Get Ready, Get Set . . . to Go VOTE

Get Ready, Get Set . . . to Go VOTE

Get Ready, Get Set . . . to Go VOTE

by Anne Mooney / February 1, 2020

The Winter Park mayoral election is March 9. This year’s easy – the mayoral race is the only item on the ballot. All you need to do is cast one vote, either for Phil Anderson or for Sarah Sprinkel.

Voter information is available online at You can make sure you are registered, request a Vote by Mail ballot, track the status of your Vote by Mail ballot or locate your polling place if you’d rather vote in person on election day. Did I mention election day is March 9?

Here are some other important dates.

Deadline for Voter Registration: February 8.

Last day to mail Vote by Mail Ballots: March 1.

Dates of Early Voting: March 1 – March 5, at the Supervisor of Elections office ONLY.

Important to note, there will be no early voting at the Winter Park Public Library this year. To vote early in person, you must go to the Elections Office at 119 W. Kaley Ave., Orlando FL 32806.

All ballots must be physically present in the Elections Office no later than 7:00 p.m. March 9.

Post marks don’t count.

If you have any questions, it’s easy to find someone with a pulse at 407-836-8683 (Vote by Mail phone line) or at the General number 407-836-2070.



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City Funding Decisions – Let’s Set the Record Straight

City Funding Decisions – Let’s Set the Record Straight

City Funding Decisions – Let’s Set the Record Straight

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

Guest Columnist Dr. Katherine Lee Johnson / January 31, 2021

In his latest missive to Winter Parkers, former Commissioner Peter Weldon chides members of the current Commission for redirecting funds to repair City parks.

If we are going to start casting aspersions on Commissioners who direct City funding to specific purposes, then we need to start looking at how and when this policy started. It began in 2015, when Mayor Steve Leary and Sarah Sprinkel, the Vice mayor at the time, committed $1 million from the Municipal Utility budget to support a non-Winter Park charity.

For those who may not recall, Mayor Leary committed the City of Winter Park to a $100,000 annual donation for the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center (DPAC) for ten years. This action occurred in 2015 when I served as the Chair of the Utility Advisory Board (UAB).

The UAB members were gravely concerned about the long-term ramifications of his decision. When the City purchased the utility from Florida Power & Light (now Duke Energy), the infrastructure was in disrepair and badly needed service and upgrades. During my tenure on the UAB, we focused our energies on the need for new equipment and began implementing utility undergrounding to improve overall system reliability.

In 2015, thanks to staff’s careful management, the Utility had a surplus in its annual budget. As stewards of this utility, the UAB wanted to use those funds to pay for additional operations and badly-needed maintenance. More fundamentally, we wanted these ratepayer dollars used for the utility, to benefit the ratepayers, rather than having it siphoned off to an out-of-town charity.

When I voiced my concerns at a Commission meeting that this approach could set a dangerous precedent, Vice-mayor Sprinkel publicly reprimanded me in an open meeting for wanting to share this information with the utility ratepayers.

For the past 30 years, I have worked as a consultant with utility companies to establish and evaluate energy efficiency programs—and so I am well-versed in the long-term consequences when utility funds are redirected for political purposes. It happened in several jurisdictions as early as 2010 (see link: Governors Raiding Utility Funds), and I certainly didn’t want this to happen in Winter Park. I worried the DPAC donation could set a dangerous precedent.

Isn’t it ironic that Weldon now supports donating $1 million from Winter Park ratepayers to support a charity in Orlando, but bristles when Commissioners allot funding for City parks and playing fields that will directly benefit the residents of Winter Park?

Let’s set the record straight. Ms. Sprinkel has always supported redirecting funds for whatever political purposes the Commission deems appropriate. If we are going to revisit previous Commission funding decisions, let’s be sure we air all of the facts.

Dr. Katherine Lee Johnson is President, Johnson Consulting Group. She served as UAB Member and Chair (2010-2016; Chair 2013-2016).

Rollins College, The Crummer School, MBA 1990

University of Southern Queensland, Australia, Ph.D., Organizational Change & Strategy 2010


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No Henderson Hotel for Winter Park

No Henderson Hotel for Winter Park

No Henderson Hotel for Winter Park

by Anne Mooney / January 29, 2020

Once again, the City Commission meeting went on longer than a bad dream, finally limping to a halt just before midnight January 27. With routine business addressed early and dispatched quickly, most of the meeting revolved around the First Reading of the Henderson Hotel requests for Conditional Use and changes to the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Codes.

