City to Reconsider Memory Care Center

Villa Tuscany Back on the Agenda

City to Reconsider Memory Care Center


In April 2017, Villa Tuscany Holdings (VTH) sued the City of Winter Park, challenging the Commission’s March 27 denial of their application to build a 41,000-square-foot memory care center at 1298 Howell Branch Road.

Under the jurisdiction of a Special Magistrate, the City, represented by City Manager Randy Knight, has drawn up an agreement with Villa Tuscany Holdings to enable VTH to submit plans for a revised project. To read the entire document, click here.

According to the mediated settlement agreement, in early September VTH will submit plans for a re-designed memory care center to the City planning staff. After it goes through the Planning Department, the Commission will review the new application, which will include the mediated settlement agreement. The Commission will consider the agreement and the plans as one item.

What’s Changed?

The proposed agreement calls for a reduction in gross square footage from 41,352 to 30,896.

Although the redesigned building will be two stories instead of three, the maximum height will be reduced by only three feet. The number of on-site parking places will increase from 23 to 25 – which still represents a variance from the required 27 spaces.

The number of patient “units” drops from 51 to 46. Despite a significant reduction in rooms and in square footage, however, the number of patient beds is reduced by only one – for a total of 50.

Commission May Review in October — Date Flexible

The date has not yet been confirmed, but it is tentatively scheduled for the first Commission meeting in October.

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    By: Anne Mooney

    Anne Mooney has assumed the editorship of the Winter Park Voice from founding editor Tom Childers.

    Mooney got her start in New York as a freelance line editor for book publishers, among them Simon & Schuster and the Clarkson Potter division of Crown Books. From New York, she and her husband and their year-old toddler moved to Washington, D.C., where the two ran a newswire service for Harper’s magazine. “We called it Network News,” said Mooney, “because it was a network of the Harper’s writers, whose work we edited into newspaper style and format and sold to papers in the top U.S. and Canadian markets. We were sort of like a tiny UPI.”

    The newswire ceased operation with the death of Mooney’s first husband, but Mooney continued to write and edit, doing freelance work for Williams Sonoma cookbooks and for local publications in D.C.

    In 2005, Mooney moved to Winter Park, where she worked as a personal chef and wrote a regular food column for a south Florida magazine. She took an active interest in Winter Park politics and was there when the Winter Park Voice was founded. She wrote occasional pieces for the Voice, including the Childers bio that this piece replaces.

    The Winter Park Voice is one of a large number of “hyper-local” publications that have sprung up across the U.S. in response to the decline of the major daily newspapers and the resulting deficit of local news coverage. The Voice’sbeat is Winter Park City Hall, and its purpose is to help the residents of our city better understand the political forces that shape our daily lives.

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13 replies
  1. Remember the Whales says:

    Let me say, at the outset, that I know absolutely nothing about memory care facilities. So, my question is just the average Joe or Jane on the street.

    When I read The Voice article, I recalled an ongoing controversy about a local theme park, over inadequate living space for some of its sea mammals. And it occurred to me that the new proposal has significantly less total square feet, but roughly the same number of beds as the original plan.

    You can do the math. But I come up with about 600 sq. ft. per bed in the new plan, versus 800 sq. ft per bed in the previous one. And that’s based on total square feet in the building, not just the patient rooms.

    So, if you take your house’s total square feet and divide it by the number of people who live in your house, you will get square feet per occupant in your house. But, you don’t have the additional full time staff and visitors of a memory care facility at your house.

    My question is, would you be comfortable living in a building with only 600 square feet per resident if, in addition to residents, the 600 sq. ft. of space was shared by round the clock staff and visitors? And how about if you could rarely leave the facility?

    If memory care facilities, and for that matter the world of assisted living, is the wave of the future in Winter Park, wouldn’t it make sense for the City Commission to look at approving a humane minimum number of square ft. per bed? I’m not saying 600 sq. ft. isn’t humane. But, I think most of us hardly questioned that keeping a killer whale in an oversized swimming pool was inhumane either, until some very persistent people brought the issue to the public eye.

    I seriously doubt that if a developer brought in a proposal to build fifty 600 sq. ft. apartments, that the City Commission would have much interest in the project. And, when adjusted for the common facilities, medical facilities, staff offices, etc., this proposal would be significantly less than that per bed.

    • David Bond says:

      The first reply/ observation raises interesting points. Humane would indeed be a valued concept to be included in development.

      In larger cities, the direction is toward micro living spaces, which increase developers profits, but also appeal to people consantly on the go and only want a place to sleep.

      I agree with your implied goal of adequate human living space. Beware that the current movement in development is already encroaching on Winter Park lifestyles.

