When Zoning Gets Creative

When Zoning Gets Creative

Zoning rules experienced a creative twist at the July 23 Commission meeting..

Smith Barney Building Will Convert to Condos

Developer Dan Bellows, representing Greenhouse Partnership Ltd., had a simple enough request. He sought to convert the Smith Barney office building at 338 W. Morse Blvd. into condominiums.

But Greenhouse didn’t want to rezone the property from office to medium-density residential to accomplish that. It wanted C-2 commercial zoning, even though no commercial use is contemplated at the site.

The owner got its wish, with a 4-1 Commission vote.

Why Commercial Zoning?

C-2 commercial zoning, it turns out, entitles the owner to much more than R-3 residential ever could. Building intensity can be almost twice what R-3 allows. The developer even could pave over the entire parcel — although Bellows assured commissioners that was not his intention. C-2 also would let the owner avoid the pesky city rule prohibiting short-term rentals such as VRBO or Airbnb.

Bellows said the office building will be converted to five residential condominiums, each with an attached garage that will have a second-floor guest suite. He also plans to build a new three-story building with three residential condominiums in the parking lot next to the existing building.

According to the City Planning Staff report, Greenhouse Partnership Ltd. wants the zoning change to make the property more economically viable, Even though the exclusively residential project could just as easily achieve economic viability if it were zoned medium-density residential R-3.

Staff’s Not Sure Why It’s Still Zoned Office – Except, It’s an Office

The existing two-story office building was built in 1998 and was leased to Smith Barney. In keeping with its intended use, the building was zoned O-2 for office. After Smith Barney merged with Morgan Stanley in late 2012, they moved their offices to a different location. Another tenant leased the first floor, but the second floor has remained vacant.

According to the staff report presented at the meeting: “For whatever reason, this property on Morse Blvd. was excluded from being eligible for CBD [Central Business District] future land use and C-2 zoning. The staff has no specific recollection of the rationale but assume that the authors felt the property was developed with the Smith Barney office building and did not envision another redevelopment scenario.”

The Guy across the Street Got Commercial

But right across the street, architect-developer Phil Kean is completing a townhome development that is designated CBD and C-2, although it is not clear if any of that development will include commercial use. In fact, all of the other properties on Morse, from New York to Capen, are eligible for C-2 zoning. Of course, all those properties include some commercial use, except for Park West condos, which are residential.

Staff’s Not Sure Why It Shouldn’t Be Residential

The staff report stated: “It is interesting that this project, while requesting commercial designations, is actually an R-3 multi-family project, with two variances. Unless the condo owners are planning to use their units for Air B&B’s (sic) or VRBOs, this could just as easily be done via R-3 zoning with no changes to the Comp Plan or Zoning text.”

But if Phil Kean could get CBD/C-2, Dan Bellows thought he should get it, too.

The Commission voted to change the zoning along with the Comprehensive Plan for Future Land Use, with Commissioner Carolyn Cooper casting the dissenting vote.

Discussion Resumes at the End of the Meeting

Even though they had reached a final decision, commissioners rehashed the project again in their discussion period at the end of the meeting.

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper was concerned that, by approving C-2 zoning for a residential project, the Commission had just created future entitlements that far exceed the scale and character appropriate for that section of Morse Blvd.

Commissioner Peter Weldon pointed out the need for the Commission to remain flexible to see where the market forces might take us. “The market drives to what, in the end, becomes the result,” said Weldon. ”And we, as a commission, have to be flexible to recognize where the market realistically addresses the character we’re all trying to create.”

Mayor Steve Leary also did not share Cooper’s concerns, and stated, “I believe we should have the flexibility to hear from our property owners on every one of their applications and not create any barriers to them asking the question.”

Commissioner Cooper’s response is worth watching.

Mixed Use Zoning

Coming Soon to Orange Avenue

Mixed Use Zoning

Orange Avenue may be in line for a major facelift. There is even a chance we will finally see some progress at Progress Point. What’s going on?

Commissioners met early on the morning of July 10 to discuss Mixed Use zoning on Orange Avenue. The discussion was led by Planning Director Dori Stone. The purpose of the meeting, said Stone, was to “discuss . . . the development of a Mixed Use Future Land Use category and companion zoning district.”

City Codes Already Permit Mixed Use Development.