The developer, Adam Wonus of Winter Park Historic Hotels Group, was also requesting an ordinance to vacate portions of Killarney Drive and Fairview Avenue so that visitors to the hotel — be they hotel guests or Winter Park residents — would have unfettered access from the hotel to the lakefront. In return, the developer planned to provide landscaping and cleanup for the lakefront plus just under an acre of open green space and parkland.

Citizens support ‘City asset’

Wonus spent the past few years meeting people, going door-to-door in the Killarney neighborhood in an attempt to devise a commercially viable hotel project that would be an asset to the City while, at the same time being compatible with the neighborhood. As a result, a preponderance of commenters at Wednesday night’s Commission meeting were strongly in support of the Henderson project. They said not only would the project be good for the City, it would also greatly enhance the section of 17-92 between Beachview and Fairview Avenues south of the Trader Joe’s shopping center.

Neighbors oppose commercial development

On the other side of the question was a well-organized group of Lake Killarney neighbors who employed a cadre of experts — lawyers and engineers — to oppose approval of the project. They were concerned about the impact such a large project would have on the health of the lake, the light and noise pollution generated by large events at the hotel and the encroachment of commercial activity in their residential neighborhood.

Commission Divided

As the discussion moved from public comment to discussion among the Commissioners, it became clear that the Commission was divided among its members, and that several Commissioners were ambivalent in their own thinking.

Developer offers plan changes

In the midst of the Commission discussion, attorney for the developer Becky Wilson offered a list of changes to the project that including eliminating the ballroom and the subterranean parking garage, going from five to four stories and eliminating the surface parking on the park that was planned adjacent to the hotel.

To accept this offer, the Commission would have had either to change the proposed development agreement on the fly or vote on it as presented and trust that it would be changed later. They balked.

Commissioners want to postpone

Mayor Steve Leary moved to accept the application as presented, and proposed to send the developer and the staff back to the drawing board to come up with revised plans for the Second Reading. When Leary’s motion failed to get a second, Commissioners Sheila DeCiccio and Carolyn Cooper attempted to get the applicant to agree to table the issue until the plans could be revised. “I cannot, in all conscience, vote on an ordinance that does not accurately reflect the project,” said DeCiccio.

Attorney Wilson responded that if the project were tabled, they would withdraw the application.

Sullivan and Weaver opposed

Commissioners Marty Sullivan and Todd Weaver gave extended explanations for their intent to withhold support. “This is a grand project,” said Sullivan, “but it’s in the wrong place,”

Weaver stated his refusal to go against the measure in the City’s Comprehensive Plan that says the City ‘shall protect the residential character of the Killarney neighborhood,’ and said he opposed rezoning residential R1A properties to C3 commercial.

When Commissioner Marty Sullivan moved to deny the Henderson application, attorney Becky Wilson stepped to the microphone and stated, “Mayor, we withdraw our application.” No vote was taken, giving the applicant the opportunity to resubmit the application at any time.

Editor’s note: This sentence has been corrected to reflect the Commission motion to deny.

No vote was taken.

One word was used by people on both sides of the issue to describe what happened: Sad.

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper said, “I’m so sad that we couldn’t work something out, because we had a really good development team with strong financial backing. Adam’s job is to dream big. Our job is to uphold the Comp Plan.”

“The Comp Plan is our value system,” said Cooper, “and it says we must protect our single-family neighborhoods. Actually, that neighborhood is a mixture of residential, commercial and office. But if we are going to allow commercial development in an area like that, I want to be damned sure it’s compatible with the residential neighborhood.”

Killarney resident Lisa Waddington expressed similar sentiments. “I feel sad about the whole thing,” she said. “Millions of dollars and thousands of hours have been expended. While this is not a ‘victory,’ per se, I am grateful that the Commission has upheld the residential character of our neighborhood, giving us the chance to reach for our full potential. We want our neighborhood to be known as an urban, boho, cool corner of the city – hiding in plain sight. Hillstone matches the scale and character of our neighborhood. It’s smaller and low-key. Unfortunately, the Henderson did not.”