      I would not assume the City Commission has no interest in small living developments. Why not have them, along with the new McMansions, in the name of mixed use diversity which will increase revenue?

      The bottom line is what do you want in your community. We all need to continue to be educated in current directions.

      Being proactive is key. It’s a done deal after you hear about it and then respond.

      As pointed out in previous issues and responses, there are standards and regulations in place, which could be enforced without variances.

    • Former nurse & caregiver says:

      Many of the “luxury” Senior Citizen Living facilities charge

      huge deposits & monthly fees for one-bedroom apartments

      starting at 750 sf. The rationale is that folks spend most o

      of their time in the “common areas” of the facilities so that

      sq footage is not necessary.

      This is also true of Memory Care Facilities. The staff are

      trained to keep the residents socialized so that they don’t

      spend excessive time isolated in their rooms.

      A person needing a MCF does not require

      space that a younger healthy, active family does. The

      above comparison is like comparing apples to corndogs!

      The needs are completely different.

      Residents of MCF require lots of TLC & supervision.

      They don’t need bigger rooms. Perhaps people should

      visit MCF’s before making so inaccurate a suggestion.

      Trouble is that when a family is desperate to place a

      loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s, they have

      difficulty finding a place. because most people don’t know

      enough to make informed decisions about building these

      much-needed facilities.

      We need more of these facilities unless families are

      prepared to give 24 hour care at home.

      • David Bond says:

        Which comparison do you refer to? Corndogs are great! Havent heard that in a long while. We have more in common than you know.
        I now have two parents with dementia in their nineties and am fully aware of their needs. They have tried facilities and then rejected them, prefering care at home.
        Also have one Aunt who died with Alzheimers and was in a great facility.
        Another Aunt with Dementia livng now with 24 hr care at home. The family’s preference.
        We do need facilities for those who choose it. And I am well informed.
        No one should choose out of desperation. It is a very desperate
        life event however.
        Choices should be available to meet everyone’s needs.
        Memory care facilities should be available.
        Development should meet humane needs and be created in a humane fashion.
        That is my criteria. Development for the sake of profit is not.
        What’s your litmus test?

      • Love the Park says:

        The square footage proposed is unacceptable. Frankly, it’s depressing. To have to live most of your waking hours in common area without the choice of a pleasant private space is not the way one should have to live out their days.
        I suggest the developer goes back to the drawing board and come up with something that might not maximize profits but certainly maximizes peace of mind for everyone.

  2. Beth Hall says:

    Unfortunately for Villa Tuscany Holdings, LLC, and fortunately for the numerous Winter Park residents who opposed the project; the City Commission has the ultimate say on whether a conditional use approval will be granted to any developer who seeks same. This authority does NOT rest with either city staffers or with the P & Z board members- statements suggesting otherwise by counsel for the Applicant (VTH) notwithstanding.

    City commissioners unanimously denied VTH’s request for a conditional use approval at the March 27, 2017, meeting. VTH needed a conditional use approval for a couple of reasons. First, the building they proposed to build was over 10,000 square feet. Second, the use for the property they sought to develop was NOT a permitted “residential use” on the property where they wished to build it. In the end, the commercial use proposed for the site was deemed INCOMPATIBLE with the surrounding single family residential properties adjacent to it.

    It really IS quite that simple. One needn’t even reach the parking deficiencies or the setback issues, size issues,etc.

    The positions of the City and of Villa Tuscany Holdings in this legal “dust up” can be reviewed easily by visiting the city’s website. Just enter ‘Villa Tuscany Holdings, LLC’ in the search bar. The first two listed entries as of this writing are Villa Tuscany’s “Request for Relief” and the City’s “Response to Request for Relief”. (Check ‘them out They’re brief.)

    One other “key” point is that the applicant chose to buy the property knowing that it was uncertain whether the essential conditional use approvals would ever be granted by the City Commission. They rolled the dice.

    The Applicant had an option- one that many other applicants have pursued. That option would have been to seek rezoning of the land prior to purchasing the land. Any contract for purchase could have been made contingent upon a request for rezoning, conditional use approvals, and all other necessary variances being granted. Instead, VTH chose to plunk down the purchase money and plow ahead come what may.

    Winter Park residents spoke out in force. To their credit all of the commissioners listened. There is no Bert Harris case here. There were no vested development rights to build a commercial memory care center on this site at time of purchase. VTH hoped to obtain these rights in the future. They hope it still.

