Well, it’s over for another year, but newly elected Commissioners Marty Sullivan (Seat #1) and Sheila DeCiccio (Seat #2) will not take their seats on the dais March 23, as that Commission meeting has been cancelled because of the current health crisis. Here’s hoping April will see us return to normal.
Thanks to Blydenburgh and Creasman
Our City owes a debt of gratitude to the four candidates and their supporters who worked so hard in this race. To Carl Creasman and Jeffrey Blydenburgh, we appreciate your engagement in our community and your willingness to serve, and we look forward to your ongoing contributions as our City continues to go about its work.
Poll Results – Commission Races
As of February 20, Winter Park has 22,366 registered voters. Of those, 8,610 – or 38.5 percent – cast their votes. Not every voter voted for every ballot item, however. Apparently, there were around 600 voters who voted only in the Presidential Primary and declined to participate in the local races. In the races for the two Commission seats, for instance, fewer than 8,000 cast votes.
For Commission Seat #1, Marty Sullivan received 4,360 votes and Jeffrey Blydenburgh received 3,519, for a total of 7,986 votes cast. Votes not cast, called “under votes,” totaled 624.
For Commission Seat #2, Sheila DeCiccio garnered 5,415 votes to Carl Creasman’s 2,366, for a total of 7,989, with 627 under votes.
Ballot Amendment Results
All Charter Amendments passed except one. Question #9, on whether the City Auditor Contract Term should go from three to five years, failed by a decisive margin – 4,442 to 2,712.
The Charter Amendment questions fared even worse than Commission races in number of votes cast. Although this is only conjecture, it looks like voters may have simply gotten bored with the exercise as they began going down the list of Charter Amendment questions. Question #1, which established the use of gender-neutral language throughout the Charter, drew 7,785 votes. That number declined steadily, so that by Question #11, only 6,977 people cast votes.
The City has issued a list of closings and cancellations effective immediately, as it continues to monitor the status of the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease.
City Hall and Facilities Closed to the Public
Effective immediately, City Hall and City facilities are closed until further notice. City services and assistance will remain available by phone or email.
The Public Safety Building at 500 N. Virginia Ave., Fire Station #62 on Lakemont and Fire Station #64 on Howell Branch Rd. are closed to visitors, except for emergencies.
The Saturday Winter Park Farmers Market is suspended until further notice.
Recreational facility closures include the Community Center, Cady Way Pool, Showalter Stadium, the Winter Park Golf Course and the Azalea Lane Tennis Center. Public parks and playgrounds and greenspaces will remain open. Please practice social distancing protocol by keeping a space of at least six feet between you and others not in your household.
Events and Gatherings Cancelled
The March 23 City Commission meeting is cancelled. Future Commission meetings will be announced as they are scheduled.
City Advisory Board Meetings are cancelled until further notice.
All events and gatherings of more than ten people are cancelled or postponed until further notice.
Recreational programming and events for youth, adults and seniors are cancelled until further notice.
Public Safety Facilities and Services
Winter Park Fire & Rescue service will continue to provide fire and EMS services. Winter Park Police Department will operate normally with modified non-emergency responses. For more information, call 407-644-1313.
Although utility statements and due dates remain on schedule, the City understands that some customers may experience unavoidable financial difficulty during this period and has suspended the disconnection for non-payment policy until further notice.
For billing questions, call 407-599-3220; for outage and service issues call 877-811-8700.
Restaurants and Bars
A recent Executive Order by Gov. Ron DeSantis requires all Florida bars and nightclubs to close for 30 days, effective today. Restaurants are required to remain below 50 percent occupancy. As this creates considerable hardship for City businesses, the City is working with the Chamber of Commerce to help. Go to the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce website to check out curbside food pickup and home delivery options from our local restaurants.
Building Permits & Services Online
Although City Hall is closed to the public, Building & Permitting Services will be reviewing plans submittals and issuing permits electronically at firstname.lastname@example.org Inspectors will continue on a case-by-case basis. You can schedule inspections online at <Epay> or call 407-599-3350.
Information regarding the spread of the coronavirus and the COVID19 disease changes daily, please remain informed using the following resources.
Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.
March 8, 2020 by Guest Columnist Will Graves
Developers. I used to exchange Christmas cards with some of them. One donated $6,000 to a charity I championed. Another agreed to gift $21,000 for our Lisa Merlin House Golf Tournament fundraiser. One, who occasionally assists with the bread and wine at my church, prayed for forgiveness of my sins one Sunday.
Falling Out of Favor
How did I fall out of favor with these people? By publicly writing and speaking to shine a light on the existential need to preserve the unique scenic quality, historic character, architectural heritage, authenticity and property values in our pristine small-scale village of Winter Park.
Now, Florida State Senator Tom Lee (R – Hillsborough County), another with whom I used to exchange Christmas cards, wants people like me to shoulder the burden of all legal costs, should we find ourselves on the wrong side of an overdeveloper lawsuit. If that’s not enough, overdevelopment interests, seeking to economize on their tanning lotion by avoiding the sunshine, are now pushing the folks in Tallahassee to eliminate the requirement for those legal notices in newspapers that document what Winter Park citizens need to know to protect their interests.
