Ravaudage $1.2M -- No Risk, No Gain

Voice Reader Heeds Commissioner’s Advice

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

Ravaudage $1.2M — No Risk, No Gain

Guest Columnist Jan Hommel

Editor’s Note: On November 20, Commissioner Peter Weldon posted the following comment on the Winter Park Voice Facebook group. The post was in response to a November 18 article in the Voice titled “Ravaudage Gets $1.2M in Infrastructure Costs.”

From Commissioner Peter Weldon

Here are the relevant facts.

The Ravaudage road agreement pertains to specific lengths of specific roads the city of Winter Park acquired when it annexed the property. The background and agreement text can be found beginning on page 27 of the November 13, 2017 commission meeting agenda packet.

These roads are the city’s responsibility. They currently do not have curbs, sidewalks, or proper drainage. The developer intends to improve these roads with drainage, curbing, parking, and sidewalks at or above city design standards, but has no obligation to do so.

The $1.2 [Million] potential payment to the developer is ONE HALF of city staff’s estimate of what we would have to pay to do the minimum amount of work required to bring these roads up to city standards. The developer is going to do all the work subject to city approval of the plans. The developer does not get paid unless the city approved work is completed.

The bottom line is that the city can realize fully improved roads with parallel parking and wider sidewalks than our minimum standards for one half the cost the city would have spent if the developer chose not to improve these roads.

Ms. Mooney and those trying to create a political conspiracy would better serve the city and our residents by being better informed before speaking.

Come on folks. Study the issues before speaking publicly.

Regards, Pete Weldon
Winter Park Vice Mayor

Voice Reader Jan Hommel Responds

Mr. Weldon:

Thank you for requesting Voice readers get the facts before expressing their opinions. I did that. Here’s what I found.

In 2013, the city of Winter Park annexed the property as Home Acres. It was zoned single family, residential, with existing roads that were adequate for their intended use. According to Public Works Director Troy Attaway on 7/24/2017, it would cost about $30,000 to bring the public roads up to city standards for residential use. Commissioner Carolyn Cooper pointed out that when the city annexed the property from Orange County, the county had made no commitment to improve the infrastructure in the development.

The developer, Mr. Dan Bellows, now wants the city to help him bring the roads up to “minimum standards” — for his use in a high-density, mixed commercial-residential development. Building and upgrading roads and sidewalks is a normal part of a developer’s cost of doing business. Windsong and the Lee Road extension built by the Whole Foods developer are prime examples.

Although it is not unprecedented for municipalities to contribute to infrastructure cost, this usually happens in a weak economy as part of a public-private partnership to help kickstart development.

City Manager Randy Knight stated that the city is under no obligation, legal or otherwise, to give this money to Mr. Bellows. He said the only reason to do so is if the Commission thought it would help spur economic development.

This does not apply to Ravaudage. When pushed, the only recent case Troy Attaway was able to cite of the city improving a roadway to benefit business was the Fairbanks roadway improvement, which is not comparable.

At the August 14, 2017 meeting, the Commission voted 5-0 to have staff provide an analysis of the economic benefit the $1.2M payout to Mr. Bellows. Apparently none was provided.

Troublesome Rationale

Commissioner Weldon, your rationale for this give-away was particularly troublesome. First, you stated it will give us control over the roads. Winter Park already has control over public right-of-way road improvement by developers.

Second, you wrote we will get quality roads for half the price. True, but if we can get something for half-price or for free, shouldn’t we take free? As a developer, it is in Mr. Bellows’ interest to put in high quality roads and sidewalks. Mr. Knight clearly stated that we did not HAVE to contribute anything to upgrade the roads.

No Risk?

Next you supported this plan because it was no-risk. True, nothing will be paid out until the city collects money from the project in the form of unrestricted impact fees and property taxes. I am appreciative of the fact that you didn’t want to put city money at risk by giving Mr. Bellows money up front, but at that point, your reasoning fails.

No Gain

If you truly believe that Mr. Bellows needs an infusion of cash from the city in order to hasten development in Ravaudage, then fund him up front. As Commissioner Seidel observed, the timing of the flow of funds, while protecting the city, does little to serve your stated purpose of speeding along development. It may be no risk, but it’s also no gain. Why spend $1.2 million when only Dan Bellows benefits?

