Open Letter to City Officials

Don’t Block W. Lyman Ave.

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

Open Letter to City Officials

Guest Columnist Janet Hommel

Dear Mayor Leary, Vice-Mayor Weldon, and City Manager Randy Knight:

We have a problem in Winter Park. You, as city leaders, are not fostering a culture of listening to residents, especially those on the Westside.

Recently, we pleaded with you not to sell Blake Yard. We begged you to consider making a community garden of the space. This was one of the last gems of city-owned urban greenspace.

After you up-zoned and sold Blake Yard, we fought the intrusion of an 8-unit cluster housing apartment building on Comstock, a street of single family homes. Again, you didn’t consider residents’ concerns.

Now you have a proposal to bisect W. Lyman Avenue at New York. You will cut off the Westside from Park Avenue. I read in the agenda item that the Chamber of Commerce is in favor of this change. I note further that staff will reach out to local businesses and will take this concept to the Transportation Advisory Board and the CRA Advisory Board for further review.

What’s missing here? Oh, them! Has it occurred to you to ask what the residents think — especially those on the Westside who will be most impacted?

What would be your reaction if the city were going to cut your street in half, making your block a dead end and forcing you to reroute to reach the other side of town? Imagine further that the city didn’t inform you of this, but rather sought input only from the neighbors on the other half of the bisected street – all of whom were commercial.

Now, try to imagine how we on the Westside feel.

Ignored. Again.


Janet Hommel

258 W. Lyman Avenue
Winter Park, Florida

  • 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

10 replies
  1. Randy Vance says:

    The Weldon-Leary-Sprinkel cadre have up-zoned Winter Park so many times on so many parcels that the Comp Plan is as big a pile of rubble as the Murrah Center in MLK’s former green space park. In fact they’ve upzoned so many times, the Comp Plan is probably no longer enforceable as a zoning restriction instrument. And only the LLC’s want all this upzoning. Not the Citizens. Break the Anti-Green Voting Block. Vote for Todd Weaver against Pete Weldon.

  2. As Winter Park Turns says:

    The soap opera continues.

    And NOTHING will change till every resident parks themselves in City Hall at every City Commission meeting and demands the resignation of the mayor and of EVERY City Commissioner until they either resign or start acting like the representatives of the residents that they are supposed to be.

  3. Suzanne Rudolph says:

    Dear Ms. Hommel, Your views are pertinent and well presented. Thank you.

    Years ago, I spoke at a City Commissioner’s meeting, on the issue of the shrinking of the “West Side”. It was obvious then and is even more obvious now that the West Side “as is”, does not have enough tax base to make the amount of money for the city, that commercial property will provide.

    Single-family homeowners are disappearing and being replaced by expensive commercial businesses. At that meeting over 15 years ago, I was told by one of the developers that in the future, there will be no division between Park Avenue and the Winter Park Village. All of that area will be “Downtown Winter Park”. Proving once again, the old adage, “Money Talks”.

    The West Side has a wonderful viable history, that will inevitably be lost, by lack of interest of the West Side Residents. Along with the fact that if the new Downtown Winter Park encompasses the West Side, there will be no regular housing or neighborhood. Lost to progress!

    Living in the City of Winter Park since 1960, I’ve seen a lot of changes some good and some not so good. We were a unique quaint town, that many called ” The New England of the South”. Almost every shop and business was privately owned, and there were no chain stores.

    I know change is inevitable, however, when Winter Park becomes all chains, hotels, and restaurants, there will nothing to make it unique anymore.

    Sincerely, Sue Rudolph

  4. Beth Hall says:

    Ms. Rudolph,

    The phenomenon you describe and which you accurately depict as having consumed the West Side of Winter Park was praised and embraced by the Mayor, Steve Leary, as “generational customization.”

    Unlike Leary, I agree with you that something of immense value has been lost. Something which can never be reclaimed.

    The mayor told us at his State of the City address on 2/22/19 that growth in Winter Park and, to a larger extent, in the region mean that the Winter Park of old must yield. Those who embrace the vague and quaint notions of charm or of graciousness, of human or pedestrian scale, of open and green spaces which provide a respite from the sprawling urban chaos which surrounds us
    –such persons are a hindrance and an obstacle.

    History is for books, for albums filled with fading photographic remembrances.