Mixed Use districts are not new to Winter Park. Successful examples are Park Avenue, Hannibal Square and Winter Park Village. These districts are low intensity, a product of historic development patterns and are of walkable pedestrian scale. All have some form of shared parking. And what draws people to all three areas and persuades them to leave their cars for a while is open, visible, accessible green space with park amenities and plenty of trees.

So, why not stick with what we have?

Presently, Mixed Use zoning is allowed in certain areas — mostly downtown. The Commission’s discussion was about gateway corridors that are not part of the downtown Central Business District. The main gateway corridors — 17-92 from the north and south and Aloma / Fairbanks from the east and west – are crying out for Mixed Use. As they are now, these roads are better suited to fast cars than they are to foot traffic. To accommodate those cars that do occasionally stop, surface parking consumes a large, usually over-heated area – again, not friendly to folks on foot. Would the City be better served to create incentives in these areas for developers who would like to show some love to these unlovely corridors and create some attractive human-scale development that would draw some pedestrian and bicycle traffic?

Why Not Start with West Fairbanks?

After all the millions spent on sewers, lighting, repaving and undergrounding on West Fairbanks, wouldn’t this be the logical place for a Mixed Use pilot program? Instead, the City has chosen to tackle a more manageable corridor – Orange Avenue. According to Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) figures, Orange Avenue carries about 15,600 cars each day. Compare that with Aloma, which carries as many as 46,000 cars a day. FDOT website notes these figures are 10 years old – so today’s counts are possibly higher.

Orange Ave. Property Owners Have Repeatedly Approached the City

When she was asked why the City chose Orange Avenue for what will probably become a Mixed Use pilot project, Planning Director Dori Stone wrote in an email, “Staff has done quite a bit of work on Orange Avenue already and it seems a natural choice with large property owners along the Orange Avenue corridor that are interested in working with the city.”

According to Stone, over the past 18 months or so, the City has been working with property owners like Mary Demetree, Roger Holler, Jewett Orthopaedic, Lumber Yard LLC and, not least, the City of Winter Park to determine what can be done to create a ‘sense of place’ along Orange Avenue that would make it compatible with the rest of Winter Park.

Developers Seek ‘Flexibility’ Beyond Current Limits

In a memorandum prepared for the July 10 Commission work session, Stone wrote, “Many of the larger property owners would like to see the flexibility to move beyond the commercial development limits of an FAR (floor-area ratio) of 45 to 60 percent.” She continued: “. . .several of them are interested in making improvements that would provide infrastructure and open space improvements along the corridor that may not be limited to their property, but would benefit the entire city.”

‘Trickle Down’ Development

The theory is that if the City grants these developers greater density and intensity, in return they would cooperate with one another to create a pedestrian-friendly environment with more open green space and park amenities, improved traffic circulation and shared parking within the zone of the pilot project. In this way, substantial benefit would accrue to all the citizens.

Mixed Use Overlay

Stone is suggesting a Mixed Use zoning category called an ‘Overlay.’ The Overlay zoning would “sit on top of the current zoning.” In essence, this would enable a developer who wants Mixed Use to build it, while a present or future landowner whose property does not conform to Mixed Use and who does not want to redevelop could continue to operate within the existing zoning guidelines.

“The City Needs to Take the Lead”

Stone pointed out that the main reason Hannibal Square is so successful is that at the outset, there was a professionally produced master plan. She urged the City to engage an urban designer to create such a master plan for Orange Avenue – before any code is written or any development is approved.

Stone noted that both Hannibal Square and Winter Park Village had a single developer, so there is a certain homogenous quality to them that would not be present on Orange Avenue, which has several large landowners. Nonetheless, this is an opportunity to create another district within the City that has a distinct identity. Rather than approving projects one-by-one on a piecemeal basis, here is a chance to create a neighborhood with continuity and its own sense of place.

Comfort Zone is 10,000-Sqare-Feet

As the City embarks on formulating standards for Mixed Use, we should not lose sight of the fact that currently, any building over 10,000 square feet requires Conditional Use approval. The City’s comfort level with the size of a building has a well-defined limit – and the body politic has felt strongly enough to articulate it in the Comprehensive Plan and to require a developer to participate in a public hearing process to obtain approval to build anything that exceeds that limit.

How Far are We Willing to Move Out of Our Comfort Zone?