In summary, Mr. Weldon, you, along with Ms. Sprinkel and Mr. Leary, voted to give $1.2 M to Mr. Bellows. This money was not necessary to have functioning roads. This taxpayer money was in ADDITION to the high density accommodations that Mr. Bellows already received. This $1.2 M is certainly not needed to encourage development in our very robust Winter Park economy.

Please know the voters are watching. We will be taking these fiscally irresponsible actions into consideration when we go to the polls.

Sincerely.

Jan Hommel

P.S. To the Voice readers, according to City Attorney Kurt Ardaman, this matter should come to the Commission again. Please voice your opinion to the Commission.

What Two People Saw

When the Library-Event Center Concept Was Unveiled

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

What Two People Saw

On the evening of November 1, Sir David Adjaye, lead architect on the library-event center, revealed his conceptual design before a capacity crowd in the Rachel Murrah Civic Center, which the new building will eventually replace.

Sir David’s presentation was broadcast live via several media outlets, and a video recording of the presentation is still available on the City Website.

This being Winter Park, now that most people have seen it, everyone has an opinion about it. Impressions of Adjaye’s concept offered here by two of our readers broadly reflect the views of our citizens. If your views differ, we invite you to weigh in.

While everyone’s view matters, the views that matter most will be those of the Commissioners. They will decide on Monday, November 13, whether or not we move forward with the concept as proposed.

If the City adopts the concept, Commissioners and City staff must determine how to accomplish the task within the confines of the site and the budget. If the City decides to go another direction, the Commission will assume the responsibility for guiding us down that path, as well. The Commission’s task is not an easy one.

 

In Praise of Adjaye’s Design

Guest Columnist Beth Hall

I was prepared to dislike the design proposal from Sir David Adjaye and his colleagues. Aside from his Museum of African American History in Washington, D.C., I had seen little from him that I could appreciate or to which I could relate. But when I heard his presentation and saw his concept for Winter Park, I was surprised to the upside. Every time I review the slides and the various elements of the presentation, I like it more.

What is presented here is my perception of the design concept. What is not presented here is a defense for the park location or for the $30 million budget. The bond referendum passed. The issues have been litigated, in the court system as well as in the court of public opinion. Now, we must move on.

What I see in Sir David’s concept are deceptively simple, yet uniquely appropriate, shelters to hold all of the activities and all of the people which will occupy them for years to come. I see a design which bears no time stamp. In the words of Raymond Loewy, “Good design does not become obsolete.”

The structures acknowledge their placement in a lovely park with water views. They take maximum advantage of these, even including a stage at the water’s edge, designed to make the most of the slope to the water. One enters from Morse Blvd. at ground level and advances onto the plaza and into a vantage point from which to survey the park and green space beyond.

I would be very surprised if everyone embraced the concept Sir David showed us. This speaks more to his artistry than it does to the amount of time he did or did not spend in Winter Park.

The winning aspects of the design are many — the column-less, ultra-flexible interior space, the inspired roof line that provides both rain and sun protection, the expansive windows that function to bring the outside in while fostering line-of-sight-contact among users of all spaces, and the thoughtful consideration of the prevailing winds in placing the structures.

Weather control is not possible at the current library any more than it will be at the new one, but Adjaye tried his best to mitigate it. The summer and winter solstices found their way into his renderings. Sun and warmth will be allowed to penetrate most deeply in winter, far less in summer when the roof line creates an angled barrier.

Low maintenance yet highly versatile concrete and glass comprise the exterior makeup of the buildings. The massive glass panes are slanted. Observe any air control tower and some department store windows to recognize this is done to maximize visibility and reduce glare. I suspect it will also help with heat reduction.

The commission must thoroughly explore this before they sign off. Folks have expressed a concern that this glass will turn the library into a massive oven under the Florida sun. I doubt Sir Adjaye just forgot Florida is a subtropical hot environment, but heating and cooling costs will matter.

