Mixed Use on Orange Avenue

Trojan Horse – or Manna From Heaven?

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

Mixed Use on Orange Avenue

Guest Columnist Beth Hall

Citizens of Winter Park: beware the Trojan Horse.

Before she “left the building,” retired planning director Dori Stone may have deployed one. The Orange Avenue corridor is in developers’ cross hairs. Rumors even include a possible new rail station.

Apparently unwilling to develop their sizable Orange Avenue holdings under the strict limits imposed by our current land use laws, Stone said that over the past 18 months, owners of larger properties along the corridor have approached the city about opening the door to development of greater intensity.

With property owners anxious to make big changes to the corridor, planning staff has brought forward to the commission the idea of a “mixed use overlay.” Once in place, this alternative zoning would give land owners the option to develop parcels they own on a scale that will vastly exceed the existing zoning parameters. In return, they would give back to the city in a way that benefits all residents. Is this the rumored train station?

Video obtained of the duly noticed “mixed use workshop” held at City Hall on July 10, 2018, shows the city planning director exhorting the commission that as a “legislative body” they have a responsibility to the community to “make this happen” and to “let the community know what this corridor needs to look like.”

Stone insisted the 2017 comprehensive plan must be a “fluid” document, one that “changes with the times,” noting that some of Winter Park’s most “iconic places” are examples of “mixed use” development done before the city had a comp plan or stricter land use laws. Does this mean the comp plan is now an obstacle on the path to progress?

Taller, more massive buildings would “make a statement.” Land holders on the avenue could choose to re-develop under the new mixed-use guidelines or use existing zoning guidelines. An urban design expert should be hired to devise a master plan for a “mixed use overlay. “

Stone cited the Medical Arts District rising around Winter Park Hospital as an example of this idea. Orange Avenue would serve as a test case.

There was no mention of the fact that Orange Avenue is already a thriving mix of shops, businesses and eateries. City ownership of a large parcel on the Orange Avenue corridor was noted. The mayor’s ownership stake in four other parcels was not. Also, omitted was the fact that West Fairbanks has seen the deployment of many millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements, which the City could begin to recoup.

If you think you might like to hear the discussion of mixed use that took place or if you want to hear for yourself how individual commissioners viewed the idea, I fear you’re out of luck.

The audiotape of the meeting posted by the city is very poor quality and the city says enhancement efforts have proven unsuccessful. Had I not obtained a video of the meeting independently, I could not have written this piece. I would not be aware that the posted minutes from the meeting do not accurately reflect city staff in attendance . . . omitting as they do a city attorney who spoke and gave advice.

Mixed use — Trojan horse or manna from heaven? Only you can decide, but as of this writing, becoming informed will not be a simple task.

  • 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

21 replies
  1. Randy Vance says:

    Trojan Horse. First of all, the planning director needs to quit leading the Commission by the nose—or at least the Commission needs to put her in her place. Everyone in town is sick to death of multitudes of parcels in the city being rezoned because the poor, poor developer couldn’t profitably do it under the current citizen approved plan. I would say that is a load of horse manure. The problem isn’t unfeasability of development under current laws. The problem is a developer can manipulate the commission to create vastly more personal wealth by increasing development density on properties. I told Randy Knight at a coffee a couple months ago that the citizens are losing confidence in their leadership including him and the planning director because nearly every commission meeting there is a new threat to what the citizens have asked for repeatedly since I moved here in 2000: a protection from increasing density and diminishment of the current quality of life in this town. And it looks like the variance proposals are being spoon fed to the commission by city management. Enough. Stick to the plan. If management can’t conform to voter wishes it’s time to find a commission who will change city management. Voters are sick of having to get up from their dinner tables to attend commission meetings to express their justifiable outrage at this lack of responsiveness to voter wishes.

    Reply
    • Anonymous says:

      Yes to the above. It’s due diligence to see that a performa works within exsisting code. If it does not oopsie hardly seems right to cram it down the throats of residents.

      Reply
    • Kathe Sittmann says:

      I absolutely agree with Randy Vance, enough bending to the developers, Ravaudage is a prime example of the results of manipulation by developers. Commmissioners stand firm!

      Reply
    • Sally Flynn says:

      Winter Park Residents are YOU paying attention to this PLAN

      (mixed use overlay) for ORANGE AVE? Do YOU realize if this is

      approved what the consequences are for ORANGE AVE?

      Can YOU comprehend the increase in traffic? This is just one

      consequence. Some commissioners say “we cannot control the

      traffic going through WP.” Well, this is how you start to control:

      you don’t build and add to the density.

