The Time for Public Input is ALWAYS!

The Time for Public Input is ALWAYS!

Randy Knight, City Manager of Winter Park

The city always asks for public input and considers this input vital to our city governance. Winter Park operates under a representative form of government. This means we, as citizens, elect representatives to run the city, pass laws and regulations, address development requests, and plan for the future of our city. As part of that process the city ALWAYS asks for community input and often times it provides opportunities for that input multiple times before final decisions are made.

When the question arises, “has anyone asked you…” about items such as the Lawrence Center Garage, parking or mixed use, the answer is, “Yes, the city has asked or will ask as part of the process.”

For the proposed Lawrence Center Parking Garage, a citywide notice was mailed to all city households at the beginning of August asking interested residents and stakeholders to attend and share their input at upcoming meetings. The notice was also posted on cityofwinterpark.org/citywide. The dates for public input are Tuesday, September 11, for the Planning & Zoning Board and Monday, September 24, for the City Commission meeting. Both meetings are held in Commission Chambers located on the second floor of City Hall.

For the proposed parking code changes, a community input meeting was held in July, multiple summits were held in 2017, and the City Commission was provided an update at their March 2018 meeting. These meetings were noticed by various means. Subscribers to citEnews were emailed a notice. The meetings were posted online with related reports posted on cityofwinterpark.org/parking, postcards were mailed to 274 property owners in the corridors directly impacted, and advertisements were placed in the newspaper. If an ordinance modifying the parking code moves forward for City Commission consideration, those meetings will be advertised and public input taken in public hearings at the Planning & Zoning Board and at two separate City Commission meetings.

The Orange Avenue pilot project for mixed use was just suggested at the July 10 Commission work session. This will be a multi-month study/process and public input will be solicited throughout that process. This project was considered by your elected representatives over Aloma Avenue, West Fairbanks Avenue and Lee Road because there are three major properties along that corridor that have expressed interest in redevelopment over the next 24 months. That is not the case for the other corridors.

We understand what a challenge it can be in our busy lives to keep up with the various issues being addressed by the city and that is why we use multiple methods to get the word out. The best ways to stay informed for these types of projects are to subscribe to the citEnews emails at cityofwinterpark.org/citEnews or periodically visit the city’s official website for upcoming board & public meetings at cityofwinterpark.org/bpm.

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The Time for Public Input is NOW!

The Time for Public Input is NOW!

We Want a Seat at the Table

Guest Columnist Sally Flynn

The city is moving very aggressively on several major projects that have the potential to change the face of our city.

Lawrence Center Garage

First up is the expansion of the Rollins College Lawrence Center at 200 E. New England Ave., with possible city participation in the associated parking garage.

Kimley-Horn Parking Study

Second is a parking study by consultants Kimley-Horn which, if adopted, will change our parking codes to allow construction of larger buildings with less parking.

Mixed Use Development

Third is the development of standards for Mixed Use Development. The city is considering using the Orange Avenue corridor as a “test case” for mixed use, which would involve what’s called Traffic Oriented Density. Developers would be able to build larger buildings with a mix of commercial, residential and office uses. The addition of a new Sunrail stop is contemplated for the area.

We Should Be Talking – Now!

All three subjects should be the subject of intense conversation with Winter Park residents — Right Now.

Ask Yourself This

Has anyone asked you what you think about a six-level garage at the Lawrence Center?

Has anyone asked you what you think about changing our parking code to allow bigger buildings and less parking?

Has anyone asked you to weigh in on using Orange Avenue as a pilot project for mixed use?

Has anyone asked you whether you would prefer instead to see Aloma, West Fairbanks or Lee Road as the pilot project for mixed use master planning?

It’s our money, why aren’t they asking you/me/us?

We Deserve a Seat at the Table

The place to begin is to begin by asking for a seat at the table. Several friends and I will be writing to the commission asking for the opportunity for public input, and for the City to start the discussions over again from the beginning – and this time, they include us.

Join Us

We invite you to join us by writing to mayorandcommissioners@cityofwinterpark.org and letting them know you want to be included in plans for the future of our city.

