2016 Finale - Commission Approves Comp Plan

Nixes High-Density Provisions

2016 Finale – Commission Approves Comp Plan

homepage-button-comp-planAfter a marathon meeting that lasted well into Monday night, the Commission voted to accept a revised Comprehensive Plan. They concluded their final meeting of 2016 by voting to send it to Tallahassee for review by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Commissioners Listened

The revised plan underwent further revision, much of it resulting from citizens’ expression of their opinions and wishes to the Commissioners. In the words of Mayor Steve Leary, “We listen. We may not agree, but we listen.” Clearly, they did.

‘Urban Scale’ Heights Reduced

Two major revisions agreed to by the commissioners were the removal of four-story building height on North Denning and eight-story “urban scale” buildings along Fairbanks west of I-4.

R-4 Zoning Removed

Commissioner Peter Weldon made a motion, which the Commission approved, to remove the high-density residential land use category that allows for an R-4 zoning district.

This concluded the first reading of the ordinance to adopt the new Comp Plan. The second and final reading is set for April 2017.

Comprehensive Plan Coffee Talk

Still Time for Your Two Cents

Comprehensive Plan Coffee Talk

2centsMonday, December 5, from 8 to 10 a.m., at the Winter Park Welcome Center, 151 W. Lyman Ave., city staff will host a Comprehensive Plan CoffeeTalk,

CoffeeTalks are informal meetings at which citizens can speak with city leaders in a casual setting. This CoffeeTalk will focus exclusively on questions related to the Comprehensive Plan. City staff will kick off the CoffeeTalk with a brief presentation, which will be followed by a Q-and-A session with the audience.

If you are someone who still has issues, questions, comments or strong feelings about the Comp Plan, this is an important meeting. You should attend if at all possible, as it will be the last of its kind regarding the Comp Plan. While discussion of the Comp Plan will not cease after Dec. 5, this meeting is being held for the express purpose of receiving citizen input. So, if you have input, this would be a good time to put it in.

Comp Plan Should Reach Tallahassee by Christmas

The City Commission is scheduled to hold the first reading of the proposed Comprehensive Plan at their only December meeting Monday, December 12. If the Commissioners approve it, the proposed Comp Plan amendments will go to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) for their review on Thursday, December 22. The City expects to receive the results of the DEO review by March 6, 2017.

Comp Plan Second Reading in April 2017

City staff has tentatively scheduled the second reading of the Comp Plan before the City Commission in April 2017. For more information regarding the proposed Comprehensive Plan elements, the adoption process timeline, drafts and revisions, visit cityofwinterpark.org/comp-plan.

Examples of Changes Still Up for Discussion

Among the proposed Comp Plan changes, the City is contemplating allowing four-story construction along the west side of Denning north from Fairbanks to the northern property line of the Orange County Public School land that includes the Votech site.

Mixed use development with an urban scale of up to eight stories in height is being considered on the south side of Fairbanks, west of Formosa along Kentucky, Oglesby and Crandon Avenues.

The City is also weighing the expansion of the Central Business District (CBD) to include Orange Avenue, bringing with it additional density along that corridor.

This is about your city — how it will look – what it will be like to live here. Your opinion matters – city officials are asking you for it. Attend this forum to express it.

There’s Still Time for Comp Plan Suggestions

Final Adoption Scheduled April 2017

There’s Still Time for Comp Plan Suggestions

compplanThe City is on a fast track with their Comprehensive Plan updates, but that does not mean it’s too late for citizen input and participation in the process.

Follow this link to the Comp Plan, where you can see how it is being edited and updated.

If you have questions, or if there is something you don’t understand, email your questions to mayorandcommissioners@cityofwinterpark.org.

Commissioners Welcome Your Input

Commissioner Greg Seidel told the Voice, “I am in the process of gathering citizens’ questions and suggestions to bring forward at the December 12 Commission meeting. I hope everyone will feel free to contact us and to participate in this process.”

Comp Plan Meeting Dec. 5

Plan to attend the Comprehensive Plan Coffee Talk December 5, from 8:00 – 10:00 a.m. at the Welcome Center, 151 W. Lyman Avenue. City Planning Staff will be there to explain the process and answer your questions.

The Comp Plan is vitally important to all of us who care about our city. It is the over-arching document that lays out the concepts and policies governing how Winter Park will look – now and in the future. Together, the Comp Plan, the Zoning Codes and the Building Codes form a sort of three-legged stool. The Comp Plan lays out the broad policies, while the Zoning Codes specify what type of structure can be built where, and the Building Codes say how the structure must be built.

