Westsiders Win Fight for Low-Density

Developer Abandons High-Density Plan — Offers Single Family Homes Instead

Westsiders Win Fight for Low-Density

A Winter Park icon, the Mt. Vernon Inn, will close its doors forever on November 1. Long beloved by locals as a place to gather in the morning for breakfast or in the evening for drinks, the Red Fox Lounge will be replaced by three upscale restaurants boasting a combined total of 590 seats.

Rather than hotel rooms, the new establishment, to be known as The Luxe, is slated to have 53 apartment units with rents of $3,000 a month, according to the developer, Unicorp National Developments president Chuck Whittall. At a projected 223,940 square feet, the Luxe will be more than double the size of the Mt. Vernon and will require Unicorp to request a sort of hybrid zoning – a blend of the existing commercial C-3 zoning and a “planned development” category known as PD-1.

If the city grants it, this will be the first PD-1 zoning in Winter Park. A planned development is one that combines residential, retail and commercial establishments and is generally characterized by a high level of density.

Unicorp Needs Upzoning to Build The Luxe

Unicorp’s Chuck Whittall, who will be developing The Luxe if his deal to purchase the Mt. Vernon Inn goes through in early November, is entitled to ask for this blended zoning. The Winter Park City Commission, however, is in no way obligated to grant his request.

The issue is slated to come before Planning & Zoning on November 4, and then before the City Commission on December 8.

Unicorp: 7 Parcels on 17-92

Mr. Whittall has amassed an ambitious amount of real estate along Highway 17-92. In addition to Mt. Vernon/Luxe property, Whittall has Lakeside Winter Park, home to Trader Joe’s, Gardens at Ravaudage, the Fleming’s Steak House property, the former Wazzabi property, the Cold Stone Creamery / Math building and Winter Park Terrace, the former site of Starbuck’s – a total of seven holdings.

‘T.O.D.’ Hits 17-92

What we may be seeing is one example of Transit Oriented Development (TOD), which was described in a regional study created between 2007 and 2010 by the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council, entitled “The East Central Florida 2060 Plan.”

The East Central Florida region includes 68 cities in six counties – Orange, Osceola, Volusia, Seminole, Brevard and Lake.

2060 Plan: ‘Stop Urban Sprawl’

Creating a model by projecting current development patterns into the year 2060, the Planning Council found “a less than desirable and consumptive outcome that promotes sprawl . . . including irreversible damage to our environment and economy.”

The 2060 Plan is an attempt to avoid “development [ in ] the most critical ecosystems, [ promote ] denser growth in transit planned corridors, and [ to redevelop ] existing urban centers.”

East Central Florida boasts one lone corridor, comprised of three parallel arteries – 17-92, a portion of I-4 and SunRail. According to the 2060 Plan, “Aligning transportation and land use is essential to the success of corridors. The 17-92 corridor will be a transit oriented development that “feeds” SunRail . . . .”

  ECF 2060 Plan

“Transit Doesn’t Work Without Density.”

Transit Oriented Development is described in the 2060 Plan as, “. . . a strategy to manage growth by planning for ‘moderate to high density development, located within an easy walk of a major transit stop, generally with a mix of residential, employment, and shopping opportunities.”

Fred Milch, Transportation Planning Manager at the Central Florida Regional Planning Council, told the Voice, “Transit doesn’t work without density.”

Orlando Area Apt. Construction Jumps 56%

Chuck Whittall is not the only developer who has jumped on this bandwagon. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, the current pipeline of apartment construction activity in the Orlando metro area is the highest in the state.

It has gone from 3,640 starts in the second quarter of 2013 to 5,685 in the second quarter of 2014.

Listed below are developments — planned, under construction, or completed — along the Maitland-Winter Park-Orlando portion of the 17-92 corridor. Together, they represent 2,253 apartments, 63 townhomes and an estimated 1.4 million square feet of commercial and retail space – all worth in excess of $500 Million.

Florida Hospital Promotes TOD

Winter Park Mayor Kenneth Bradley’s employer, Florida Hospital, has been at the forefront of TOD promoters. In a letter dated May 12, 2011, Florida Hospital President and CEO Lars Houmann wrote to Governor Rick Scott, “Florida Hospital will work cooperatively with businesses and municipalities all along SunRail to enhance ridership and development.”

Mayor Bradley announced today in the Winter Park Observer that he would not seek another term as mayor. His current term expires in March 2015. Noting the sacrifices involved in holding public office, Bradley said, “I’ve done what I feel like I came to do.”

  FL Hospital Letter

No Gain Without Pain

Metroplan Orlando’s Executive Director Harry Barley is optimistic about the prospects. “This is an important regional corridor,” said Barley, “and it will fit with our regional vision for growth.” But the transition to TOD does not come without a price.

In Winter Park’s immediate future, 17-92 congestion and declining SunRail ridership are on a head-on collision course with the looming six and one-half-year reconstruction of I-4. According to one developer, “It’s going to be painful.”

