Library Plan Goes Forward

Library Plan Goes Forward

City commissioners charged ahead this week with final approval of the site plan for their new library and civic center, despite an advisory board’s concerns.

Earlier this month, the city’s planning and zoning board opted for only preliminary approval of the project because unanswered questions remained, especially about stormwater drainage.

The 4-1 vote on Monday to approve the site plan included Commissioner Greg Seidel, a civil engineer, in the majority. He said he reviewed the stormwater plan and “didn’t see any deal breakers.” Commissioner Carolyn Cooper, who raised questions about the cost of dealing with some of the project’s risks, voted against the site plan.

Commissioners did endorse one recommendation from their advisory board: They agreed to consider tearing down the Lake Island Hall recreation building to add 36 more parking places to the site plan.

Seidel’s support came with two suggestions that were not acted upon. First, he wanted the city to pre-treat the stormwater before it pours into the lake. At the very least, he said, the city should remove trash from the drainage. “It’s not that expensive.” Mayor Steve Leary declined to endorse the idea but didn’t rule it out. “I’d want to know how much that would cost,” Leary said.

Second, Seidel proposed putting a parking garage at the southwest corner of the site where a parking lot is planned, using non-library funds to build it. He noted that a garage there wouldn’t interfere with the look of the two new buildings and could serve area businesses and park users as well. More importantly, he said, it would make sense to build the garage with CRA funds intended for the redevelopment of the central business district. Commissioners were not enthused. “The parking issue won’t be resolved until we have experience with the facilities,” Commissioner Pete Weldon said.

Commissioners felt comfortable ignoring their advisory board after city Planning Manager Jeff Briggs said that board was “not as familiar” with the site-plan issues as city commissioners were. “There doesn’t appear to be a lot of logic bringing it back” to the board after the Saint Johns River Water Management District reviews it, Briggs said. The district in the next few weeks will decide whether to permit the city’s proposal to channel stormwater overflow from Lake Mendsen into Lake Rose, the site of the city’s huge 1981 sinkhole.

The total cost of many elements of the site plan remain unknown. That’s not unusual for developers, but the city lacks deep pockets for the project. Unknowns include, for example: the cost of tearing down the recreation building; the cost of trying to save even a few of the 63 protected trees targeted for removal; the cost of stormwater pretreatment; and the cost of removing more muck if necessary. The placement of the library and civic center had to be shifted after soil borings disclosed deep levels of muck on the site.
Cooper asked if the city has budgeted enough to deal with all the risks. “I’m fine accepting the fact that we can fix it with money. The question is how much [money] and should we?” Other commissioners did not share her concerns. If more costs arise, Weldon said, “trade-offs will have to be made,” as happens to “any developer.”

  • author's avatar

    By: Geri Throne – Guest Columnist

    Author / Journalist
    Geri Throne moved to Winter Park with her husband and two young children over 40 years ago, after learning about the city as a reporter for the now-defunct Winter Park Sun Herald. She wrote extensively for that weekly about city issues and local politics in the 1970s.She later joined the staff of the Orlando Sentinel where she specialized in local government issues and in the 1980s served as Winter Park bureau chief. She worked at the newspaper’s Orlando office as an assistant city editor, deputy business editor and member of the Editorial Board before her retirement in 2003. A series of her editorials won a national award for educational reporting from the Education Writers Association in 2003. Geri has published several essays and short stories. She continues to pursue her interest in fiction writing with local authors and is working on a novel set in World War II.

  • author's avatar

32 replies
  1. WP Darwin Awards says:

    We can all be proud of our 4 city commissioners who voted for final approval. They are men and women of action who don’t waste time thinking about things before they act.

  2. Brace for Impact says:

    How do we know if the proposed Library/Events Center is on budget and on schedule? What are the working estimates? Are these available on the City Website? How many budget workshops has the City Commission held devoted to this project? Has the public been invited to comment? Are their quarterly budget reports from the Project Team to the Commission?

    Why has the square footage for the library ricocheted between 50,000 sf and 39,456 sf,,, then down to 35,690 sf, …then limped in for a landing at 34,400 sf. (for a net advantage over the existing library facility of 606 sf—about the size of a two-car garage).

    Can a Library be a successful public gathering point/destination without a Café and Bookstore as originally proposed, but now dropped from the concept design?

    Why did the garage/parking deck disappear? We need it. This was a part of the project pledge made to voters asked to vote for and support this project.

    Are city commissioners comfortable with budget assumptions? What are the blind spots they have identified/discussed? Are the right questions being asked?