That Conditional Use provision has identified our comfort level. Will we be able to reconcile mixed use standards that allow buildings that large or larger as a matter of entitlement — without public hearing or input? Depending on how it is written, Winter Park’s Mixed Use overlay can end up looking like Winter Park Village – or it could look like Mills 50, both of which are successful Mixed Use developments.

From the Winter Park Comprehensive Plan:

Sec. 58-61, Establishment of Districts, article (a) (5)
“The city has developed over the years as a city with a unique character and environment. Since a primary goal of the city is to retain this environment as much as possible, this article must impose certain extraordinary restrictions on the use of land within the corporate limits of the city to insure that future development is in keeping with the existing development.“

Aloma Townhome Development Reverts to Single Family

Ansaka LLC Does a Graceful Pivot

Aloma Townhome Development Reverts to Single Family

Ansaka LLC, the developer who made bright yellow ‘No Density’ signs sprout like daffodils from lawns along Aloma last April, returned to P&Z July 10 with a request to subdivide 1.45 acres of the property into six single-family building lots.

Neighbors Balk at 18 Townhomes

In April, Ansaka appealed to the City for Comprehensive Plan future land use and zoning changes to build 18 residential townhouses on the north side of Aloma Avenue between Lakemont and Phelps. City staff and the Planning & Zoning Board gave the project a thumbs up. When the project came before the Commission on April 9, however, neighbors’ concerns had manifested in the form of bright yellow “No Density” signs, and 24 residents spoke in opposition to the project. The Commission voted to table the item, giving the developer, Andrew Ryan, time to regroup.

Application Tabled

Ryan subsequently met individually with each Commissioner and with the design team to come up with an alternate plan. Ryan also heeded neighbors’ concerns in coming up with what he called “the most conservative pivot plan available.”

Graceful Pivot to Plan B

Ansaka now proposes to replat the entire property, which includes 1.45 acres zoned R1A, single family, and approximately 17,700 square feet of land zoned O2, office. The R1A portion of the property, measuring 250’ x 250’, will be subdivided into six single-family building lots. The office zoned portion will be developed at a later date, but was included in the replat so that future users would have access to the common drive, which provides safe access to Aloma.

The six-lot single-family subdivision will have three lots to the south, toward Aloma, and three lots directly behind them to the north. The lots will have shared driveways and parking.

Approval Recommended

The City Planning staff recommended approval of the redesigned development, stating it will be “. . .good for Winter Park, its residents and the neighboring community.” The plan maintains current zoning, allows an access easement for the commercial property to improve future traffic patterns, preserves existing heritage live oak trees and incorporates street trees that will enhance the Aloma frontage.

In the next step, Ansaka will request approval from the Winter Park City Commission.

Local Developers Make Good Neighbors

This is the second developer this year – the other being Zane Williams of Z Properties — to run the gamut of public scrutiny and come to the City with an application that takes into account the needs and wishes of the entire community. Served well are the neighborhoods in which they seek to build, the neighbors, the City, the Comprehensive Plan – and the developers themselves. Both developers are Winter Park residents who exhibit an understanding for and sensitivity to what Winter Park is all about.

See the entire plan here. Graphic above is on page 32.

Happy Times at P&Z

Yes, You Read That Right

Happy Times at P&Z

The June Planning & Zoning Board meeting looked like it might be a contentious one. Several items on the agenda were repeats that had met with rigorous public opposition when they’d been to City Hall before. Among them were the old bowling alley property at 1111 W. Fairbanks and the Villa Tuscany Holdings property at 1298 Howell Branch Road. Also scheduled were requests by Z Properties to build an office building and parking lot, and by Sydgan for a zoning change — both in the Hannibal Square neighborhood. To round things out, there was a request for a lakefront lot split, something specifically forbidden in the Comprehensive Plan.

But, this time, the system worked for everyone. Staff and applicants were well-prepared with requests that fell squarely within the spirit of what the Comprehensive Plan spells out as good for the city – and everyone gave as good as they got.

Officers Chosen, Elevations Approved

The first order of business was the selection of Ross Johnston to Chair and Shelia DeCiccio to Vice Chair the P&Z Board for the coming year. This was followed by approval of final building elevations for the west end of the Winter Park Corners shopping center on Aloma and Lakemont and for the office building on the former bowling alley property at 1111 W. Fairbanks. Both sailed through with little or no discussion.

