BASEBALL SHOCKER: City Says Harper-Shepherd Stadium Deal Dead
Did Pressure from WP Citizens Make the Difference?
News Alert--City Schedules Vote to Encourage Developers to Build Bigger Buildings
Density-Related Traffic Congestion Not on City Agenda
Is City Hall Favoring Developers Over Its Own Citizens?
Denning-Area Neighbors Question City Priorities
|City Residents Speak Out
One evening in early April, residents of Winter Park’s Westside showed up in force at City Hall. In a strong showing of neighborhood solidarity, Westsiders attended the April 8 Planning and Zoning (P & Z) meeting to oppose another attempt by developer Dan Bellows to change the character of their neighborhood.
The neighborhood’s forceful response was triggered by a request from Bellows to modify City regulations to transform a group of single family residential lots into a high-density, high-priced residential development.
Denning Area Neighborhoods On Edge as Fear of Encroachment Spreads
Winter Park residents in other neighborhoods near Denning Drive are also becoming concerned about the impact of area development on their neighborhoods. Mary Randall, who lives on Kentucky Avenue near the proposed baseball stadium — just off Denning Drive — urged the city to reconsider its stance on area development:
Mayor Bradley has characterized Denning Drive as a “Hot” development corridor. Bradley has been generally supportive of developer initiatives that have put city residents on edge. Bradley’s employer, Florida Hospital, has made large investments in hospital-related development throughout Central Florida.
City Too Cozy with Developers?
Westside residents have long decried what they see as a too-cozy alliance between the City and developers — an alliance that is transforming their historic family neighborhood into a target-rich development zone for profit-seekers. Two of the highest-profile proposals recently considered by the City are the Lee Road Cut-Through on one end of Denning and the Rollins/Manatees Baseball Stadium on the other. Wealthy backers of the Stadium project are working with the City to tap taxpayer dollars that are earmarked for redevelopment of the Westside. There is strong support inside City Hall for the Stadium and the Cut-Through.
Westside residents and those from nearby neighborhoods have recently begun to organize resistance to projects like the Cut-Through and the Baseball Stadium. Recent hearings and community meetings have been roiled by strong protests by citizen groups.
Westsiders, who have, for years, lived with the threat – and the consequences – of City-enabled development, are leading the way for other neighborhoods who feel that new and proposed development may gridlock their city streets, crowd the skyline with towering buildings and permanently degrade their quality of life.
Has City Abandoned Its Community Plan for Affordable Neighborhoods?
In 1999, A Westside Community Plan entitled “A Report by the Westside Neighborhood Housing Task Force, 1998-1999” outlined what the community wanted to see in the 21st century. One of the goals stated in the report is “To increase the desirability and variety of residential housing opportunities for Westside residents by rehabilitating existing, viable dwellings, refining the city’s Affordable Housing Program and by attracting market-rate residential development that would be appealing to moderate-income families. The needs of current residents, including elders, shall be a priority.” (page 8 “Moving into 2000: Westside Community Plan).
Fourteen years into this century, some of the goals have been achieved, but the vision to preserve affordable single family homes may be fading. With the nation’s economy now emerging from a period of stagnation, developers’ requests to transform this neighborhood are now high on the agendas of the Planning and Zoning Board and City Commission.
Low-Density, Low-Traffic Community Plan Undermined by Developer Interest in More Profitable Higher-Density “Products”
Rather than regarding this section of Winter Park as preserved for affordable housing, some developers see the neighborhood and adjacent areas as a prime location for upscale development “products” that would appeal to a new wealthier clientele who want to live close to downtown Winter Park.
Unicorp, the developer of the new “Lakeside” retail center at Morse and 17-92, also has indicated interest in building a mixed-use (commercial/residential) project between Denning and 17-92 on the site of the Mt. Vernon Motel.
Casto Properties, developer of Winter Park Village, is completing construction of a multi-story (200+) luxury apartment complex (including parking garage) on Denning next to the Village — and is reportedly eyeing the VoTech property on Denning next to the proposed Lee Rd. Cut-Through.
Bellows Moves to Revise the Comp Plan
Developer Dan Bellows’ April 8 request to change the Comprehensive Plan to allow rezoning and consolidation of 8 lots from single family residence (R-1) to high density multi-family homes (R-3 and R-4) would affect land on the Westside bordered by Canton, Capen, Swoope and Denning.
If Bellows’ request is granted, the allowed density would increase from 8 free-standing single family homes to something between 20 and 32 attached units. Although the exact number of units has gone back and forth during discussion, if the project is approved, the end result would significantly change the character of that part of the Westside.
(Click video image above for Part 1 of P&Z hearing. Click video images below for Parts 2 & 3)
Bellows’ Sydgan Corp. has requested this provision be amended to read, “unless such development is abutting (“abutting” shall include property separated by a right-of-way or alley) or within 100 feet of a parking garage or commercial building.” Bellows built a parking garage on the adjacent property in 2007. The Atlantic Housing Senior Living Facility — a commercial rental property — also sits on the bordering property.
Comprehensive Plan Policy 1-4.1.H-3 reads: “This policy is a part of Planning Area H: Hannibal Square Neighborhood. Restrictions on Multi-family Development. The City shall strongly discourage Comprehensive Plan Amendments from Low-Density to Medium-Density or High-Density Residential Future Land Use Map designations.”
Rather Than Deny Bellows’ Request, City Staff Recommends High-Density Compromise
When Director of Planning Administration Dori Stone explained these requests to the P&Z Board, she reported that the staff had recommended a compromise. City staff thought building a single family home next to a parking garage would be “a hard sell,” so they recommended the property adjacent to the garage be rezoned to R-3 rather than R-4, and that a “step-down” approach in height requirements be allowed — three-story buildings “in the shadow of the garage,” but stepping down to two-story R-2 zoning along Canton and maintaining the R-1 zoning along Capen. In this scenario, density would change from 8 single family homes to 20 townhomes (P&Z video part 1 – 6:00).
Bellows Claims Garage Justifies Comp Plan Revisions — Westside Residents Disagree
During the April 8 hearing, Westside residents argued that the presence of the parking garage in no way justified the proposed changes. Canton Avenue resident Mary Daniels explained that the parking garage replaced single family homes (P&Z video part 2 – 21:05) asking, why, when there were single family homes on the properties, did the current R-1 zoning not prevent the approval of the garage?
Linda Walker Chapell strongly criticized the City for considering Bellows’ request saying “The staff recommended that this property . . . be allowed to have a zoning change because of the garage . . . We didn’t want that garage . . . We told [ the City ] that we didn’t want it.”
Bob Cambric, a former Westside resident who earned a Master’s Degree in Urban & Regional Planning and has 25 years’ experience in the field, spoke on behalf of his hometown neighbors. He argued the City should not alter its Comprehensive Plan in this piecemeal fashion. He said, “Winter Park is one of the best planned communities of the 472 cities in the state of Florida. You have a plan that has gotten you there.”
