Citizens and Commissioners gathered once again Monday night to hammer out the few remaining bones of contention in the Comp Plan. The long and often tedious evening culminated in the adoption of a Comprehensive Growth Management Plan for the City of Winter Park. Citizens who spoke gave the Commissioners and Staff high marks for their hard work and dedication to the process. They also expressed appreciation that they felt they’d been heard.
Citizens Spoke, Commissioners Listened
Commissioners considered a long list of amendments, most of them brought forward by Commissioner Carolyn Cooper.
Six of the proposed amendments were approved by the Commission, and there was a verbal commitment to bring back for discussion two that were voted down. The revised Comp Plan, in its entirety, will be posted on the City’s website within the next few days.
Highlights of Monday’s Meeting
– The City will create a Medical Arts District in the area surrounding Winter Park Hospital. The Commission deleted language that included workforce housing within that district. (Policy 1-2.4.12)
– The term “Village Character” was reinstated and now reads: “The City shall preserve and enhance the village character of the Central Business District.” (Policy 1-G-23)
– Public/Quasi-Public (PQP) zoning may only be used in Institutional land use. PQP includes such things as public governmental buildings, schools, churches, museums, etc. (Policy 1-2.4.2)
– The motion to prohibit ‘big box’ stores over 65,000 square feet within the City limits failed, but Mayor Leary supported the ban on single-tenant retail over 65,000 square feet and agreed to have City staff come back at a future date with suggestions on how best to include this language.
– Language was added to the policy regarding lot splits: “The City Commission in consideration of lot split requests may limit the floor area ratio as a condition of approval in order to preserve neighborhood scale and character.” (Policy 1-5.2.8)
– The motion to include language about the City’s intent to purchase the Post Office property also failed. The Commissioners all said they supported the City buying the property, but did not agree the language belonged in the Comp Plan.
Recognition for Hannibal Square
Winter Park resident Forest Michael proposed two policies, both of which were incorporated into the new Comp Plan. Michael’s policies are specific to the Hannibal Square neighborhood and are as follows.
– “Encourage the preservation and conservation of historic Hannibal Square Community’s cultural buildings and churches, homes and places along Welbourne Avenue.”
– “Encourage educational and interpretive walking and bicycling tours throughout the Hannibal Square Community for residents’ health.”
Comprehensive Capital Investment Plan
While current Comp Plan provisions deal thoroughly with land use, particularly regarding what developers may and may not do in a given location, little attention is given to policies addressing how the City will invest in land and build infrastructure for the City’s future.
Winter Park resident Bob Bendick, who is Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Gulf of Mexico Program, spoke about what he called “shortfalls in the investment part of the plan.” The message seemed to be that while the City is willing to pay lip service to greenspace and conservation, there is little actual funding to back it up.
[av_one_half first av_uid=’av-41lexj’][/av_one_half]
[av_one_half av_uid=’av-38j8w7′]“There are statements of policy in the Comp Plan that don’t have real meaning unless there’s money to implement them.”[/av_one_half]
While the Comp Plan encourages greenspace in general, said Bendick, there is insufficient commitment to investing adequate City funds to restoring Mead Garden, acquiring remaining open space at the Genius estate and, more broadly, in creating a connected framework of greenspace and waterways for the City’s future.
Bikes and Peds
The Comp Plan encourages pedestrian and bicycle activity, but fails to allocate sufficient funds to construct the facilities necessary to make walking and cycling safe and enjoyable in our City.
“We believe the location of the largest civic investment in the City’s future – the new library/events center – is at a place seemingly at odds with . . .the proposed plan,” said Bendick.
“There is a failure in Policy 5-1.19 of the Conservation Element of the plan to propose investment in alternative energy generation,” said Bendick, “which would be an economic and environmental benefit to the City over the long run.”
Bendick suggests a re-examination of the City’s investment strategy in the public spaces and facilities that are critical to maintaining Winter Park’s quality and character in the years to come.