    Will it happen?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I was at several of the meetings to discuss this proposal. What I saw from the discussions was a lot of fear from those who live in the vicinity. It is true that there are those whose single family homes are close, but it would be quite a hike to get from those homes to this property. Having lived in the area for a while, I wonder if these residents would prefer to have multiple unit dwellings occupied by college kids as some of us in the area have. The people who will be residing in a memory care unit don’t cause any trouble, don’t have wild parties, don’t speed through the neighborhood. They are typically older and quietly living out the end of their lives. AND, having good choices in our community for this is a BONUS, not a detriment, because the loved ones of these folks can visit more often.
    I heard it said that you can be born in Winter Park, you can move to WP, you can start a business in WP, you can raise a family in WP, you can die in WP….but there are those who don’t want you here if you lose your mind.
    Last, even though this property is in proximity of single family homes, it is on a main road and not accessible otherwise to these neighbors.
    I agree with the commentary from the former nurse and caregiver……please take the time to talk to people who are in the business of memory care. There are good ones and bad ones and I would like to think that, if we need one, it will be close at hand.

  4. Donald Thompson says:

    Construction of a “Memory Care Center”, or any medical facility, at 1298 Howell Branch Road troubles me. That site has always been known as the location of a previous “sink-hole”. To put fifty mentally troubled patients, unable to help themselves, over such seems in-humane and cruel. Sure, the chance of the sinkhole re-occurring is slim; but possible. Re-occurrence frequently happens across Central Florida. The reason you seldom hear of it is because it occurs in a pasture field or an everglade-type area. But it does happen. There are many safer locations in Winter Park. Government is intended to be “OF, BY, and FOR THE PEOPLE”. Winter Park is highly populated by wise, well-educated, intellectuals. Of all cities, the local government should turn to the citizens for guidance. GOVERNMENT, PLEASE LISTEN.

  5. Beth Hall says:

    Opposition to this project is not rooted in the belief that memory care facilities are not needed or that they don’t provide a valuable service. Nor should the debate be about current and future housing trends.

    What is most troubling to me is that everything abut this proposed project is now occurring out of the public eye and without public input.

    There will be a chance for public input later, but what will the public notice requirements be for the meeting where, as per the agreement, Randy Knight will recommend approval of this project to the commission?

    Conditional uses are called conditional uses for a reason. They are not an entitlement. Assisted living may be an allowable conditional use in R-3, but all the commissioners agreed with citizens that this was not the place for this project on a MULTITUDE of fronts, while also lacking sufficient parking.

    Also at issue is whether the NUMEROUS voices of the affected neighbors, other concerned residents, and the commissioners themselves ought to be disregarded or reversed in order to facilitate the financial aspirations of this Applicant. The Applicant closed on the land without knowing whether it would be successful in procuring the variances and approvals needed.

    Our Comp Plan was recently amended to allow for creation of a medical arts district. I believe this use will be permitted in that district.

  6. Beth Hall - Open Letter to Mayor & Commissioners says:

    Conducting the business of the citizens in an open and forthright manner is the mission of city government. Notice to the broadest possible segment of the public fosters this mission.

    In this vein, I have a suggestion to make concerning the public notice provision of the mediated settlement agreement between the City of Winter Park and VTH. The agreement provides that the Applicant “is responsible for paying the cost of any and all public notices for the public hearing on the Modified Application and this Agreement.” The forms of notice which VTH must pay for are not spelled out in the agreement. I see an opportunity for good here.

    As a means of fostering transparency lacking elsewhere, instead of merely requiring VTH to pay the costs of providing the most minimal notice that can be gotten away with- i.e. notice mailed to property owners within 1500 feet of the subject property, sign on a stake on the site, advertisement in the paper and notice on the city website -why not insist that VTH pay the cost to mail notice to all the citizens of record who spoke at the March 27 th meeting, as well as those who contacted the commission in writing or by e-mail about VTH in advance of the March 27th meeting? Why not ask VTH to provide city-wide notice? This would cost the applicant more, but they are getting a second bite at the apple via an agreement that was drawn up outside the public eye. It should be subjected to the same scrutiny as the first. The City decides forms of public notice; VTH pays for same.

    Lack of public notice generates more problems than it can ever solve. I hope you will do what you can to get VTH to pay for the broadest possible public notice ahead of your reconsideration of VTH’s Modified Application.

    Thank you for your consideration.

  7. Barry render says:

    Just a clarification, Anne. Yes, the original building size was 41,352. But that included the covered portico entrance air space. The actual reduction in square footage is only 4,000 sq. ft.. And as you pointed out, the height only drops a few feet, and patients drop from 51 to 50. The room sizes will be very, very small.

    • Old Sod Buster says:

      I think there are too many cattle in TX causing global warming due to their flatulence. This warming allowed hurricane to build to record levels, causing the record rainfall.


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