    Speaking of blind spots, which site costs, such as soils/foundation design and stormwater retention and remedies, are known fiscal challenges?

    Will flooding continue to persist? What does St. Johns River Water Management District have to say?

    Why was Planning and Zoning given short shrift on their very detailed site-specific questions for this project? Were they provided answers and staff follow-through?

    The intersection at Morse and 17-92 is growing congested day by day. How will
    this project impact future traffic flow? What about ingress/egress on Harper?
    What about safety concerns?

    What is our upper limit on budget blow-out? What is our target number for contingency fund/reserve? Has that reserve been met?

    Answers to these Questions? Quick: Get a Black Box. Hashtag: #WhoKnows? Perhaps the Commission will honor its oath of office and inform its citizenry.

    Why bother? It’s not what we let the project become, it’s what we make it.

    • Keep Calm and Re-Elect Commissioners says:

      Relax, Brace. The Fab Four on the City Commission will take care of everything for you. So don’t worry your mind with the important details.

      Budget? Who needs one? The Fab Four know that if they need more money they can just raise your taxes. If they need a lot more they can do another bond referendum and pick a nice number out of the air – like 51% for example – yeah that’s the ticket 51% – And tell everyone that many residents voted for the additional bond. Since residents no longer count the ballots, who’s to know if they fudge a little – or a lot on the voting results?

      Traffic? Commissioners have had hotter debates about who stands where on their portrait in the City newsletter that you get in the mail every month at your expense. At least 4 out of the 5 City Commissioners almost never have to drive in Winter Park rush hour traffic. If you do, it’s your own fault. They’ll be discussing traffic for the next several years – just to feign that they are doing something about it. Truth be told, Commissioners LOVE traffic jams.

      The garage disappeared so that they can build an even bigger garage in a couple of years, taking up lots more of the park, so they can build even more buildings in the park. Of course they will say it is for the “Library” because they have learned that saying that turns residents as sleepy as a dog who’s been chasing his tail all day long.

      Flooding? No problem for the Winter Park City Commission. They serve an elite faction who wants the project to get built. Problems stimulate solutions. EXPENSIVE solutions. And commissioners always seem to have cronies willing to provide expensive solutions to problems commissioners cause – all this at your expense of course.

      And the Library size? Well, maybe you didn’t get the memo. It was never designed to be a library. That was just their cover story so that when they said the bond passed by 51%, residents wouldn’t cry foul foo much. Oh sure, they’ll put on a good show for the public at first. Stack some library books in the new building etc., for a couple of years. Then they will tell us that it’s not big enough (sound familiar?) and that they want to build a new library next to it and use the first building as an art museum. It’s obvious from the design that the intended use is as a public art museum. Have you ever seen a library that looks anything like it? Hope you like art. You’re paying for it. Libraries are so, so yesterday. If you want to read something just read the City newsletter that City Commissioners send you each month. You’re paying for 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 NOT the plan the residents approved.

      • Not a Library says:

        Anonymous, nice try. We know that trick too.

        We don’t have to know what a LIBRARY looks like to put two and two together.

        Everyone already knows what a library looks like.

        All we have to do is know what an ART MUSEUM looks like to unveil commissioners’ ultimate plans for the new facility.

        Exhibit A:

        The Contemporary Art Museum – Brazil

        Notice the resemblance?–Louis_Vuitton_Cruise2017_Announce_1_DI3.jpg

        • Anonymous says:

          I’m genuinely curious. What do you envision a library looking like (i.e. What would be your ideal “look” for a new library)?

          • Not a Library says:

            Anonymous, let me make this easy for you.

            See the picture of the new library I posted above?

            See the picture of the art museum I posted above?

            Now look at this picture. Does it look like a LIBRARY to you or a TOURIST ATTRACTION?


            Let me ask you a question. Anonymous, do you think people are really going to be reading a book at any of the three places in the pictures, or are the all places people would more likely go more for amusement than for reading?

            Why would they need SLANTED WINDOWS in a LIBRARY?

            Tell me – why?

            When you go to the LIBRARY do you go to look out the widows?

            Nobody does.

            Makes perfect sense to put SLANTED WINDOWS in a TOURIST ATTRACTION. Makes no sense at all to put SLANTED WINDOWS in a LIBRARY.

    • Another Tacky Tourist Attraction says:

      “Not a Library”‘s link the artist’s rendering commissioners don’t want the residents to see. You won’t find it on the City website. Instead they want you to look at the microscopic view drawing from above so that when they repeat their mantra “Library” you will imagine a library.