Does the Comp Plan Reflect Your Vision of Winter Park?
Fat Lady Sings on Monday
After months of visioning, advisory board meetings, focus groups, public input meetings, commission meetings, hundreds of thousands of words written on thousands of reams of paper — the Commission will take a final vote on the City’s Comprehensive Growth Management Plan (Comp Plan).
Monday’s vote will be the culmination of a months-long effort to gaze into the crystal ball of Winter Park’s future.
“History,” “Heritage,” “Village Ambience”
The process began by defining a Vision. When Winter Parkers were asked what was most important to them, two dominant themes emerged. People said they cherished the “History and Heritage” of their City, and they wanted to preserve our “Village Ambience and Small Town Feel.”
Vision — Framework for Comp Plan
The June 2016 Visioning Report issued by the City states: “Our Vision Plan is . . . long-term, aspirational, and flexible, serving as a framework into which other plans can fit, including the Comprehensive Plan.”
As the Visioning process wound down last summer, City staff and elected officials turned their attention to putting the Vision into concrete terms. Months of hard work have produced a lengthy and complicated document. The number of people able to wrap their heads around the whole thing probably can be tabulated on your fingers alone – no need for toes.
Comp Plan Belongs to All of Us
Is it a perfect document? No, but this is Earth – where things aren’t perfect. The level of engagement of City staff, elected officials and citizens has been nothing short of extraordinary. Few documents rise to this level of effort and dedication.
Is it Over? Should You Remain Engaged?
Our Comp Plan is a living document. While it is legally enforceable, it is not written on stone tablets – and, as with everything that happens in this City, there is always room for discussion. So, yes, continuing engagement should be a consideration for all of us.
Two features have been eliminated from the revised Comp Plan that may still warrant discussion, even at this late date. One is more abstract, the other quite concrete.
The more abstract element that was taken out of this revision is the commitment to maintaining our “village character.” The wording has been changed to “maintaining our traditional scale.”
Semantics? Yes. However, try this.
Close your eyes and try to conjure an image of “traditional scale.”
Now, do the same thing – but this time, evoke in your mind’s eye the image of “village character.” There is a difference.
Big Box Stores
Also missing is the concrete prohibition on single-tenant retail stores of over 65,000 square feet – so-called big box stores – within City limits. To put that in perspective, the Publix at Winter Park Village is 55,922 square feet. For a community the size of Winter Park, that is a large store by any measure, yet it is nearly 10,000 square feet smaller than the ‘big box’ formerly banished from within City limits.
Why eliminate this proscription? Does Winter Park need the equivalent of one Winter Park Village Publix plus a really big McMansion worth of retail space under one roof?
What’s New? Medical Arts District
The biggest reveal is the use of a previously untried planning tool known as the “Mixed Use Overlay” to create a Medical Arts District near the Winter Park Hospital campus. The area will include medical, wellness and associated businesses, as well as residential facilities for assisted living, memory care and dedicated workforce housing for medical service employees. Click here and scroll down to Line 40 for a description of the planned Medical Arts District.
Mixed Use Overlay – New Planning Tool
The mixed use overlay is a planning tool that has been used by other cities, but has never found its way into Winter Park’s tool kit. According to the Comp Plan revision, “Within one year from the adoption . . . the City will create a mixed use overlay for commercially designated parcels . . . .”
Exactly what this overlay might entail for us would be the end-product of a year-long process of creating Winter Park’s version of the tool. Which is to say, plenty of discussion is likely to occur before this becomes a reality. So stay tuned.
Click here and go to Line 46 for a more thorough explanation of the Mixed Use Overlay.
Should You Attend Monday’s Commission Meeting?
Many have argued that the key to Winter Park’s value as a community is the quality of citizen engagement. Monday’s agenda is a full one. The Agenda Packet is more than 700 pages long. There will be things you won’t want to miss.
The March 27 Commission meeting shows what can happen when a city like Winter Park tries to solve a systemic parking problem one project at a time. Things don’t work out the way everyone thinks they’re going to.