SunRail Ridership Plummets

If the objective of TOD was to get us out of our cars and onto a train before I-4 construction began, that effort has failed.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, SunRail ridership has steadily declined. For example, Florida Hospital’s Health Village is a huge mixed-use complex that exactly fits the “Florida 2060” model. It has approximately 17,000 employees, their own rail stop which was financed by the hospital, and a subsidy for employees who ride the train to work.

In August 2014, the Florida Hospital stop had an average of 181 SunRail riders per day.

  Sentinel SunRail Story

No Coordination Among Corridor Cities

Asked if anyone was addressing the cumulative impact on the infrastructure along the corridor, Central Planning Council Executive Director Hugh Harling confirmed that all this new development falls within the jurisdiction of the local municipalities.

He said, “Each city operates independently.” And officials in Maitland and Winter Park, who asked to remain unnamed, said that each city is concerned with its own piece of the pie and that there is virtually no coordination among them.

They confirmed that there is no regional person or organization responsible for regional coordination or oversight.

Regional Vision vs. Local Vision

Clearly, there is a vision plan already on the books – and has been since 2010.

TOD is barreling down the tracks straight at Winter Park, and it seems to be arriving way ahead of schedule. It may be very difficult for the City of Winter Park to embark on a local visioning process without being overtaken by the regional juggernaut.

Will City Strike a Fair Deal to Buy Bowling Alley?

Some Say It’s a High Price to Pay

Will City Strike a Fair Deal to Buy Bowling Alley?


September 18, 2014 – High Noon. City Manager Randy Knight called a joint meeting of the Community Redevelopment (CRA) Advisory Board and the Parks & Recreation Board to discuss the purchase of the Fairbanks Avenue Bowling Alley at 1111 W. Fairbanks Ave. The two boards met at the Winter Park Country Club golf club house.
Scott Fish, of UP Developments, LLC, developer of the new Whole Foods, has contracted with Rollins College to purchase the bowling alley for $2,950,000. Fish is willing to assign his contract with Rollins to the city, so the city can buy the bowling alley property to extend Martin Luther King, Jr., Park.

City Rushes to Meet Deadline

The city will waste no time waiting until after the visioning process to seize the opportunity. The contract between UP Developments and Rollins is scheduled to close October 27, creating urgency among city staff to reach a decision. The matter will go before the CRA Board at 2:30 Monday, September 22, and will be on the agenda of the commission meeting which immediately follows.

Rollins Bought Property in 2013

Rollins purchased the bowling alley property in the late spring of 2013, when it looked like Harper-Shepherd Field would become a Minor League baseball stadium. Rollins needed space for other teams that use Harper-Shepherd. Being next to Martin Luther King, Jr., Park, the bowling alley property was an ideal location for Rollins to expand their playing fields.
When it became clear that baseball would not be coming to Winter Park, however, Rollins no longer needed expansion room and sought to sell the property. UP Developments, LLC,, stepped in and contracted to buy the property from Rollins.
Apparently, the city has been interested in the bowling alley property for some time, with an eye to expanding MLK Park and mitigating some of the traffic problems on Fairbanks. When they approached Scott Fish about it, Fish agreed to assign his contract with Rollins to the city, so that the city can buy the property from Rollins and UP Developments will withdraw from the transaction.

Purchase Will Expand MLK Park, Add Parking

City purchase of this property would expand MLK Park by approximately 1.6 acres, allowing for a non-regulation sized playing field. It would also create an additional 100 parking spaces for the park and for business establishments along Fairbanks and 17-92. Preliminary plans also call for an extended right-hand turn lane along west-bound Fairbanks at the intersection with 17-92.

Cost to City — $3.25 Million

The city proposes to pay for the property with funds from several different sources. They include:

CRA contribution from fund reserved for debt service $1,650,000
Parks Acquisition funds 975,000
Sale of city land at 300 Pennsylvania Ave. 625,000
TOTAL
$3,250,000

UP Development’s contract with Rollins is for $2,950,000. According to Winter Park Communications Director Clarissa Howard, the additional $300,000 the city is willing to pay would compensate Scott Fish for “real estate fees and site plan design fees associated with the property.”

“Is this a fair price?”

CRA Advisory Board member Daniel Butts asked City Manager Knight if he thought this was a fair price for the property. Knight replied, “It’s higher than market value,” but added that there has been no appraisal on the property.
Butts then wanted to know how much the city would lose in tax revenues. He pointed out that this expenditure would “wipe out the rainy-day fund” for CRA debt service. The debt he was referring to is on the Community Center in the Hannibal Square neighborhood. The “rainy day” fund would cover this debt service should property values fall again as they did in 2010-2011.

Land Acquisition Only the Beginning

Parks & Recreation Advisory Board member Janet Atkins pointed out that acquisition of the land was only the beginning, and that considerable additional funds would be required to demolish the building and to redevelop the property. It is also unclear who would pay for widening Fairbanks to create the right turn lane onto 17-92. She said, however, that “this is a great first step toward expanding this park.”