    “Generational customization” is what can save us. It can propel us to a future that does not contain the word “no” in its vocabulary.

    Ravaudage is the essence of “generational customization”. It’s a new version of Winter Park.
    (Yes, I know the de-annexation, re-annexation story and zoning provisions.)

    The new Hannibal Square — a gentrified, sanitized version of the West Side — is just a newer and hence “better” version of what it replaced. Who misses Hage’s Market? Who misses the men who held court in Shady Park under the trees? Who could argue that Bellow’s wedding chapel is not a superior human gathering place or special events venue compared to the Mt. Moriah Baptist Church or the Ideal Womens Club? Aren’t several new cluster homes with detached garage apartments at Blake Yard serving a higher purpose than a community garden or a park on the same land? Think about it.

    Ms. Rudolph, I arrived here the same year as you did. I have witnessed what you have witnessed. I believe Janet Hommel expresses a valid frustration in her letter. I share it.

    Steve Leary says “generational customization” is the cure for whatever is ailing Winter Park.

    Or, is it a resistance to “generational customization” that has made us the envy of our region and of visitors from around the globe?

    • Anonymous says:

      Beth Hall’s letter is a masterpiece in letter writing and I agree with her.

      To “dead-end” A N Y of Winter Park’s major streets (Lyman Avenue)

      casts a negative light and demonstrates a closed-mindedness and lack of

      creativity in city planning.

  5. Weldon/Leary/Sprinkle Are Not On The Right Side says:

    Excellent letter Ms. Hommel.

    I’m dumbfounded to learn of the Mayor’s state of the city address. Which land use attorney wrote his speech and why does Mayor Leary feel rebuking citizens for standing up to him is a community building, positive effort. It’s not.

    Weldon along with the Mayor and Commissioner Sprinkle have created a divisive, 3-vote cadre by allowing a handful of friends unusual access to their decisions. The only way to end this chapter of uncivil misrepresentation is by voting them out of office starting with Weldon.

    The Blake Yard – Liebrary – Road Closure projects are a rerun of 15 years ago when some of the same silent partners controlled a different commission that wreaked havoc on our community.

    • Thank you Ms. Hommel, Ms. Rudolph, and Ms. Hall says:

      Thank you Ms. Hommel, Ms. Rudolph, and Ms. Hall, for beautifully articulating the values of Winter Park’s founders and long-time residents who love and want to preserve Winter Park’s traditional neighborhoods, cultural heritage, green space, trees, on both the West Side and East Side.

  6. Shelia Reid says:

    This open letter to WP City officials describes exactly what I am feeling. I don’t think they realize just how important it is the keep the essence of the Winter Park and its historical value. Once again, the residents in Winter Park (all sides) are not being heard by our city officials AT ALL! Do our city officials reside in areas where daily traffic jams and street detours occur? Do they see expensive apartments/townhouses/luxury homes being constructed in the middle of neighborhoods on the West Side of Winter Park. I don’t understand why the Winter Park Civic Center which was not that old but it has been demolished; for no logical reason and the park for the kids to play in will be gone next. Meetings were held, people spoke against it but the band played on. I cannot understand why we, the residents of Winter Park are being ignored.

    And the beat goes on!

  7. Laurel says:

    I understand your frustration and you make a good point about soliciting input from a broader audience that will be impacted.

    However, I looked at the agenda item and the attached sketch and I have to say, I think there is some merit to the idea of closing Lyman Avenue at that intersection. It is a VERY dangerous Four-way stop and I have personally nearly been hit attempting to pass through that intersection.

    Based on the sketch I see in the Commission attachment, it appears that one could still travel from Lyman Avenue on to New York and then perhaps either to Comstock or New England to reach Park Avenue. New York is getting more and more backed up at the Four-way stop, so it might ease traffic congestion to eliminate the stop signs.

    I am not sure that the trade offs are equal, yet I can’t help to think that I personally might like to see the change to that intersection. Though, the City should conduct a traffic study to let residents know their reasoning.

  8. Michael Ison says:

    Winter Park has always been unique for a reason. Small town charm with long-term residents. It is sad that people make changes that aren’t really necessary. Please don’t destroy the beauty of it as pretty soon it will just look like another small city, no uniqueness and all concrete.


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