Waddington described how the developer had helped the neighborhood in their dealings with the City. “Adam listened to the residents, and he had influence. He helped us get the City to fix the bricked streets and put in cut-through barriers. And Commissioner Sullivan is clear that he wants to work with us in the future to address storm water drainage and lake cleanup.”

Adam Wonus said, “I don’t know – it was really sad. We had a lot of support, and we met so many nice people. Everything we did was to provide benefits to everyone, but a small group of people was able to block an investment in the City. The Henderson would have been an amenity – one that was on the tax rolls. The cost to redraft the plans is about $125,000. That was my money – real money, out my pocket, and I just couldn’t afford to do it any more.”

Asked if he thought he might be able to bring the project back at a later date, he said, “I think not.”

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P&Z OKs Henderson Hotel

P&Z OKs Henderson Hotel

P&Z OKs Henderson Hotel

by Anne Mooney / January 8, 2021

A redesigned 132-room Henderson Hotel received approval on a 4-3 vote from Planning & Zoning Jan. 5 – 6. The luxury hotel on the eastern shore of Lake Killarney will feature a 7,500 square foot ballroom and a 220-seat restaurant. The $50 million Henderson project was the final agenda item, closing a marathon 7-hour meeting that went well past midnight into Jan. 6.

After the project was tabled last year, developer Adam Wonus and architects Baker Barrios sent the Henderson Hotel back to the drawing board. Despite the addition of 20 rooms, the size of the building was reduced from 210,522 square feet to 129,100 square feet by placing one level of garage parking underground. The footprint of the building will now allow approximately 44 percent of the total land area to be open green space.

Multiple Concessions Requested

The application includes a request for Conditional Use and multiple requests for amendments to the Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning Code. The proposed 2.97-acre site is an aggregate of several parcels, seven of which are currently zoned residential R1A. Four of the residential parcels have lakefront access. Two other parcels are zoned office. The application seeks to change all these zoning designations to commercial C3 and Open Space Recreational.

The Henderson application also seeks approval to vacate portions of Killarney Drive and Fairview Avenue in order to provide access to the lakefront. The hotel will be set back from the lake 84 feet at the closest point, and the developer proposes to create more than an acre and a half of open space and parkland and to provide public access to a pedestrian viewing dock they plan to build.

Public Comment Sharply Divided and Very Long

There were in excess of 50 public comments, lasting four-plus hours, and they were more or less evenly divided between those who were enthusiastically in favor of the project and those who were vehemently opposed to it. If there was anyone in the middle ground, they remained silent.

The two opinion pieces that accompany this article are representative of the differing views of this project.

Those who like it

Those in favor see the proposed hotel as an amenity for the city, and point out that the Henderson would be the only lakefront hotel in Winter Park. They appreciate the Victorian-style architecture that is reminiscent of the old hotels that were here at the beginning. They look forward to having a place to celebrate special occasions or just have a nice dinner out. The Henderson would provide residents an alternative to the Alfond Inn for visiting friends and relatives. Most seemed to regard the hotel more as a part of the commercial area along 17-92, which needs revitalization, and less a part of the interior neighborhood adjacent the lake. Commenters in favor included a number of residents from the Killarney neighborhood.

And those who don’t

Those who spoke in opposition were concerned about the size of the project and the violation of the Comprehensive Plan provision to, “Protect Single-Family Residential Use in the Killarney Neighborhood from Non-Residential Land Use Encroachment.” Concerns were raised about the subterranean parking garage, which is in close proximity both to the lakefront and to Hillstone Restaurant, and commenters worried about adverse effects to the lake and surrounding properties from the traffic, light and noise a hotel/restaurant/ballroom facility would produce.

Next step – City Commission

Having received the nod from P&Z, the Henderson Hotel application will proceed for a first reading to the City Commission on January 27, 2021.


Open Letter to Candidates for Mayor

Where Do You Stand on the Henderson Hotel?

Guest Columnist Beth Hall

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

Qualifying for the Winter Park mayor’s race has begun. Two candidates, Phil Anderson and Sarah Sprinkel, have long been declared candidates for the gavel. Not even a pandemic can stop a city election, so zoom rooms, patios and even living rooms are filling with the pitches of the candidates in their attempts to win your vote.  The air, followed by city mailboxes, will begin to fill with candidates’ promises to “protect the traditional charm and character of Winter Park,” as they do every time there is a race for a commission seat.