The 133,830 square feet of commercial development sent forth March 7 by the Planning & Zoning Board arrived at the City Commission March 27. The meeting, which began at 3:30 pm, lasted until nearly midnight. By 10:30 or so, many of the people who were still hanging in there were scratching their heads. The remarks in these video clips, which occurred toward the end of the meeting, tell the tale.
Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel, “We Can’t Kick This Can Down the Road Much Longer.”
Rick Frazee, “Nothing’s changed.”
Joe Terranova, “You can’t fit a size 10 foot into a size 6 shoe.”
Pat MacDonald, “This has been a very different evening than we all expected.”
Three Projects All Too Big for Their Parking Lots
Three large commercial construction projects – Orchard Supply Hardware at 2540 Aloma Avenue, Villa Tuscany Memory Care Center at 1298 Howell Branch Road, and the BFC Holdings project at 158 E. New England Avenue – shared the agenda with a presentation of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). All three construction applicants sought variances because of insufficient parking.
Orchard Strikes Out
First up was Lowe’s subsidiary Orchard Hardware Supply, to be built on the current location of the Aloma Bowl. Orchard needed a total of 135 parking spaces. They had 87 spaces on site and could lease 24 additional spaces from neighboring Panera Bread, leaving them 24 spaces short.
Strong opposition came from the bowlers, represented by Winter Park High School bowling team captain Danielle Allison. Ms. Allison and her volunteers had gathered nearly 3,000 signatures of citizens seeking to keep the facility open as a bowling alley. The sale of Aloma Bowl to Orchard was contingent on Commission approval.
Despite the Commissioners’ understanding and their admiration for Ms. Allison’s tenacity, at the end of the day, Orchard’s fortunes rose and fell on parking. After discussion and citizen commentary, the Commission voted to deny the application, pointing out that if the applicant would consider a smaller building, their parking dilemma would go away.
The following day, Ms. Allison told the Voice that she hoped Aloma Bowl would remain open for the community, but she said she did not know the owner’s plans for the building. The owner of Aloma Bowl could not be reached for comment.
Villa Tuscany – Too Big Not to Fail
Next up was the Villa Tuscany Memory Care Center at 1298 Howell Branch Road. This was to be a 41,000-square-foot memory care and assisted living project that would be built on land zoned R-3, high density residential, that sits adjacent to a single-family residential neighborhood. The neighbors had well-organized opposition, not to the proposed use of the facility, but to the size and scale, which they said was incompatible with the surroundings.
Even though residents of the facility would not have cars, plans for the facility did not provide adequate parking on site for staff and visitors. The applicant would be able to lease the missing parking spaces, but those were on the other side of Howell Branch Road.
Commissioner Peter Weldon broached the possibility of tabling the project and allowing the applicant to come back at a later date with revised plans for a smaller project. Weldon failed to receive a second for his motion, however, and the Commission voted 5 – 0 to deny the application, pointing out once again that a smaller project would obviate the need for extra parking.
BFC Holdings New England Ups the Ante
By the time attorney Mickey Grindstaff approached the podium on behalf of the Battaglia family’s 52,000-spare-foot project at 158 E. New England Avenue, tension in the chamber was palpable. While the BFC Holdings project had City staff support, P&Z had sent the project forward with no recommendation.
Staff recommended reducing the parking requirement from the four spaces per 1,000 square feet of office/ retail, called for by City Code, to three per thousand. Planning Director Dori Stone explained that staff was comfortable allowing fewer parking spaces. “In a downtown setting,” she said, “Class A Office, which is a different breed of office than we have in a lot of other places in Winter Park . . . can support three spaces per thousand, because the way they operate is different, the way their customer base is different, the way they function, look and feel is different than a typical office.”
Ms. Stone did not elaborate on what those differences might be. Planning Manager Jeff Briggs acknowledged that no other building in Winter Park enjoyed this reduction in parking requirement.