Changes Possible Until Final Adoption

Even if you are unable to attend the Comp Plan Coffee Talk December 5, your input will still be welcomed by staff and elected officials. City Communications Director Clarissa Howard assured us that citizens can submit their input and that Comp Plan changes can be made until the final adoption by the City Commission, which is scheduled in April 2017.

Comp Plan on the Rocket Docket

Some Say It’s Moving Too Fast

Comp Plan on the Rocket Docket


On schedule to meet a February 1, 2017, deadline, the final four elements of the Comprehensive Plan update arrived at Planning & Zoning on the evening of Tuesday, November 8. The meeting was, relatively speaking, lightly attended, but a few concerned citizens tore themselves away from the unfolding drama of the national election to plead special cases.

The four Comp Plan elements P&Z approved to be sent to the City Commission were Capital Improvement, Housing, Transportation and Future Land Use. Predictably, the Future Land Use element drew the most attention.

Can Anyone Keep Up?

There has been considerable commentary about the speed with which the Comp Plan revision process is taking place, especially as regards the Land Use element. Pat MacDonald pointed out that there have been 22 meetings between July and October, with nearly half the meetings taking place in October. The all-important Land Use element of the Comp Plan has been whittled from 85 pages down to 31 pages. Few are able to comprehend what, if anything, was lost in those 54 pages. And very few are able to understand or keep track of all the changes to the document as a whole.

“Ambitious, Artificial Deadline”

Private citizens are not the only ones objecting to the pace at which the Comp Plan revision has been conducted. Referring to the work session Pat MacDonald mentioned in the video above, P&Z board member Peter Gottfried wrote October 18 to the mayor and commissioners, “We were just sent the latest proposed changes to the Future Land Use Element to the Comprehensive Plan. This is a major piece of legislation that needs to be thoroughly reviewed by members of the Planning and Zoning Board as well as the citizens of Winter Park prior to our workshop this afternoon. Unfortunately, time does not allow for a review that I think is crucial.”

Transportation Element Rolls in Minutes Before Meeting

“I had the same issue with our review of the Transportation element at a workshop a few weeks ago where we were given the proposed change matrix minutes before our meeting. This, my colleagues, is no way to run a railroad or a City. There is absolutely no way I, as your representative on the Planning and Zoning Board, can provide proper review and insight to this document with this ambitious, artificial, deadline.

Is Breakneck Speed Politically Motivated?

“Please put aside opinions that we need to rush this in order to avoid political implications in the upcoming city election,” continued Gottfried. “The better way to approach this is to slow down in order to give thoughtful and careful evaluation of a document that will set the tone for the development of Winter Park for years to come.”

“Can I have your support to consider changing the implementation schedule so that we have the appropriate amount of time to consider more thoughtfully this comprehensive document.”

Last-Minute Changes Requested

Toward the end of the meeting, attorney Becky Wilson requested changes to the land use map that would benefit one of her clients, and developer Dan Bellows requested changes that would benefit him. Both were requesting expanding the Central Business District (CBD), which would have the effect of increasing density but preserving the pedestrian orientation of development in the Hannibal Square district. And, once again, the issue of haste reared its head.

Why Wait Until the Last Minute?

Why, questioned Peter Gottfried, did Wilson and Bellows wait until these elements were scheduled for adoption to bring their requests for changes? Wilson’s response, that she believed this was the meeting where her requests were meant to be heard, indicates that even an attorney as familiar with the inner workings of City Hall as Wilson is did not fully understand how fast a track this train is on.

P&Z members postponed their decision for six months to provide opportunity to study the effects of the proposed changes.

Villa Tuscany Memory Care Facility Proposed

Between a Lake and a Sink Hole

Villa Tuscany Memory Care Facility Proposed

map-asstd-living

Winter Park Elderly Services LLC will go before the Planning & Zoning Board on Tuesday, October 4, to ask for variances that would enable them to build a 50-bed memory care and assisted living facility at 1298 Howell Branch Road. The location is at the intersection of Howell Branch and Temple Trail. The facility will be called Villa Tuscany.

Planning Staff Recommends Denial — For Now

City Planning staff has recommended against approval. They acknowledge the need for a memory care facility in Winter Park. The staff report states their belief that the location is appropriate, but they object to the height of the building and its proximity to Lake Temple. If the developer were willing to alter the design of the building and shift its placement on the site, the Planning Department could reconsider its position and support the project.