Parks & Rec Votes to Approve the Purchase

Parks & Recreation Director John Holland stated the land purchase would help meet the goals of the Parks & Rec Department in three ways. First, it would add park land, consistent with the Comprehensive Plan mandate to provide one acre of green space per 10,000 residents. “We are right on the line of meeting that level of service,” said Holland. He pointed out that there is a need for more multi-purpose playing fields. And, third, there is a current parking shortage at MLK Park.

CRA Votes Approval — with Strings Attached

The CRA Advisory Board, which voted separately, required more discussion. Daniel Butts wanted to know if the city had any other funding source. Noting that the city has reserves of $27 Million, Butts suggested the city contribute at least half of the purchase price to avoid depleting CRA contingency funds. He also urged Randy Knight and Planning Director Dori Stone to go to Scott Fish and to Rollins to re-negotiate the sale and come back with a better price. The CRA then voted three to two to approve as amended.
The measure is scheduled to go before the CRA at 2:30 Monday, September 22, and then to the Commission, which meets at 3:30 immediately following the CRA.

Yes, You Can Fight City Hall

P&Z Turns Down Request for Hannibal Square UP-Zoning

Yes, You Can Fight City Hall

A phenomenon occurred on the night of September 2 as a standing-room-only crowd of Winter Park citizens packed the Commission Chambers for a Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Board meeting. The residents spoke; the Planning & Zoning Board members heard them.

Hannibal Square Neighborhood Character Threatened

 Hanging in the balance was the fate of the blocks bordered by Canton and Capen Avenues in the Hannibal Square neighborhood, where Sydgan Corporation, represented by Dan Bellows, sought to change the zoning from single family, detached dwellings, designated R-1, to R-2 zoning to accommodate a development of multi-family dwellings Bellows would like to build there.

Winter Parkers Take Back the Power

In what the Orlando Sentinel termed “the inescapable calculus that gives citizens clout over public policy,” citizens rose, one after another, to speak against the creeping encroachment of density and traffic in Winter Park neighborhoods, especially those on the west side of the city. They pointed out that Sydgan knew the property was zoned R-1 when they bought it, and that the Comprehensive Plan clearly set forth protections for the single-family, low-density residential character of the Hannibal Square neighborhood.

Bellows Skips Community Meeting

This was the third time Sydgan and David Weekly Homes had come before the city with a plan to build multi-family dwellings on the block of lots bordered by Canton and Capen. After a contentious meeting last spring, city planners had asked Dan Bellows to meet with Hannibal Square residents and reach some mutual agreement. Hannibal Square residents held a meeting at the Community Center, but Bellows did not attend. Instead he sent his lawyer. No compromise resulted.

Gary Barker took the podium to point out that it was not the duty of the P&Z to ensure that developers make money from properties they have bought. “You do, however, have an obligation to represent the will of the citizens of this town,” he said.

Residents Speak – Loud and Clear

“The commissioners have decided to do a visioning, so why in the world are we continuing to amend the Comp Plan and change the zoning?” argued neighborhood leader Mary Daniels. “When you are doing a vision plan, that includes your residents. The residents do have a voice and we ask that you hear us.”

Jennifer Anderson suggested the board members “hit the pause button” and wait until the city has worked through the visioning process before making a decision that could change the character of the neighborhood. It is unlikely the city would allow development of this sort on Palmer or Via Tuscany or in my neighborhood, she pointed out. “I would hope you would treat this community in the same way you would treat mine.”

Former Rollins College President Thaddeus Seymour observed that the representative for the builder, David Weekly Homes, referred to what he built as “product” rather than homes. “That sums up the problem for me,” said Seymour.

P&Z Hits the ‘Pause’ Button

As the board deliberated Sydgan’s request, it was clear that the voices of the citizens still rang in their ears. Board member Tom Sacha deplored the division that envelopes the city, with citizens polarized and seemingly unable to reach any compromise. “Let the visioning process work itself through,” he said. “We need to step back and pause for a moment.”

And in a clear demonstration of representative government, the Planning & Zoning Board denied Sydgan’s request for a zoning change by a four to two vote.

 

 

 

Citizen PACs Give Winter Parkers Stronger Voice at City Hall

Mayor Bradley Pushes Back Against Baseball Petitioners & “No Density” Advocates

Citizen PACs Give Winter Parkers Stronger Voice at City Hall

Even in the dog days of summer, Winter Park citizens are making a lot of noise, and the city is beginning to hear them.

While one Political Action Committee (PAC), “Protect MLK, Jr. Park,” was circulating a petition for an ordinance to prevent building a baseball stadium in Martin Luther King, Jr., Park, a second PAC, “Citizens for Managed Growth,” was formed to distribute the yellow “No Density” signs that currently dot the lawns of homes throughout Winter Park.