Winter Park Needs Another Parking Study
Stone recognized the need for further study of how parking functions in downtown Winter Park. “No matter how you count the spaces,” she said, “downtown Winter Park has parking issues.” Staff will embark on the fourth parking study in seven years – which those in the know believe will result in a recommendation for some sort of parking structure in the Central Business District.
Don’t Tie Parking Regulations to a Specific Project
Commissioner Carolyn Cooper admonished staff that if the City’s parking code needs to be reviewed, the discussion should take place outside the context of a specific project to avoid placing both the applicant and the Commissioners in a difficult position. “If staff truly supports a change in code,” she said, “they should bring us an ordinance, supported by data, so that we have the opportunity to evaluate a change in the parking code.”
‘How Much Longer ‘til Everyone Goes to the Mall?’
Grindstaff noted that BFC Holdings is being asked unfairly to shoulder a city-wide problem. But it is not just the BFC project that is suffering. Alan Deaver, a merchant and property owner in downtown Winter Park, collected signatures from 45 Park Avenue merchants who are being squeezed by the parking deficit and who will be severely impacted by the BFC Holdings project. “How much longer until everyone goes to the mall?” he wanted to know.
Not Ready for Prime Time
Using the new math, BFC New England would need 133 spaces for office and retail, and an additional 95 spaces for the two restaurants planned for the ground floor of the new building. The developer plans to put 57 spaces on site and to use 90 spaces in the Bank of America parking garage across the street, which they also own. The 90 B-of-A spaces would be available only by valet, as the garage is closed to the public.
Using the newly contrived formula, BFC is short 81 parking spaces. Compare this with the 24 spaces Orchard was short and the four spaces Villa Tuscany was short. It’s worth pointing out that by existing code, to which the other projects were held, the BFC project is short 121 spaces.
Mayor Steve Leary finally showed mercy on those assembled by moving to table the BFC Holdings application. His motion passed on a 5 – 0 vote. The BFC New England project will now make its way back through City Planning staff. There is no scheduled date for its return to the Commission.
The proponents of property rights went toe-to-toe with the advocates of neighborhood compatibility in a Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Board meeting Tuesday, March 7, which lasted well into the night. An overflow audience packed the Commission Chamber and spilled out into the elevator foyer. Tempers flared and rhetoric grew heated as citizens, applicants and P&Z Board members aired conflicting views.
At the end of the day, P&Z sent forward for Commission approval a total of 133,830 square feet of commercial development, with requests for variances for around 300 parking spaces.
Three Controversial Projects
At issue were three large commercial developments, two of which had been to P&Z before.
1. Villa Tuscany Memory Care Center, 1298 Howell Branch Road — 41,352 square feet, requesting a variance for 4 parking spaces.
2. Orchard Supply Hardware Store, 2540 Aloma Avenue (on the site of Aloma Bowl) — 39,877 square feet, requesting a variance for 45 parking spaces.
3. A Three-Story, mixed use building at 158 E. New England Avenue — 52,601 square feet, needing a parking variance of 200 spaces, more or less. The issue of how many parking spaces is hotly disputed, but everyone, even the applicant, agrees they need more.
Villa Tuscany Memory Care
Winter Park Elderly Services, LLC, first brought this project before P&Z in October 2016. The proposal was for a 50-bed, 34,986-square-foot memory care and assisted living facility at the intersection of Temple Trail and Howell Branch Road. The building site fronts Lake Temple and there is also a sinkhole on the property. The proposed height of the original building was more than 35 feet, requiring an 85-foot setback from Lake Temple. Staff recommended denial.
At the October meeting, P&Z voted to approve the use for a memory care facility, but tabled the request for building variances. They asked the applicant to return with a plan for a smaller facility. Instead, the applicant returned with a request for a larger facility — 6,366 square feet larger, with 51 beds — but it is only 35 feet high.
It’s Still Too Big
The neighbors weren’t buying it. “It is still too big,” they said. “It’s not compatible with the neighborhood.” Residents Barry Render and Nancy Freeman, representing 13 area HOAs, offered petitions with more than 200 signatures of people opposing the project and a Powerpoint presenting 10 reasons why P&Z should vote to deny.