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Open Letter to Mayor & Commissioners

Open Letter to Mayor & Commissioners

If there is no parking deficit, why spend tax dollars on parking garage for Rollins?

Guest Columnist Beth Hall

Dear Mayor and Commissioners:

I am writing to you about the issue of the commission’s handling of public parking in the city versus the public trust. The public trust is perishable. Once lost, it is mighty difficult, if not impossible, to regain.

The issue I have with the handling of parking matters at this time is that the city is feeding the public one story and then taking actions that would indicate that precisely the opposite story is true. The left hand appears not to know what the right hand is doing.

As P & Z and the commission prepare to vote on the proposed changes to our parking codes, it is apparent that you are placing the city on a “parking starvation” diet. Sort of like the traffic diet approach on Denning and what’s proposed on Corrine, for instance.

Because the Kimley Horn study indicates that Winter Park’s “current parking resources are being underutilized” and any parking problem is illusory, the idea is to reduce dramatically the parking requirements we currently insist upon in the city. Because we don’t use what we have, the code won’t require so much parking going forward.

Where offsite parking used to be at a distance of 300 feet, 450 feet is the new standard. Where one space was required for every 250 sq. feet of retail/office space, now it will be one spot for every 350 sq. feet. The first story of a building will need so many spaces but other stories will require fewer.

Yet, at the very same time, the city is allocating millions of dollars to partner with Rollins on a new parking garage at the Lawrence Center. If we have no parking deficit to begin with, per K-H, why the allocation of citizen tax dollars to partner on a five or six level parking garage in which the city has no ownership interest?

If the City intends to build a parking garage in the city with the people’s tax dollars, wouldn’t it be better to build such a structure at the new library and events center? This is what was actually PROMISED in the bond referendum language. This would at least possess superior optics. If we do not need the additional parking anyway, you should put a parking structure where you made a legally binding promise to the citizens to do so.

Another issue I have with changes to the parking code combined with a new garage is that together these will allow for the approval of the Battaglia project with inadequate parking to serve the building. The proposed reduction in parking spots required, based on square footage, combined with a nearby parking garage built at taxpayer expense means Battaglia’s parking woes will be solved on the tax payer’s dime. This will be so although he never, ever shared a single parking spot at the Bank of America garage with the public. We the public may be blind, but we are not stupid.

Rollins can well afford a parking garage. They are not using public tax money to build it. You cannot say the same.

If there is no parking deficit, do not partner with Rollins on a 5 or 6 level garage. If you insist on building a garage, then use the CRA or other city funds from people’s taxes to pay for the library parking garage as promised. Just how many citizens do you suppose really want a huge garage at the Lawrence center site?

If there is a parking deficit, then it is appropriate to either leave the parking code as is or make it even more stringent. Mixed use parking standards can be dealt with at the appropriate time going forward.

Sincerely,

Beth Hall

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Mixed Use on Orange Avenue

Mixed Use on Orange Avenue

Trojan Horse – or Manna From Heaven?

Guest Columnist Beth Hall

Citizens of Winter Park: beware the Trojan Horse.

Before she “left the building,” retired planning director Dori Stone may have deployed one. The Orange Avenue corridor is in developers’ cross hairs. Rumors even include a possible new rail station.

Apparently unwilling to develop their sizable Orange Avenue holdings under the strict limits imposed by our current land use laws, Stone said that over the past 18 months, owners of larger properties along the corridor have approached the city about opening the door to development of greater intensity.

With property owners anxious to make big changes to the corridor, planning staff has brought forward to the commission the idea of a “mixed use overlay.” Once in place, this alternative zoning would give land owners the option to develop parcels they own on a scale that will vastly exceed the existing zoning parameters. In return, they would give back to the city in a way that benefits all residents. Is this the rumored train station?

Video obtained of the duly noticed “mixed use workshop” held at City Hall on July 10, 2018, shows the city planning director exhorting the commission that as a “legislative body” they have a responsibility to the community to “make this happen” and to “let the community know what this corridor needs to look like.”