Between a Sink Hole and a Lake

The building site is a difficult one, with wetlands and a sink hole limiting development space. It may ultimately prove too small to accommodate the nearly 40,000-square-foot facility the applicant wants to build there. According to the applicant’s survey, the entire site is 3.777 acres, but only 2.18 acres are above the Ordinary High Water elevation. The building would be located between a sink hole and Lake Temple, as shown in the site map.

Historic Live Oaks Risk the Chainsaw

The long-vacant lot is densely forested. According to the City, there are 64 protected shade trees on the lot, 29 of which the developer proposes to remove. These include several historic live oaks measuring five feet or more in diameter. According to comments from Urban Forestry, the tree diameters indicated on the Tree Preservation plan submitted by the developer are inaccurate. “Footprint corners, drive lane, and parking corners need to be staked and determined in the field,” reads the report, “prior to actual determination of the exact trees that could possibly be preserved or those that must be removed.”

Neighbors Are Divided

This project has the attention of the neighborhood. More than 40 emails and letters have been submitted to P&Z and to the Mayor and Commissioners as of this writing. The greater number of citizens has written in opposition to the project, but a substantial minority supports it.

There Is a Need for This Service

Those in favor cite the need for this type of facility in Winter Park. They point to the fact that the applicant is a locally owned company, which also owns and operates the Alabama Oaks assisted living facility at 1759 Alabama Dr. “Alabama Oaks is most always full with a waiting list,” wrote Nurse Practitioner Kelly Higgins, “and the community should welcome the opportunity to offer this type of care to elder residents in Winter Park.”

“Winter Park’s seniors should receive care in the same community they have called home for decades,” wrote Alison Polejes. “Yet, we currently have no dedicated memory care facility.”

Facility Is Incompatible

Residents opposed to the project are concerned about the suitability of the site and the size of the building. Limited parking and the impact on traffic are also mentioned.

“This facility is totally incompatible with the overall residential nature of the surrounding neighborhoods,” wrote Karen Kaczmarek. “This project, at nearly 40,000 square feet and three stories with heights reaching over 42 feet, is just too big for the area.”

“There is a sink hole on the property and a small lake backing up to residential houses,” wrote Charlotte Schmitt. “The building is too tall, too many square feet, has too small of a parking lot and is too close to the sink hole and lake.”

Donna Render wrote, “St. Johns [River Water Management District] told us years ago they could never approve a building here. How is this being ignored?” Ms. Render went on to point out, “You can’t fool Mother Nature!”

P&Z Meets at 6:00 p.m., Tuesday, October 4, in the City Commission Chambers.

Ravenous Pig to Move

Will There Be Enough Parking?

Ravenous Pig to Move

2016-sep-7-hannibal-to-anne

P&Z found itself in a ‘Catch 22’ Tuesday evening when James and Julie Petrakis, owners of the Ravenous Pig, Cask & Larder and Swine & Sons, announced they would be moving The Ravenous Pig from its present Orange Avenue location to the Cask & Larder site at 565 W. Fairbanks.

The Petrakises have bought the property at the corner of Pennsylvania and Fairbanks Avenues where Swine & Sons and the Cask & Larder are now situated. Since the lease on the current Ravenous Pig location is about to expire, they seek to combine the two restaurant operations, with The Ravenous Pig in the dining room and the Cask & Larder in the tap room.

What’s the Catch?

As with many businesses in the Orange/Fairbanks corridor, the issue is parking. The property includes a small, vacant, unpaved lot at 520 Pennsylvania which has for years been used for overflow parking for patrons of the restaurant on that site. This goes back to the days of Harper’s Tavern and the Cordon Bleu.

Property Needs a Facelift

As part of a facelift for the property, the new owners want to re-do the parking lot, add landscaping, upgrade the paving and lighting and add a small outdoor dining area behind the restaurant, away from the Orange Avenue frontage where now the chairs sit empty because of traffic noise and glare from the setting sun.

Pave the Parking Lot

This would include paving and landscaping the small lot at 520 Pennsylvania to make it a proper parking lot. Currently, the lot is muddy when it rains, has an uneven surface and has holes that are hard to see in the dark. The difficulty is that 520 Pennsylvania Avenue sits within the southern edge of the Hannibal Square neighborhood and is zoned single-family. In order to pave and improve it, the lot must be rezoned to “PL” (for Parking Lot), requiring a change in both the Comprehensive Plan and the Future Land Use Map.