Villa Tuscany Forgets Memory Care

Villa Tuscany Holdings LLC was up next, but instead of another version of the memory care center at 1298 Howell Branch Rd., they presented a request to subdivide the property into four large residential lake-front lots. Former opponents of the memory care project, Barry Render and Nancy Freeman, spoke in support of the proposed residential subdivision, and P&Z voted to approve.

Z’s Dilemma . . .

The next issue was a complicated request by Z Properties for zoning and future land use changes at 301 N. Pennsylvania Ave. in the heart of the Hannibal Square neighborhood. The lot is 100 feet wide by 200 feet deep and has a split Future Land Use designation. The half fronting Pennsylvania Ave. is zoned commercial and the rear half is zoned residential. The applicant wanted to erect an office building on the commercial half, but to do that, he needed part of the residential half as a parking lot to satisfy the City parking requirements for the proposed office building. That would necessitate rezoning part of the land from R2, residential, to PL, parking lot.

Finds an Elegant Solution

The developer, Zane Williams, explained that he had approached this development “in a different way.” At the outset, he requested meetings with city planner Jeff Briggs and with Mary Daniels and several other neighbors from the west side community. In the course of these meetings, Williams learned that people living on the west side were deeply concerned about the rate at which the area is losing residential. So, Williams said, “What would happen if I give you a part of my land and build you a house there?”

Williams: “And I Learned Something in the Process”

Z Properties entered into a contract with the Hannibal Square Community Land Trust to build a new single-family home on 33 feet of the residential portion of the property and to deed over the home and the property to the Land Trust. The new home will be an affordable home in perpetuity. The new owner who eventually moves into the house will own only the building. Ownership of the land on which the home sits will remain with the Land Trust. Any profit the owner of the house might realize from a future sale is capped, ensuring the property will remain perpetual ‘affordable housing’ overseen by the Land Trust.

Lake Front Lot Split

Following Sydgan’s request for rezoning, which turned out to be an administrative ‘clean-up’ with no controversy attached, Amy Black came with her request to subdivide a large 3-acre parcel on Lake Killarney into three single-family one-acre lots. The amendment to the Comprehensive Plan allowing the lake-front split would apply only to Lake Killarney and would not affect any of the Chain of Lakes. The result of this lot split would be three so-called estate lots – one acre or larger – where now there is only one.

This lot split would also enable Ms. Black’s mother to remain in her home of many years with security in her retirement. “I know your job is to protect and do what’s best for the City and for the beautiful lake,” said Ms. Black, “while my main concern is for the health and well-being of my mother. We are confident that this action will honor and serve both interests.”

After being assured by the City attorney that the policy change applied only to Lake Killarney, and that nothing would change the ‘estate lot’ status of the property, P&Z voted to approve the request.

And everyone went home at a good hour, all the better for having participated in the process.

Empty Promises

New Library: Bait-&-Switch?

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

Empty Promises

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.

Double-Density Cluster Housing

Coming to a Winter Park Neighborhood Near You

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

Double-Density Cluster Housing


Guest Columnist Jan Hommel

On Monday, April 23, developer Dan Bellows will ask the Commission to grant conditional use and associated variances for a rental apartment complex on the property at 301 W. Comstock – formerly City property known as the Blake Yard.

Each of the four rental units will have its own detached two-car garage with a 420- to 480-square foot “accessory living space” above it. To the casual observer, that would be a garage apartment. So, are there four apartments or eight?

Blake Yard sits between the Grant Chapel, the railroad tracks and the Lyman Avenue Villas. The property is easily accessible to Park Avenue via the new walking path on the tracks. The long promised silent train crossings, now under construction, further enhance the desirability of this lot.

About a year ago, the City saw a chance to cash in on Blake Yard. City reserves were at a low ebb at the time and needed bulking up, so it seemed an opportune time to issue a Notice of Disposal (NOD). According to the NOD, the property would be zoned R-2 and allow a maximum of four units. The property appraised at $450,000.

City-Owned Property Merits Special Consideration

The sale of city-owned property usually goes through a rigorous review process. After all, city staff and the Commission have a responsibility to ensure the City is not negatively impacted and receives full benefit from the sale.

Round One — Monkey Business at City Hall

The disposal of the Blake Yard property came before the April 10, 2017 Commission meeting. Two parties, Dan Bellows as Winter Park Redevelopment Agency Ltd., and Rowland and Co., with architect Phil Kean, submitted competitive bids for the property. Both bids were below the appraised value.

