WP Voters to Decide on Single Member Districts

WP Voters to Decide on Single Member Districts

WP Voters to Decide on Single Member Districts

Back Yard Chicken Pilot Program Takes Off

by Anne Mooney / August 30, 2020

Single Member Districts on March 2021 Ballot

At their August 26 regular meeting, Commissioners voted 3-2 to draft an ordinance that would add the single member districts question to the March 2021 ballot. If the ordinance is passed by the Commission, the ballot question would ask voters if they want to continue the current “at large” form of representation, in which each Commissioner represents all Winter Park citizens, regardless of where they live, or if the City should be divided into districts, with each district represented by a Commissioner from that district.

This issue was discussed at length during the 2019 Charter Review in preparation for the 2020 vote on updated Charter revisions. Single member districts was not among the 11 Charter questions on the 2020 ballot, as the Charter Review Committee felt Winter Park was geographically too small to be divided up into separate districts.

The question remained, however, in the minds of some citizens who are advocating for single member districts, which they believe will provide members of the historically Black Hannibal Square neighborhood a better chance for a strong voice in city government. There has not been a Black commissioner in Winter Park since the late 19th century, despite the crucial role of the Black community in the incorporation of first the town and then the city of Winter Park.

Advisory Board Appointments a First Step

One of the 11 Charter revisions that passed in 2020 was the change in Advisory Board appointments. Instead of the Mayor making all board appointments, each Commissioner also has authority to make board appointments, resulting in the appointments of several Black citizens to advisory boards this year. Service on a Citizen Advisory Board is generally regarded as one path to election to the City Commission.

Single Member Districts Requires a City Charter Change

In order to create single member districts, the City Charter would have to be revised, and a Charter revision can only be accomplished at the ballot box. There are two ways to put the question to the voters – by petition or by ordinance. In a citizen initiative, at least 10 percent of registered voters must sign a petition requesting the change. That would require gathering just over 2,000 signatures – in the midst of a pandemic.

The Commissioners also have the authority to pass an ordinance placing the question on the ballot, without the need for a petition drive. And that is what they did on August 26th, with Commissioners Todd Weaver, Sheila DeCiccio and Marty Sullivan voting in support and Commissioner Carolyn Cooper and Mayor Steve Leary dissenting.

January 20, 2021 – Deadline for the 2021 Ballot

Between now and January 2021, the Commissioners expect to hold a series of workshops in which they will have to decide how many districts there would be, where district lines would be drawn and, if the measure were to pass, how any change would affect those Commissioners currently holding office. In most cities that have single member districts, for example Orlando, the Mayor serves the city at large and each Commissioner represents a single district.

Personal Fowl

An ordinance allowing back yard chickens, which has been under discussion since 2014 or earlier, finally passed its first reading at the August 26 Commission meeting. The City plans to issue up to 25 permits for residents in single family homes to keep up to four hens – the recommended number for happy hens.

Did you know, the color of the chicken’s eggs is the same as the color of her ears. Have you ever been close enough to a chicken to look at her ears? You may now have the chance.

The chickens must be cooped in a structure no higher than 7 feet. Chicken coops must be in fenced back or side yards and placed far enough from neighboring homes to cause no disturbance. Only hens are allowed; roosters are prohibited, as they are the ones who are noisy. Residents who keep chickens must complete an educational class on chicken care and will undergo periodic City inspections to ensure coops are clean and well maintained.

The ordinance establishing this two-year pilot program is based on successful programs already in place in Orlando, Maitland and Longwood. Winter Park’s back yard chicken ordinance still has to pass its second reading before it becomes a reality, but Commissioner Todd Weaver believes that will come soon.

 

 

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Commission Moves to Wednesday

Commission Moves to Wednesday

Commission Moves to Wednesday

City Advisory Board Appointments Announced & Explained

by Anne Mooney / June 24, 2020

Starting with the July 8 meeting, regularly scheduled Commission meetings will move from the second and fourth Monday to the second and fourth Wednesday of each month. Meetings will continue to begin at 3:30 pm.

The move will avoid conflicts with holidays that are celebrated on Mondays and will facilitate those popular long weekends.

Virtual Meetings Through July

Commission meetings will continue to be virtual through the end of July, based on Governor Ron DeSantis extension of Executive Order 20-69 allowing virtual meetings of local governments to continue.

New Board Appointments Across the Board

The process of appointing members of City Advisory Boards changed with the adoption in March of revisions to the Winter Park City Charter. Formerly, the Mayor made all advisory board appointments, with the approval of the Commission. Now, all boards have seven members; three members of each board are appointed by the Mayor and one member is appointed by each of the four Commissioners.