      The rendering link “Not a Library” posted shows what they have planned for us. Not a Library is right. They’re building yet another tourist attraction to jam up our roads even more than they are already jammed, and telling us that they are building a library so we won’t complain until it’s too late.

      Then later when they start building more large buildings around it in the park they will provide their favorite alibi that the park was “underutilized.” They think the residents are too dumb to catch on to their charade.

      I say, if commissioners build it, that the residents get together to put a city charter amendment on the ballot to turn it into “THE WINTER PARK MUSEUM OF CITY COMMISSIONERS FOLLY” and fill it with exhibits about every foolish thing City Commissioners said and did during their term of office. That would be more than the buildings would hold though, so the exhibits would have to be rotated periodically.

    • Some of the People says:

      Good work, Not a Library.

      On the artist rendering link of the new library you posted, I noticed, not a single human in the picture appears to be carrying a book.

  3. When Accountability is traded in for Opaqueness: Citizens Lose (and so do Library patrons) says:

    Doomed. Name a person you’ve talked to who loves this design. Does it say “Winter Park” to you? Meh. Does it say “Florida”? Take away 63 trees on the property (shameful), strip the landcape bare, and you’ve got “Welcome to Nevada Visitor Center”. “Honey, can we pull in to use the restrooms?” Apologies to Nevada–at least it would use solar–something that has been stripped out of our library project contrary to prior Commission promises. Repeatedly. And if we’ve decided to go with a Winter Park Visitor Welcome Center why does it keep getting cut back–drastically–in square footage–while the planned Events Center takes no hits whatsoever? Did the Events Center folks hire a fancy lobbyist? Weddings win. Books lose? In fact why don’t we just park the Events Center and concentrate on making the Welcome Center–bigger than Maitland’s?

    • HOWDY says:

      When Accountability, don’t be so quick to judge. Give the $50 million Winter Park Welcome Center a chance. Just imagine pulling up to MLK Park when you see a HUGE billboard out front that says “Winter Park Welcome Center – Boxed Oranges, Genuine Alligator Key Chains, Peacock Punch. Come on in, Y’all”

      And then when you go in, it’s an art museum. and the art is sculptures carved out of the 63 trees they cut down in the park.

      The “Library” is a small stack of magazines and paperback books in the restroom you can browse while doing your business.

    • Ready to vote next March says:

      A former mayor and other VIPS are lobbying to raise big money for the Events Center. Not sure who appointed them to raise funds on behalf of the City. Are they on a task force or committee? Why aren’t residents aware of who they are and what they are doing? How can residents find out how much money has been raised? Where is the transparency? Could we end up with “Camping World Library at the Canopy?”

  4. Reach for the Stars (or Stairs) says:

    Save Trees
    Save Greenspace
    End Project Sprawl
    Go Up

    Winter Park Library Tower and Beacon

    Foundation: On piles, to 50-90 feet (rather be safe than sorry)
    First Floor: Library
    Second Floor: More Library
    Third Floor: Library Café, Bookstore and Events Center Kitchen
    Fourth Floor: Events Center Main Hall
    Fifth Floor: Events Center Break Out rooms (with a view)
    Sixth/Seventh Floors: Parking Decks
    Roof: Airplane-Spotting Deck; Drone Landing/Take-off Deck
    Crown: Light Beacon—to remind those exiting Dr Phillips Performing Arts Center (in Orlando) to spend the night In Winter Park (even if they are local) — per our more-than-generous $1million city-taxpayer gift.

    Branding: The Beacon at the Canopy at MLK Jr Park

    • What the Muck? says:

      And when the 10 story building sinks into the already discovered muck in the park, we can call it “Muck Tower at The Canopy.”

  5. Cigar says:

    It looks like The Voice poll (as of tonight anyway), has determined that the 2016 $30 million library bond has the enthusiastic support of an overwhelming 15% of Winter Park residents.

    Now, we know how they got 51% approval as the final 2016 official vote tally.

    The vote counter must have been dyslexic and got the 1 and the 5 mixed up.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I suspect Rollins will get a sweetheart deal on our library property. Hope I’m wrong. If I’m not, then I hope a group of wealthy longtime Winter Park residents will get together and bid the price up on them during their land grab.

    So where does everyone think the inevitable hotel for the “library” is going?

  7. I'm With Pitt! says:

    At first I was sad that they library was moving to MLK Park. But then I read Pitt’s post on The Voice Facebook page and now I am HAPPY about the move!

    Sure, I might have to sit in hours more traffic, but I can use the time CONSTRUCTIVELY by listening to books on tape in my car and learn a lot more than I would before!