After lengthy discussion, the Commissioners decided not to accept either bid and asked Planning Director Dori Stone to negotiate with the two bidders to see if one or both would agree to meet the appraised value. Stone would then bring the issue back before the Commission at the next meeting on April 24, 2017.

Round Two – Back to the Drawing Board

At the April 24, 2017 meeting, following the second phase of the bidding, Dori Stone recommended that the property be sold to Bellows’ Winter Park Redevelopment Agency, Ltd. because he was the highest bidder by $1,000.

The commission was headed in that direction until Rosemary Hayes, the attorney for Rowland & Co., disclosed some information she had gotten from a public records search. She found that on Friday, April 14, 2017, before close of bidding, Rowland & Co. had bid $455,000. Bellows had submitted a bid that offered “$450,000 OR $1,000 higher than another bid.”

Ms Hayes’ public records request also revealed a communications thread between City staff and Mr. Bellows, which included information about the Rowland bid.

City Manager Randy Knight emphasized that all communications between Bellows and City staff occurred after the bidding was closed. Rowland & Co. and their attorney were not party to any of these communications, however.

On a motion to approve Bellows’. bid of $456,000, Mayor Leary and Commissioner Weldon voted yes. Commissioners Seidel, Sprinkel and Cooper voted no. The motion failed and the project was sent back out for bids.

Three’s a Charm

Finally, at the May 22, 2017 meeting, the Commission voted 3-2 to sell the property to Bellows’ Winter Park Redevelopment Agency Ltd. for $481,000. Cooper and Seidel voted no, but this time Sprinkel joined Weldon and Leary to approve the sale.

The sale received final approval on second reading at the July 24, 2017 Commission meeting.

A New High in High-Density Living

In April 2018, Bellows’ plans for the old Blake Yard sailed through Planning & Zoning on a unanimous vote to approve.

Bellows is seeking to introduce a new model for high density living in Winter Park. In the style of the James Gamble Rogers-designed Barbour House Apartments, Bellows plans to build four rental apartments, each with a detached two-car garage – and each of those two-car garages sports a second-floor “accessory living space.”

Pesky Conditional Use Requirement

According to code, the scale of buildings in R-2 should blend in with the neighborhood, in this case, single family homes and duplexes. Bellows’ proposed four-unit apartment building is hardly in keeping with either the adjacent Lyman Avenue Villas or the single family homes on Comstock.

Staff thinks the apartment building blends right in. Evidently Planning & Zoning did, too.

The Neighbors? Not So Much

Since this project requires a conditional use, neighbors’ concerns should have been addressed. Were they? No.

Despite the fact that the neighbors met with City staff to voice their concerns, hired an attorney and showed up in force at the P&Z meeting, their pleas fell on deaf ears. The neighbors should have kept their money and saved their effort.

Neighbors say the scale of the building is a problem. They worry about the variance Bellows received to place his looming building three feet closer to the new bike path than code allows.

Additionally, Bellows must take two valuable parking spaces from Grant Chapel — now Hudson’s Event Venue — to access the apartments from Lyman. The Chapel didn’t have enough parking in its old use. In its new incarnation, the event center is woefully under-parked.

And Those Garage Apartments?

Remember, 301 W. Comstock is zoned for four units. What code loophole allows four units to morph into eight? Here are staff’s arguments supporting the garage apartments:

  1. The space for the apartments is within the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) limits.
  2. The garage apartments won’t have separate utility hook-ups.
  3. The garage apartments don’t have kitchens. According to code, garage apartments are not allowed to have kitchens or cooking facilities. These will not have a 240 volt hook-up, so technically, there is no kitchen. This one got a laugh from those of us who forsake the microwave for the oven only at Thanksgiving.
  4. City code prohibits short-term rentals and subletting of garage apartments.

No Subletting? No AirBnB? Then What’s the Point?

The neighbors weren’t buying it — and you shouldn’t either. Subletting is more than likely. The garage apartments will make the rental price on the main apartments much more palatable if the tenant sublets or runs an AirBnB. Any way you look at it, the density will double.

There is no Enforcer

The City admits it is unable to police the “no subletting” rule, and they are certainly unable to police the rule against short-term rentals – AirBnB, etc. In fact, Dan Bellows prominently advertises a property on AirBnB, complete with photos of “Host Dan.”