Stone insisted the 2017 comprehensive plan must be a “fluid” document, one that “changes with the times,” noting that some of Winter Park’s most “iconic places” are examples of “mixed use” development done before the city had a comp plan or stricter land use laws. Does this mean the comp plan is now an obstacle on the path to progress?

Taller, more massive buildings would “make a statement.” Land holders on the avenue could choose to re-develop under the new mixed-use guidelines or use existing zoning guidelines. An urban design expert should be hired to devise a master plan for a “mixed use overlay. “

Stone cited the Medical Arts District rising around Winter Park Hospital as an example of this idea. Orange Avenue would serve as a test case.

There was no mention of the fact that Orange Avenue is already a thriving mix of shops, businesses and eateries. City ownership of a large parcel on the Orange Avenue corridor was noted. The mayor’s ownership stake in four other parcels was not. Also, omitted was the fact that West Fairbanks has seen the deployment of many millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements, which the City could begin to recoup.

If you think you might like to hear the discussion of mixed use that took place or if you want to hear for yourself how individual commissioners viewed the idea, I fear you’re out of luck.

The audiotape of the meeting posted by the city is very poor quality and the city says enhancement efforts have proven unsuccessful. Had I not obtained a video of the meeting independently, I could not have written this piece. I would not be aware that the posted minutes from the meeting do not accurately reflect city staff in attendance . . . omitting as they do a city attorney who spoke and gave advice.

Mixed use — Trojan horse or manna from heaven? Only you can decide, but as of this writing, becoming informed will not be a simple task.

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Let’s Make a Place for Our Big Green Friends

Let’s Make a Place for Our Big Green Friends

Guest Columnist Todd Weaver

The one thing of note in an uncharacteristically brief June 11 Commission meeting was a presentation by Planning Director Dori Stone about Mixed Use Development. Her presentation focused on a single question, the answer to which will determine the way Winter Park grows into the 21st century.

The Question

Are current land use and zoning categories sufficient to promote the best development in Winter Park, or does the City want a specific mixed use development option for properties located along gateway corridors within the city limits?

WP Already Has 3 Mixed Use Developments

Currently, Winter Park has three mixed use developments – Park Avenue, Hannibal Square and Winter Park Village. The single word that describes all three is walkable. Each development has a mixture of shops, offices and residences. Each is a popular destination with wide sidewalks and plenty of shade – resulting in plenty of foot traffic. Buildings are pedestrian in scale, allowing life to flow easily in and out of doors. Each location has a well-defined sense of place.

They All Have Trees

While they have different architectural designs, street layouts and building heights, they all have one essential attribute — deciduous trees. Trees with wide branches. Trees with lots of leaves. Trees that provide cool shade and a sense of place.

Regardless of architectural design, without the shelter of these leafy branches all three areas would be hot, blinding, forbidding environments of reflective and refractive masonry, asphalt and glass. People would avoid them whenever possible, except possibly at night. Who among us doesn’t choose the shady parking spot over the one baking in the harsh Florida sun?

We All Need Trees

Our affinity for trees is in our DNA. Our ancestors relied on trees for security from predators, for foraging, for shelter from the elements, and for gathering places for social contact. Our love of trees is innate. No man-made structure ever has the same elemental and calming effect.

Builders who ignore the need for a stately tree canopy in their developments are doing a disservice to their clients, their tenants, the customers of those tenants and to their own legacies. Trees are good for our peace of mind, the environment – and they’re good for business.

What Kind of Canopy Will Be Left at the ‘Canopy’?

In this vein, many are concerned that at the new Winter Park Library – Event Center at “The Canopy,” the majestic trees that currently form the canopy on the Rachel Murrah Civic Center site will meet with the chain saw — despite the branding term. When that happens, the glare and reflected heat from all that glass, metal and masonry will change the character of the MLK Park dramatically. Although new, smaller trees can be brought in, it will take decades to achieve the current sense of place afforded by the existing site trees.

