Ravaudage Gets $1.2M in Infrastructure Costs

In a ‘No Risk’ Agreement with the City

Ravaudage Gets $1.2M in Infrastructure Costs

The City Commission voted 3 – 2 November 13 to give developer Dan Bellows a $1.2 Million reimbursement over a 10-year period for work on city roads in the Ravaudage development.

Ravaudage Background

The Ravaudage area, once known as Home Acres, was re-annexed in 2012 from Orange County into the City of Winter Park after Mr. Bellows had done some initial work on the property under the auspices of Orange County. Orange County permits allowed Bellows to build greater density and provide less green space than he would have under Winter Park rules. When the property went from Orange County jurisdiction back into Winter Park, the terms of the Orange County permits were honored by the City of Winter Park.

Bellows: ‘City Will Benefit’

The interior roads subject to the current agreement include Benjamin, Lewis, Loren, Glendon Pkwy and Kindel, which were paved by Orange County. As part of his redevelopment of the area into commercial, office, multifamily and residential land uses, Bellows proposes to rebuild roads in the City right of way, adding wide sidewalks, drainage inlets, curbing and on-street parking. Bellows’ justification for requesting partial reimbursement for permit fees is that the City will benefit from these improvements, therefore the City should bear part of the cost.

Cooper Sees Troublesome Precedent

Not everyone sees it that way. Commissioner Carolyn Cooper, who was out of town and phoning in to the meeting, noted that while Orange County had approved greater density, more leasable square footage and less green space, the County had never anticipated paying for infrastructure as part of the original agreement.

Cooper said she was opposed to granting Bellows’ request for three reasons. First, infrastructure contributions were not anticipated in Orange County’s original approval. Second, said Cooper, “Windsong and Whole Foods developers demonstrated that we can get quality development without having to give injections of taxpayer funds. And, lastly, it is not fair to other developers.”

“I am totally opposed,” Cooper concluded, “and find the precedent quite troublesome.”

Seidel Searching for the ‘Win-Win’

“I don’t see the win-win here,” Seidel told the Voice. “There is no tangible value to the City for doing this work. The city doesn’t need to improve these roads — Dan Bellows does. On the other hand, the intersection at Lee Road and Executive Drive needs a signal. I would be happy for the City to contribute money to that improvement, because the entire city would benefit.”

Leary, Weldon, Sprinkel See Benefit to City

Mayor Steven Leary supported Bellows’ request, noting that the planned improvements will meet or exceed Winter Park standards. Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel agreed and made a motion to approve. Commissioner Peter Weldon, who seconded the motion to approve, said he could support the deal because, “We get control over the roads, essentially.”

No Risk

Public Works Director Troy Attaway explained that the ‘no risk’ aspect of the agreement refers to the fact that Bellows’ company will receive no reimbursement of fees until the City has received a portion of the permitting fees from him and has seen an increase in ad valorem taxes from the property.

This is not the first time the Commission has been generous with Mr. Bellows. In January 2015, Leary was one of three commissioners who approved a variance for Ravaudage in which one building went from four to six stories while the height of an alternate building was reduced.

The Winter Park-Maitland Observer reported that during the week preceding the 2015 vote, contributions from five corporate entities associated with Mr. Bellows were deposited into the coffers of Leary’s mayoral campaign. See campaign report.

At the time, Leary denied taking campaign contributions from Bellows and accused his opponent of making “spurious connections” between him, Bellows and the money. “Dan Bellows has not made a single contribution to my campaign to this day,” Leary told the Observer. “He has nothing to do with those LLCs.”

Bellows also denied having ownership in the LLCs. The Observer reported, however, that Winter Park City Commission records showed Bellows has represented at least three of those entities before the Commission. Minutes from July 8, 2013 City Commission meeting list Bellows’ name alongside CRDI LLC. At the April 12, 2010 meeting, Bellows represented Venetian LLC, and he represented WFG LTD in a meeting five months later.

Commission Approves Request

The Commission approved the agreement with Bellows on a 3 – 2 vote, with Cooper and Seidel dissenting. The table below, which appears on page 30 of the November 13, 2017 Commission Agenda Packet, shows how the developer will be reimbursed over a 10-year period.

  • 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.

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11 replies
  1. Cynthia Mackinnon says:

    The same behavior by city leaders continues when any big, costly decision is to be made. (Undergrounding, Ravaudage, library). Purposeful obfuscation, denying record facts, misrepresenting the record etc. etc.

    Instead of continuing to gripe, when will frustrated citizens step up and run for office? Nothing will change until a change in leadership occurs. They are listening to other voices, not the nearly 50% of citizens who challenge their decisions. With a 3-2 lock on votes, there is no incentive to change.