Cambric explained that the policies in place are there to protect the Hannibal Square Community, but if the proposed changes are approved, the City must abandon those policies. (P&Z video part 2 – 00:00)
A source close to the development community told the Voice that developers have interest in building multi-story town houses on Canton all the way from Denning to Park Ave.
Developer’s Westside Story: We Want to Build $500,000 Townhomes
In an attempt to gain P&Z board support for his proposed development, Mr. Bellows’ called on Kevin Kramer, a representative of David Weekley Homes, to describe the “product,” that is, the type of home they intend to build.
Although Kramer did not show any elevations or images of the proposed “product”, he explained that feedback they have received from realtors is that high-density attached townhomes would appeal to empty nesters who would like to live near the Winter Park Village and the downtown area. They have planned accordingly for a series of 2,000- to 2,500- square-foot town homes, each with a two-car garage, in the price range of $400,000 to $600,000 (and up). (P&Z video part 1 – 41:11).
P&Z Tells Bellows & Westsiders to Resolve Differences
In response to community opposition, the P&Z Board concluded the meeting by tabling the proposal and directing the interested parties to meet to discuss their issues. P&Z board member Tom Sacha asked the residents to develop an alternative to Bellows’ plan so that the property in question does not remain vacant for an indefinite period of time. Mr. Bellows promised to attend and to bring illustrations/elevations showing the townhomes he wants to build.
A special meeting between Dan Bellows’ Sydgan Corp. and Westside residents was held on April 24 at the Winter Park Community Center.
Westside residents attended — along with Dori Stone and Jeff Briggs from the City. Mr. Bellows, however, did not attend. Instead, he sent his lawyer and the representative from David Weekley Homes to represent him. His representatives did not have the drawings of the proposed townhomes Bellows promised. Bellows’ failure to appear and his failure to produce the promised drawings angered Westside attendees.
Bellows Submits a New Plan
At a subsequent April 29 P&Z Board work session, Ms. Stone reported that Bellows had submitted a new set of plans. She made it clear, however, that in light of the community’s strong opposition to any departure from R-1 zoning, she doubted that Mr. Bellows’ new plan would mitigate Westsiders’ fear of the impact it will have on their neighborhood.
Requested Comp Plan Revision Could Spell Trouble for Rest of Winter Park
If Bellows’ request is granted, revisions to the Comprehensive Plan would be permissible wherever a parking garage is built. For instance, if a parking garage were added to the YMCA facility on Lakemont, the Comp Plan changes requested by Bellows could be used to justify the building of high-density townhomes on the properties adjoining the YMCA along Palmer and Lakemont.
If a minor league baseball stadium is approved for Harper-Shepherd Field on Denning, City officials are planning to fund a parking garage as part of the stadium project. Mr. Bellows’ requested Comp Plan changes could open the door to developer interest in building similar high-profit, high-density housing “products” near a new stadium garage – a scenario envisioned by Urban Planner, Bob Cambric. During his testimony at the April 8 P&Z hearing, Mr. Cambric asked: “Who else’s neighborhoods are going to be in jeopardy because they happen to have a parking garage nearby?”
“Which side are you going to be on?”
Another Westside resident asked P&Z board members: “When is it going to stop?” As she named streets in Winter Park’s wealthier neighborhoods, she asked board members to consider how they’d feel if multi-family projects were built in their neighborhoods. She then appealed to the board to communicate citizen concerns to the City Commission, concluding: “We all live in Winter Park . . . It’s not a matter of the Haves or the Have-Nots. I ask which side are you going to be on?”
Cut-Thru Update: City Votes Yes Despite Strong Citizen Opposition
Plea for More Study Rejected
At last Monday’s Commission hearing on the extension of Lee Road to Webster Avenue, Winter Park’s Commissioners voted 4 to 1 in favor of the resolution supporting the Lee Road cut-through – a result that drew “boos” from the packed Commission chamber. Commissioner Carolyn Cooper cast the only “No” vote.
Prior to the vote, the Commissioners debated the relative merits of the not-so-comprehensive batch of traffic studies being used to justify pushing a major traffic artery closer to the heart of Winter Park. Commissioner Cooper urged her fellow Commissioners to delay the vote in favor of more study and citizen input. She also expressed concern about the impact of increased cut-through traffic on the city’s neighborhoods.
In his explanation of the rationale for the cut-through, Public Works Director Troy Attaway asserted his belief that the cut-through will not significantly increase traffic, citing studies that traffic on the new extension will be comprised mainly of drivers who are currently accessing Webster from the eastbound turn lane on 17-92. However, Attaway acknowledged that traffic studies submitted to the City have not included projections and modeling of significant traffic that will be generated by large developments being built/planned within a few blocks of the proposed cut-through.
Commission Chamber Filled with Citizens Opposing Cut-Thru
Some speakers proposed alternatives of the sort Commissioner Cooper wanted to study, including a proposal by P&Z’s Randall Slocum (speaking as a private citizen) to simply close the problematic eastbound turn lane from 17-92 onto Webster.
This lane causes the back-up on 17-92 that is cited by City officials as being a key problem the cut-through is seeking to solve.
Commission Rejects Citizen Proposals for Simpler, Cheaper Alternatives
It appears that the Commission’s 4-1 vote to support the cut-through halts the City’s due-diligence process that would have included a study of simple, low-cost suggestions like Slocum’s – as well as other alternatives offered by citizens including extending the duration of the turn lane’s signal light arrow.
City Has Another Reason Cut-Thru Necessary: Merchants Want It.
Comments by City officials offered a possible glimpse into another reason why, despite strong citizen opposition, the City so adamantly supports the cut-through to Webster: the City’s concern about upsetting area merchants by reducing traffic on Webster.
Public Works’ Attaway put it this way: “. . . If you didn’t give [ traffic ] another opportunity to get to Webster and you eliminated that left turn there would be people that would be upset.”
Randy Knight clarified the statement, adding: “The businesses there came out in force against removing the left turn on Webster before.”
Concerned citizens gathered at the Rachel Murrah Civic Center April 29 for what they thought was going to be a Q & A session about the UP Development at Lee Road and 17-92 and the accompanying extension of Lee Road east of 17-92. The Lee Road extension they were shown differed from earlier versions.
Now Lee Road would travel east of 17-92 and turn south to Webster.
Citizens Protest Attempt by City & Developer to Restrict Public Discussion
Citizens in the audience objected to the limitation – complaining to City & developer staffers that by limiting the forum, other citizens were deprived of the benefit of hearing an open public exchange. The City ultimately relented and allowed questions from the audience.
City Faces Tough Questions After Agreeing to Allow Public Q&A
One audience member pointedly asked Public Works Director Troy Attaway if the traffic studies the City is using to justify the cut-thru have taken future Ravaudage traffic into consideration – or whether this large development’s future traffic impact has been “ignored again.”