Chaired by Roderick Sward, Citizens for Managed Growth was formed in response to the June 9 commission vote to amend the Comprehensive Plan to allow increased density and intensity of development.

PAC Chairman Blindsided at Mayor’s Coffee Talk

On Friday morning, July 11, at the mayor’s coffee talk at the Chamber of Commerce, Sward was caught off guard by Winter Park Hospital CEO Mayor Kenneth Bradley when Bradley unexpectedly handed him the microphone and asked him to explain the purpose of Citizens for Managed Growth.

Sward stood and articulated the concerns of Winter Parkers that the proposed changes to the Comp Plan would drastically alter the village character of Winter Park. He stated that the citizens felt they were not being heard by the city and had formed a PAC to publicly air their views by placing “No Density” signs around the city.

The following Monday, July 14, the commission convened to consider, among other things, the final reading of the ordinance to prevent a Minor League baseball stadium from being built in Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.

Mayor’s Amendment Fails to Force a Referendum

The ordinance had some rough early innings, as an essential paragraph had been accidentally omitted by the City Attorney’s office. Assistant City Attorney William E. Reischmann corrected the error, however, and the ordinance in its original form came up for discussion and a final vote.

Insisting that Martin Luther King, Jr. Park had never been seriously considered as a stadium venue, Mayor Bradley proposed a minor amendment to the effect that the measure would become an ordinance “if the city decided to build a baseball stadium.” This action could have forced the ordinance onto the ballot as a referendum.

Rebutting the mayor’s dismissal of MLK Park as a serious possibility for the baseball stadium, PAC Chairman Gene Randall pointed out that MLK was very much in the running as a site for the stadium until the formation of the PAC, when it suddenly dropped to the bottom of the list. “This wasn’t a frivolous ordinance at the time we formed the PAC,” said Randall. (Video 16:22)

Bradley Confronts Citizen PAC Chairman in Audience

As the issue finally came to a vote, Bradley’s amendment failed and the commission voted unanimously to pass the ordinance as it was brought by the citizens to the city. Bradley then called a recess.

With MLK Park now safe from the baseball stadium, the crowd of citizens milled around the ante chambers, turning their attention to the proposed changes to the Comp Plan. Mayor Bradley emerged from the chambers and approached Rod Sward, interrupting Sward’s conversation. Bradley demanded to know who had contacted him to form the Citizens for Managed Growth PAC. When Sward declined to answer, Bradley admonished him to be “ready for the consequences.” In a subsequent interview with the Voice, Sward described his encounter with the mayor. Mayor Bradley did not respond to the Voice’s request for comment.

Comp Plan Amendment Due Back Any Day

When asked if they had received approval for the proposed Comp Plan amendment that was sent to Tallahassee in mid-June — the subject of Citizens for Managed Growth and their “No Density” signs — City Planning Manager Jeff Briggs responded that staff had not yet received it, but that they expected it any day. “However,” said Briggs, “staff is now working on visioning . . . The amendment does not have to be considered now.”

Briggs was referring to the fact that the commission has 180 days, or six months, in which to act on the proposed amendment once it is approved in Tallahassee. If they fail to act within that time, the amendment simply dies.

Will the amendment be part of the larger vision?

As to the probable disposition of the amendment, several possibilities exist, though no one claims to know what will happen. The commission could bring it up for a vote as soon as they receive it from Tallahassee. They could wait for five to six months before they act. They could consider the amendment within the context of the visioning process and let the results of that process guide their decision. Or, they could decide to reframe the amendment to conform with the final results of the visioning process.

Mayor Flips a U-Turn on Visioning

What seems to be driving city staff’s attention away from Comp Plan amendments and focusing their efforts instead on visioning has to do with Mayor Bradley’s own vision of the visioning process. Bradley has gone from resisting a visioning effort involving “the same 24 angry citizens” to moving full bore toward what he terms a “scientific” visioning process to determine the future direction of the city.

City Staff Works to Structure the Process

Asked whether the city has identified a consultant to guide the visioning process, Briggs said they had not. He explained that there is much work to be done before anyone knows what form the visioning process will take. Choosing a consultant “is not like bidding out tires,” said Briggs. Staff will need further direction from the commission regarding the choice of a consultant, how the surveys will be conducted and the overall budget parameters.

Citizen Voices Equal in Weight to Voices of Advisory Boards

Communications Director Clarissa Howard confirmed that the planning staff is working hard to structure the visioning process. She said that the visioning would not result in a new Comprehensive Plan, as had been previously suggested, but that the results would be used to review the current plan.

She confirmed that City Advisory Boards would have an active role in the visioning process, but said, “The voices of the citizens will be equal in weight to the voices of the [ advisory ] board members. Outreach is very important to city staff.”