      How many times have citizens come forward and said to you they

      don’t want any more DENSITY..

      Paul Reich says it perfectly, “The job of the commission is to

      protect the city from over development, not serve the interests

      of developers.”

      The Trojan Horse is riding through Winter Park. Whoa pull on

      those reins!!!

      Reply
  2. Paul F Reich says:

    I agree with Randy. Why are the commissioners so eager to destroy our beautiful little city. Their job I to protect the city from over development, not to serve the interests of developers.
    Orange Avenue is fine. After spending a lot of money on infrastructure on Fairbanks it is still junky. Let’s fix that.

    Reply
  3. anonymous says:

    When I see the city granting new buildings all the time where they don’t belong I don’t understand it. I have friends visit me here and they say this place has changed in the past few years. If Orange Avenue is not fancy , who cares? Does it have to be?

    Reply
  4. Anonymous says:

    The Medical Arts area is a clear example that Winter Park Hospital is now part of a medical financial industrial complex that is disguised as a nonprofit community hospital. The growth of the hospital far exceeds the demands of the population of Winter Park. Winter Park is a campus of a larger system. It should support the community like all other businesses and pay taxes. The medical arts area now serves at least 2 counties and that needs to be acknowledged. The city commission should advise the state and property tax assessor that taxes are owed like all the rest of us pay. The City should stop giving free advertising to this very profitable entity.

    Reply
    • HH says:

      Add Rollins. They are buying up land and properties as fast as they possibly can and I’m sure not paying the WP property tax the rest of us do. It appears to me they must be extremely profitable to be able to have the money to expand their campus as quickly as they are. Rollins newest holding (our library) coming in 3,2,1…….

      Reply
  5. BJ says:

    I vacation in a community that turns down at least as many requests as it grants. It’s beautiful, and the denied developers either come to the table with a more reasonable request & try again or bring their bad ideas to another town to mess up. And none of the officers or councilors of the city own any holdings or investments in these zones, just homes. That seems to me to be the way it should be.

    Reply
  6. Gary Barker says:

    Amen, Randy. Developers are either too ignorant to understand zoning and comp plan, or they’re arrogant enough to think they can slam through any change they need to make their overdeveloped plan work. With the W.P. Commissioners rubber stamping of most variance requests, I suspect it’s arrogance.

    Reply
  7. Sleep with One Eye Open says:

    A pretty unique if not troubling aspect of this up-zoning effort by the city, is that the city itself is owner of Progress Point, one of the largest undeveloped parcels on the corridor. Even if citizens wanted ,say, a park here, the city needs more intensive zoning rules on their 5 acres to make it more valuable to prospective buyers. If a new buyer can’t put lots of apartments here and/or a large office building, the city can’t sell it for as much $$$$. The interests of the city commission (as property owners) are pitted against the citizens who’d like to see them hold the line on big development in the city. Can you say conflict of interest?

    Reply
  8. WHO SAID PIGS DON'T WEAR LIPSTICK? says:

    Lipstick on a pig
    You can put lipstick on a pig but it’s a thin disguise.
    How to grant the big land holders the up-zoning they’re pestering the city about without looking like you are favoring them or ignoring citizen input?
    It’s too EASY!

    Step 1: Amend the comp plan (April 2017) to call for adoption of “mixed use standards.” Give yourself one year to do it.

    Check.

    Step 2: Decide to make the same corridor where these big land owners just happen to own land THE “pilot” or “test” case — despite bigger needs elsewhere and despite spending millions on a different corridor for infrastructure.

    Check.

    Step 3: Once adopted, make redevelopment under the NEW mixed use zoning standards, master plan or overlay OPTIONAL to the land holder. In other words, each land owner can CHOOSE to redevelop under the new rules or stay “as is.”

    Check.

    Step 4: Enact provisions to say a land holder needs 1 acre to exceed 3 stories, over 2 acres to go 5 stories or more.

    Pending.

    Step 5: 90 percent or more of Orange Ave. corridor land holders opt to stay “as is.” The handful of big land holders leap at the chance to avail themselves of the new mixed use zoning code changes. No appearance of giving the big guy anything we did not give to the little guy; the little guy just chose to stay ‘as-is.”

    This pig’s wearing more lipstick than Tammy Faye Baker.