Commercial Creep

As benign as it first appears, this is the kind of commercial creep into the single-family residential Hannibal Square neighborhood the people who live there are trying to prevent. They point out that this sort of commercial incursion would never be approved in other neighborhoods — say, in the “Vias.”

In a letter to members of the Planning & Zoning Board, sent in advance of the meeting, west side resident Mary Daniels wrote, “We are asking the board and staff to preserve what is left of R1A zoning in this community, to stop the inching encroachment process of another block of zoning changes to PL or higher density zoning based the commercial surrounding and not the residential zoning in the adjacent area.”

Historical Use is for Parking

City Planning Manager Jeff Briggs pointed out the reality that, historically, none of the restaurants that had occupied that site had ever had sufficient parking. He said if the lot at 520 Pennsylvania is not used for parking, that will drive the patrons to find parking out on the residential streets. Briggs said, without the long history of the property as a restaurant, the staff would have come with a very different recommendation.

“Our Objective Is to Make that Corner More Attractive.”

There is no question the junction of Fairbanks, Pennsylvania and Orange Avenues is unattractive and dangerous, and that it could use some love. Petrakis spoke about his desire to provide a way for patrons to enter and leave the restaurant safely – by directing traffic to enter from Pennsylvania instead of from Fairbanks. He also noted the need for an improved aesthetic. He stated he was willing to enter into a developer’s agreement stipulating that if he ever sold the lot on Pennsylvania, the zoning would revert to R1A.

Why Amend the Comp Plan?

Maria Bryant, another resident of the Hannibal Square neighborhood, agreed with Petrakis. She said she did not understand why the zoning and the Comprehensive Plan needed to be amended. The purposes of both the community and the property owner would be served with a development agreement that allowed Cask & Larder to improve and continue to use the lot for parking, but if the lot ceased to be used for parking, it would revert to its original R1A zoning and would retain R1A status on the Future Land Use map.

Future Land Use Important

Bryant’s sentiments were echoed by Mary Daniels, who pointed out not only should the Comprehensive Plan and zoning for this property remain unchanged, but the Future Land Use map should also reflect R1A status. Daniels expressed her appreciation for Petrakis and his effort to share with the neighbors in advance his plans for improving the property.

How Do We Keep Our Businesses Viable and Our Neighborhoods Safe?

Kim Allen posed an essential question when she pointed out that many businesses in major commercial corridors of Winter Park lack sufficient parking.

P&Z to Petrakis: Back to the Drawing Board

P&Z Board member Peter Gottfried solved the problem, for now, by ending the discussion. He made a motion to Table, advising the applicant to flesh out his plans and bring back a more comprehensive description of what will happen to the property at Pennsylvania and Fairbanks, and to two of the region’s most popular and respected dining establishments.

How Shall We Grow?

Comp Plan Review Begins — Should You Care?

How Shall We Grow?

homepage-button-comp-planThe Comprehensive Plan review has begun in earnest.

The Comprehensive Plan – a.k.a the Comp Plan – is described by the City Communications Department as “the document that governs the City’s plans for growth through policies that guide development.”

Comp Plan = City Blueprint

The policies set forth in the Comp Plan protect and improve our city assets and provide for city infrastructure. In terms of importance to the city, the Comp Plan is second only to the City Charter. The Comp Plan is required by Florida Statute, Chapter 163.3161, and is given legal status mandating that public and private development must comply with the Comp Plan.

Deadline for Completion – 2/1/2017

The Comp Plan is updated every seven years to ensure it is in compliance with Florida statutes. Last reviewed in 2009, an update it is now due. The Commission has until February 1, 2017, to approve the Comp Plan and send a final version to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity in Tallahassee.

The City Planning Department will spearhead the review, with the assistance of the Comprehensive Plan Task Force — Nancy Miles, Laura Turner and Marc Reicher — and the City advisory boards that oversee the various elements of the Plan.

Don’t Give Up – Keep Reading (or skip this section and come back to it)

The Comp Plan consists of two major documents. The one entitled “Goals, Objectives and Policies” (GOP) is adopted by the Commission and carries the weight of law. The information from which the GOP derives is in a support document entitled “Data, Information and Analysis” (DIA). In our current Comp Plan, the GOPs and DIAs are organized into nine chapters, or ‘elements.’