THE ROAD TO GRIDLOCK: City Revokes BC Clinic Building Permit

Deal for Lakeside Blue Cross Clinic Parking Falls Through

THE ROAD TO GRIDLOCK: City Revokes BC Clinic Building Permit

City staff confirmed that they have revoked the amended conditional use permit for the Blue Cross clinic that is under construction at the Lakeside Development on 17-92, which also houses Trader Joe’s.

   

To grant the permit, on March 4, the Planning and Zoning Board relied on promises by Unicorp National Developments, Inc., that they had secured auxillary parking at the site of the Sweet Motel at 271 S. Orlando Avenue, below, which they planned to raze and turn into a parking lot. Unicorp has failed to close on the deal, and the sale will not proceed.

The failure of the deal leaves Unicorp short 21 parking places in an unfinished development where parking is already a nightmare.  Where Unicorp will come up with the additional 21 spaces is unknown. A Unicorp spokesman was not available for comment.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Chuck Whittall to March 4 P&Z:

“What we’re doing here will be a huge enhancement to the area.”

 

The Promise

 

The Reality

Clarissa Howard, Winter Park Director of Communications, said the city will allow the developer to complete exterior construction on the clinic so the structure can be closed and protected from the elements. No interior work can proceed, however, until Unicorp comes up with the required 21 parking places.

           

BASEBALL SHOCKER: City Says Harper-Shepherd Stadium Deal Dead

Did Pressure from WP Citizens Make the Difference?

BASEBALL SHOCKER: City Says Harper-Shepherd Stadium Deal Dead

The number of potential sites for minor league baseball has just gone from four to two. The city announced late this afternoon that Rollins College Harper-Shepherd Field is no longer in play. Martin Luther King, Jr., Park was removed from the lineup earlier this week by an ordinance, the result of a citizen petition, prohibiting building a stadium in the park.

This most recent development in the up-and-down fortunes of stadium negotiations comes one day after a Rollins Board of Trustees meeting. Sources tell the Voice that a significant letter-writing campaign waged by concerned Winter Parkers was part of Trustee deliberations. How much of a role the letters — numbering in the “hundreds” according to our sources — played in Trustees’ decision to strike Harper-Shepherd from the list is unknown.

The remaining potential sites are Ravaudage and the Votech property at Denning and Webster, which is currently owned by Orange County Public Schools. Stay tuned as this story develops over the next days and weeks. 

News Alert--City Schedules Vote to Encourage Developers to Build Bigger Buildings

Density-Related Traffic Congestion Not on City Agenda

News Alert–City Schedules Vote to Encourage Developers to Build Bigger Buildings

On a rainy June night, after a long and sometimes acrimonious meeting, the Winter Park Commission voted three to two in favor of a sweeping amendment to Chapter 58 of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan that would open Winter Park’s floodgates to increased density and intensity along all major four-lane roads.

The same three commissioners – Steven Leary, Sarah Sprinkel and Mayor Kenneth Bradley – also voted to remove parking garages from the calculation of the allowable size of commercial buildings.

A request to make these revisions to the Comprehensive Plan will now be submitted to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) in Tallahassee. The DEO review process will take approximately three months; if the DEO approves the request, city staff has an additional 45 days to bring the revisions back to the commission for a final vote.

If that time table holds, a final vote on proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan is due sometime in mid-November 2014.

Are Winter Parkers Ready for Bigger Buildings & More Parking Garages?

The increase in density would be enabled by merging two land use categories into one high-density category designated simply “Planned Development (PD).” In the staff presentation, Director of Planning Dori Stone and Planning Manager Jeff Briggs discussed the advantages of Planned Development, explaining that replacing parking lots with parking garages would reduce the appearance of urban sprawl. They cited the strip mall parking currently fronting 17-92. A Planned Development would place a parking garage discreetly behind the building, allowing more green space and improving the appearance from the road. Removing the square footage of the parking garage from calculations of allowable building size, known as the Floor Area Ratio, or FAR, would provide more space for commercial enterprise.

Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel asked Dori Stone, “Why would someone want a PD [ Planned Development ]?”

Stone replied, “They might get a little more density and intensity . . . they might also be able to get that parking garage that would allow them to have that 200% FAR.” (Click image above for video.)

City Proposal Allows Planned Developments to Move Closer to Park Avenue

Both the commissioners and the citizens in attendance expressed mixed feelings about Planned Development. Examples of PDs are Baldwin Park, Celebration and Lake Nona. Some noted that Winter Park is not Baldwin Park and doesn’t want to be, while others acknowledged the advantages of placing Planned Developments west of 17-92 and along Lee Road in areas that need revitalization.

The real bone of contention was ‘more density and more intensity.’ Winter Park residents who attended that June 9, 2014, commission meeting were not ready for it.

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper summed it up when she said, “What we are talking about here is density and intensity of land use . . .”

Cooper explained that she had worked in the past to have PDs in certain carefully selected areas west of 17-92. PDs would give the city more flexibility in negotiating with developers to achieve better projects and to get more green space. She said, at that time the city was willing to accept more density and intensity in those areas in order to get better developments. “But,” she asked, “is it really necessary to subject the community to a change in intensity and density . . . from 45 percent to 200 percent? That’s where the rub happens.”