Director Attaway answered “We did not do a traffic study that looked at the numbers . . . You can talk to the developer about the numbers for his project and his surrounding projects.”
After a handful of citizen questions were answered, the City asked city residents to speak directly with Scott Fish of UP Development whose proposed shopping center at Lee Road and 17-92 will house, among other enterprises, the new Whole Foods Market. Citizens spoke at length with Fish and some of his key planners and engineers.
Workshop Attendees Unaware That Workshop Was Their Last Chance for Meaningful Debate & Discovery
A week after the Civic Center workshop, the Mayor and Commissioners scheduled a Monday, May 12 Commission vote on a resolution in support of extending Lee Road to Webster Avenue. Citizen groups have told the Voice that they are rushing to inform city residents about what’s at stake Monday – and are hoping the City will answer unresolved questions and adequately consider citizen input prior to voting on Monday afternoon.
Is City “Speeding” Cut-Thru Approval to Meet Developer Time-Table? Developer Says He Wants Cut-Thru, but Could Move Forward Without It.
She pointed out that Scott Fish of UP Development, who is bringing Whole Foods Market to the Lee Road Intersection, has made clear that he wants access to the light at Lee Road, but could live without the extension.
Mr. Fish stated unequivocally in an April 29 interview with the Voice that his development could succeed without the extension of Lee Road beyond 17-92. According to Cooper, the city has not given itself adequate time to fully study and comprehend the impact of all the development taking place along the north-south 17-92 corridor.
Both Commissioners Sarah Sprinkel and Carolyn Cooper have come out solidly against the extension of Lee Road east of 17-92.
In an interview with the Voice published March 9, 2014, Sprinkel stated, “I don’t support a punch-through. . . I don’t want to make it easy to have a big flow-through there. So, personally, I don’t support that.”
At the March 24, 2014, Commission Meeting, Commissioner Tom McMacken called for the city, the city’s traffic consultant and FDOT to hold a public workshop to inform citizens about the Lee Road extension and to provide a forum for their comments.
To date, there has been no forum. The way things stand now, the last opportunity for citizens to speak out will be Monday at the May 12 Commission Meeting.
Cooper: We’re Moving Too Fast. Let’s Proceed With Caution.
According to Commissioner Cooper:
– The city was not adequately informed or prepared to make this decision at this time.
– There has been too little input from citizens and the city has not had enough time to thoroughly review citizen input.
– The City’s favored extension alternative (Lee Rd. cut-thru to Webster) is a new approach and has not been fully vetted by the DOT.
– The timing of the extension construction could very well coincide with major I-4 construction scheduled to begin in 2015.
Cooper has called for a core study to look at all the development along 17-92 and proceeding at a schedule that would place construction at Lee Road (if necessary) where the DOT originally had it – in 2018.
Winter Park Voice contacted the Mayor and all Commissioners on Thursday evening requesting an interview. As of press time, only Commissioner Cooper agreed to be interviewed.
It's Workshop Week: City Holds 3 Special Hearings/Workshops Reviewing Lee Rd. Cut-Thru & Denning/17-92 Development Over Next 7 Days
Tuesday 4/29: P&Z at noon + UP Development Presentation 5 – 7 pm at Civic Center.
Monday 5/5: City Commission Workshop at 4 pm.
City Consultant Wants Cut-Thru to Turn Toward WP Village. Also Recommends Elimination of Left Turns Onto Webster from 17-92.
This morning, the Voice obtained the City Traffic Consultant report analyzing the proposed extension of Lee Rd. to Denning. As shown in the illustration above, there are three alternatives currently being considered. The image above is taken from the report (street and place labels added by WPV).
Click the link at the end of this article to see consultant’s report.
In the report, the City’s consultant recommends “Alignment B” explaining “It is our recommendation that Alternative B with the elimination of the southbound left turn movement from US 17/92 to Webster Avenue be the preferred improvement. This alternative provides the most improvement to congestion along US 17/92 and the operations of intersections in the vicinity. This alternative also provides the most direct route for traffic that is currently traveling this way to and from the residential areas of Winter Park and for shopping/dining along South Park Avenue.”
Consultant: Cut-Thru “should not be the cause of any increased traffic on nearby residential streets . . .”
City consultant Chris Simoneaux of CES, Inc. appeared to be optimistic that the cut-thru would provide a net benefit to the city, stating “It does not appear that any of the proposed alternatives would result in an actual increase in cut-through traffic and may actually reduce traffic in some links due to the reduction in delay on US 17/92, and as it relates to this development, shorten trip lengths to this destination. Increased development in the vicinity of this site may increase overall traffic on the roadway network in the future. However, the extension of Lee Road to the east on its own should not be the cause of any increased traffic on nearby residential streets . . .”
Inside Baseball: Winter Park’s Heavy Hitters Negotiate a Stadium and Spoils of the Game
While Manatees, Rollins College & Developers Pursue Stadium-Related Revenues & Gov’t Subsidies, Citizens’ Group Petitions to Keep the Stadium Out of MLK Park
A little more than a year ago Rollins College and (presumably) other baseball principals invoked a Florida statute that kept Winter Parkers in the dark about stadium negotiations with the city. In February 2014, the news blackout expired.
Winter Park Voice has filed numerous Freedom of Information document requests with the city asking to see baseball-related email and other documents. Last week, the city released documents and email to the Voice showing what appears to be a serious negotiation by baseball principals to secure funding for a stadium at Rollins’ Harper–Shepherd field located near Orange Avenue and Denning.
If Harper-Shepherd Negotiations Fail, MLK Park is a Favored Alternative. Citizen Petitioners Claim that Stadium in MLK Will Increase Traffic/Noise & Affect Quality of Life
Recent public hearings and the city’s interest in Martin Luther King, Jr. Park as an alternative stadium location have motivated a group of citizens to mount a petition drive to keep the stadium out of the park. This citizen-led effort appears to have grown out of concerns voiced by citizens and neighborhood groups that new and proposed Denning-area development – including the prospect of an extension of Lee Road through to Denning Ave. – will choke northwest Winter Park with large buildings and traffic gridlock. As reported by the website HeartofWinterPark.com
City Manager Knight Responds to Voice Request for Clarification/Explanation of Stadium Negotiations
The Voice contacted City Manager Randy Knight last week asking for updated information, clarification of numerous points made in city emails and corrections (if any). Mr. Knight did not respond directly to any of our questions or provide any updates. He did, however, respond with a statement indicating that the ongoing negotiations are a “very complicated and fluid process” adding that he does not have “the authority to bind the city to any deal . . .” and that Jeff Eisenbarth of Rollins College “does not have the authority to bind Rollins to any deal.”