    Reply
  2. Charlie Rock says:

    As an economist, this seems suspiciously like political favoritism because the money did not seem legally obligated to be paid. Am I wrong on this? The benefits to the City of Winter Park seem meager. “Control of the roads, essentially,” says Peter Weldon. So what? This seems a corner on a very busy intersection that is unlikely to get less busy. Ravaudage is “mending” in French but I’m not sure that corner is anything but commercial dominated and for those who wish to live there. It seems that the commercial aspect is dominant by location default. Why does Winter Park want to take full responsibility for the interior roads in this commercially developed district? Convince me that there is some benefit for Winter Park to control the roads.

    I bicycle past Windsong every work day and the roads there are very nice and smoother than the average on the eastern side of the city. Why won’t the commercial owner of Ravaudage want to keep nice roads there since he’s involved in so much property surrounding the roads. Or am I in error? Nicer roads, higher rents/leases? Might not the private sector do a better job of keeping nice roads around large commercial properties?

    And the arrangement for “payment” and reimbursement is somewhat too favorable to our developer also. Only when Mr. Bellows, the developer begins to pay the City for permits and property taxes will the City “reimburse’ him per this vote taken by the commissioners. He’ll give the city money first, and then the city will give it back to him? I must lack some details on this nice arrangement.

    Then there is the politics part that raises questions: Multiple (connected) donations to one of the decision makers and leader–Leary. This sounds bad and typical of many municipalities where developers’ interests tend to be overrepresented in political life.

    $1.2 million means for every citizen of Winter Park that the City budget has just given this developer a new year’s gift of more than $40 —that is the average cost per/citizen (there’s about 28,000 of us….on Wiki at least). Of course, as some will point out, the average cost of all services is borne mainly by property taxes, hence citizens living in our higher value homes will actually pay more of the subsidy to Ravaudage/Bellows.

    And if we have to let’s spend the $1.2 on improving the bike-ability of all of Winter Park. (Full Disclosure: I am a bike-fanatic.) Or maybe a more pressing question is: Does this reimbursement require a current cutback in funding for some city purpose?

    Hopefully, the 3 commissioners who voted to give this money to Bellows will reconsider their decision and have a revote—quickly, so Bellows could not sue for commercial losses due to his incurring costs based of this recent vote.

    And if they do, and change this vote, then I promise to give $10 to Commissioner Leary for his next campaign! And the same amount is offered to each of the other two supporters of this give-away, if they make the switch and fund bike-ability 😉
    (P.s. This is an oral legal Florida contract offer so they can hold me to the agreement in court!!)

    Happy Holidays to all.
    Bike when you can. This is Florida’s better biking season.
    But be very careful when sharing any roadway, Many Many cars do not expect to find you on a bike, and also, using their pavement.

    Reply
  3. Not Fair says:

    I would like the City to reimburse me for a roof I had replaced on my home about 10 years ago. The new roof was a benefit to the City, because it looked better than my old warn out roof, and was visible from a City street.

    I would also like the City to reimburse me for vacations I took. Because I was not driving on City streets during the time I was away. Nor was I breathing City air. So my vacation was a benefit to the City.

    And I would like the City to reimburse me for the cost of shoes incurred over the past 40 years. I walked on Park Avenue numerous times during those years, contributing to that “place to see and be seen” appearance that benefits the City.

    But I don’t contribute to Leary’s campaign fund, so I guess I don’t get any reimbursement.

    $1.2 million might not seem like a lot of money to commissioners who routinely blow a million here, a million there, on such frivolous things like donations to Dr. Philips Performing Arts Center. But to some of us, it’s a lot of money. And it’s OUR money.

    Reply
  4. Anonymous says:

    Amazing that the mayor and Mrs Sprinkel, who claim they are not responsible

    for increased density, are so willing to support increased density in a

    “manipulated” development which has managed to build by other than WP

    building codes/rules. Traffic and general congestion will be greatly increased

    by allowing this to proceed, not to mention costs to the city. The quallity of

    life continues to go down the drain under this administration.

    Reply
  5. Pete Weldon says:

    Here are relevant facts:

    The Ravaudage road agreement pertains to specific lengths of specific roads the city of Winter Park acquired when it annexed the property. The background and agreement text can be found beginning on page 27 of the November 13, 2017 commission meeting agenda packet: https://cityofwinterpark.org/docs/government/city-commission/agenda-packets/agdpkt-2017-11-13.pdf.

    These roads are the city’s responsibility. They currently do not have curbs, sidewalks, or proper drainage. The developer intends to improve these roads with drainage, curbing, parking, and sidewalks at or above city design standards, but has no obligation to do so.

    The $1.2 potential payment to the developer is ONE HALF of city staff’s estimate of what we would have to pay to do the minimum amount of work required to bring these roads up to city standards. The developer is going to do all the work subject to city approval of the plans. The developer does not get paid unless the city approved work is completed.