I am struck by the playfulness of the design and the lightness of feel. It makes me think of parachutes. Adjaye said he hoped it felt like one had placed a “perfect tent” in this lovely place.

It’s true. There is no building in Winter Park that looks like this. Still, there are familiar elements. I think it can belong.

Against the backdrop of this inspiring design, talk of cost over-runs, storm water management and parking issues have reared their ugly heads. We are at a cross roads.

Our Commissioners face a difficult decision.

Open Letter to Mayor & Commissioners

By Guest Columnist William Deuchler

Thank you for scheduling the special meeting to allow the public a first glimpse of the conceptual design for the new Library and Civic Center. It was helpful and informative, but also very disappointing to me.

During the first couple of minutes of Sir David’s talk, I thought that just maybe we might have a chance for a design that would truly add to the character of Winter Park.  He talked about the unique ecology of Florida.  He pointed to our history and some of the architectural history of our town.  Although Sir David spoke of how those things would influence his design, when the design was unveiled, I saw no reference either to our history or to our unique setting.

Consider this if you will. What do people say is so charming about our town after a first visit?  I believe the answer is, clearly, Park Avenue.  And what is so charming about Park Avenue? People love the historic character of the buildings, the inviting human scale of the streetscape and the understated elegance which is, at the same time, modern and highly functional.

Now, what is the one building that is conspicuously out of character with the rest of Park Avenue? That would be City Hall, a contemporary, mid-century modern building. City Hall is a “statement” building that shouts, “I’m different, I want to be noticed for myself.”

Do we really want another “statement” civic building? It will certainly be the most significant and visible project in the general downtown area.  It may also be the LAST and largest civic building built in Winter Park — at least until the current City Hall is renovated.

Why not have a legacy building that is consistent with the character of Winter Park?  Even Disney knew that you don’t build a Tomorrow Land structure on Main Street.

I also have reservations about the proposed design from a practical perspective — in particular, the requirement for exterior transit and the amount of glass used in the concept. The fact that, to enter the Library or Event Center, one would have to walk outside after being let off is silly for our climate.  Anyone who has been caught in one of our summer rainstorms knows that if you are outside, you are going to get wet.  It’s hot in Florida most of the year.  People prefer to get out of the sun and into air conditioning as quickly as possible.

I doubt if the plaza areas Adjaye envisions would be used more than three to four months per year.  Even when the weather is cool, the Florida sun reflecting off those expansive glass windows will likely make the ‘Belvedere’ unbearable.

Turning to the interior spaces, just ask anyone who lost trees in the hurricane what happened to the temperature of their home.  Unless you have a tree canopy above that building, it is going to be one big furnace on the inside, no matter how much engineering goes into those elegantly canted sides – this is Florida!

I urge the Commission to vote NO to the conceptual design as presented.  It will be painful, but there’s still time to cut our losses, thank Sir David for his effort, and get an architect who isn’t going to create “Leary’s Folly,” someone who will design a building that really does reflect our #1 value of, “Honor our historic and cultural features throughout Winter Park.”

We, the taxpayers, are going to spend 30 million of our tax dollars on this project. It’s worth taking the time to get this project right.

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.

Keep the Park in Winter Park

Guest Columnist – Bob Bendick

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

Keep the Park in Winter Park

The “Greenspace Connectivity” article published here is a useful continuation of the discussion in our community about the need to update Winter Park’s ten-year-old Parks and Recreation Plan.

While there remains some uncertainty about the exact questions to be answered by a plan update, it has been encouraging to see the support among elected officials and others for continuing investment in parks and open space in Winter Park.

WP Vision Focuses on Parks & Greenspace

A number of the recommendations of the 2008 plan have been implemented. This, in itself, demonstrates the value of park planning, and this progress provides a good base for additional improvement. Careful stewardship of our parks reflects the views of the great majority of Winter Park residents, as expressed through the city’s recent Visioning Process. The Vision plan recommends:

• Investing in a sustainable future that encourages and supports lifelong learning, healthy living and a daily connectivity to the natural world.

• Enhancing walking, biking and recreational activities through a connected and integrated network of open space.