Mr. Knight also said that some of the information we gathered from city email (and questioned him about) was “outdated”, but did not offer any correction or update of the information. The full text of Mr. Knight’s response to Voice questions is shown at the end of this story. A key memo referenced by Mr. Knight is shown below.
Will Rollins’ Harper-Shepherd Field Get the Nod?
Documents provided by the city include a “Term Sheet” memo, submitted by the Manatees’ David Freeman on March 28 that spells out terms of a proposed deal “. . . under which City, Rollins, and Manatees will agree to jointly fund construction of a new baseball stadium to be owned by Rollins and a new parking garage to be owned by City, and under which Manatees will agree to relocate Florida State League professional baseball club to Winter Park in Spring 2016.”
On April 1, City Manager Randy Knight added his comments to the “Term Sheet” memo modifying and correcting various aspects of the terms proposed by the principals. Among the original terms put forward by the principals was a request that the city build a parking garage on land next to Harper-Shepherd field owned by Rollins College.
The projected cost to build the stadium garage (to be paid mostly by the city) is $6 million, $2 million of which will be paid by the Manatees baseball organization.
The principals indicate that Rollins will contribute Harper-Shepherd Field and adjoining land plus an additional $4.25 million for the stadium project.
The city’s total contribution could go as high as $6.3 million, most of which would be taken from city CRA funds – if Orange County officials agree to extend the life span of the CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency).
Baseball Principals Lean Heavily on Gov’t Programs Designed to Help Low-Income Communities
The proposed agreement counts on city CRA money and a $7.5 million federal tax break for the principals. The tax break comes from a program – the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) – set up by the federal government to encourage development in disadvantaged communities.
IRS guidelines describe the reason Congress set up the NMTC program as follows:
“This Code section permits individual and corporate taxpayers to receive a credit against federal income taxes for making Qualified Equity Investments (QEIs) in qualified community development entities (CDEs).
These investments are expected to result in the creation of jobs and material improvement in the lives of residents of low-income communities. Examples of expected projects include financing small businesses, improving community facilities such as daycare centers, and increasing home ownership opportunities . . .”
Is Stadium Use of Funds Intended for Westside Development an Appropriate Use of CRA Money?
Commissioners who oppose use of city money to build the baseball stadium may find themselves in bind when a final stadium deal goes up for a vote. Those who espouse a “no city money” position may be forced to defend a deeply finessed definition of “city money.”
We asked Randy Knight to explain the justification for possible use of CRA funds for the stadium project. We also requested a clarification as to whether CRA funds are fundamentally the same as any other city tax revenues – except that they are earmarked for community redevelopment. Mr. Knight did not respond to these questions.
History of the Deal: City Didn’t Like Manatees’ Original Offer – Wanted to Avoid Perception that
The initial terms proposed by David Freeman in a March phone conversation with Randy Knight apparently did not include any upfront cash contribution by the Manatees. In a follow-up email to Freeman and others on March 17, Knight rejects Freeman’s offer saying “. . . I have given a lot of thought to the proposed deal David described to me on the phone last week and I do not believe I would be able to get the Commission’s vote to support it.”
Knight Outlines Objections to Team Owners’ Initial Offer:
Knight then offered a counter-proposal warning “I don’t want to drag this out until August if this [ Freeman’s ] proposed deal is the best we can do. I offer the below proposal that I believe I can in good conscience recommend to the City Commission.”
Knight’s Counter-Proposal Paves Way for Current Deal
Knight Adds Deal-Sweetener. Freeman Responds.
Knight sweetened his proposed terms with an offer to share a projected $3.5 – 4 million funding shortfall, saying he “could support recommending that the City put in 1/3rd of the shortfall (with conditions that the parking garage is available during non-game times for other use) if Rollins and the Team find the other 2/3rds either up front or through shared revenues. Otherwise, I think this site is off the table and we need to focus on one of the two sites with developer participation to make up the shortfall.” The next day, Freeman responded:
“If you recognize the $5 million purchase price of the team, your NMTC increases by $1.25 million……and the guy writing that check doesn’t feel as slighted by the skin-in-the-game analysis.
It appears that the bottom-line is the addition of a $6M city-owned parking garage and the request for the team to contribute $2M of that $6M. Not an unreasonable request if the team can find additional sponsorship revenue to recover that outlay.
Below [ city counter-offer ] does not address a solution for the annual lost revenue that the club suffers as a result of smaller, cheaper stadium. Again, maximizing sponsorship revenue appears to be the most realistic path to recovering this foregone revenue.”
The Voice asked Randy Knight whether the city’s contribution of $1+ million “shortfall” money (additional to the $5 million CRA money) would come from the general fund – and, if not, where the city would find the money? Mr. Knight did not respond to the questions.
Path to Gov’t $$$ for Stadium Leads Principals to Tallahassee and Washington D.C.
Email exchanges among the principals over the past month indicate strong interest in tapping multiple government subsidies to secure the stadium deal. On April 2, team owner Tom Winters forwarded this news item to Mayor Bradley, Randy Knight and others:
Rollins Hopes Congressman John Mica Can Help Rollins Seal Stadium Deal
In a 3/25 email to the principals, Rollins’ VP for Business and Finance Jeffrey Eisenbarth notes that Rollins may be able to tap its Washington connections:
“President Duncan mentioned again yesterday that John Mica would still like to do something for the College but it needs to be “transportation” related. A parking garage is transportation related so we should approach John from a combined City and College perspective and see if he can get us the $6M for the parking garage . . .”
The Voice asked Randy Knight whether principals are still pursuing the Mica “Transportation” funding option. Mr. Knight did not respond to the question.
Without Mica, Who Will Cover Stadium $$$ Shortfall? Rollins’ VP: “We can do that.”
In the same 3/25 email, Eisenbarth concludes that Rollins can find the funds necessary to close the deal:
If Rollins’ Harper-Shepherd Deal Falls Apart, Other Developers Ready to Move Forward
The Harper-Shepherd agreement, if ultimately approved, leaves developer Dan Bellows empty-handed – despite his two-year campaign to have the stadium built in Ravaudage. In Part 2 of this story, we will examine the long, colorful history of stadium negotiations between the city and other developers.
Full Text of Knight Response to Winter Park Voice
Shown below is the full text of City Manager Randy Knight responding to our questions asking for clarification, correction and updating of the information we found in city emails submitted to the Voice last week:
Lee Road “Punch-Through” Travels a Long and Winding Road
|In response to citizens’ questions about the planned extension of Lee Road through to Denning Avenue, the Mayor, Commissioners and City Manager maintain that the decision is “out of their hands” and will be decided by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).
The Lee Road extension has languished on FDOT’s priority list since 2004. With developments popping up like mushrooms in northwest Winter Park, however, there is renewed interest in reconfiguring the intersection of Lee Road and 17-92 and extending Lee Road through to Denning Drive.
