Is Stormwater the Canary in the Coal Mine?

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

Is Stormwater the Canary in the Coal Mine?

Guest Columnist Charley Williams

If ever a project needed to hit the “pause button” this one is it—staring us right in the face.

The stormwater component, as outlined in this piece, is the red flag alert.
The designated stormwater basin (of which Lake Mendsen is the receiving end) is already at capacity (Saint Johns River Water Management District). It already serves the Paseo, Winter Park Village, runoff from US 17-92 and 74 more acres. We all know the site at Morse and Denning/Harper floods–badly. Yes, we will experience future rain/storm events. Count on it. Also of note, current conditions offer an irony: Lake Killarney sits higher than Mendsen. That’s a problem. What’s more, Lake Rose, which sits at the other end of MLK Jr Park, is being proposed as the overflow-reliever. Lake Rose is a sinkhole. Lake Rose is not wholly owned by the city. In order for the city to solve the stormwater conundrum, it will need to purchase property it currently does not control. Citizens will lose yet more park greenspace if either lake needs to be enlarged. Is that fair? We are already looking at over 8% of the original park footprint being diverted to development. And now we are increasing that number? Yes!

Which brings me to this wish list: (the good news: it’s not too late, if there is political will)

1. Save the trees on the northwest corner of the library property: Right now, up to 63 trees are slated to be lost. After all, this was a park first. Is the rebranding of the project to “Canopy” an outright taunt?

2. Reclaim the lost square footage chopped out of the library project. The proposal adds only 600 square feet over our current library, with no café, no bookstore. That’s not what the citizens’ were promised—we were promised 50,000 square feet. Get it back. Function over form. Why are we short-changing future generations? Winter Park will continue to grow. Plan for it! We are paying architects $2 million to solve that problem. Have they?

3. Work harder to integrate the structures with the Park experience. Current designs operate as if on two parallel universes. The buildings ignore the park. How can that be? The park is an outright gift—embrace it.

4. Parking: we were promised a garage. Where is it? Priority: Convenience (and safety) for our seniors.

5. Green building standards: where is the solar component? This is Florida!

6. Finally—work to acquire the private holdings along Fairbanks that abut MLK Park. Add these parcels to the masterplan park acreage. The prior CRA made this a priority. (Loss of the Bowling Alley was monumental). Yes, this might just compensate for the loss of park space

In the NW corner of MLK Jr Park: fair is fair.

  • author's avatar

    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.

  • author's avatar

11 replies
  1. Change The Name says:

    I’d support a change in name from “The Canopy” to “The Carlisle.”

    Here’s a primer for developers in Winter Park on how to get your next project approved by the City Commission:

    1) Use the word “Library” in the name of the project such as “The Library Apartment Towers.”
    2) Use the word “Library” in the name of the project such as “The Library Density City Project”
    3) Use the word “Library” in the name of the project such as “The WP Library and Events Center.”

    Works like a charm every time. Makes no difference how crazy the project is or what the impact will be on residents. Commissioners have approved EVERY project that has come before them with the name “Library” in it.

    • Deja Vu says:

      Yes, sure as the sun rises in the morning every Winter Park City Commission seems to haver their own “Carlisle.” It cost the City a million bucks to undo a prior commission’s poor decision to develop the post office property.

      Thankfully it cost no more than some shoe leather and legal fees to stop the last City Commissions plans to turn Winter Park into “minor league baseball world” with a white elephant professional sports stadium.

      And the city commission approved Library / Events Center is this city commission’s “Carlisle.” No matter then name of the project or its location, the characteristics are always the same:

      1) The residents immediately see that the project is a loser, incompatible with Winter Park, and a real white elephant. The politicians, however, fawn all over it, rave about the architecture, brag about how great it will be for the city, and are generally deaf to residents who point out the obvious.

      2) Residents organize to stop the project.

      3) In time commissioners come around to the same conclusion the residents had months or years before and the project is never built.

      The difference this time is that commissioners are still under the delusion that residents support the project.

      Even after a petition signed by over 2,000 residents opposing it and no petition in favor of it. Even though it’s darn near impossible to find almost anyone in town who voted in favor of the bond. Even though it should be obvious to all that Winter Park residents would never trade scarce park land and mature trees for more traffic, more density, tens of millions in debt, higher taxes, and an inconvenient location for their library.