Don’t Cut Them Down; Dig Them Up!

This does not have to happen. A reasonable solution would be to dig up the specimen trees, roots and all, and store them in MLK Park in wooden crates until the construction is completed and they can be safely replanted.

Sound Impossible?

While this may seem incredible, it is actually standard technology. The land that the retired El Toro Marine Air Station occupied was deeded to the City of Irvine, CA in the early 2000s. Before redevelopment began, 543 large shade trees, which included 10 species, were saved in this manner. The average weight per tree was 40 tons. The city crated them and cared for them for about five years until, one by one, they were strategically replanted as redevelopment progressed. The sense of place was preserved by this brilliant and caring move, and the homes in those developments sold as quickly as they were built.

Trees Are Our Brand

Canopy trees are part of our unique Winter Park brand. They shelter nearly every street and enhance every neighborhood. The promulgation of mixed use standards presents a fleeting window of opportunity. We must act now to ensure that mixed-use will enhance our gateway corridors for generations. Let’s make a big green splash!

Trees Should Be Part of the Mix

Let’s make room for our big green friends in our Mixed Use code. Let’s promote reasonable street setbacks and adequate pervious areas for these natural wonders. After all, our big trees enhance and promote our businesses, our neighborhoods and our sense of place in Winter Park. And, for Winter Park, a sense of place is a sense of home.

Todd Weaver is a semi-retired aerospace engineer and UCF graduate. He holds a Florida general contractors license. He currently runs a Winter Park-based business, TruGrit Traction, Inc, which designs and manufactures specialty wheels for pipe inspection robots for the public works industries. Weaver has served on Lakes Management advisory boards for Orange County and Winter Park.

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Empty Promises

Empty Promises

New Library: Bait-&-Switch?

Guest Columnist Peter Knowles Gottfried

Have you ever gone to a car dealership to investigate an incredibly good deal only to realize the “deal” really is too good to be true? Or perhaps you were enticed by an ad for a condo with water view only to find that “water” was a retention pond. This is how folks who voted for the proposed “Library-Event Center” must be feeling.

We were promised a beautiful 50,000 square foot Library and new Event Center at the corner of Harper Avenue and Morse Boulevard overlooking Lake Mendsen. We also voted for a parking structure that would adequately service both the new library and the event center. And finally, City literature told us, “The new library, event center and garage footprint will require less than 1percent of additional open space” within Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.

As it develops, however, the situation becomes more and more like being the customer at the car dealership anticipating a shiny new Highlander and being offered a used Yaris instead.

The 50,000 Square Foot Promise.

Let’s begin with the library campaign to win voter approval for a $30 million bond issue for the demolition of the existing Civic Center and the construction of the new library-event center and parking structure. Just about every piece of literature sent to voters spoke of the need for more library space, overcrowding in the youth section and insufficient computer lab space.

One election mailer asked, “What do you do when Winter Park’s Library … has to remove children’s books, even favorites, every time a new book arrives? …doesn’t have enough computers or digital labs? …can’t accommodate emergency rescue equipment above the first floor? …has no space for after-school tutoring rooms?”

Another mailer claimed, “Our children continue to lose out on learning opportunities and materials because of inadequate space.”

Grandma Promise

Grandparents, seniors, and adults will get “fully equipped technology labs with classes for seniors, students and entrepreneurs.” Another mailer promised, “Expanded and climate-controlled history center with exhibit space, genealogy lab and digitization to preserve our shared history.”

It is no wonder that the Library Board, the Commission and Citizens were excited about a new 50,000 square foot library. A letter from the then President of the Winter Park Library Board of Trustees to voters stated that the library would provide early childhood literacy areas, tutoring rooms, digital media labs, make the library safer, and provide for a new parking facility.

Where Did We Get 50,000 Sq.Ft?

Where did the “50,000-square-foot” number for the library appear? The Library Task Force, a committee authorized by the City Commission to come up with recommendations for the new library, stated in their final report that the estimated size of the library was 50,000 square feet, with the existing library at 33,742 square feet. We were getting an additional 16,206 square feet, a significant increase by any measure.