    Reply
  9. I CAN'T HEAR YOU says:

    In this age of technological wonder, there is no excuse for poor quality audiotaping. None. Zip. This has happened not just once, but multiple times with the city’s uneven efforts to provide citizens with proper access to meeting discussions and coverage. Often there are long stretches of gaps–sometimes up to 10 minutes, where the recorder goes either muffled or entirely dark. Can we name names? Which city staff need more training? Since the Commission has been so generous with our citizen taxpayer funds–$1 million to fund the Dr Phillps Performing Arts Center in Orlando, perhaps we can solicit a WP sound/audio equipment upgrade. Seems only fair.

    Reply
    • Bee says:

      I’m still “fried” about our $1 MILLION to DrPhillips!!!!!!

      And, we have a poor recording system of the Commission Sessions???

      Why arn’t MORE people outraged with that?

      Reply
    • Partly Cloudy says:

      Standard City Commission practice is to delay posting the audio files of City Commission meetings on the City website for TWO DAYS following City Commission meetings.

      What do they do with the recordings during those two days?

      Ask your Commissioners at the next City Commission meeting.

      Reply
  10. Paseo Rising says:

    This redesign process for the Orange corridor allows for another Paseo and the reintroduction of high-density housing. Another rail stop is possible.

    Whether you agree another Paseo is good or whether you think it is bad, ask about impacts. Will school overcrowding increase? Will traffic congestion worsen? What are the infrastructure needs on the entire corridor and how will these be met? Who will pay the costs?

    Rail can never pay for itself; that is understood. But rail depends on high density development nearby to optimize usage. Will the large parcel holders pledge to defray the future unfunded rail liability and to what extent? Will the new station be kiss and ride or will there be a parking garage for day parking?

    Reply
  11. Jim Fitch says:

    I ran for WP Mayor in 2018 because I felt Mayor Leary should not have run unopposed and I wished to slow down the ‘densification’ of WP by the present Commission. 1,289 people — 28 percent — voted for me (really against Mayor Leary) even though I ran an underfunded and ineffective campaign. This tells me that the WP Voter is beginning to understand what is happening to WP. Slow to awaken — very effective when properly mobilized…

    Reply
    • Question says:

      Did you ever notice how Jim and Pitt always show up on this blog whenever residents suggest 1) Yard Signs and 2) Petitions?

      Yard Signs and Petitions are the kryptonite of not to great Winter Park politics.

      Elections can be rigged.

      Shill candidates from out of town can syphon away support from strong resident supported challengers.

      But Yard Signs and Petitions have a way dissolving the finely crafted art of City Hall B.S. on almost any local issue like nothing else can.

      Nobody put yard signs up that said “MORE DENSITY.”

      Nobody got 2,000 + residents to sign a petition that said, “DEVELOP MLK PARK”

      Thus, the ever present need for Yard Signs and Petitions.

      YARD SIGNS

      PETITIONS

      folks.

      Never forget.

      Why do Winter Park politicians fear YARD SIGNS and PETITIONS?

      Kind of hard to keep up the charade that residents voted to tax themselves, for their commissioners to take away their centrally located library from them and go and knock down all the trees in MLK park and build there somebody’s idea of a cross between the Egyptian pyramids and Wonderworks tourist attraction on International Drive, when over 2,000 residents signed a petition to stop it and NOBODY signed a petition for it.

      Kind of hard to keep up the story that residents want more restaurants, retail, apartments, offices, condos, townhouses, towers, FAR, and McMansions when all the “No Density” YARD SIGNS pop up everywhere like azaleas in season, and NO yard signs appear that say “More Density.”

      Once Winter Park residents understand the true meaning of the phrase “Political Theater” they will have a government that represents them again.

      Cockroaches scatter when the lights come on.

      YARD SIGNS and PETITIONS are the lights. To affect lasting change, residents just need to plan how they will make YARD SIGNS and PETITIONS a continuous part of good citizenship, and not simply an occasional or rare event.

      The next best thing to having a majority on the City Commission is to make commissioners aware that everyone in town opposes their policies. YARD SIGNS and PETITIONS do just that. And once that happens consistently and over a period of time, a resident oriented majority on the City Commission is inevitable.

      Because today it’s “NO DENSITY.”

      If that doesn’t work, it’s “(fill name in the blank here) RESIGN NOW!”

      And as long as we have a Constitution there’s no time limit to how long residents can keep their YARD SIGNS up.

      A word to the wise.

      Reply
      • Pitt Warner says:

        Pretty funny you want naming rights for resignation signs but you’re too timid to post your own name. I get it. You’re following in the same vein as Nathan Hale, Ben and Abe. (Soundtrack from “Saving Pvt. Ryan” playing in background )

        Reply

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