• Fostering sustainable public and private parks and open spaces using state of the art practices and techniques.

Revise Parks Plan to Address Today’s Needs

So why is a revision of the city’s parks and recreation plan a practical and useful step toward achieving the elements of our shared community vision? First, a revised plan would reflect the preferences of today’s Winter Park’s residents. For example, activities such as lacrosse and paddle boarding hardly existed here ten years ago, but now have grown to become popular uses of our parks.

Reduce Cost and Conflict

A carefully wrought plan would provide a much-needed cohesive framework for making decisions about expanding, adding or modifying individual parks. The decision-making process would become more cost-effective and the City would realize a reduction in the lost time and conflict that results from ad-hoc decision-making.

Avoid Duplication

A thoughtfully revised plan would reduce duplication of facilities and activities, thus improving the delivery of recreational services to the people of Winter Park. It might also introduce innovative ways for private citizens to contribute to the natural and scenic character of our city.

Introduce Updated Management & Maintenance Practices

An updated plan would introduce state-of-the art techniques for management and maintenance of park facilities. A specific, achievable menu of desired projects would enable the City to take advantage of strategic opportunities for implementing the plan through public infrastructure programs, private donations and amenities in commercial and residential development projects.

Connect Our Parks

An updated plan would show how our parks can be connected with walkways and bikeways to provide a green framework for the city’s future. Connectivity among our parks would enhance opportunities for outdoor recreation for citizens of all ages while affording opportunities for safe, non-motorized transportation. We can achieve all this through coordination with the City’s bicycle and walkway planning.

No Need to Re-invent the Wheel

The city’s 2008 parks plan is a sound, useful document. There is no need to start over or to undertake a lengthy and complex planning process. We can take a practical, creative approach to discover ways to further enhance and connect our city’s natural assets of parks, lakes, private open space, walkways and bikeways.

Such an effort is well worth the investment of time and money. Having a clear, overarching vision of the city’s specific open space needs and priorities will save us in the long run, and will encourage the partnerships and creative ideas that are central to park planning and management in today’s world.

We owe it to the next generation to keep the park in Winter Park.

MLK Game Changer

Will Rollins Stadium Disappear from MLK Park?

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

MLK Game Changer

Guest Columnist — Charley Williams

At a June 15 Parks and Recreation Advisory Board workshop, the attending parks consultant stated that Rollins College and the City were contemplating moving the Rollins softball stadium out of MLK Park. Communications Director Clarissa Howard told the Voice that Rollins officials had indicated “a willingness to discuss the possibility,” though she could not confirm that such discussions are currently underway.

Whether these discussions occur now or in the future, if it turns out the stadium can be removed from its present location, a primary reason for relinquishing the bowling alley property would also be removed.

Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel wrote in a June 14, 2017, email: “The perpetual agreement Rollins has for the 3 million dollar (their money) lease for the softball stadium is not an attractive structure to view and disallows a long range view of the park. That is not within our purview to undo and would make extremely costly space.”

Costly or not, the stadium has outlived its usefulness. It is no longer regulation size and cannot support sanctioned play or host tournaments.

From Bowling Alley to Grand Allee

The possibility of removing the stadium opens up a whole new dynamic for MLK Park. If the bowling alley property were retained and added to the mix, it would create unobstructed sight views — a dramatic ‘view-shed’ from the planned library/events center on the north end of the park all the way to Fairbanks on the south. Winter Park would have a gateway feature with a Grand Allee, leading to a world-class library-event structure with green space in between. 

I hope the Mayor, Commissioners and City Manager do engage in discussions with Rollins to remove the stadium from the MLK footprint, and that they will reconsider the opportunity to create that unobstructed view through the park.

In the presence of such a possibility, would it not be wise to slow things down, to assume a wait-and-see stance? That kind of game changer would be a win for everyone.

A Masterplan to Nowhere

Guest Columnist – Charley Williams

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

A Masterplan to Nowhere

One week ago, the Winter Park City Commission voted 3-2 to move forward with the sale of a gateway property contiguous to one of the city’s benchmark parks: MLK Park, future site of the new Library/Events Center complex. The 1.5 acre parcel, known as the Bowling Alley property, could have become a functional green space entranceway to our city. But a gateway argument did not capture this Commission’s imagination.