  2. Shari Yudenfreund-Sujka says:

    I was at the first Planning and Zoning meeting regarding the building of the Paseo. The city presented the facts that a number of years prior, the project had been given the okay with certain variances, I would call them, and now under the new Comprehensive Plan those variances would not be allowed. There was discussion on this point.
    Then the discussion turned to the storm water drainage for the project. The first discussion included using some of the unused pervious/impervious surface area from the plaza just west of the proposed apartments.
    Then the discussion continued and turned to what to do with the storm water and it was discussed that if it was okay, it would drain into the then Lake Island Park which is now the Martin Luther King Jr. Park. So a private project was allowed to drain into a public park instead of them having to take some of the project land and build a retention pond.
    That brings us to the present problem of not being able to use the public storm water drainage area for a public project.
    If I read the author correctly, he feels that this project was not properly vetted before it was brought to a vote by the citizens of Winter Park and I agree with him on that.
    The loss of trees, the new library not being much larger than the old one, and the lack of a parking garage as promised, along with the storm water issue leaves many troubling questions.
    If I might suggest, try putting the events center on top of the library so it can have an even more beautiful view of the lake. It would have a smaller foot print overall, the library could be a bit bigger without taking up more of the park and there would be money from not building a second building to build a parking garage.

  3. Sally Flynn says:

    Thank you Charley for this very clear post about the troubles facing the City if they don’t push the pause button.

    The most meaningful words in your post were “if the political will is there” to push the pause button. In addition is there the “political conscience” there to be good stewards of the Tax Payers money. To continue on the path the City is on is fraught with tax dollar waste and much more. Please look at solutions.

  4. WP Commerative Plaque says:

    I was here from the beginning
    Extracted from the quarry I was taken to the shop
    There under intense heat I was fabricated into a square plate.
    Bronze letters were then affixed to me

    I was placed in storage
    For a time
    It was there that I overheard the conversations
    Of Winter Park’s future:

    “We can double the population of Winter Park within 10 years, quadruple in 15,” someone said
    “We have the votes to go up 10, 20, even 30 stories,” said another
    “Traffic jams stimulate development,” one confided
    “Parks will soon be as obsolete as horse drawn carriages and dirt roads, a voice chortled

    One day early they wheeled me out, then up
    It was a beautiful day
    It took four men to hold me up
    While the other bolted my corners to the side of the new building

    After the mayor’s speech and ribbon cutting and band playing
    All the nicely dressed people filed by and gaped at me
    That would be the last time anyone paid attention to me or even noticed me
    Each read my bronze letters:

    Dedicated this day as an enduring symbol of how the few rule the many
    “It doesn’t matter who votes. It’s who COUNTS the votes that matters.”

    Steve Leary, Mayor
    Pete Weldon, Vice Mayor
    Greg Seidel, Commissioner
    Sarah Sprinkel, Commissioner
    Carolyn Cooper, Commissioner

  5. MLK Neighbors Tell Leary "No" says:

    Leary announced at Monday’s City Commission meeting that the people who own the properties across the street from MLK Park have refused his request to provide parking during business hours for the new City buildings.

    Apparently, parking arrangements for non-business hours are still being negotiated with the property owners.

    Also of note, City staff finally fessed up at the meeting that the parking code is inadequate to meet the expected demands of the new facility (What took them so long?).

    Cooper was the only “No” vote against confiscating more park land to add parking spaces.

    Seidel waffled and in the end sided with The Gang of Three, voting “Yes” to reduce green space in the park by adding more cars to the environmentally sensitive park land along Harper St.

    Commissioners continued to remain silent on the inconvenient fact that Winter Park residents have never supported the project, in its current half-baked form, or otherwise.-

  6. Parade of Nations says:

    Winter Park brings the WORLD to you: first we have the Mayor’s (and Vice Mayor’s) Taj Mahal — no it’s not a new high speed rail station or terminal for a new regional airport–it’s a library, and a vastly scaled down version of that at best. Next up we have Little Venice–flooding and sideways stormwater plumes during what has become common climate change driven downpours. Gondolas on Morse is fine with me. And yes, with the new library design there is a glazed-over reverence for the Porte Cochere. I say let’s just erect a dock at the library entrance on Morse. Make Noah proud.

  7. What's Going on Here? says:

    Ever notice how all the shills they brought in to support the Library/Events Center have disappeared? It’s not an exaggeration to say that absolutely no one has attended a City Commission meeting and spoke in support of the project during the past year except those having a financial interest in it.

    • Michael Poole says:

      The incompetence of the Library Task Force led by Sam Stark, Library Board led by Jeffery Jontz, and Steve Leary is on full display with the current plans. They had a supporting cast of Sarah Sprinkel, Dan Butts, Tom McMacken and the passive Library Board. A public library is supposed to be a beacon of
      knowledge and truth in a community. Not in Winter Park. All Library board members who were involved with the the bond referendum should resign. This is NOT the plan the residents approved.

  8. Kimberly Marshall says:

    I think we should cancel the library project all together and save the residents millions of dollars. The project is no longer the project the voters approved. There is no parking structure as promised, they are taking more green space than promised and the library is smaller than promised. Broken promises are the reason this should be stopped.


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