But Not As Big As It Could Be
The incompatibility argument having been heard, attorney Becky Wilson, representing the applicant, returned to the podium with the property rights argument. The applicant was requesting a building about half the size he was actually entitled to under City code, warned Wilson.
P&Z Sides with Developer
Bob Hahn began the board’s discussion of the project by objecting to “accusations of profiteering.”
After a short discussion, the P&Z Board voted unanimously to approve the application and send it forward to the Commission.
Orchard Supply Hardware
Lowe’s subsidiary Orchard Supply Hardware seeks to build a second store within Winter Park City limits. The first slightly smaller store (32,355 square feet) is going up on 17-92. This project will sit on the present site of the Aloma Bowl, which has been sold to developers.
Real Estate Bubble?
Steve Miller of Miller’s Hardware spoke about the impact of commercial development on traffic and the general quality of life in Winter Park. “We may have a real estate bubble going,” he cautioned.
Lamenting the Loss of Aloma Bowl
A large group of citizens dressed in blue “Save Aloma Bowl” t-shirts protested the loss of the bowling alley, which has provided a family-friendly athletic and social outlet for generations of Winter Parkers of all ages. The Winter Park High School Bowling Team Co-captain described its importance in her life.
Once again, individual property rights collided with the interests of the common good. Becky Wilson, attorney for the applicant, explained it this way.
P&Z members sympathized with the residents, but explained that it was not within their purview to save the bowling alley. Shelia De Ciccio asked for understanding from residents in the audience.
After a discussion about signage and parking, the P&Z Board voted unanimously to approve the application and send it forward to the Commission.
158 East New England Avenue
BFC New England LLC first appeared before P&Z in November 2016 requesting approval for a three-story mixed-use development in the downtown core of Winter Park. The second and third floors would be occupied by Class A office space, while plans for the ground floor included retail space and two restaurants.
In a word . . . parking. Especially daytime parking.
The November staff report cites City parking code at 4 parking spaces per 1,000 feet for office and retail, and 1 space for every 4 seats in a restaurant. At the November hearing, BFC Holdings proposed 40,000 square feet of office and retail, requiring 162 spaces. They agreed to a total of 380 restaurant seats — an additional 95 spaces, for a total requirement of 257 spaces. BFC plans to put 57 spaces in the new building and to use another 90 spaces in the Bank of America garage across the street, which they own. Using these rules, they are short 110 parking spaces.
Now, City staff proposes to reduce the parking requirement to 3 spaces per 1,000 feet of retail/office. By those rules, BFC would need 133 spaces for office/retail, plus 95 for restaurant, totaling 228 spaces, leaving them only 81 spaces short. Bear in mind, this building will go up on a parking lot that currently holds 60 to 80 cars. The loss of those spaces will put further pressure on an existing parking deficit.
For daytime office and retail use, the 147 available spaces might be okay, especially since the two restaurants in the Bank of America building, Luma and the Wine Room, are currently open only in the evening – but nothing prevents them from opening for lunch.
Valet Parking in the Loading Zone
What if the two restaurants planned for the new building open for lunch – even with limited seating? Since parking for those restaurants would be in the Bank of America garage, which is closed to the public during the day, how would cars get in? Well, valet parking could get them in, but where on New England Avenue does one put the valet? Daniel Butts, speaking for BFC New England, proposes to put them in the loading zone.
P&Z Kicks the Can Down the Road
Following lengthy discourse on the relative merits of various parking scenarios, presiding P&Z chair Ross Johnston called for a vote. The vote ended up in a 3 – 3 tie, James Johnston having recused himself. As P&Z was unable to reach a decision, City staff will now take the proposal before the Commission, explain the rationale behind the opposing votes, and the decision will be up to the Commissioners.
Those present at the meeting left with a number of unanswered questions. Though they are not questions that can or should be answered by P&Z, they are still left hanging.