Illustration Courtesy of Michael Planning

Citizens are now left with serious questions about how all our expensive studies, workshops and summary reports can come together to form a cohesive plan for parks, ball fields, green space, partnerships, trails and connectivity, supported with the necessary implementation budget.

Our Parks Masterplan (2008 Wade-Trim) is now 10 years out of date. This is the document which should be guiding our next steps, not only with current decisions surrounding MLK Park, but all our future parks discussions. First things first.  Let’s hope the City Commission adopts a budget for this badly needed roadmap (estimate: $120,000) and expedites implementation. We are coming late to this party.

If you are not familiar with the 2008 Parks Masterplan, I invite you to take a look: Scroll down to the very bottom of the page:
https://cityofwinterpark.org/departments/parks-recreation/administration/publications/

Other questions which merit attention: Will Winter Park have a “Great Park” one day? Where is that plan?  What is the vision? What green space parcels has the City acquired in the past 2 years? 4 years? 6 years? Are we keeping pace with need and more importantly, with our required 10 acres of park space/per 1,000 resident formula, now that our population has reached 30,000?

The 2008 Parks Masterplan states that “seventy-nine (79) acres of additional parkland are required by 2028 (note: that’s in 10 years) to meet existing and projected demand for parks and recreational facilities” (Recommendation 3.1).

Where will this new park land come from? At what price?

According to Wade-Trim, “The estimated cost to meet projected demand for parkland by 2028 is $41.3 million. This would require approximately $13.1 million of land acquisition every 5 years, or approximately $2.6 million annually.” (Section 7.2, Estimated Costs Associated with Projected Demand)

The report also highlights an 8 multi-purpose playing field deficit for our children by 2028. (Recommended Action 3.4)

And let’s not forget this recommendation. “City of Winter Park Parks and Recreation Masterplan should be updated at least every 5 years to reflect any shift in development trends and desires of the community.” (Recommended Action Step 3.5)

It would appear that we are making decisions in a vacuum. The budget for the MLK Park future usage exercise with GAI consultants is in the range of $50,000 in CRA monies. Yet there is apparently no cross-reference with our own Winter Park Parks Masterplan needs and capacity issues, because it is 10 years out of date.

Interesting as well, our Winter Park Vision plan was submitted on June 9, 2016, and has been sitting on a shelf for the past year. Why pay $200,000 for a plan we are not going to fund or implement? Are these exercises meant to be moot?

Said the Cheshire Cat to Alice, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”
From ‘Alice in Wonderland’
By Charles Lutwidge Dodgson writing under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll.

Charley Williams provides the marketing for a local civil engineering firm working on such infrastructure projects as Sunrail, Wekiva Parkway, I-4 and the new South Terminal at Orlando International Airport. He has been a Winter Park resident for twelve years. 

New Vision for the Old Blake Yard

Open Letter to Mayor and Commissioners

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

New Vision for the Old Blake Yard

John Skolfield-2Dear Mayor and Commissioners:

Please allow this vision of the Blake Yard at the east end of Comstock Avenue by the railroad tracks to be heard and understood, with all the practical and symbolic benefits that can be realized by our City.

Blake Yard

This property, an awkward piece of land by all accounts, has served as a “lay down” yard for power poles and the like. The City Commission will determine its destiny, as it should, duly elected and graciously contributing to the preservation and improvement of Winter Park. Skolfield Homes, L.L.C., proposes to purchase the property and develop it.

The Math

Our concept discards some long-standing norms and assumptions that have informed developers and builders. Development in Winter Park is, essentially, math – which maxes out at 50 percent impervious, 38 percent FAR, with prescribed height limits and setbacks, etc.

We propose to build a highly visible model, supported by a forward-thinking City that embraces the inevitable future of housing. I ask you to support a sustainable future and a housing style that lifts the hearts of young and old.