Future Land Use – Includes map of land use allowed on every property in Winter Park.
Transportation – Addresses roadways, sidewalks, buses, rail and biking and walking trails.
Housing – Includes projection of future population.
Public Facilities – Infrastructure services such as sanitary sewer, solid waste disposal, potable (drinkable) water and storm water drainage.
Conservation – Defines conservation lands, air and water quality and water conservation.
Recreation and Open Space – Plans and policies to meet projects need for parkland and open space. Current level of service requires 10 acres of publicly owned park and conservation land per 1,000 residents.
Capital Improvements – This element is updated annually as part of the City budget process and includes all infrastructure required to support the population.
Intergovernmental Coordination – Outlines the City’s agreement with other government entities such as the FL Department of Transportation, Orange County School Board, St. John’s Water Management District and surrounding municipalities and counties.
Public Schools – Reflects agreement with Orange County Public Schools to provide facilities to serve resident school-aged children.

You Still Awake?

As always, the devil is in the details. Here is one example. If you go to the City website and click the “Comprehensive Plan” icon on the main page, it will take you to the Comp Plan. Under “Data, Analysis and Inventories” is a chart listing all parks and the precise acreage of each. The total acreage listed there is 296.45 acres.
dia-ch6-recreation-open-space.pdf

A document distributed by City Planning Director Dori Stone at the August 1, 2016 meeting of the Comp Plan Task Force, entitled “Park Level of Service Standards,” states Winter Park’s park and conservation land at a total of 346.16 acres.

Where Did That 50 Acres Come From?

On August 5, the City Communications Department wrote to the Voice, “Staff will need to research the differential in total acres. GIS is a factor, some new parcels were added, i.e., the West Meadow, and we need to research what others resulted in the difference.”

GIS, by the way, stands for Geographic Information System, which is a more accurate way of measuring land area. Even with GIS, however, as of this writing we are still not sure about those 50 acres. Part of the Comp Plan review process will be to manage discrepancies of this sort.

Why Does 50 Acres Matter?

At a level of service of 10 acres of park and conservation land per 1,000 residents, 346.16 acres would support a population of 34,616. (Winter Park population estimate as of 2015 stands at 28,967.) Since Winter Park is landlocked, how would we fit another 5,000 to 6,000 people? By increasing density. Where would we increase density? In those single-family residential neighborhoods the Comp Plan is meant to protect?

Is the Comp Plan Review Important to You?

If you care how this city will look in two or five or seven years, it is important. The Voice will post updates as the review process moves from Advisory Board to Advisory Board under the guidance of City staff and the Comp Plan Task Force. A “2016 Comprehensive Plan Timeline” is posted on the city website. 2016-comprehensive-plan-timeline.pdf
The City will update the schedule as necessary, and all meetings are open to the public.

As technical and wonky as it may seem, the Comp Plan review affects how we live. It is worthy of our attention. In the words of Commissioner Carolyn Cooper, our Comp Plan is “a contract between the residents of Winter Park and our government that defines how and where we will grow and what level of public services we will enjoy for the taxes we pay.”

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

 

Ladybird, Ladybird, Fly Away Home . . . .

Traffic, Congestion and Noise = Project Denial

Ladybird, Ladybird, Fly Away Home . . . .

On June 27, the Ladybird Academy came before the Commission to request a reversal of the Planning & Zoning Board’s denial of their application to build a 13,000-square-foot preschool and child care facility on the west side of the K-Mart Plaza fronting Gay Road and Trovillion Avenue.

Residents: Pre-School Not Compatible with Neighborhood

Near some of Winter Park’s most congested intersections — Lee Rd. at 17-92 and Lee Rd. at Webster – the neighborhood between the K-Mart Plaza and Lake Killarney has quiet, two-lane streets and is home to the Killarney Bay and Chateau du Lac condominium complexes, as well as several smaller single family homes. The population is predominantly, though not exclusively, seniors. Residents from this peaceful neighborhood showed up in force, with signed petitions, to oppose the proposed child care facility.

Peak Hour Operation for 144 Kids

Ladybird Academy, a franchise operation with several locations in Central Florida, wanted to build a preschool and child care facility that would accommodate 144 children. They planned to operate between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. The company, incorporated in 2011, is headquartered in Lake Mary. Ladybird offers not only day care and preschool for children ages 6 weeks through 5 years, it also offers before- and after-school and summer camp programs, according to their website. www.ladybirdacademy.com

Neighbors Fear Noise, Traffic

On June 7, the Planning & Zoning Board heard extensive public comment about increased traffic when parents dropped off and picked up their children during morning and evening peak traffic hours – those times when drivers trying to avoid congestion on Lee Road and 17-92 cut through the residential streets. Residents also were concerned about the level of noise that might be generated by 144 children during lunch and recess.