If the units were Condos, with a proper Home Owners Association, perhaps the owners would police each other to prevent illegal subletting, but as rental units, there are no controls.

The neighbors are justifiably concerned about the “double density” of this project. Parking is inadequate for eight units. Residents and their guests will be forced to use nearby streets — Lyman and Comstock.

There is Still Time to Show Your Support – Monday, April 23

This project comes before the Commission on Monday, April 23. Please help stop this green-lighting of ill-conceived projects by the City, the Staff and Planning & Zoning.

Beware the Slippery Slope

If this level of density is allowed in one neighborhood, every neighborhood in town is vulnerable. We are all in this together. Let your voice be heard.

Write to MayorandCommissioners@cityofwinterpark.org, to ask them to reconsider their decision, and show up at the meeting on Monday, April 23rd.

Those Yellow Signs – They’re Back!

Neighbors Protest Aloma Townhome Development

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

Those Yellow Signs – They’re Back!

Guest Columnist Beth Hall

The city Commission is now all that stands between a group of Osceola/Lakeview Planning District residents and a development proposal which threatens to destroy the single family character of their neighborhood, as well as that of a block on the north side of Aloma between Phelps and Lakemont Avenues.

No Density Signs are Back

City Planning staff and the Planning and Zoning Board have given the high-density, 18 town home project a big thumbs up, despite the fact that it will strip four of the five lots of their single family R-1A status. Residents adjacent to and directly behind the project are up in arms.

Planning Staff Recommends PURD

City Planning staff has worked with the applicant, Ansaka LLC, on the project for close to 18 months and are now recommending approval. The project takes the maximum conceivable density under the Planned Unit Residential Development (PURD) and R-3 zoning classifications, then adds four additional housing units.

Comp Plan Provides for Preservation of Single Family Zoning

The Comprehensive Plan provides that single family homes in this district are to be “preserved.”  City planning staff maintains that this is true of 98 percent of the planning district, but not on this part of Aloma. The growing number of yellow “No Density” signs sprouting along Aloma suggests that prospective neighbors beg to differ.

Ironically, during the same 18-month period the Planning Staff was working with the applicant, the City’s Comprehensive Plan was undergoing its periodic revision process. Despite countless staff hours and numerous community meetings, including Commission meetings, the Comp Plan still calls for the single-family R-1A designation of these parcels west of the corner of Lakemont and Aloma to remain undisturbed.

P&Z Grants Approval December 2017

Planning and Zoning took up Ansaka’s application on December 5, 2017. They approved it over the objections of the residents who appeared and spoke in opposition.

P&Z recommended the applicant hold a community meeting to discuss an appropriate “buffer” between the project and the adjacent single family homes to the north and west of the micro-community before the project went to public hearing at the January 6, 2018, Commission meeting.

Ansaka Slows Down Application Process

Ansaka skipped the January 6 Commission meeting, and finally held a community meeting on March 1, 2018. It is unclear how attendees were notified of the meeting. The applicant chose to postpone the public hearing until March 26, 2018.

City Staff Hits Speed Bump

Then, a glitch in the City’s public notification process necessitated a delay for two more weeks, until Monday, April 9, because of the City’s inability to verify that it had provided adequate public notice in all its required forms, including publication.

Speed Bump Slows Ansaka

The Applicant made clear his intention to proceed on March 26, but was unsuccessful. The project was pulled from the March 26 agenda and rescheduled to April 9. The intervening two weeks have seen a surge in awareness of the project throughout the neighborhood and throughout the City.

Neighbors Ask Commission to Step into the Breach

At this moment, residents of the neighborhood near the project are holding out hope that the city Commission will give their already established property rights priority over those of a developer who bought land speculating that he could rezone it, change the future land use map, and amend our Comprehensive Plan.

Who will prevail?

What to do about Winter Park’s Infestation of Carpetbaggers?

Open Letter to the Mayor, Commissioners and my Winter Park Neighbors

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

What to do about Winter Park’s Infestation of Carpetbaggers?

Guest Columnist Todd C. Weaver

Population Threshold is a topic that rarely comes up in conversations about public policy, but it should, and particularly with regard to the proposed 18-unit Planned Urban Residential Development (PURD) on Aloma between Lakemont and Phelps.

What is Population Threshold?