MetroPlan Orlando, City Officials, Experts & Citizens Guide FDOT Decisions
FDOT Public Information Specialist Jessica Keane was willing to shed some light on how this process works, explaining that the planning process begins not with FDOT, but with MetroPlan Orlando (MPO), the “metropolitan planning organization for Orange, Osceola and Seminole Counties – the Orlando Urban Area — and provides the forum for elected officials, their staff, citizens, and industry experts to work together to improve transportation in Central Florida.” FDOT only adds projects to its priority list which are first recommended to them by MPO.
The MPO Board is made up of 25 mayors, commissioners and various officials from transportation agencies. Serving on the current board are the mayors of Altamonte Springs, Apopka, Kissimmee, Orlando, Orange County, and Sanford. While Winter Park has no representation on the MetroPlan board, Mayor Kenneth W. Bradley, with City Manager Randy Knight as his alternate, sits on the 15-member MPO Municipal Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations to the MPO for their consideration.
Lee Road #10 on the Priority List
The MPO creates a Prioritized Project List for the FDOT. The current list, dated September 11, 2013, puts the Lee Road extension at #10. The components of the project currently unfunded include the preliminary engineering design, construction and right of way acquisition.
Frank J. O’Dea, P.E., Director of Transportation Development, Florida Department of Transportation, District 5, provided the Voice a copy of the 2004 Project Development and Environmental Study (PD&E) concerning the Lee Road extension. The 2004 PD&E contains the history of this road extension proposal, and it makes clear that the City of Winter Park was a full partner in the decision to add this project to the priority list.
City Gave Thumbs-Up to Punch-Through 10 Years Ago
According to Mr. O’Dea, officials of any city are actively involved in decisions concerning a road project that will directly affect that city.
For example, the 2004 PD&E includes a June 2, 2004, Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Winter Park and FDOT, signed by then Mayor Kenneth Marchman, which states, “. . .the parties hereto mutually agree that the extension of Lee Road to Denning Drive and the improvements to 17-92 from Norfolk Avenue to Monroe Street, will benefit the traveling public and will enhance the transportation system in the area.”
O’Dea explained, “Since the PD&E is several years old, the Department would need to update the traffic reports that formed the basis of the PD&E to see if the assumptions made at that time revealed the same conclusions. Since there is some renewed interest in this project, the Department is moving ahead with the traffic reevaluation.”
Large Turn-Out for 2003 Hearings
According to the 2004 document, public workshops and hearings were held to give residents and businesses an opportunity to voice their opinions. The first public workshop, held April 23, 2002, was attended by 41 people who expressed no opposition to the project. At a second Public Workshop on May 8, 2003, however, at which 81 residents were present, “Opposition to the Lee Road extension was voiced by several members of the communities located near and north of Park Avenue and Denning Drive.”
On November 13, 2003, a formal Public Hearing was held, “which approximately 85 persons attended.” Written comments were submitted as part of the official public record, but those were not included in the PD&E provided to the Voice by FDOT.
Ms. Keane acknowledged that turnouts, respectively, of 81 and 85 people are significant for a Public Hearing for a road project.
Despite residents’ dissent, the conclusion drawn in 2004 through the Public Involvement portion of the study states: “FDOT developed the proposed project with input and consensus from representatives from local government agencies including MetroPlan Orlando, and the City of Winter Park, as well as from the general community. As a result of this extensive public involvement program, potential public controversy was minimized.”
Ten years later, MetroPlan Orlando Executive Director Harold Barley wrote in an email, “We have a long-standing interest in addressing the traffic congestion on US17-92 between Webster Avenue and Lee Road. The current Webster Avenue-Lee Road configuration is the cause of the problem and earlier work concluded that the only effective fix was the Lee Road extension.
MetroPlan Director: New WP Development Is “Good Reason” to Consider Accelerating Punch-Through
“At the rate things are going with federal and state funding for projects such as this, it’s going to take a number of years to get to this one. I’m not aware of any current activity on the project — but the new development that’s underway on both sides of US17-92 in that area gives us a good reason to dust off plans and to bring some people together to see where things stand, how current development plans fit with earlier work . . . and to see if things might possibly be accelerated.”
Sprinkel Opposes Lee Road Extension
In a recent interview with the Voice, Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel stated, “I don’t support a punch-through. . . I don’t want to make it easy to have a big flow-through there [ at Denning ].” (See Video @ 14:00)
McMacken Calls for Public Workshop
At the March 24, 2014, Commission Meeting, Commissioner Tom McMacken said that FDOT had stated their intention not to conduct a new PD&E. McMacken called for the city, the city’s traffic consultant and FDOT to hold a public workshop to inform citizens about the status of the Lee Road extension and to provide a forum for their comments. The commissioners did not reach any decision on the subject of a public meeting.
UP Developer Will Help Pay for Punch-Through If Necessary
Asked whether he intended to donate right of way or funds to facilitate the process, UP Development’s Scott Fish wrote that his company “will provide any assistance necessary to provide proper access and circulation to this project [ UP Development at Webster and US 17-92 ] including the acquisition of ROW [ right of way ] and contributions to road construction cost.”
City Manager Randy Knight wrote that discussions with Mr. Fish about UP Development’s involvement in the road extension “are still ongoing.”
Will Winter Park Play Ball?
Possible Stadium Deal Has Potential to Fast-Forward Development of NW Winter Park – including Lee Rd. “Punch-Thru” to Denning Dr.
On January 21, the Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB) joined Mayor Bradley and city officials in an in-depth discussion of stadium-building and related development in and around Denning Drive and 17-92.
Included in the discussion was the possibility of a developer-driven revival of the Dept. of Transportation’s long-planned “Punch-Thru” of Lee Road to Denning Drive. Click video image below to see the “Punch-Thru” excerpt from the 1/21 EDAB hearing.
The Manatees, or the “Tees,” as they are affectionately known, are currently using the 8,100-seat Space Coast Stadium in Viera, which is too large, both for the intimate nature of minor league baseball and for the declining wealth and population in Brevard County brought on by the withdrawal of the NASA space program.
The Manatees are an “Advanced A” or “High A” level team that is part of the 12-team Florida State League. Their major league affiliate is the Milwaukee Brewers.
The ‘Tees are now looking inland to greater Orlando which, according to the Madison Consulting Group, who prepared a Facility Assessment study for the City of Winter Park, “is currently the largest market in the country without regular season-affiliated professional baseball.” While the market area is Central Florida, Winter Park is squarely in the cross-hairs for targeting a stadium location.
At the January 13, 2014, City Commission meeting, City Manager Randy Knight requested and the Commission authorized a 45-day period to further study the feasibility of bringing minor league baseball to Winter Park.
City Staff: Give Us Five Months to Negotiate Best Deal for City.
