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.
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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Historic Preservation = Enhanced Property Values
Dispelling one myth after the next, a panel of experts exposed the truth about historic preservation to a crowded room at the Winter Park Community Center.
The three panelists, who spoke October 29 at an event co-hosted by the Winter Park Voice and Friends of Casa Feliz, were Kathleen Kauffman, Historic Preservation Chief of Miami-Dade County, Christine Dalton, Historic Preservation Officer of the city of Sanford, and Richard Gonzalez, AIA, immediate past president of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. The panel was moderated by Senior Orlando Sentinel Columnist, Beth Kassab.
First came the news that Winter Park isn’t special in the struggle to save its heritage. Throughout Florida, rising land values are luring investors who gobble up older, smaller homes and replace them with massive, profit-making structures.
McMansions Thrive in Expensive Dirt
“It’s not just here,” said Kauffman. “It’s everywhere in the state.”
That news may have been small comfort to the more than 80 people attending the informational event. Most seemed concerned about protecting buildings that reflect the city’s heritage. The panel was held eleven days before the City Commission’s vote Nov. 9 to revise its historic preservation ordinance. Missing from the audience were the city staffers and most of the appointed board members, invited because they are involved in preservation decisions.
Property Value Fears Debunked
For those who did attend – interested residents, one member of the city’s Historic Preservation Board, Rebecca Talbert, and one City Commissioner, Carolyn Cooper – the panel had encouraging news, too. Fears about diminished property values and unhappy homeowners turn out to be myths. Cities with strong historic districts have healthy property values, satisfied residents and even happier real-estate agents, the panelists agreed.
Dalton, who described herself as “one of the most pro-development people you’re ever going to meet,” said she has heard claims that historic districts hurt property values, but she said, “That is not at all what we’re seeing” in Sanford.
“I get Realtors’ calls all the time asking, ‘When are you going to expand the size of the districts?'” she said, noting the strong demand for homes in Sanford’s historic districts.
No Documented Cases of Lowered Values
Kauffman said her research found no documented case anywhere that [a historic district] lowers property values. Instead, she found the opposite. People are motivated to buy when they know their investment in a historic home will be protected from the whims of indifferent neighbors, she said. Historic districts also tend to get more attention from City Hall when it comes to services and amenities, like street lights and utilities.
Still Plenty of Room for McMansions
Those who want to build homes not in keeping with historic guidelines still have plenty of choices, said Gonzalez. Most cities in Florida are like Winter Park, with only about five percent of its land considered historic, he pointed out. “So if you want to build a McMansion, go pick on that other 95 percent.”
When Kassab asked if people worry about having less control over their homes, panelists observed that preservation staff typically work closely to help homeowners. Ninety percent of requested changes in Sanford are minor ones dealt with easily by staff, Dalton said.
Preservation Staff Can Help Homeowners Save $$
“Most of the time we work with homeowners, we save them money,” said Kauffman, who regards historic preservation as “one added layer of value protection” for a property owner, rather than additional control. She noted that Miami-Dade doesn’t regulate a home’s interior or changes or additions to the back of a house.
Panelists identified several additional strategies for successful districts — creative incentives for property owners, an independent Historic Preservation Board with qualified members, and commitment to the importance of preservation.
“Getting the right people in positions of leadership is so important,” Dalton said.
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Historic Preservation — Reports from the Front Lines
WP Voice & Casa Feliz to Host Panel Discussion
Historic Preservation — How Does It Work In the Real World?
When: October 29 – 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.
Where: Winter Park Community Center
721 West New England Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789
Moderator: Beth Kassab, award-winning columnist of the Orlando Sentinel.
Panelists are among Florida’s foremost experts on historic preservation.
Rick Gonzalez, AIA
, President of REG Architects in West Palm Beach, is the immediate past chairman of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation and an accomplished preservation architect. His resume includes the restoration of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and the 1916 Palm Beach County Courthouse.
Kathleen Slesnick Kauffman, AICP
, Preservation Chief of Miami-Dade County, oversees 127 individually designated sites, 43 archaeological sites and zones, 5 historic districts, and the 24 municipalities within the county that don’t have their own ordinance. She has served as the executive director of the Florida Trust and as the Historic Preservation Officer in Fort Pierce and Lake Park.
, is the Community Planner and Historic Preservation Officer for the City of Sanford. She is an adjunct professor at Rollins College where she teaches Introduction to Historic Preservation.
It can seem a hollow exercise to argue historic preservation in the abstract. Does it enhance or diminish property values? Is voluntary preservation truly effective, or is it the beginning of open season on historic structures? What, if any, is the tangible value of historic preservation in our communities?
Our Panelists all work within communities that have robust, long-standing historic preservation programs. As Winter Park grapples with the role of historic preservation in our community, our panel of experts will share their real-time experiences with historic preservation.
Please join us at the Community Center October 29 for a lively, informative discussion.
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