The Vision

I see four houses with three detached carports, as illustrated in this basic sketch. Each house has a footprint of about 600 square feet, plus open porches. With full basements half below grade and porches a few feet above grade, the two stories combined average 1,200 square feet plus 600 square feet of basement. The houses will be 24 percent floor-area-ratio (FAR) and 30 percent impervious. SkolfieldSketch

A Completed Example

Here is 775 W. Lyman Avenue. This is my baby. I dreamed it, and thanks to our team, we built it. This little house boasts high quality construction, traditional design with plenty of charm, serious efficiency (net zero, solar panels), and a human scale. The house generates more power than it uses, retains rainwater for raised vegetable gardens and warms the souls of the folks who live there. SkolfieldLymanHouse

The Basic Concept is ‘Basic’

We Americans house too much Stuff in too many rooms. In this scenario, the stuff (if one absolutely must have it) goes in the basement, leaving the resident free to actually use the rooms they need, without having to dust stuff in rooms they don’t need. Do you get a visual of that darkened ghost town of a living room that serves as a sound barrier between the street and the rest of the house?

We built the Lyman Ave. house on a 32’ x 70’ lot with no variances. Lo and behold, the market responded. The highly successful executive of a large corporation undertook the maiden voyage. She could have afforded a far larger house, but realized she would live more comfortably in a house that had a more human scale.

Inclusion = Sense of Place

We would build this small community in the midst of the larger community of Winter Park. Ultimately, walls, fences and gated communities don’t work, even for the segment of society that can afford them. The solution is inclusion, and that must be a part of the vision.

Winter Park – Overrun by ’Generic’

Winter Park is at risk of losing its character, according to National Geographic Magazine. For every exceptional new home going up, there are dozens of sadly generic boxes that follow a playbook of size over quality. We are being overrun by generic. That was not the mentality of our founders.

Millenials – Size Matters Less

When it comes to housing, today’s young folks tend to prefer quality to size. In fact, the smaller home trend would tell us they’re not thinking size at all. Their picture of the future is sustainable, walkable, built on a human scale with efficient energy sources and rainwater retention for growing things.

What’s in it for Winter Park?

Let’s start with image. Thousands of visitors and Sunrail riders will witness sustainable, human-scale homes bearing Winter Park’s imprimatur come to life. These homes will contribute to the sense of place that already exists in this neighborhood, but which is swiftly eroding and in jeopardy. A development on this scale would elevate our standing as a forward-thinking, progressive community.

Honor Neighborhood Character

West Side residents know new homes will be built, and old, termite-damaged homes will come down to make room. There is, however, a long-standing set of zoning codes and processes in place to protect the character and the heritage of this part of our town. This area was established with small lots a century ago. We propose to honor and preserve the characteristics of the West Side that those of us who live here hold dear.

Sincerely,
John Skolfield

 

Every Possible Library Site Got Close Scrutiny

Guest Columnist – Tom McMacken

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

Every Possible Library Site Got Close Scrutiny

headshot-tomOn March 15th, a record number of Winter Park voters went to the polls. As a candidate for re-election, I had spent months outlining a vision for our City. I participated in candidate forums, sent mailers, visited residents’ homes and had countless one-on-one encounters.

That Is How Democracy Works

When it became apparent on the evening of the 15th that a majority of residents did not share this vision, I phoned the new Commissioner-elect and congratulated him. Was that difficult to do? Yes. Was I disappointed in the outcome? Yes . . .but that is how democracy works.

New Library: Elected Fair & Square

The proposed new library and events center at the civic center location in Martin Luther King, Jr. Park went through the same process I did. Those in favor and those opposed had equal opportunity to present their views. After reviewing all the points for and against, a majority of residents voted to approve moving forward to secure the bonds necessary to make the vision of a library and events center of the future a reality in our community.

Petition Could Stop the Library

As with any vote, some people were disappointed with the outcome. Unfortunately this disappointment has manifested itself into a petition drive that could prevent the new library and events center from being built.

The City has declared the petition drive invalid, but in order to assure potential bondholders that the bonds and the location of the new library and events center are valid, the City of Winter Park has been forced to initiate a “bond validation” process. As with any legal action, the expenditure of time and money will result in additional cost to the tax payers.