As the 45-day review period draws to a close, the Commission has scheduled a 4pm workshop meeting for Monday, February 17, to consider a newly-released staff report that recommends moving forward with negotiations. City staff envisions a 5-month evaluation process ending in August, at which time “staff hopes to be in the position to make recommendations that will include whether or not moving forward makes sense and if so, a ranking of the sites, how the stadium project could be funded, proposed deal terms/agreements and who should throw out the first pitch.”
Rollins’ Harper Shepherd Field Back in Play as Possible Stadium Site.
Earlier this year, Rollins College was negotiating possible equity partnership in the minor league baseball effort, but the Rollins Board of Trustees voted to withdraw because of the expense of reorienting and enlarging Harper Shepherd Field and because they felt unable to meet the Manatees’ schedule requirements of a 2015 opening. Rollins subsequently expressed interest in “becoming a tenant” if a new stadium is built. But now, Rollins has re-emerged as a possible partner to the City and the Manatees. The new city staff report acknowledges that “after discussion with Rollins representatives, the Harper Shepherd Field site was added back as a potential site.”
City “Tree Farm” on Lee Rd. Eliminated as Stadium Site.
While suggesting that “other sites could surface as feasible during the next phase of the study if we proceed,” city staffers reversed course on the tree farm – eliminating the city-owned property “as a potential stadium site at this time” explaining that “lack of good access, visibility and the neighborhood impacts led staff to remove that site from current consideration.”
Stadium Economics 101: What Are Costs/Benefits?
As of now, the current “short list” of sites includes Martin Luther King, Jr., Park on Denning, the Ravaudage development on Lee Road, the current site of the VoTech school on Webster & Denning and Harper Shepherd field.
The city staff report’s cursory financial analysis of each site indicates that the “Funding Gap” in each case – the funds needed to develop a site in addition to the dollars contributed by the principals – ranges from $11 million (Harper Shepherd) to $35.5 million (Ravaudage).
He summed up the project’s net benefit by concluding that “First and foremost, the economic benefit that comes from a place like this is outside the park . . . I think if most municipalities figure out a way to have some return and/or break even for the amenity, they probably are ahead of the game.” Click video image above to see EDAB discussion of potential stadium revenues.
The “team” of major players that is beginning to coalesce around the Manatees’ relocation to Winter Park includes Manatees owner and local orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Tom Winters; Scott Fish, principal of Nashville-based UP Development – developer of the Lee Rd./17-92 Corporate Square site which will include the new Whole Foods Market; Tennessee native David S. Freeman, part owner of the Nashville Predators hockey team; Rollins College; and, the city of Winter Park.
In his January 30 email to Scott Fish, City Manager Randy Knight updates the developer on stadium funding progress and negotiations with Orange County concerning acquisition of the VoTech site:
“We have made some additional progress since our last discussion. We have explored a few different ways to plug our funding gap and while we don’t have it all figured out yet we have learned a lot. I have had conversations with the Orange County School board employee in charge of facilities and he has committed to me that he would let me know by the end of next week what the options would be to acquire the property as well as what the process would be.”
>>Click UP Development image below to see full site plan.
Will Developer Interest in Lee Rd. “Punch-Thru” Influence DOT Plans?
On February 12, Randy Knight responded to questions from the Winter Park Voice, explaining the City’s approach to UP Development and clarifying ownership of the Manatees – including Mr. Freeman’s possible involvement.
In his emailed response, Knight wrote, “I am the one who pitched the idea to Mr. Fish about considering a stadium as part of his development . . . Dr. Tom Winters continues to be the owner. A gentleman by the name of David Freeman has an option to buy a portion of the team from Dr. Winters.”
Dr. Winters and potential owner David S. Freeman appear to favor locating the stadium either in MLK Park or on the present Votech school site. Mr. Freeman wrote in an email to Mayor Bradley and City Manager Knight, “First, Tom is supportive and enthusiastic regarding the “school” site. Thus, as long as the City can acquire title to the site without any strings attached, we would be happy on that site.”
Déjà Vu All Over Again: Predators & UP’s Scott Fish Partnered In Nashville-Area Stadium Project.
David Freeman and Scott Fish may have an opportunity to team up again if Winter Park chooses to build a stadium on the VoTech site next to Fish’s Up Development site. In recent years, Fish and investor David Freeman’s Predators worked together to keep the Franklin, Tennessee A-Game Sportsplex near Nashville afloat. Freeman also poured millions into the Predators hockey franchise. The Predators play at Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville, a few miles from the Grand Ole Opry.
As reported by Tennessean online news in April 2012, David Freeman “spearheaded the purchase of the team in 2007 to prevent it from being sold to a Canadian businessman intent on moving the Predators out of Nashville, [ and ] remains a member of the ownership group. Click to read Tennessean article.
UP Development’s Scott Fish Expands His Orlando-Area Real Estate Holdings.
Mr. Fish specializes in rehabilitating distressed properties and has acquired under-performing Orlando-area properties in recent years, including the Fashion Square Mall, Toys-R-Us and the Robb & Stucky store in Altamonte Springs – a property he recently sold to the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, who will relocate their Winter Park headquarters there.
UP Development’s website describes the company as a “premier retail developer focused predominately in the Southeastern United States. With over 20 years of experience. UP Development has positioned itself as a go to shop for developers, financiers, and owners with troubled assets that require creative and unique workout solutions.”
Click to see UP Development website.
In an interview with the Voice, Bob King, Head Baseball Coach of Winter Park High School whose son Stephen has been playing in the minor leagues since 2006, observed that the minor league games provide affordable entertainment for families – often drawing crowds by including interactive events such as Bring Your Dog Night, or nights when kids in the audience are invited to come down on the field and run the bases. On off season evenings, minor league fields are often used for other cultural events, Coach King explained, like a symphony playing “Mozart on the Mound.”
Joey DiFrancesco, the Assistant Baseball Coach at Winter Park High, is also a big fan of minor league baseball. “As a teacher,” he told the Voice, “I am priced out of the Magic games for me and my kids . . . but if we had a minor league team, I would be the first in line.”
Winter Park Voice will expand its coverage of the UP development site on 17-92 and other Denning area developments – including the proposed stadium site search & negotiations – in future stories.
Baseball Stadium Plans Still Being Considered in Winter Park
Special Alert for WPV Subscribers Only
Commission Stays in the Game. Rollins Benched?
On Monday night, the City Commission voted unanimously to give City staff 45 days to study potential sites for a new stadium and determine whether minor league baseball could be good for Winter Park.
The stadium has been under consideration for over a year now, but many details of the negotiations have been kept out of the the public eye. The news blackout was requested by Rollins College to protect the interests of the principals and — per the Rollins request — has been treated as “exempt” from public records disclosures by the City.
City Manager Randy Knight indicated that currently there are “four sites on the table” being considered. Ravaudage appears to have been resurrected as one of the sites — after being scratched from the list earlier this year. Martin Luther King Jr. Park on Denning Avenue is another site being considered.