Where Will the Green Space Go?
With a robust economy, commercial development is surging to satisfy pent up demand. As the favorable economic climate nurtures larger projects, infill developments test their boundaries. Traffic approaches gridlock — and parking? Forget it. Sidewalks, bike paths and especially, green space risk becoming a distant memory.
Is Everyone Playing by the Same Rules?
Conflicts occur at boundaries. In the interests of perpetuating the human race, our forebears found it advantageous to create a set of rules that allow Party A and Party B to preserve the integrity of their territory and still live peacefully side by side. But how well do the rules work if they are not always the same for everyone?
For instance, with Park Avenue merchants already losing business because of a downtown parking deficit, is it wise to create a special set of rules for large commercial projects?
Should We Hit the Pause Button?
Just this past January, Maitland Mayor Dale McDonald hit the Pause Button on high-density residential development in order to take a more global look at where his city is headed and what will be left of it when it gets there.
Might it be time for Winter Park to take a page from that book and pause to examine where we are headed with all this commercial development? After all, no developer comes to the City saying, “I want to build a bad development.” But how many big box stores does it take to make this too much of a good thing?
Are Individual Property Rights & the Common Good Mutually Exclusive?
City Fathers Chase and Chapman had it right when they drew up their plans for Winter Park in the 1880s. We still prosper from their vision. They began with a good plan, they codified it and they wrote it down for everyone to see and to follow. To this day, our Charter and our Comprehensive Plan provide a context within which neighbors can settle boundary disputes.
These documents also give us a way to achieve a balance between individual property rights and the common good.
Villa Tuscany Holdings Seeks Approval of Revised Plan
On Tuesday, March 7, Villa Tuscany Holdings LLC will return to the Planning & Zoning Board (P&Z) to seek approval for a 41,000 square foot memory care facility at 1298 Howell Branch Road.
The facility is to be located on what is now a heavily wooded three-acre parcel of land, studded with specimen trees, that lies between Lake Temple and an unnamed sink hole. Of the three-plus acres, only 2.18 acres are above the Lake Temple ordinary high water level, making this a difficult building site.
P&Z Nixed October Application
At their October 4, 2016 meeting, P&Z tabled Villa Tuscany Holdings’ application with a request that the applicant revise the plans. Board members expressed no opposition to the proposed use of a memory care facility. Their concern was the size of the building. Stated in the minutes of that meeting: “Consensus of the Board was to direct the applicant to size down the project and bring those plans back to P&Z for consideration.”
The building proposed in October was three stories, 39 ½ feet at its tallest, with a gross floor area of 34,986 square feet, of which 31, 533 square feet were enclosed. The applicant explained that the 39+ foot height, which required a variance, was needed for a porte cochere at the entrance that would accommodate emergency vehicles. (Read the Voice coverage here.)
Developer Bought the Land
At the time of the October 4, 2016 hearing, Villa Tuscany Holdings LLC did not own the land. Since that time, the developer has purchased the land at 1298 Howell Branch Road.
Now Shorter, but Wider
The applicant is returning with revised plans for a building that is still three stories. It is 35 feet high, requiring no height variance. The gross floor area is 41,352 square feet, of which 34,112 square feet are enclosed. Like many of us, as this building gets shorter, it seems to grow wider. It has gained 2,579 square feet of enclosed space and 6,366 square feet of gross floor area.
Building is Still Non-Conforming
The developer must obtain two conditional use permits, one because the building is more than 10,000 square feet, and the other because it will be a memory care facility. By reducing the building height to 35 feet, however, the builder needs only a 75-foot setback from Lake Temple. Setting the building far enough from the lake means it will encroach on the required 25-foot setback from Howell Branch Road, and the developer is requesting a variance for this, as well.
Staff Recommends Approval
For a facility of this type, P&Z is only the first of many hurdles. For now, City staff has recommended that P&Z approve the application. P&Z will decide at their 6:00 pm meeting on Tuesday, March 7 — Does size really matter?