Cooper: Surveys Show Citizens Want Development “Cautiously Controlled”

“We did surveys in those days,” she continued, “. . .and found we had a population that wanted development that was cautiously controlled.”

Prohibiting high density construction east of 17-92, especially high density for any single retail establishment, ensured among other things that there would be no ‘big box’ stores in the core of Winter Park. If the proposed revisions to the Comprehensive Plan are approved, this ‘firewall’ protection would be eliminated.

Commissioner Tom McMacken asked city staff for confirmation that the proposed Comp Plan changes would go to Tallahassee for DEO review, would come back in approximately three months with DEO comments and suggestions, and that staff would have 45 days to address any DEO concerns and to make appropriate revisions to the Land Development Codes that accompany the Comp Plan before they presented the final version to the commission for a definitive vote.

Broad Cross-Section of Winter Parkers Step Forward to Oppose Comp Plan Change

As staff concluded their presentation, the floor was opened for public comment. Twenty-five citizens offered comment.

Twenty-four spoke against making such sweeping changes to the Comprehensive Plan, one spoke in favor.

It was clear from the tenor of the comments that the objections were less about Planned Development and more about the elimination from the Comp Plan of protections against commercial encroachment on residential areas.

Commissioner Leary Called Out for Possible Conflict of Interest

The second speaker, Judy Maynard, nearly derailed the meeting by suggesting that Commissioner Steven Leary, whose company recently purchased the former Thomas Lumber Company property on Orange Avenue, recuse himself from the vote. She said that because Orange Avenue is one of the four-lane roads that would be eligible for a PD, Leary would unfairly benefit from approval of the proposed zoning changes.

Although her comment drew a firestorm of procedural protest from Mayor Bradley, Ms. Maynard was, eventually, able to state her position. Click Maynard image below for video of the exchange.

Citizen: “Commissioner Leary . . . I feel that you have a vested . . .” [ Mayor interrupts ]

Citizen: “Regarding Commissioner Leary . . .”    [ Mayor interrupts ]

Citizen:“I believe that Commissioner Leary . . .” [ Mayor interrupts ]

Mayor:“I’m telling you [ your comment ] is inappropriate . . .”

Citizen Explains:“I believe that [ Leary ] should recuse himself from this vote . . . He has a vested interest with his property . . . He can use [ this vote ] for his own benefit.”  

–Exchange between Mayor Bradley & WP resident Judy Maynard during Public Comment segment of City Hearing.

City Attorney Asks State Ethics Commission for Opinion on Possible Leary “Voting Conflict” 

In May 2014, City Attorney Larry Brown filed a “Request for advisory opinion on behalf of a member of the City Commission of the City of Winter Park.” The May 6 filing, made on behalf of Commissioner Leary, included this summary:

“A member of the Commission of the City of Winter Park is 1 of 14 partners in a limited liability company that owns property located across the street from one of several sites the City is currently considering as a site for a minor league baseball stadium.2 The Commissioner requests an opinion whether his vote on the selection of a site for a minor league baseball stadium is prohibited as a voting conflict under Section 112.3143, Florida Statutes, because the vote would inure to his special private gain or the private gain of his business associates with whom he is involved in the ownership of the property.”

The City’s advisory request is still being considered by the State Ethics Commission. A decision is expected within the next 30 days.

Request for Ethics Opinion

State Ethics Commission Denies Leary Request to Remain Anonymous

Mr. Brown closes his letter to the State Ethics Board with this request: “We will greatly appreciate your opinion on behalf of the City of Winter Park and this individual Commissioner whose name should be withheld at his request from the opinion.”

Brown’s request was ultimately denied by the Florida Commission on Ethics attorney:

“Although no opinion will be published (placed on our website upon issuance) with the City Commissioner’s name in it unless he grants permission, we need his name for our records and in order to move forward with your inquiry; and there is no anonymity for him (for example, his name may appear in meeting materials posted on our website prior to the meeting in which the opinion request will be considered by the Commission, or a person could make a public records request and learn his name).”

Denial of Anonymity

Tensions Run High as Citizens Challenge Commissioners: “Who Supports This Plan?”

Tension continued to build as citizen after citizen rose to speak. They entreated the commissioners to listen to homeowners and leave the current Comp Plan in place until the city can ascertain what effect current unfinished construction, plus the imminent I-4 construction, will have on roads and infrastructure. They worried about increased pressure on public safety services that would result in longer emergency response time.

A recurrent theme was the lack of planning and opportunity for public input and the speed with which the commission was putting forward the proposed changes. Michael Spencer of Orange Avenue noted that the proposed changes are not in keeping with the vision of the Comprehensive Plan.