Major Retail Coming to the Area

Residents pointed out that much of K-Mart Plaza is presently unoccupied because it is undergoing renovation. The Whole Foods center, which also will have other major retailers, is also due to open soon. City Planning Director Jeff Briggs noted that traffic generated by these additional large retail developments will be spread out over the day, reducing the impact at any one time. To add an additional 140 or so cars at peak traffic hours, however, could tip an already stressed road system into total gridlock.

Ladybird Experts Weigh In

Ladybird Academy produced a sizeable group of experts that included a traffic engineer and a real estate appraiser, each bearing the proper list of credentials. The traffic engineer cited statistics indicating that both 17-92 and the interior neighborhood streets were currently operating well below capacity, a condition that is not immediately apparent to the anecdotal observer.

The real estate appraiser, Mark Carpenter, was tasked with reassuring current residents that the proposed daycare facility would not diminish the value of their property. He contended that the project would have the opposite effect, to enhance property values. “Basically, right now,” he said, referring to the proposed site, “it’s an eyesore.”

Gladys Renqifo-Ellis who, like many of her neighbors, enjoys the quiet expanse of green space that is the proposed site, disagreed with Mr. Carpenter’s characterization.

Ladybird Seeks Conditional Use Approval

While the Ladybird Academy project did not require zoning changes, because of the nature of its business, the project had to meet 12 criteria for Conditional Use set forth in city code. These criteria were enumerated by City Attorney Kurt Ardaman.

Basically, the code requires the proposed project be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and comply with land use code. The building, landscaping, and irrigation must be compatible with the scale and character of the surrounding neighborhood. There needs to be adequate parking, lighting, storm water retention and noise mitigation.

Academy Fails Compatibility Test

Where the Ladybird Academy project fell short was in the area of compatibility. Criterion #3 reads: “Operating hours, noise, parking and traffic impact will be compatible with existing and anticipated land use activities in the immediate neighborhood and compatible with the character of the surrounding area.”

Criterion #7 reads: “That traffic generated from the property use should not on a daily or peak hour basis degrade the level of service on adjacent roads or intersections. . . . That access directs traffic away from residential roads and toward more heavily traveled roads.”

According to Ardaman, if the project fails to meet any of the criteria for Conditional Use, it is the obligation of the Commission to uphold the decision of P&Z and deny the application.

Ladybird Academy failed the test.

P&Z Upholds West Side Single-Family Zoning

P&Z Upholds West Side Single-Family Zoning

On the night of Tuesday, May 3, Winter Park residents spoke to the Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Board to successfully defend the single family scale and character of the Hannibal neighborhood in west Winter Park against another expensive, speculative development of high-density, multi-family units.

Developer Asks to Build Three-Story Duplexes

Attorney Becky Wilson, representing the developer, came before P&Z to request approval to develop the properties at 326 and 354 Hannibal Square East and at 465, 463 and 455 West Lyman Avenue with six three-story duplexes totaling twelve residential units.

City Planner Recommends Denial

City Planning Director Jeff Briggs, who presented the application to the P&Z, recommended P&Z deny the applicant’s request on the basis of the Comprehensive Plan, which “strongly discourages” out of scale development in neighborhoods with single family zoning.

Comp Plan: Land Use Bible?

Ensuing discussion centered more on the purpose of the Comprehensive Plan, to protect the village scale and character of Winter Park, than it did on the relative merits of the proposed development. In his recommendation for denial, Briggs referred to the Comprehensive Plan as our “land use Bible.”

That sparked a spirited response from attorney Becky Wilson, who countered that the Comp Plan was not “divinely created.”

No More Chipping Away

When the floor was opened for comment, one after another, the neighbors approached the podium, to decry the speculative development of multi-family projects that are “chipping away” at the character of the Hannibal neighborhood.

Several also displayed a detailed knowledge of the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Notable among them was Bob Cambric.

Talk of Social Justice

Citizens and P&Z members both spoke of social justice. Barry Greenstein, who had worked on the staff of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in Washington, D.C., warned about discriminatory zoning practices.

P&Z Upholds the Comp Plan

The men and woman who make up the Planning & Zoning Board listened to the residents. They heard the voice of the people. They upheld the recommendation of City staff and the principals set forth in the Comprehensive Plan. They voted unanimously to deny the applicant’s request to further chip away at the essence of the Hannibal neighborhood.