Transition Appointments – happens only once in 2020

It seems 2020 has thrown everything into a cocked hat, and there will be no exception in the matter of board appointments. The amended Charter dictates that Board members serve “at the pleasure” of the appointing Mayor or Commissioner, and their terms will run concurrently with the Mayor or Commissioner making the appointment. Each board member is limited to two three-year terms on a particular board.

This means, since Mayor Leary has only one year left to serve in his current term, his board appointees also will have one-year terms on that board. Similarly, appointees named by Commissioners Cooper and Weaver will have two-year terms.

Hang in there . . .

At Monday’s meeting, the Commission decided that the one-year appointments will be considered ‘partial terms,’ and will not count toward the two-term limit, allowing these appointees two full three-year terms in addition to the one-year term granted by Leary.

Two-year terms, however, will be considered full terms and will be eligible for only one further term on that board. This condition applies to Cooper’s and Weaver’s appointees.

Fortunately, we will encounter this situation only once, since the newly-seated 2020 Commission decided in April to release all board members from their current appointments and to begin fresh with all new May appointments, which are beginning in June because of the pandemic.

However they got there, and for however long, we owe a debt of gratitude to the people who have agreed to serve the community on the various Advisory Boards. Here is a link to the new slate.

DeCiccio Named to Library Board of Trustees

Commissioner Sheila DeCiccio was named to the seat on the Library Board of Trustees that is traditionally occupied by a member of the Commission. The seat was previously held by former Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel.

 

 

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day!

City Hosts Special Mother’s Day Weekend

by Anne Mooney / May 6, 2020

May 8 – 10, the City is hosting a special Mother’s Day weekend of socially-distanced restaurant dining and limited retail therapy.

Streets Closed for Distance Dining and Shopping-Withdrawal Relief

To facilitate safe outdoor dining, portions of Park Ave., Morse Blvd. and New England Ave. will be closed to vehicular traffic from 4:00 pm Friday, May 8, to 11:00 pm Sunday, May 10.

Park Ave. from Swoope to Fairbanks

New England Ave. between Pennsylvania and Virginia Ave.

Morse Blvd. between Center St. and New York Ave.

 

All Shops & Restaurants May Participate

Outdoor shopping and dining is not limited to Park Ave. and Hannibal Square, however. Any retail store or restaurant within the City limits may apply for a permit from the City to extend their business outside. The permit is good only through the weekend.

Restaurants and shops must maintain the 6-foot required distance between patrons outside and limit inside occupancy to 25 percent of capacity.

Mini-Sidewalk Sales

Retail shops must also adhere to the 25-percent-capacity rule, but they may also have a single merchandise rack or table on the sidewalk outside the shop.

Each business will bear the responsibility of ensuring its customers meet social distancing requirements at all times. “As we continue to take methodical steps to reopen the City following the State guidelines, we are hosting this special weekend to help our business community and to give the public a chance to support our local businesses and celebrate Mother’s Day,” said Assistant City Manager Michelle Neuner.

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City Approves $1 Million+ in Community Support

City Approves $1 Million+ in Community Support

But, Will the Chickens Ever Come Home to Roost?

by Anne Mooney / April 12, 2020

The City Commission met in a special session April 8 to discuss the City’s coronavirus response and to approve funding assistance for Winter Park residents during the shutdown. The City has partnered with the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce to come up with the following measures.

    • $25,000 donation to Second Harvest Food Bank for Winter Park residents. For information about receiving food or making donations go to feedhopenow.org
    • $75,000 donation to Feed the Need Program for Winter Park residents. Beginning April 14, free meals will be available at the Community Center on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 3:00 to 5:00 pm, while supplies last. Walk up or drive through.
    • $50,000 in direct and matching funds to Residential Utility Bill Assistance through Heart of Florida United Way 2-1-1 program. If you are a utility customer who needs assistance, you can do a virtual chat with a 2-1-1 representative by going to HFUW.org/Chat
    • Suspension of late fees, interest payments and service disconnects for water and electricity until further notice. Customers can contact Utility Billing customer service at 407-599-3220 for flexible repayment options. 
    • An Electrical Fuel Rate Holiday resulting in reductions in total residential electric bills for the month of May 2020.
    • Free WiFi at Central Park and Shady Park.

Micro-loan program

Also discussed was a micro-loan program, jointly funded by the CRA and the City, for Winter Park small businesses that are struggling. Although $250,000 in matching funds was budgeted, there is no clear path to implementation.

