal arts colleges, it is in what Cornwell described as a fierce competitive market. The current residential housing stock is old and out of date and does not live up to the expectations of students and their parents. “So,” said Cornwell, “we are both serving our mission and competing in a market.”

‘This is One Way for Rollins to be a Better Neighbor’

“The third reason,” said Cornwell, “is also important to us. We think this is a way for Rollins to be better neighbors.” Drawing a chuckle from the audience, Cornwell acknowledged that while Rollins’ 18- to 23-year-old students are all wonderful, they are not always wonderful neighbors. We think we will be a better neighbor to Winter Park if more of our students are brought back into the flow of campus life, Cornwell said.

On Campus Parking Will Be Safer

Cornwell pointed out that the new parking garage will free up spaces in the Sun Trust garage and will reduce the need for students and faculty to cross Fairbanks Avenue on foot. On campus parking should also take a good many student vehicles off the streets of Winter Park.

Construction Project on a Fast Track

Rollins hopes to complete construction and have the new dorms ready for occupancy by the beginning of the 2020 Fall term.

P&Z approved the application unanimously. The project will move forward to the Commission at the second January meeting.

Beards Sprout, Nails Glitter

To Show Support for WPPD Officer in Need

Beards Sprout, Nails Glitter

Master Police Officer John Reynolds

Winter Park’s Finest changed their dress code for the holidays. Unaccustomed facial hair on the men and festive fingernails on the women celebrate “No Shave, Pretty Nails December.” 

Unfortunately, the reason is not all mistletoe and holly and it is anything but jolly. This is a fundraising effort on behalf of Master Police Officer John Reynolds, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer last spring. Many Winter Parkers know this 47-year-old husband and father of two as a Resource Officer at Lakemont Elementary School. Reynolds is a 15-year veteran on the Winter Park Police Force and well liked in the community.

He needs our help.

His earlier treatments were not effective, so Officer Reynolds now must travel to New York for treatment. The treatments are every other week, and travel expenses for Reynolds and his wife are not covered by insurance.

“This is a long road for the family,” said newly-bearded Police Chief Michael Deal. “They just hit a new deductible in October – and the travel will not be covered. We are doing our best to help the family – and we sure could use some help from the community.”

To support Officer John Reynolds, please click here:

https://www.gofundme.com/fnncmt-help-john-kick-cancer

You may also send donations to Officer John Reynolds c/o Captain Pam Marcum, Winter Park
Police Department, 500 N. Virginia Drive, Winter Park FL 32789.

2019 Commission Hopefuls

Cooper, Weldon & Weaver . . . so far

2019 Commission Hopefuls


Although it won’t begin in earnest until after the holidays, rumblings are already audible.

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper, Seat #3, Commissioner Peter Weldon, Seat #4 and challenger Todd Weaver have all declared their intention to run for Winter Park City Commission.

Weldon, originally elected in 2016, will seek a second term. Long-time Winter Park resident Todd Weaver will challenge Weldon in the race for Seat #4.

To date, no challenger has announced opposition to Carolyn Cooper in the race for Seat #3. Cooper is seeking a fourth and final term. Commissioners’ service is limited to four 3-year terms in office.

There is plenty of time for a challenger to make his or her intentions known. The official filing dates to run for Winter Park Commission are January 17 – 22, 2019.

The election is March 12, 2019.

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.