    Sure, I might have to pay a couple hundred extra dollars every year in extra taxes to pay the debt on the new library, but, I will learn to be more careful how I spend money and will more often eat beans and rice that are better for me than restaurant meals anyway.

    Sure, I might miss all the trees and green space from the park, but when I gaze at the beautiful upside down pyramids that our City Commission is building in the park, I will forget all about green space as tears well up in my eyes overcome by the beauty of the oblique concrete and glass everywhere in sight.

    Sure, I might not know anyone in real life who actually voted for the $30 million library bond, but once the new library is built, I will understand that even though nobody knows anyone who actually counted the votes, we can all TRUST our government to count our votes right because the government would never lie or do anything dishonest.

    Sure, I might know that $30 million could have been used to put more police on our streets, or to fix the flooding on some of our streets, or to beautify our streets by adding green space, but then I realized that streets are for cars, and what Winter Park really needs is more cars on our streets that the new library will bring to our city!

    Sure, I might feel sad that once the new library is built there will be nowhere for me to park near it, but I got tennis shoes, I got boots when it floods, and more importantly, I got feet! All I need is my trusty umbrella and I can walk a few miles each way to the new library rain or shine!


    And the rest of you Voice readers, don’t call me gullible. Once you drink Pitt’s Kool-Aid you will think like me too!

    • Pitt's Zombies says:

      I’m With Pitt!, welcome to our cult.

      Pitt’s Zombies are folks just like you from all walks of life in Winter Park.

      There aren’t many of us, but people who share our beliefs are somehow able to overcome our deficit in numbers and charisma to impose our views on the rest of Winter Park.

      Whether we have been inclined to Pitt’s way of thinking about Winter Park for a long time, or are new to the cult, we all share the same beliefs.

      1) Our mayor is doing a great job
      2) The City Commission is doing a great job
      3) The new library is a beautiful building and is for our kids
      4) Taller and bigger buildings are better buildings in Winter Park
      5) Parks are undeveloped buildable lots
      6) Traffic is not a problem in Winter Park
      7) Winter Park needs more restaurants and attractions
      8) Density is just another way of saying “Pedestrian Friendly”
      9) Anyone who disagrees with us is a conspiracy theorist

      • Anonymous says:

        Speaking of conspiracy theorists….I can’t wait for the conspiracy theorists to take apart the new library design looking for Masonic symbology. I’m sure there won’t be any obvious symbology…..or will there? 😉

    • Pitt's Zombies says:

      Yeah all you devisive, rabid, frothing new library haters out there. Listen to Pitt. When Pitt says it’s over, it’s over. No questions asked.

      When Pitt says the election was free and fair, it was free and fair.

      What Pitt says goes. Pitt don’t want to hear no more whining from you.

      It’s over. That’s the end of it. Pay your new library taxes with a smile every year for the next 20 years and be glad Pitt is telling you what to think and what to do.

      Really. We’re not kidding this time. Donate all your money to the library to make it the best because Pitt wants the new library to be the best.

      AND NO YARD SIGNS. Pitt don’t like angry residents putting up yard signs.

  8. U can run but U can't hide says:

    Probably the task force is delaying in the hope that the Gottfried ad blitz effects will blow over.

  9. Ventriloquist says:

    What I “enjoy” is watching our fifth commissioner (Leary) cut off statements and even motions by fellow commissioners with whom he disagrees. But when Sprinkel tries to make a motion Leary will phrase it for her or complete it for her. “What I think Commissioner Sprinkel is trying to say…”
    It’s inappropriate as hell. But it will no doubt continue as long as they both hold seats. Whatcha gonna do?

  10. Leary's Pen Ran Out of Ink says:

    Leary has a letter to the editor in the current edition of Winter Park Observer. It’s written in classic deny and attack form.

    It only proves that the campaign to stop the construction in MLK Park is working.

    And it’s got the Winter Park City Commission shaking in their boots.

    The residents aren’t buying their stories any more.

    You can’t find even 1 in 10 residents who support the new library as designed and as located and as cost estimated.

    Leary’s letter is a “Hail Mary” pass with no receiver in the end zone.

  11. Group Think says:

    Learys Pen Ran Out of Ink has a point. Leary makes statements like that the city is planting 125 trees. Sounds good, but what Leary fails to explain is that these will be saplings. They will provide a canopy in a couple of decades or more. What is being destroyed are over SIXTY specimen trees that could be saved. This is how he is playing it, Folks. Enjoy the Canopy.


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