The city has the luxury of being in good financial shape, he noted. He urged the commission to “take a step back” and seek input from all the stakeholders before deciding to change the Comp Plan.

One after another, residents urged the commission to “step back,” “slow down,” seek public input.

Carol Lotspeich wondered, “Where are the supporters?” noting that all public comment to that point had been opposed to the proposed changes.

“You’ve been elected by the tax-paying residents of Winter Park to represent the interests of those residents.” she said.

Betsy Owens, Executive Director, Friends of Casa Feliz, rose to speak reminding Commissioners that none of the “different people representing different professions, neighborhoods, socioeconomic and racial groups throughout the city” had spoken in favor of the Comp Plan change.

Winter Park resident Pat MacDonald noted that the report from Wallace, Roberts and Todd LLC, consultants hired by the city, strongly recommended receiving input from the community. “That just doesn’t seem to have happened. What happened there?” she asked.

Video of All Public Comments

In his remarks stating that he would not vote to approve the proposed Comp Plan changes at this time, Commissioner McMacken appeared to endorse the residents’ requests for a visioning process.

“A visioning process goes way beyond where we are this evening,” he said. “I voted for the Lee Road extension because I believed that was necessary. This change is not necessary. At least, not at this time.”

Video of McMacken Remarks

Comp Plan Change Passes on 3 to 2 Vote

The motion to send the request to change the Comprehensive Plan to Tallahassee for their review passed on a 3 to 2 vote: Bradley, Sprinkel and Leary in favor, Cooper and McMacken opposed.

Late Night Meeting Ends With Commissioners Trading Accusations

After the chambers had cleared and only the commissioners and a few staff remained, the commissioners paused to reflect on how they thought the meeting had gone. The type of tense exchange that ensued has become commonplace on this commission.

Commissioner Sprinkel accused Commissioner Cooper of “inciting” the public with her emails.

Sprinkel, Mayor Bradley and others have complained for years about Cooper’s newsletters and the discomfort it occasionally causes for Commissioners.

Commissioner Cooper countered with a suggestion that the City offer its citizens more opportunities to learn about City initiatives.

“The problem is, the public never sees us discussing how we might be able to come to some sort of agreement . . . That’s what workshops and visioning could do.”

Cooper assured Sprinkel and others on the Commission that she will continue to send information to citizens: “I will continue to communicate with people . . . I will continue to say when I think it’s important that they participate.”

Bradley: I Don’t Want Visioning Sessions if These Citizens Will Be There

After further exchanges about how public input might best be handled, Mayor Bradley offered his opinion of the visioning process.

“I can’t let this evening go without a few comments . . . twenty-four angry people spoke tonight.

“They were vetted and baited into that . . .

“There were comments tonight made that developers are bad.

‘This is about greed’ somebody said. Greed! Where is greed coming from in this?”

Video of All Commissioner Remarks

Meeting Discord and Comp Plan Vote Spark Strong Citizen Response

Word of this meeting spread quickly. On June 14, Lisa Everett circulated an email in which she responded to an email from Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel in which she defended her vote for the changes. In the text of this email, Everett wrote, “We deserve to understand why the City is acting on discrete recommendations while completely ignoring the fundamental WRT recommendation that the City first ‘[ d ]evelop a methodology for conducting a 9-12 month long city-wide visioning process with ample opportunities for meaningful public input.”

Retired Judge Cynthia MacKinnon: WP Commissioners Arrogant, Dismissive, Demeaning

On June 17, retired 9th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Cynthia MacKinnon wrote in a ‘My Word’ column in the Orlando Sentinel, “City staffers and commissioners display a stunning disinterest in citizen questions and concerns about the future of our community. For a real lesson in arrogant governance, watch videos of commission meetings as commissioners dismiss and demean citizens who question commissioners’ recent vote to amend the Comprehensive Plan. . . .”

Former County Commissioner Segal: WP Officials Should Learn to “Disagree Without Being Disagreeable”

Remarking on MacKinnon’s column, former Orange County Commissioner Bill Segal wrote on his Facebook page, “. . . . I am hearing and feeling great deal of concern from people I have come to know as reasonable. I have also heard from people who have been to the meetings that disagreement is not welcome. Sure hope this board doesn’t turn the Council back over to the No growth folks because of actions and/or demeanor.”

To a friend who responded to his post, Segal wrote further about MacKinnon’s column, “On its best day, you get 2 Winter Parkers together and you get 3 opinions. . . .It also touched on the fact that we are in a time of great change in what has been a bit of a “Village”. Much of it I may agree with, but Our City Council needs to be mindful that much is happening all at once, people need to be educated, have the issues explained, and part of the job when serving on these Councils includes the tough job sometimes of having to take a punch, without punching back, and the willingness to “suffer fools”, to listen and perhaps disagree without being disagreeable. Many “Centrist” Winter Park Residents, need to feel that they are informed, and that our “Electeds” don’t take a “just trust us” attitude.”