Following that, an email blast from the “yes for winter park library” Political Action Committee (PAC) clearly stated the proposed library was to be 50,000 square feet. That same email stated there would also be a one-story, 220-space parking deck.

The Winter Park Library staff sent an email to “Friends, Neighbors and Patrons” stating that the library will be 50,000 square feet and include a one-story parking deck for 220 cars. And finally, the City issued a Request for Qualifications for Library Design Consultant Services which clearly stated that the project will include “a new 240-space (sic) parking garage, a new 50,000 square foot library . . . .”

Honey, They Shrunk the Library

It must be a disappointment to the Library friends, neighbors and patrons to find that the new library will be barely larger than the existing library. Depending on whose numbers you use, we may be getting 867 or 991 additional square feet for a new library that everyone thought would provide significantly more space. The architect says the new library will be 34,661 square feet. Pizutti, the City’s program manager, says 34,785 square feet.

Parking Structure Promise

The reference to a parking structure is in the ballot language. The ballot clearly stated that $30 million in general obligation bonds were to be issued for the “purpose of financing the Winter Park Library and Event Center to include library facilities, civic meeting and gathering facilities and related parking structure, and improvements….” [emphasis added]

The City website shows the new plans for a library-event center with surface lots spread throughout MLK Park, including parking spaces at the community playground off Denning Drive.

Certificate Concerning Official Statement

On June 1, 2017 Mayor Steve Leary, City Manager Randy Knight and Finance Director Wes Hamil signed the Certificate Concerning Official Statement attesting to the truthfulness of statements made in the May 8, 2017 Bond Resolution.

The execution and delivery of this Official Statement has been duly authorized and approved by the City. At the time of delivery of the Bonds, the City will furnish a certificate to the effect that nothing has come to its attention which would lead to believe that the Official Statement as of its date and as of delivery of the Bonds, contains an untrue statement of a material fact or omits to state a material fact which should be included herein for the purpose for which the Official Statement is intended to be used, or which is necessary to make the statements contained herein, in light of the circumstances under which they were made, not misleading.”

Wikipedia defines parking structure as, “A parking garage also called a multistory, parking structure, parking ramp, parking building, parking deck or indoor parking, a building designed for car parking . . . .”

Now the Commission has decided that a series of surface lots will take the place of the parking structure called for on the ballot. How might the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board regard some of these directives by the Commission regarding the new Library and Event Center?

Footprint-Will-Use-Less-Than-1-Percent-of Park-Land Promise

One of the documents circulated by the City and the Winter Park Library included a page that stated, “The total area of the new library, civic center, and garage “footprint” will require less than 1 percent of additional open space above the area where the existing parking lot and Civic Center now exist.”

A review of the site plan for the new library-event center and parking shows considerably more space taken than the 1 percent promised. In fact, the new facility is approximately 15 percent of the total MLK Park’s 26.8 acres, or about 8 percent of the total park in excess of the footprint of the existing Civic Center. Eight percent is significantly more green space lost than the 1 percent promised.

Footprint of New Library/Event Center and Surface Parking.

Shortly after voters approved the library/event center in the spring of 2016, a lawsuit was filed challenging the proposed location at MLK Park. No location had been specified in the ballot language.

The Judge in that case ruled that the ancillary documents provided prior to the election – mailers from the Library PAC, emails from the City, Library web pages and presentations by various committees — would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the library was to be built at MLK Park.

The same reasoning can be applied now. The voting public can reasonably conclude the City will build a 50,000 square foot library and event center, and an associated parking structure.

Winter Park voters have the right to question these un-kept promises and to decide if they are happy with the outcome. You can let your elected representatives know they might have some explaining to do by writing them at mayorandcommissioners@cityofwinterpark.org

Peter Knowles Gottfried is an environmental scientist who drew up one of the first plans for Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in 1985. He was a Winter Park Commissioner 1986 to 1996, and then served on the Planning & Zoning Commission from 2011 to 2017.

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