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Guest Columnist Beth Hall / April 25, 2015 / Add Your Comments

In a move that has some asking, “What’s the rush?” on April 7 the Planning & Zoning Board unanimously approved Fifth Third Bank’s application to develop the northwest corner of Aloma and Lakemont– without having seen final plans for the new project.

The Bank requested P & Z to grant both preliminary and final conditional use approvals at the single April 7 meeting. Neighboring residents expressed concern that they had received notice of the meeting only 10 days prior.


P&Z Fast Tracks Fifth Third

The rationale for fast-tracking the project stems from the fact that Fifth Third Bank’s lease on their current Aloma location next to the Mellow Mushroom expires soon.


Bank + Office Building Slated for Aloma

Plans for the new Fifth Third branch on Aloma and Lakemont includea free-standing commercial office building in addition to the new bank branch with drive-through lanes. The combined square footage of the projects will be just over 9,200 square feet and will be built on five combined parcels, one of which is currently zoned R1-A (single-family residential).The others are all zoned commercial.Despite this, there never has been a significantcommercial presence at this location.

In order to build the project, the bank sought conditional use approval for the drive-through lanes plusa Comprehensive Plan amendment and rezoning of the single family lot from R-1A to parking lot (PL). A portion of the rezoned lot willprovide four additional parking spaces and the rest will serve as a retention pond. The R1-A lot abuts three single-family homes on Edwin Blvd.

17-92 Branch Stands Idle

Ironically, Fifth Third owns another Winter Park location in the old K-Mart Plaza across from Winter Park Village which has full signage and completed drive-through lanes – and which currently stands idle and empty. When one resident inquired of bank representatives when they planned to open that branch, the representativesavoided answering the question.

City Recommends Approval

According to the city staff report, all previous applications to develop this corner were denied as too intrusive on surrounding residents.In their report, staff recommended approval of Fifth Third’s application,acknowledging that while there was “no enthusiasm for a bank with drive-though lanes” at this location, the proposed development is significantly smaller than what might be permitted on the 1.25-acre site. Briggs said he thought families in the three homes bordering the residential lot might find a retention pond and parking lot preferable to another single family home.

Neighbors attending the meeting raised concerns about traffic, lighting (especially night time bleeding of light), noise and landscaping. Others opposed the necessity to amend the Comprehensive Plan and rezonethe residential lot. One neighbor who owns an adjoining commercial lot currently for sale supported the project. .

Resident Suggests Green Space

Ann Hicks Murrah suggested the property be developed as greenspace –perhaps bearing the name of her late husband, philanthropist Kenneth Murrah.

Fifth Third Goes to Commission April 27

The P&Z Board dismissed citizens’ reservations about increased traffic. Board member Peter Weldon said that any traffic concerns would have to be addressed by the City after the project is built, once the effects can be evaluated.

Fifth Third Bank had commissioned their own traffic study, which supported their contention that the project would produce almost no new traffic. Bank representatives explained that since Florida law governs lighting requirements for banks, citizens’ concerns about night time light-bleed were subordinate to the safety and security of the financial institution.

The P&Z Board instructed Fifth Third Bank to make several changes intended to address residents’ concerns, but granted final approval without the board or the residents seeing any final plans.The City Commission will take up the bank’s application at their April 27th meeting.

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