Editor’s Note: The name of the lake, Lake Temple, has been corrected.
City Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel will start her third term in office this March without opposition, but Commissioner Greg Seidel faces a challenge to his second term on Seat 1: Wes Naylor, whom Mayor Steve Leary appointed to the city’s Police Pension Board five months ago.
How those developments will affect the board’s future approach to zoning and planning is anyone’s guess. Even before the election, commissioners this week showed they can act unpredictably on such matters.
Unforeseen Zoning Votes
Sprinkel, who often agrees with Leary on zoning issues, did just that with most items on Monday’s agenda. But she joined forces with Commissioner Carolyn Cooper to oppose a relatively minor lot-split request, defeating it in a 2-2 vote from which Seidel abstained because the applicant was building him a home.
Later, Seidel, who often sides with Cooper on zoning matters, found a third ally to defeat a contentious request affecting a westside neighborhood.
The applicant, Morgan Bellows, wanted to rezone a single-family lot on Comstock Avenue to higher density R2 so he could build a large single-family house. R2 zoning would give him an extra 600 extra square feet so the house could be 4,300 square feet.
Seven residents made impassioned pleas against the project because of the cumulative effect such rezonings and larger structures would have on the small westside community.
Racism an Issue?
“Inch by inch, block by block, you start changing,” said Martha Hall about her neighborhood. She recounted the history of efforts to remove blacks from west Winter Park starting in the 1800s. “You all may look at it in a different manner, but when you look at racism, when you look at discrimination, it happens. I always say, there’s a zebra and can a zebra change its stripes? You all continue to make the same decisions” on westside development.
Opponents weren’t optimistic their arguments would be heard. The Planning and Zoning Commission had voted 2-2 on the request, with board member Randall Slocum abstaining because he was working for Bellows. On Monday, city commissioners also heaped high praise on Bellows’ application and design.
Commissioner Pete Weldon even chided Hall by name. “I am sick and tired of people coming here and associating the performance, the judgment, and the thought processes of the people who serve this community as racist, and I don’t want to hear it again, Miss Hall.” Leary agreed the racism words “disgusted” him.
“You will hear it again,” a woman in the audience called out.
Then Weldon did the unexpected. He said he was voting against the rezoning, “not because the neighbors are all against it, not because Miss Hall thinks I’m a racist, but because in my judgment it is an accommodation without strategic purpose for the neighborhood or the city.”
Interviewed after the meeting, Hall, surprised by the 3-2 vote, said, “I was pointing out history and what has happened through the years and what continues to happen. I didn’t call anyone up there racist.” She said it’s important to talk about issues like racism to address them. “When a person can’t sit down and talk about it, something is wrong.”
Parking Lot Nixed
Perhaps the most unexpected vote of the evening was the commission’s unanimous denial of Phil Kean Designs’ request for a parking area in a residential neighborhood. The Fairbanks Avenue business wanted to rezone a single-family lot behind the business, making the front portion R2 and the back portion parking for Kean’s business.
Planning and Zoning had voted 3-2 for approval, and city planners argued that fencing would shield neighbors from the parking. Commissioners also heaped high praise on Kean, a luxury home developer, but Weldon moved to deny the request, with Cooper seconding. The rezonings were defeated 5-0.
In addition to the Seat 1 election, the city election on March 14 will include a charter question changing the way the city handles multi-candidate races. Currently, the city holds a primary race in February when there are more than two candidates. The charter amendment would put the first ballot in March and hold a runoff, if needed, in April.
Seidel is on the ballot again after two years because he ran successfully for the remainder of Leary’s term after Leary resigned to run for mayor in 2015. Seidel previously served on the city’s Utility Advisory Board as its chairman. He is vice president of a Winter Park-based civil engineering firm and has lived in the city 16 years. Naylor, a retired Naval officer, is president and managing partner of an Orlando consulting group serving businesses seeking military contracts. He moved to Winter Park five years ago.