A Population Threshold is the point at which the rate of increase of the per capita cost of public services is more rapid than the rate of increase in population. You’ve likely heard the false narrative that increasing the size of our tax base is good for Winter Park.

In the long run, nothing could be further from the truth.

Taxes Go Up as Thresholds Are Crossed

As population density increases, the cost per capita for public services increases at a faster rate than the population, and any increase in housing density never pays for itself. It gets paid for by increasing taxes on the entire population. Likewise, chances that an increase in the commercial tax base pays for itself are slim to none.

Winter Park boasts a fine staff of experts that oversees the functionality of our city services. These people can tell you that at certain thresholds, city service costs, which are funded by taxpayer dollars, must accommodate increases in development at certain trigger points or “thresholds.”

Hundreds of Miles of Buried Pipe and Conduit

Staff responsible for public works and utilities can tell you that we have hundreds of miles of piping and conduits buried under the City to handle sewage transfer, storm water and potable water. We also have a plan in place to use recycled water for irrigation, requiring more miles of underground piping. The same is true for the electric undergrounding effort, currently underway.

At some population threshold, the carrying capacity (size) of these pipes and conduits must be increased, at a substantial cost to present and future residents and businesses. Streets must be dug up, traffic rerouted, expensive horizontal drilling where traffic cannot be practically diverted, temporary diversions of flows during construction, additional pumping and lift stations, water treatment facilities, increased electric substation equipment . . . and the list goes on.

Public Safety Costs Increase

The cost of Public Safety rises commensurately. The frequency of police calls from high-density, multifamily developments is far greater than those from single family homes and most businesses. This requires increased patrols, call answering and staff. We need more manpower and more sophisticated firefighting and EMT equipment to handle high-density structures as development and population increase.

Traffic Increases

Increased density brings increased automobile traffic, adding to the nutrient loads draining into our lakes. We must compensate for the increased nutrient load in our waterways with expensive herbicides, increased labor and expensive aquatic equipment to handle tussocks, algae blooms and dredging exacerbated by development. Every time additional pavement or impervious surface is laid, storm water runoff increases, putting us closer to another threshold.

High Density = Variances

The development at Aloma and Lakemont is all too common a scenario. Despite having a Comprehensive Plan and zoning codes in place, a small number of players, who are well aware of the limitations of land use imposed by City regulations, now expect the Planning & Zoning Board and the Commission to roll over and grant their claims for significant variances, zoning changes and other non-compliant requests.

The developer, ANSAKA, LLC, bought four single family lots and one office lot. At the April 9 Commission meeting, the City will be asked to rezone them all — on the primary east-west corridor through the City. When combined, the lots do not meet the 2-acre minimum required by code to build such a development.

Profit Is Not Dependent on Zoning Changes

I’ve developed multiple commercial and residential properties in several Florida counties over the past 20 years. Never once did my company believe it had the right to ask for any variance to local or State codes. We were happy to have the assistance of municipal and county staff to guide us through the maze, and were content with a reasonable profit in every case.

Developers have a right to make a profit — that’s not the argument. What we have now in Winter Park, however, are a few developers who think it’s their right to maximize profits at the expense of Winter Park residents and businesses, and at the expense of our standard of living. These firms are like the carpetbaggers of the Reconstruction South, arriving with an empty bag, staying long enough to fill the bag with money, then leaving the townsfolk to deal with the resulting mess.

Asking Everyone to Use the Same Playbook

All we ask is that everyone play by the same rules — the rules we all agreed to in our Comprehensive Plan and zoning codes.

I respectfully ask the Commission to consider the above facts and logic and do the right thing by holding the line on our Comp Plan and zoning codes in the interest of your current and future constituents.

Sincerely,
Todd Weaver

Todd Weaver is a 22-year resident of Winter Park, and a 45-year resident of central Florida.
After graduating from UCF’s College of Engineering, Weaver spent much of 30 years as an aerospace & mechanical design engineer. He also attended UF Gainesville, taking graduate courses in biochemistry, veterinary medicine and other life sciences. He holds a Florida General Contractor license and has developed several residential and commercial properties.

Three years ago, Weaver and two partners founded a Winter Park-based company, TruGrit Traction, which has designed and patented a new type of wheel for underground pipe-inspection robots. Weaver’s company supplies Winter Park’s Water & Wastewater Utilities Department with wheels for their camera robots, at no charge to the city. TruGrit Traction proudly engineers, manufactures and assembles all products in the USA, with sales in 50 states, Canada and the European Union.