To put this program in motion, the City is banking on help that may be hard to get. Lacking the necessary skills and manpower to administer a loan program, the City had planned to enlist the support of a local bank or banks for their lending expertise. The banks, however, are stretched to the limit administering unwieldy State and Federal assistance programs. The demand is overwhelming, leaving the banks without the capacity to assist the City. In addition, the City’s $250,000 contribution requires a matching donation of locally-raised private funds – and this is a difficult time for anyone who’s had the courage to look at their 401(k) lately.

According to an April 10 Press Release from the City, “Details for this program are still being finalized and will be presented for CRA Board approval at a future date.”

Fowl is Fair

At the end of the meeting in the ‘Commissioner Reports’ period, Commissioner Todd Weaver gave the other Commissioners a pullet surprise by bringing up the topic of Backyard Chickens. Surrounding communities, including Maitland and Orlando, have successful programs, but the worm has not yet turned in Winter Park.

The last attempted chicken coup was in 2016, when the Keep Winter Park Beautiful and Sustainable Advisory Board proposed a Backyard Chicken pilot program. The plan called for City Staff to issue temporary permits and work with each permit holder to assess how well the program would work in Winter Park. That plan never hatched.

Now, despite the success of other well-established urban programs and passionate pleas from local residents for a few backyard hens, the response from the other four Commissioners is tepid. Mayor Steve Leary agreed to bring the subject up for discussion at the April 13 Commission Meeting, but only for discussion, not as an action item.

Weaver acknowledged that Backyard Chickens may seem like a small thing in the face of a global pandemic – unless you’re an egg-lover who has left the Publix egg aisle empty-handed. In these days of limited social contact, many people are turning to their own gardens for sustenance, and a couple of hens could lay enough eggs to provide some much-needed protein.

So, if you run into a Commissioner who’s on the fence, you might consider egging them on to cross the road to support Poultry in Motion.

 

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October Action in Winter Park

October Action in Winter Park

City Hall and Elsewhere

Everyone’s gearing up for the Autumn Art Festival Oct. 12-13, hoping the weather will cooperate. It’s been pretty quiet, and the weekend forecast looks to be fair. Head over to Central Park to enjoy local artists, local music and local family fun. The Autumn Art Festival is the only juried fine art festival exclusively featuring Florida artists. The Festival is open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm both days, and admission is free.

It’s Still Hurricane Season

The Orlando Sentinel did remind us this morning that seven of the most destructive hurricanes to hit the U.S. arrived in October, so the season isn’t over. “It’s not time to guzzle your hurricane supplies yet,” wrote Sentinel reporter Joe Pedersen. Neither is it time to put away Winter Park’s Hurricane Preparedness Guide – soon, but not yet. https://issuu.com/cityofwinterpark/docs/hurricane_preparedness_guide?e=7314878/63055860

Musical Chairs at City Hall

October is typically the month when the Campaign Jungle Drums begin to rumble about who will run for office in the spring – or not – and for what. This year is no exception. Mayor Steve Leary announced in a September 17 press release that he had filed paperwork to run for Orange County Commission Seat #5, opposing incumbent Emily Bonilla.

Leary — Mayor until Nov. 30, 2020

According to now-retired City Clerk Cindy Bonham, as a candidate for Orange County Commission, Leary must submit his resignation as Winter Park Mayor on May 29, 2020, to be effective November 30, 2020. Leary can continue to serve as Mayor until November 30, 2020, but must step down December 1, 2020, whether or not he is elected to the Orange County Commission. “If he loses the County election,” wrote Bonham, “he would lose both the County and City seats. Someone would have to be appointed as Mayor until the March 2021 general election. . . .”

Sprinkel Will Run for Mayor

Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel has announced her intention not to run for re-election to Commission Seat #2 in 2020, so that she can run for Mayor in 2021. Winter Park Commissioners are limited to four terms – whether they serve as Mayor, Commissioner or a combination of the two. Since Sprinkel is currently serving her third term as Commissioner, she has only one term remaining – a term in which she would like to serve as Winter Park’s Mayor. She will, therefore, relinquish her Commission Seat #2 when her third term concludes.

Who Will Replace Sprinkel?  Who Will Oppose Seidel?

Commission Seats #1 and #2 are both up in 2020. Greg Seidel told the Voice that he will run for re-election to Seat #1.

Attorney and former Planning & Zoning Advisory Board member Sheila DeCiccio also has announced her intention to run for the Commission in Spring 2020. Word On The Street is that others are planning a Commission bid, but to date no one has gone public. Stay tuned.