Commissioners Did Not Mislead Voters

What is far more upsetting to me than the petition drive is the claim by the organizers that somehow the residents of Winter Park were misled by the Library Task Force and, ultimately, by the City Commission. As a Commissioner, I was involved in this process from the beginning, and I find this line of thought insulting and totally without merit.

15 Sites Examined

During my six years on the Commission I can think of no other issue that was more thoroughly vetted than the library. A Library Task Force appointed by the Commission and comprised of residents from a broad political cross-section of the City worked for 17 months to ascertain the validity of a new building and to identify the best possible location. During this time, dozens of public meetings were held seeking input on more than 15 different sites.

MLK Park Won Out

Once the civic center site in MLK, Jr. Park showed promise, a two-day Community Charrette was held at the park to again obtain input from residents. This charrette was attended by scores of residents in person and hundreds more who participated online. After weighing all the options, the Library Task Force was unanimous in their recommendation of a new library and events center to be located at the civic center site in MLK, Jr. Park.

As I watched the selection process narrow down to the park, I remembered back to a design studio in college where our professor encouraged us to think of parks not only as places of recreation but also re-creation; that parks, art, and education enjoyed a unique relationship. The ability of this new facility to relate to and enhance the experience of both library and park users is exceptional.

The fact that this can be accomplished within essentially the same impervious footprint of the existing Civic Center speaks volumes about our community’s respect for our open spaces.

But the process did not stop with the Task Force. Their recommendation was just that, a recommendation. It still had to withstand the scrutiny of the Commission and additional public input. Repeatedly during this phase, citizens approached the Commission wanting verification of where a new library would be located, and repeatedly they were assured that MLK, Jr. Park would be the home for the new building should the bond referendum pass.

The process took another step forward when a majority of the Commission voted to accept the recommendations of the Task Force and place the issue on the ballot for the residents of Winter Park to make the ultimate decision. As I look back at the process, I struggle to find opportunities that were missed. Each site had pros and cons, but as each round of eliminations took place the civic center site remained.

Gateway to Park Avenue

The civic center site abuts Morse Boulevard along the traditional gateway to Park Avenue. The thought of extending the character of the avenue as opposed to hoarding it should be applauded, not condemned. The issue was subject to the same scrutiny that any candidate endures — months of exposure in the political arena. It was a question at every Forum, and information was provided on websites, in mailers, via phone calls and at meet-and-greets.

Advocates on each side of this issue took advantage of every means possible to get their message out. If anyone feels they were not adequately informed, I believe it is not from any form of misinformation but rather from not having taken advantage of the wealth of information that was available during the campaign.

Become Involved

I end this with a call out to all the residents of Winter Park to join in embracing the new library and events center. No congratulatory phone calls are required. All that is needed is a willingness to become involved. I was privileged to attend a recent presentation by the Aspen Institute, a world-renowned organization that has chosen our community to explore and develop programing for the library of the future.

This Is Your Library, Your City

The possibilities are endless. This programing process will continue through additional community conversations, commission meetings and design reviews. All will be open to the public. Please take the time to get involved in your community, for it is that personal involvement that makes Winter Park the special place we all call home.

Editor’s Note: Tom McMacken served two terms as Winter Park City Commissioner, from 2009 to 2015.

Public Records Access Model of the Future – Your Local Library

Guest Columnist – Barbara Petersen

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

Public Records Access Model of the Future – Your Local Library

Barbara Petersen 1FAFAs Winter Park discusses the library services of the future, many opportunities come to mind.

Informed Citizens Are Key to Civic Wellbeing

The Florida First Amendment Foundation (FAF) believes the library has an important opportunity to partner with local government to enhance access to public information and to more efficiently manage public records requests.

Library Supports Citizens’ Need for Public Information

We believe there is a natural synergy between the Winter Park library and the Winter Park municipal government. Libraries are known to be apolitical and non-bureaucratic. Highly skilled in information management, the library is uniquely suited to assume more responsibility to support the public information needs of the community under Florida’s open government laws, known in the vernacular as our Sunshine Laws.