Henderson Hotel provides a litmus test

Usually, we voters simply must take them at their word. But this year, a litmus test is available to us on this promise right now. That test is the application of Winter Park Historic Hotels Group to build the Henderson Hotel – and where the candidates stand on the issue.

On Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, the Winter Park Planning and Zoning Board heard the request of Adam Wonus and the Winter Park Historic Hotels Group to build a 132-room, five-story, 129,100 square foot hotel and event center with a 205-space subterranean garage on the shores of Lake Killarney. Seven of the lots which comprise the hotel site are currently zoned single family R1A, and four of these have direct lake frontage. The hotel site is next to Hillstone Restaurant but unlike Hillstone, the hotel would have no frontage on 17-92.

P&Z Votes in Favor

P & Z voted 4-3 to recommend construction of the behemoth in the middle of a quiet, lakefront residential neighborhood, essentially taking a blow torch to the city’s Comprehensive Plan. The number of provisions in the Comp Plan which prohibit this type of development is this place are too numerous to count. But the one that objecting neighbors relied upon most heavily to guard their rights to the peaceful enjoyment of their homes was Policy 1-J-9.

Policy 1-J-9 reads:

Protect Single-Family Residential Use in the Killarney Neighborhood from Non-Residential Land Use Encroachment. The City shall preserve and protect the single-family residential land use within the Killarney neighborhood from commercial and office encroachment, excluding parcels that have or obtain Parking Lot (PL) zoning designation along the edges where commercial, office and residential meet. All development should include appropriate landscape buffers, including walls if necessary, so as not to have a negative impact on the residential neighborhood.

Will the Killarney neighborhood lose its residential flavor?

In my opinion the hotel will change the residential flavor of this neighborhood forever, as it would allow the penetration of light, sound, traffic, and more into this neighborhood.   The building would dwarf its surroundings at heights of up to 73 feet. Meetings, parties, weddings and other celebrations will be allowed at the hotel, which is a 24/7 operation by definition. And all on a site that includes six residential homes, one of which is currently occupied. The nearest neighbors live directly across the street.

Where do Anderson & Sprinkel stand?

What do the current candidates for mayor think about this project? They cannot vote on it, but they can tell voters where they stand. Neither spoke at Tuesday’s P & Z meeting. Without question, the most important role of the commission is to make land use decisions in our city. Where do they stand? I don’t know, but I sure would like to know before I cast my vote. Whether you are for approval of the project or against it, wouldn’t you like to know too? I ask them to inform voters of their position on this project. Now.


Support for the Henderson Hotel

A Winter Park Community Asset

Guest Columnist Craig Castor

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

My wife Sarah and I are both long time Winter Park Residents. We moved into our current home on Lake Killarney almost 20 years ago. While that time has gone by a little too fast for my taste, we have both loved seeing how our community has evolved over the years. With time comes change, but that positive change seems to have missed the area where the proposed Henderson Hotel is planned.

This area, between Hillstone restaurant and the Palm Hills (former Ranch Mall) development, has remained run down and is in need of upgraded redevelopment to come up to Winter Park standards. In fact, at this week’s Planning and Zoning meeting, a fellow Lake Killarney resident mentioned having to take drug paraphernalia out of his young daughter’s hands during their walk in the area. I can only say, I am not surprised.

I am writing to express not only my enthusiastic support, but also my excitement for The Henderson Hotel at Lake Killarney. This project will completely revitalize a forgotten area of Winter Park by removing dilapidated buildings and adding a park space to an area that is hardly walkable at this time.

Henderson is a 17-92 project.

As I sat listening to the presentation of the proposed Henderson Hotel at the Planning and Zoning meeting January 5, 2021, I was struck by what Ross Johnston and some other board members noted about this project. This project is a 17-92 project.  It is not a project that is in the Killarney Neighborhood.  This project is a Winter Park community project.

Public Outreach

The Henderson Hotel has been painstakingly planned and is a result of an unprecedented outreach by the developers to the neighborhood and to the entire community.  My wife and I first learned about the project some three or four years ago and over that time we have been asked to share our views on how to make the project better, more environmentally sustainable and more sensitive to the surroundings.