Local Academic Explains How Increasing Density Can “Cannibalize Neighborhoods”

On June 13, Richard Reep, an architect with VOA Associates, Inc., and an adjunct professor for the Environmental and Growth Studies Department at Rollins College, wrote in New Geography “When, in the process of allowing density, a city destroys the very values that it is supposed to promote, then the city ends of cannibalizing its neighborhoods for little benefit other than the one-time gain that the developers will realize from the sale of these newly built products. Income streams are put into mortgage-holders’ pockets, and . . . one more highly localized economy disintegrates.”

Link to Reep Article

At June 23 Commission Meeting City Officials Attempt More Civil Approach to Bridging Deep Divide in WP

Two weeks later, the June 23 commission meeting promised to end on a somewhat more harmonious note than its predecessor on June 9. The mayor and commissioners agreed that the city needs to provide more information to its citizens in advance of taking action on issues that will have long-term effect.

Ms. Sprinkel described a workshop she attended called “Shared Values & Shared Future,” conducted by Central Florida Regional Leadership. “If you go out to our community,” she said, “our community will tell you it’s all about how we feel. . . . We have to pay attention that whatever people feel, is reality.”

Commissioners Sprinkel and Cooper made several suggestions about information that could be posted on the city’s website. Commissioner Cooper expanded on Sprinkel’s remarks by suggesting that proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan also be posted on the city website before they come before the commission.

Until this point, the commissioners seemed to be in general agreement that there was a need for more education and transparency. Mayor Bradley, however, expressed disagreement, saying he believed the citizens are disagreeing with the vision currently in place and that the real problem lies with the Comprehensive Plan itself — that citizens are “mad” at the current Comprehensive Plan. “They’re mad at what’s being built at the DMV site” he said. “They’re mad at other kinds of developments that are being done under our current Comprehensive Plan. So I think it’s time to do a ‘touchpoint . . .”   Bradley asserted that it’s time for the City to take a look at updating and revising the current Comprehensive Plan.

Bradley asked that at least two of his fellow commissioners commit to creating an agenda item calling for a “community-wide scientific process” to ascertain the true feelings of all the citizenry and to guard against the distribution of “misinformation.”

The final exchange between the mayor and Commissioner Cooper demonstrated just how thin is the veil of civility. After several interruptions, Ms. Cooper was able to point out that the only reason some of the developments citizens dislike were approved is “because we as a commission voted [ in prior years ] to make three major changes to the Comprehensive Plan.

–We voted to increase allowable building height from three to four stories.

–We changed the zoning from office or commercial (45% to 60% FAR) to R4 (200% FAR).

–And we passed a special change to allow us to increase the density by utilizing the density on the adjacent lot.”

“So it’s not quite fair to say that all this has happened under the current Comprehensive Plan as it is,” she said, “because the only way it was able to happen is because we, as a legislative body, made those changes.”

Is City Hall Favoring Developers Over Its Own Citizens?

Denning-Area Neighbors Question City Priorities

Is City Hall Favoring Developers Over Its Own Citizens?

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:

“There’s so much at stake here . . . We are a small town . . . You’re turning this into something that no one envisioned it to be . . . When will it end? When will we stop taking away our single family neighborhoods?”

–Mary Randall, WP Resident Since 1987

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.

Residents: Enough!

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) 

The proposed changes would require the City to make three revisions to the Future Land Use Policies in the Comprehensive Plan. Policy 1-3.8.4 states, “The City shall encourage single family detached homes as opposed to apartments and condominiums by strongly discouraging Future Land Use Map amendments.”

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
— Single Family “Doesn’t Work” For Us

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.

Westside Holds Meeting to Discuss Differences: Bellows a No-Show

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

Cut-Thru Update: City Votes Yes Despite Strong Citizen Opposition

Story Update 



Commission’s 4 to 1 Vote in Favor Draws “Boos” from Citizens at Hearing

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.

City/Commissioners Don’t “Believe” Cut-Thru Will Increase Neighborhood Traffic

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

The 15+ city residents who spoke during the Public Comments period were, with two exceptions, opposed to the cut-through.

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.”

Read & Input Comments  



Anne Mooney & Tom Childers / May 12, 2014

Civic Center Meeting on Lee Rd. Extension – A One-Way Street?

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

City residents attending the workshop were told there would be no opportunity for them to publicly air their views in this meeting but that they could submit their comments in writing to the city.

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.

In a May 9 interview with the Voice, Commissioner Carolyn Cooper stated her opposition to rushing into a decision so quickly, when it is not necessary to do so.

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.

Cooper and Sprinkel Going Against the Traffic

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.”

McMacken says: “Look Both Ways Before Crossing the Road”

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.

It’s Workshop Week: City Holds 3 Special Hearings/Workshops Reviewing Lee Rd. Cut-Thru & Denning/17-92 Development Over Next 7 Days

  

CES_punch-thru_alt_routes_4-25-14_600x703.fw

 

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 . . .”