Library is Ideal Repository of Public Documents

The 21st-century library can be a digital community center which helps foster an informed and engaged community. The library of the future can add tremendous value by increasing access, adding credibility and generating valuable public information that contributes to the civic understanding and institutional memory of a community like Winter Park.

Working with organizations like the First Amendment Foundation, the Winter Park library could serve as custodian of public documents and answer public records requests. The library could catalog and hold public records in a cloud-based repository accessible by the entire community.

Investigative reporters, community-based organizations, and business entities would be encouraged to deposit information into the repository that they’ve obtained through the public records requests.

Cloud-Based Repository Most Efficient

A citizen’s request for public records through a central library repository removes layers of bureaucracy, reduces the escalating costs of accessing public records and leads to a more informed and engaged citizenry.

The Florida First Amendment Foundation would willingly join this partnership. Through Winter Park’s leadership, this could become a national model. What a wonderful value-added component to a library’s 21st- century services.

Editor’s Note: Barbara Petersen is President of the Florida First Amendment Foundation, which works to preserve and protect open government laws (www.floridafaf.org). She is past Chair of the National Freedom of Information Coalition and served as Chair of the Commission on Open Government. Petersen is based in Tallahassee.

No Library in MLK Park

Open Letter to the Citizens of Winter Park

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

No Library in MLK Park


Guest Columnist – Joe Terranova
Joe TerranovaMuch has been said recently about the construction of a new library in Winter Park. Unfortunately, some of the comments by the Mayor and others have been misleading. Here is another view.

Mayor Steve Leary has stated on several occasions that the petition being circulated is illegal. I am not aware that any court has ruled on the matter. The City Attorney may ‘feel’ that way. Our counsel says our actions are strictly within the law.

City Clerk Calls Petition Unlawful

Although our City Clerk has made statements that cast doubt on the legality and timeliness of the petition, our City Charter gives her, in her official capacity, no legal standing to make those kinds of judgements.

I am a member of the Petitioners’ Committee collecting signatures to prevent the construction of a new library in Martin Luther King, Jr., Park.

Why Are We Doing This?

The citizens recently approved a referendum authorizing the City to issue bonds in an amount up to $30 Million to build a new library, events center and associated parking structure. The Mayor has stated that “everyone knew” the library would be built in MLK Park.

I disagree.

No Site In Referendum

Neither the ballot language nor the ordinance authorizing the referendum stated where the library would be built. In fact, during a Commission meeting when the ordinance was being voted on, one commissioner wanted to specifically say in the ordinance that the library would be built in MLK Park. The Commission voted No.

Publications issued in support of the new library made it clear that all the conceptual renderings of the structures were just that – conceptual renderings. Nowhere did it say the MLK site was cast in stone.

MLK Park – Who Knew?

Our petition circulators have reported that while some people knew where the library would be built, most did not. Many of those who did not said they would not have voted in favor of the referendum had they been aware of the intended site in MLK Park.

Why Not MLK Park?

MLK Park is probably the worst option available to the City for the location of the new library. This huge structure would adversely affect the environment in the park. Traffic at the corner of 17-92 and Harper Street is already bad and will get worse, even without adding a library and events center. Removing an essential element – our library – from the core of our City will, in time, denigrate Winter Park as a special place.

Where Can the New Library Go?

The approved referendum gives the City the legal authority to build the new library anywhere in the City it wants. City leadership, however, has never bothered to get a consensus of the citizens to support the MLK Park site for a combined library, events center and associated parking structure. As a result, the Mayor has unnecessarily divided the City on this issue.
It is now time to take MLK Park off the table and get real as to a proper location for the new library in the City core. The only way we can do this is through our Citizens’ Initiative, which is authorized by the City Charter.

Sign the Petition

If you have not already signed our petition and wish to do so, contact our petition coordinator, Sally Flynn, by email at flynnlinks@aol.com. Someone will be in touch with you. If you believe as we do, we urge you to sign the petition.

Our motto is simple: Library? YES! In MLK Park? NO!

 

Editor’s Note:

Former Winter Park Mayor Joe Terranova is a member of the Citizens Petition Committee.