    The bottom line is that the city is can realize fully improved roads with parallel parking and wider sidewalks than our minimum standards for one half the cost the city would have spent if the developer chose not to improve these roads.

    Come on folks. Study the issues before speaking publicly.

    Regards, Pete Weldon
    Winter Park Vice Mayor

    Reply
    • Confused says:

      OK I read it.

      If this is nothing but a deal the City is making with a developer for a 50-50 split of the costs to improve public infrastructure, in exchange for letting the developer, not the City, do the work, and according to the developer’s preferred timetable, why not just say that in the agreement?

      Why all this gobbledygook about permit fee reimbursement, taxation increases, etc.? Spreadsheets? A complex formula that is confusing and open to interpretation?

      It looks like commissioners are incentivizing development, for this developer only, to the tune of $1.2 million. In a word, “subsidy.”

      There are lots of places in Florida with dirt roads, no drainage, and no sidewalks. Lots are bought and sold every day. Buildings are constructed along side them. But developers make more money when roads, sidewalks, and drainage are up to standard.

      Anybody down there at City Hall bother to calculate the difference in DEVELOPER’S PROFIT with and without this agreement? Maybe if that was the City’s negotiation starting point, the residents would have gotten a better deal – like 25% for example, or 0%.

      Reply
    • Rick Frazee says:

      And the down side of not giving the developer 1.2M would have been

      what? The streets, drainage and other improvements are still necessary

      for the developer to get the most out of his investment in the land. Must

      have been an early Christmas present?

      Reply
    • John Dough says:

      Come on, Pete,

      Here’s an idea: Can you make a compelling case as to why the City annexed this boondoggle to begin with?

      What do our citizens gain from bringing this eyesore into our community?

      Don’t you folks on the Commission have better things to worry about than helping out Dan Bellows? (I’m sure that these decisions have nothing to do with any campaign contributions from “anonymous” LLCs. :))

      Had this parcel been left as part of unincorporated Orange County, those crummy roads would have been their problem, not ours.

      We have enough issues of our own without voluntarily taking on someone else’s.

      Of course, everyone knows that our elected officials are just concerned citizens who would never be a part of any “pay for play” schemes.

      Although…your argument sounds like it could have been crafted by a lobbyist or mouthpiece for a “big money” developer interest.

      Definitely didn’t come from your average Winter Park citizen.

      I, for one, don’t consider “RAVGARBAGE” as an asset to our community.

      Just sayin’…

      Your pal,

      John Dough $$

      Reply
  6. Head Scratcher says:

    Commissioner Weldon’s cost benefit analysis differs greatly from that which is contained in the agenda packet prepared by city staff. In stating the “fiscal impact” of the proposed Ravaudage reimbursement pact, there is no mention whatsoever “of significant cost savings to the city. Completely absent is ANY suggestion that the City will benefit financially from executing the agreement to reimburse Bellows. Rather, the fiscal impact statement suggests that the agreement will COST the City about 1.2 million dollars over 10 years. There is no statement that if the City does not accept this generosity from Bellows that the city MUST bear the cost of improving the roads at DOUBLE the cost.

    The following is a direct quote of the language from the Agenda Packet for the 11/13/17 meeting at which this matter was considered by the commission:

    fiscal impact

    This will reduce annual revenue to the City by a potential maximum of $1.2 million over a maximum of 10 years. Any single year obligation is difficult to determine but staff has provided an estimated maximum of approx. $306k in any given year. Any payments made would be provided for from incremental revenues (permits and property taxes) directly attributable to the development of Ravaudage. It should be noted that the development of Ravaudage will generate incremental revenues to the city of well in excess of the $1.2 million provided for in the agreement (est. $14.6 million in one-time revenues and $1.8 million in annual).

    Reply
  7. Beth Hall says:

    The troublesome thing to me about Pete Weldon’s labeling as “uninformed” all those who disagree with his views is that there were two highly informed commissioners on the dais who disagreed with him on this issue as well. They spoke “publicly” after some study of the issues and came down squarely as “no” votes on the agreement. If Cooper and Seidel end up reading the WPV I guess the Weldon scolding applies to them too.

    When I saw the city ink this deal with Bellows, the old “how ugly was he?” jokes sprang to mind. This one in particular… “Just how ugly was he?’ Answer: “He was so ugly they had to tie a pork chop around his neck to get the dog to play with him.” Winter Park is attractive to developers. Highly so. I don’t think we need to tie a pork chop around its’ neck to get the developers to flock here.

    If the Bellows agreement was offering the city a major savings- 50% off coupon on roads, if you will, why didn’t the agenda packet summarize it that way under the fiscal impact section on the issue? The agenda packet suggested that over 10 years the deal would cost the City 1.2 million dollars, not save the city 1.2 million dollars. Maybe this is why people had a problem with it. We read the packet.

    Reply

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