Timeless Asset

The end result is that the proposed Henderson Hotel project takes into account the wants, concerns and views of the overall community and the neighborhood regarding cut-through traffic, creating a safer environment for the families that live in the neighborhood, creating a neighborhood park, reducing lake traffic by eliminating the deteriorating docks, cleaning up the lakeshore and reducing debris coming into the lake to improve the overall health of the lake. It is incredible that one project can do all of this and also be a beautiful addition to Winter Park. If you have not had a chance to take a closer look at this project, I urge you to do so as we have a great opportunity to add a timeless asset to our community!



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Hi-End Auto Seeks WP Home

Hi-End Auto Seeks WP Home

Hi-End Auto Seeks WP Home

Or, when is a car not ‘just a car’?

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

Guest Columnist Douglas Bond / December 6, 2020

Douglas Bond is a Winter Park car enthusiast.

What types of businesses would you like to see in Winter Park? Innovative? Elegant? Exotic?

McLaren Orlando LLC is seeking permission to open a dealership at the former Orchard Supply store on 17-92 and Orange Ave., which has been vacant since Orchard Supply closed their stores about two years ago.

For those unfamiliar with McLaren cars, they are hand-made in Surrey, England, and have a long racing history. McLaren cars are extremely high end and rare; there are only 21 McLaren dealerships in the United States. Fewer than 1,500 cars per year are sold here – at prices that range from $300,000 ‑ $500,000 per car, with some rare older models bringing over a million dollars. McLaren is looking to convert the empty Orchard Supply building into a luxury car boutique. They intend to enhance the look of the building and increase the green space around it.

There has been concern about the McLaren dealership going into that space. Neighbors worry about cars racing the streets during test drives, and they don’t want the extra traffic a dealership might bring.

A prospective buyer has to jump through a series of hoops to even test drive a McLaren. Test drives are by appointment only and are granted on a very limited basis. Potential buyers must go through an application process before they are awarded an appointment to test drive a car. Test drivers will be accompanied by a sales rep and will be required to observe all local and city laws and speed limits.

A McLaren dealership would not bring the extra traffic a normal car dealership would attract. The number of employees on site would range from 10 to12 – far fewer employees than the garden supply store the building originally housed. While the facility will service existing McLarens, only two to three cars can be serviced on a given day.

The total number of cars on site would be 20 or fewer, with most of those being on display in a showroom. None of the cars will be outside. Rather than being shipped by big 18-wheelers, the McLarens will arrive one at a time in an enclosed single-vehicle transport. No big trucks will be clogging up the streets or making excessive noise.

The City should be selective about what goes here, but it should not turn away a business that will enhance Winter Park. Since McLaren is not a conventional car dealership, it will cause less congestion and will be more attractive than other businesses such as a fast food restaurant, strip mall or storage units, all of which have been considered for this site. To have McLaren select Winter Park for this facility is an honor, and with the property improvements McLaren is planning to make, their car boutique will only add to the beauty and charm of our city.

EDITOR’S NOTE: McLaren Orlando LLC came before the Planning & Zoning Board on December 1, 2020, to request a Zoning Code text change to establish a new Conditional Use and definition for ‘Specialty Transportation Business,’ which they would use to put a McLaren auto dealership at the former Orchard Supply store on 17-92 and Miller Ave.

Because the original Orchard Supply store was permitted with a “warehouse” designation, it lacks the necessary parking capacity for either retail or office and, as a result, has remained vacant since it closed two years ago.

Both City staff and the Planning & Zoning Board have recommended denial of McLaren’s application to put their dealership in that location. The Comprehensive Plan specifically restricts any type of automotive business to locations north of Webster Ave., west of Denning Drive, East of Bennett and on the west side of Wymore north of Lee Road.

Winter Park does have its car enthusiasts, however, and one gentleman who would love to see a McLaren dealership go in where Orchard Supply used to be reached out to the Voice (see above).

Even though both the City and P&Z recommended denial of McLaren’s application, according to McLaren’s attorney Mary Solik, McLaren will proceed to submit their application to the City Commission at the January 13, 2021 meeting.

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