October Schedule at City Hall

Here’s what’s going on at City Hall as of now. Things change, however, so check for the most current information here: https://cityofwinterpark.org/government/boards/

 

Coffee Talks

In addition to commissions, boards and task forces, we also have informal gatherings with City Officials, where you can let them know what you’re thinking and find out what they’re thinking.

The Mayor’s Coffee Talk was in July. Vice Mayor Greg Seidel’s was August 8, and Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel’s was September 9. The remaining Coffee Talks will be held 8:00 to 9:00 am at the Winter Park Golf and Country Club, 761 Old England Ave.

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper – October 10.

Commissioner Todd Weaver – November 14.

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What’s Happening at City Hall?

What’s Happening at City Hall?

The Place Is Hopping – Even In This Heat

You think Winter Park is sleepy during the summer? Think again. In July alone, there will be 23 public meetings.

The Voice has received requests for notifications and schedules, so we’ve compiled a list of standing boards and task forces and will post monthly meeting schedules. You can also see the schedule, schedule changes, agendas and lists of board members on the City website at https://cityofwinterpark.org/government/boards/

City Commission — 2nd & 4th Monday Each Month

Of the 23 July meetings, two are Commission meetings. These are held the second and fourth Monday of each month, beginning at 3:30 pm, in the Commission Chambers on the second floor of City Hall. They go until they’re finished – typically until 5:30 to 6:30 pm unless there is a controversial item on the agenda. In that case, they’ve been known to go as late as 10:30 pm, but under the current administration that is the exception.

Nineteen Advisory Boards

Nineteen citizen boards advise the Commission on topics ranging from Police Officers’ Pensions to Lakes and Waterways and Code Compliance. A full list of these boards and board members can be found at the above link.

All advisory boards are formed of citizen volunteers who bring their experience and expertise to the business of running the City. They operate in a strictly advisory capacity, offering guidance to the Commission, the policy-making body of the City. The boards make the recommendations; the Commission makes the decisions.

Most advisory boards meet once a month. There are a few, including the Commission, that have workshops for the sole purpose of discussion among board members. While the public is invited to observe, at workshops, there are no decisions, no votes and no public input.

Three Task Forces

In addition to the standing advisory boards, there are currently three task forces, which are formed for a single stated purpose with definite beginning and ending dates. Ending dates, known as “sunset dates,” are, of course, flexible. The three currently active task forces are described below.

Charter Review Advisory Committee

This task force is formed every 10 years for the purpose of updating the Winter Park City Charter. The Charter is our City’s ‘Constitution,’ its primary governing document. Some major issues are under discussion, making these meetings interesting and relevant.

One is the question of whether we will continue to vote ‘at large,’ as we currently do, for mayor and commissioners, or change to a voting method based on geographic districts. There is still time to get in on this discussion, as the question was tabled until the full task force is present (which hasn’t happened yet).

Other topics include increasing compensation for Commissioners and who should have the authority to appoint Advisory Board members.

Meetings are held at the Community Center from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. The first hour is devoted to public comment, so best be on time. This task force began April 23 and will run through September 24. The next meeting is Tuesday, July 23.

Orange Avenue Steering Committee

The purpose of this task force is to decide the parameters of a zoning ‘overlay,’ which will establish guidelines for the redevelopment of that stretch of Orange Avenue reaching from 17-92 to just north of the corner of Denning and Fairbanks.

The discussion is informative and the outcome will directly affect the sizable population that lives in the western part of the city. City Planning Director Bronce Stephenson wants everyone involved, and you are encouraged to attend. Meetings are held twice a month from 5:30 to 7:30 pm in the Commission chambers. The next meeting is Wednesday, July 24.

Old Library Reuse Task Force

This group is charged with recommending to the Commission the proper disposition of the current library facility. The task force meets once a month in the Commission chambers at Noon. The next meeting is Wednesday, July 17.

Coffee Talks

Not only do we have official commissions, boards and task forces, we also have informal gatherings with the Mayor and Commissioners where you can let them know what you’re thinking and find out what they’re thinking. Except for the Mayor’s, which is at the Welcome Center across the street from City Hall, all Coffee Talks are 8:00 to 9:00 am at the Winter Park Golf and Country Club, 761 Old England Ave.

The Coffee Talks with the Mayor and Commissioners will be on the following dates.

Mayor Steve Leary – July 12 – at the Welcome Center on Lyman Ave.

(All others are at the Winter Park Golf & Country Club.)

Commissioner Greg Seidel – August 8.

Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel – September 9.

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper – October 10.

Commissioner Todd Weaver – November 14.

Here’s What’s Left of the July Lineup

Look for August when we get closer. Note: the Chapman Room and the Commission Chambers are on the second floor of City Hall.

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