Mr. Knight pointed out that bringing minor league baseball to the City may yield a multi-million dollar benefit to Winter Park. He also noted that the Orlando area may be the largest metro area in the U.S. “. . . that does not have some form of professional baseball.” Commissioner Cooper asked for a careful cost/benefit analysis by the City.
The Commission’s entire baseball discussion can be viewed by clicking the video image above.
Bradley/Leary Bid to Pave Meadow Parkland Fails 3 to 2
3 Commissioners Unswayed by Appeals from Merchants & Chamber Theatrics
In last week’s City Commission meeting, Mayor Bradley opened the hearing on downtown parking expansion by noting that three Commissioners had requested a review of City parking policy.It appears that those three Commissioners were the same three – Cooper, McMacken and Sprinkel – who, at the end of the two-hour hearing, voted against the “pave the meadow” approach favored by Mayor Bradley and Commissioner Leary.At the top of the hearing, Public Works Director, Troy Attaway stepped forward to explain how the parking expansion plan his department was implementing was put on hold due to “resistance” from citizens who were unhappy with the City’s plans (1:30 / Video, Part 1 — Also see Video, Part 2 below).Mayor Responds to Citizen Input: I Don’t Want City Run by “Email . . . Innuendo or Accusation” Early on, Mayor Bradley interrupted Mr. Attaway’s presentation in an apparent effort to make a point about halting demolition/construction plans in response to citizen complaints:
“I want to be clear on the process that we go through – since the City Commission instructed the staff to do all of this . . . what you’re doing [ halting construction ] is probably appropriate and proper . . . I’m just saying I don’t want to be run by a city of email or a city of innuendo or accusation because somebody doesn’t like something that’s happened” (1:40 / Video, Part 1).
Mr. Attaway continued with his presentation, describing plans to add 36 parking spaces (total) to both sides of Morse Blvd. between Virginia and New York, effectively reducing that segment of Morse to a two-lane road. Attaway also spoke of modifying New York Avenue to gain 5 additional spaces. Also mentioned was a prior attempt by the City to add spaces to Morse Blvd. during the building of the Park Place parking garage. That attempt was abandoned for several reasons, including citizen opposition. (8:00 / Video, Part 1).
In the follow-up to staff explanation of current parking expansion plans, a number of Commissioners, including Mr. Leary and Ms. Sprinkel, expressed opposition to narrowing Morse Blvd., citing concerns about pedestrian safety and traffic flow. Others, including Mayor Bradley, pointed out that pedestrian safety can be enhanced by a parking lane providing a buffer between pedestrians and moving automobiles.
Cooper: “We Have Lots of Angry Residents.” Bradley: “We Have Several Angry Residents.”
Commissioner Cooper noted that the intensity of public opposition to the City’s plan may have been due to the Commission’s failure to use a Commission hearing to publicly discuss the plan (instead of the Sept. 6 Strategic Planning Workshop where the plan was last discussed – a workshop that was attended by few city residents). (19:30 / Video, Part 1).
Ms. Cooper’s characterization of the strong opposition to the parking plan – illustrated by citizen outrage she encountered the weekend before Monday’s Commission meeting – was disputed by Mayor Bradley, who appeared to minimize the scope and importance of the opposition.
Cooper: “We have lots of angry residents . . . Bradley: “We have several angry residents . . . Cooper: “I had people at my house as well as many emails . . . From my personal perspective, until we have at least implemented the recommendations that came from the [ Parking Study ] consultant – which were to move employee parking – [ for us ] to start intruding into our parkland, or creating a bottleneck . . . or disturbing the beauty of a main blvd. unnecessarily – would probably be premature.”
The debate about the intensity and legitimacy of public response to the City’s parking plan quickly morphed into an intense debate questioning the legitimacy of claims and counterclaims made by the Commissioners themselves and the City’s own parking study.
Ms. Cooper and the others on the dais continued their discussion of alternatives including public parking on the site of the soon-to-be-demolished Public Works building, as well as nearby City properties including the Blake storage yard and the Swoope Ave. water plant parking area that is already paved.
Bradley & Leary Stand Alone in Support of West Meadow Parking.
Mayor Bradley introduced motions and amendments seeking to approve additional parking spaces on the Public Works site, New York Avenue and the West Meadow (including an additional “perpetual” no-parking buffer zone). Commissioner Leary seconded the motion. (21:30 / Video, Part 1).
However, in the face of continuing Commission opposition to Meadow parking, Bradley pivoted and offered an amendment denying any parking at all on the West Meadow, which would include elimination of the traditional use of the Meadow for temporary parking over 5 to 10 days for the City’s art festivals. (24:30 / Video, Part 1).
Bradley: “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth is, Folks – Either It’s a Parking Lot or It’s a Meadow.”
This last amendment – seeking to deny any parking on the meadow if the Commission failed to approve Bradley’s bid to pave parking spaces in the meadow – was based on Mr. Bradley’s assertion that since the City currently allows parking/use of the meadow for “6 months out of the year” it should be willing to permanently pave the meadow. Sarah Sprinkel seconded the amendment as Bradley proclaimed, “Put your money where your mouth is, folks – either it’s a parking lot or it’s a meadow.” (25:00 / Video, Part 1).
The Mayor’s rationale drew a rebuke from Commissioner McMacken, who called Bradley’s argument “misleading.” McMacken claimed that parking on the meadow totaled no more than 6 days per year.
Immediately following the Bradley/McMacken exchange, Commissioner Cooper shifted the discussion from meadow parking to the City’s Parking Study that is used to justify the creation of more downtown parking. She questioned the methods used to determine the current supply of parking spaces and the current demand for spaces, remarking that “The devil’s in the details.”
Cooper Disputes City Parking Study: Why Did They Remove 141 “Honest-to-Goodness Parking Spaces from Their Count?”
According to Cooper, “If you look at this Parking Study, the parking supply that they talk about us having is not the actual number of parking spaces. The first thing they did was remove 141 of real honest-to-goodness parking spaces from their count so they could talk about “effective parking” [ which enabled them to ] . . . reduce the count of the real parking spaces by up to 15%.”
Ms. Cooper asserted that “. . . the study reduced the real supply, then on the other hand the study increased the real demand” by looking at parking demand on the weekend during the Farmers’ Market in December – “at the busiest time of the year.” (29:40 / Video, Part 1).
Sprinkel: “I Don’t Think We Should Ever, Ever Go Over Any Green Space.”
Mayor Bradley countered that 80 spaces taken away from the City’s parking supply when the West Meadow was converted from a parking lot to green space a few years ago, have never been “addressed” by the current or past Commissions. “I’m for parks as much as the next guy, but . . . the heart of our city requires convenient and accessible parking.” (32:45 / Video, Part 1).