Local Mayors Fight for Home Rule

Have Our Elected Reps in Tallahassee Gone Off the Rails?

Local Mayors Fight for Home Rule

There is a group of bills making its way through the Florida legislature that would take away Home Rule from local governments and concentrate it at the state level. Leaders in Florida’s 410 municipalities and 67 counties are united in their opposition to the state legislature’s “one size fits all” approach to regulation of such things as short-term vacation rentals, Community Redevelopment Agencies and. . . trees? That’s right: trees.

Maitland Mayor Dale McDonald and Eatonville Mayor Eddie Cole attended the February 12 Commission meeting to show their solidarity with Winter Park and to urge all residents to demand that our representatives in Tallahassee oppose legislation that will preempt home rule.

Maitland Mayor Deplores ‘Arrogance’ of Elected State Reps

Speaking before the Commission, Mayor McDonald expressed his disillusionment with the “condescending arrogance” of our elected State representatives, “people we’ve known well – elected officials and legislators . . . who can pretend to be acting in your best interests, but who are not . . . .”

“The fear of leadership, the adversarial tones of the last couple of sessions, have been palpable,” said McDonald. “They will all remark on that. Our representatives in Tallahassee will tell you, ’Sorry, we can’t do anything, it’s the leadership. To get something, we’ve got to go along.’”

Whose Money Buys the Message?

McDonald noted, “It’s a whole lot easier to persuade one-hundred-odd legislators than it is 400 cities and 67 counties. But that’s their job. It’s not their job to make it easier for them to get paid – by the PACs and campaign contributions and so forth.” (The reader is encouraged to view Mayor McDonald’s complete remarks.)

A letter to Winter Park citizens from City Manager Randy Knight describes three bills that are particularly problematic.

Short-term Rentals

HB 773 prohibits cities from establishing ordinances specific to short-term vacation rentals. Online vacation rental sites like VRBO and Airbnb have generated brisk business in short-term, hotel-like rentals in residential neighborhoods. Problems include inadequate parking, noise and the presence of strangers in neighborhoods. Passage of HB 773 would prevent the City from locally regulating these businesses.

Community Redevelopment Agencies – CRAs

HB 17 and SB 432 would allow a CRA to be phased out if it is not reauthorized by a super majority vote of the body that created it. Winter Park’s CRA was created in the mid-90s and has been the catalyst for the renovation of the Hannibal Square commercial area, the Park Avenue street scape, construction of the Winter Park Community Center, numerous affordable housing and housing rehab projects and after-school programs.

Tree Trimming

With a school system that has dropped to 28th position nationally, according to Education Week, aging infrastructure and a fragile, over-taxed supply of fresh water, one would think our elected representatives in Tallahassee could find a better way to spend their time than developing tree-trimming regulations for cities like Winter Park and Eatonville.

Call to Action — It’s Not Too Late

Right Now — Email or phone your senators and representatives and tell them to oppose these bills and any others that prevent local government from maintaining the high standards that sustain the charm and character of Winter Park. Note — phone calls work as well as emails. They are recorded and they carry a lot of weight.

The vote is Thursday, Feb. 22, so there’s not a lot of time. It only takes a minute to Act Now. It’s time for Tallahassee to get back on track.

Senator Linda Stewart
stewart.linda.web@flsenate.gov
407-893-2422

Representative Mike Miller
mike.miller@myfloridahouse.gov
407-245-0588

Representative Robert “Bob” Cortes
bob.cortes@myfloridahouse.gov
407-262-7420

For complete lists:
FL Senate: <flsenate.gov/Senators/>
FL House of Representatives: flhouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/representatives.aspx

Ravaudage $1.2M -- No Risk, No Gain

Voice Reader Heeds Commissioner’s Advice

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

Ravaudage $1.2M — No Risk, No Gain

Guest Columnist Jan Hommel

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

From Commissioner Peter Weldon

Here are the relevant facts.

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

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

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

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

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

Come on folks. Study the issues before speaking publicly.

Regards, Pete Weldon
Winter Park Vice Mayor

Voice Reader Jan Hommel Responds

Mr. Weldon:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Troublesome Rationale

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

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

No Risk?

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

No Gain

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

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

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

Sincerely.

Jan Hommel

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