“I don’t think we should ever, ever go over any green space” said Commissioner Sprinkel, rebutting the Mayor. “. . . I don’t know that we’ll ever make everybody happy, but I do understand that if we’ve got some green space, I don’t really want to go on top of it with pavement.” (35:20 / Video, Part 1).
Leary: “I Don’t Have a Problem” with Proposed Meadow Parking.
After much discussion among the Commissioners, Mr. Leary appeared to vacillate in his support for paving part of the meadow, but reasserted his support after confirming with Troy Attaway how much space would be taken out of the north end of the meadow: “I don’t want to take over the entire West Meadow with parking, obviously, [ but ] this I don’t have a problem with . . .” (38:20 / Video, Part 1).
Commissioner Cooper responded strongly to the underlying assumption of the Mayor and others that merchant-requested parking could only be attained by paving the meadow and narrowing city avenues. Cooper pointed out that the “[ Parking ] Study says City employees and Park Ave. employees should be able to park 10 minutes from their workplace. There’s no place that we’re even talking about that’s more than 5 minutes. This is crazy – to jeopardize our parks and our boulevards because employees believe they are entitled to park outside their doors.” (41:00 / Video, Part 1).
Ms. Cooper noted that other employers (like Florida Hospital) use buses to transport employees to and from parking lots. “We own buses – we own golf carts . . . There’s no reason we can’t free up some of these parking places . . . the Park Avenue merchants are never going to voluntarily do it if they don’t see the City employees stepping up and doing their part.”
Public comments were roughly split between support and opposition to the plan. Various residents and merchants, including Vicki Krueger, Dan Bellows, Patrick Chapin, Ken Murrah and Forest Michael expressed a range of views regarding the issue.
Part 2 of the Voice video shows all public commenters, the remainder of the hearing and the final Commission vote.
Public Comment: Park Ave. Merchant Says We Can’t Tell Our Employees Not to Park in Best Spaces.
Brian Wettstein, co-owner of the Doggie Door on Park Avenue, was the evening’s first commenter. Mr. Wettstein responded to Commissioner Cooper’s assertion that merchant employees should park farther from the Avenue by claiming that merchants don’t have the legal right to keep employees from parking in nearby, publicly-available parking spaces (00:30 / Video, Part 2).
Mr. Wettstein was followed by Vicki Krueger, who presented the history of the West Meadow starting with its transition to green space in 2008. Ms. Krueger referenced City memos and other information from that period demonstrating the City’s intent to create park space – and the compromise made at that time to put 12 parking spaces on the West Meadow. According to Ms. Krueger, the spaces were intended to be temporary: “The Compromise was to put 12 temporary parking spaces on the West Meadow. ‘Temporary’ apparently was not defined, because now it’s 2013 and they’re still there.”
When Ms. Krueger’s 3 minutes of speaking time expired, she and the Mayor disagreed over whether Ms. Krueger should be allowed to speak longer. Ms. Krueger asked for more time after showing a handful of yellow “Speaking Requests” given to her by other citizens who had granted their time to Krueger. The Mayor agreed to give her an additional 15 minutes, but only if no one else in the chamber would speak in opposition to meadow parking. Ms. Krueger declined the Mayor’s offer and spoke for an additional minute during which she began a presentation of her own parking study that showed numerous empty parking spaces available during peak times of the day. (02:40 / Video, Part 2).
Citizens Challenge Mayor Amidst Gavel Banging & Chamber Theatrics.
As Ms. Krueger left the podium, others in the audience challenged the Mayor’s limitation of her speaking time. The challenge to the Mayor was answered by Chamber President, Patrick Chapin who sprang to his feet and rushed out the chamber door dramatically proclaiming that he would return with “twenty or thirty” signed speaking forms that would enable him to request additional speaking time, too. (8:00 / Video, Part 2).
A short while later, Mr. Chapin returned to the Commission Chamber and spoke for 3 minutes. He did not offer any additional signed speaking forms. Chapin urged the Commission to accept the Parking Study at face value, saying “If we’re really going to question the validity of that Parking Study tonight, let’s just all go home . . . Can we at least pretend that that study is legitimate? It should be – it’s done by professionals .”
Chamber President Chapin: Merchants “Passionate.” We Need 280 More Parking Spaces.
Chapin alleged a “deficit of 280 parking spots” and implied that the merchants he represents are still upset about parking that was lost when the West Meadow was originally converted to parkland. “Believe me – I’m holding a group of merchants at bay, because they’re passionate about their 80 [ West Meadow ] spots that were taken away . . .” (20:40 / Video, Part 2).
Forest Michael, an urban planner who participated in planning the West Meadow green space, spoke to the Commission and rebutted the view of Mr. Chapin and others who believe that turning the meadow to parkland resulted in the “loss” of downtown parking spaces.
Michael reminded the Commission that the City and associated planners all worked together to “relocate” the parking spaces from the meadow to the Park Place garage next to Panera. (29:45 / Video, Part 2).
After the City residents had their say, the Commission restarted their discussion of creating parking permanently and/or temporarily at various City properties located close to the downtown shopping district. Those properties include “Blake Yard” on Blake St. near City Hall, the Swoope Ave. Water Plant parking area and the Progress Point site on Orange Ave.
McMacken: Let’s Take a “Systematic” Look at Additional Parking Options in Future Hearings.
Ultimately, the Commission was unwilling to entertain any options beyond the originally discussed alternatives on New York Ave., Morse Ave., Public Works parking and the West Meadow. Commissioner McMacken summed it up by pointing out that entertaining so many ideas in a manner that was not “systematic” is “how [ we ] wind up in the mess we’re in . . .” McMacken asked the Commission to vote only on the original motion and amendments and to bring back the other alternatives for discussion and possible vote at a future hearing. (44:15 / Video, Part 2).
Mayor Bradley closed out the discussion by asserting that the City does, in fact, have a parking problem. Mr. Bradley indicated that he was open to many of the parking suggestions made by the Commissioners and twice mentioned the option of building a parking garage. Immediately following the Mayor’s comments the Commission voted on the original motion and amendments. (50:45 / Video, Part 2).
First Amendment: Eliminate plan to build 12 parking spots in the West Meadow.
Commissioners Cooper, Sprinkel & McMacken voted “Yes.”
Mayor Bradley and Commissioner Leary voted “No.”
Second Amendment: Eliminate all parking at all times in the West Meadow [ would eliminate current practice of parking in meadow during art festivals and special events. ]
Mayor Bradley and Commissioner Sprinkel voted “Yes.”
Commissioners Cooper, Leary & McMacken voted “No.”
Motion: Approve Parking Plan to create additional parking in and around Public Works (after building is demolished) and on New York Avenue — but not on Morse Blvd. or in the West Meadow. Motion also includes a ”buffer” in West Meadow where no parking is allowed.
(Approximate size of buffer is same as area that was originally planned for new parking spaces.)
Motion Passed Unanimously.
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