It no longer matters what the zoning is — it’s who we know who can do an end run around the pesky public to get the variances and Comprehensive Plan changes we need, and forget those disgruntled Winter Park citizens who fear losing sight lines, driving down shadowy road-canyons and wasting time in traffic gridlock.
If you wish to continue to be able to move through Winter Park in an orderly and timely manner in the coming years, a long overdue Moratorium on out-of-scale commercial development should be enacted. Sooner rather than later. The traffic you’re dealing with today pales in comparison to what you’ll be dealing with soon. That’s what happens when Private Interests are allowed to do your village planning for you.
Be Prepared to Fight
Barbara Drew Hoffstot, Rollins Class of ’42 and Rollins Walk of Fame honoree, nailed the problem in her book, “Landmark Architecture of Palm Beach.”
Mrs. Hoffstot warned us, “Will you care very much for your country if it becomes largely one of visual concrete commercialism? The decision lies with each and every one of you, my readers. You will get what you want, what you fight for, and what you deserve. So, don’t let your very fine past be taken away . . . without your knowledge and consent. Be prepared to fight when necessary!”
Will Graves is recipient of the 2019 Individual Distinguished Service Award from the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, a statewide partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A six-person statewide jury made the award decision.
Here again are the four candidates, this time on the Library debate stage. The program was moderated by Carol Foglesong of the League of Women Voters. Marty Sullivan and Jeffrey Blydenburgh face off for Seat 1; Sheila DeCiccio and Carl Creasman vie for Seat 2.
In addition to opening and closing statements, candidates received three questions from the moderator and an additional four questions from the audience. Click on images at the end of the article for unedited video of the debate. Questions and summarized answers appear below in the order of rotation.
Name a strength, a weakness, an opportunity and a threat to Winter Park.
Creasman: Winter Park’s strength is people. A weakness is that we are at the center of the fastest growing region in the country. The opportunity is that we are a wealthy city and can control our own resources, like the electric utility. We should create our own mini-mass-transit system and our own broadband network. Our threat is an internal one — the tone of political discourse in our city, which has the potential to lead us into dangerous places.
DeCiccio: Our strength is people and a sense of community. We have the opportunity to expand our greenspace, with the Post Office and Progress Point. Our weaknesses are traffic congestion and inadequate infrastructure. Failure to immediately address problems as they arise poses a threat to the city.
Sullivan: Our strength lies in our strong financial well-being. Weakness is the conflict between citizen and developer interests. We need to balance what enhances our quality of life with what gives a developer a reasonable rate of return. Both the opportunity and the threat lie in the Orange Avenue Overlay. Opportunity is in the increased green space and bicycle and pedestrian ways. The threat lies in excessive entitlement giveaways to developers.
Blydenburgh: The strength of our community is its people. Our weakness is that, while we have a vision, we don’t have a master plan for the city. The opportunity is that we are close to being the best community in Florida, and we have the opportunity to be even better by fixing broadband and local transit problems and supporting our young families. The threat is the contentiousness, which needs to end.
Cite an example of change you propose to improve Winter Park. How will your proposed change be measured and evaluated?
DeCiccio: I would look to our Parks, Lakes and Urban Forestry. We lack a 10-year maintenance plan, the last having expired in 2016. Maintenance is the elephant in the living room. Who will take care of all these projects that are coming on line right now? .
Sullivan: We should address traffic in a different way. We need a calibrated, dynamic traffic model that will enable us to look at what kind of road changes we can make that will ease congestion. When we begin paying for Sunrail maintenance and operations next year, Sunrail needs to go from being commuter rail to being mass transit system. Every person on Sunrail represents one less car on the road. Measures would be Sunrail ridership and traffic counts.
Blydenburgh: The community should focus on young families who represent our future. We should employ technology that allows two-way communication at our Commission meetings. The opportunity for increased participation in government issues is important, as are upgrades and maintenance of our playing fields.
Creasman: Our city would be better if we got Lynx buses off our interior roads and had our own mini-mass-transit system, funded with CRA dollars, in the form of either a trolley or an autonomous vehicle. While we cannot expect to fix traffic congestion immediately, this would provide a measurable benefit over time by decreasing traffic on our interior roads and addressing our critical environmental issues.
Are you happy with the level of transparency you see at City Hall in conducting meetings and sharing information honoring public records requests?
Sullivan: Not really. The city website is not user-friendly. I’ve received highly detailed reports from City Manager Randy Knight that would be very useful for everyone, but the information is available only to Commissioners. We need to better manage our communications to provide full and timely information.
Blydenburgh: We need good communications in order to make good decisions. You can get just about anything you want if you ask Randy Knight, but it shouldn’t be that way. The city’s responsibility is to inform us. I think we should redesign the city website so we can find the information that we need.
Creasman: There has been a “Balkanization of Communication,” and we are now talking past each other. Since the explosion of mass media communications technology in 2007-2008, communication presents a huge challenge for the city. Do we need to update the way the city communicates? Yes, but we need to recognize just what a large task that is.
DeCiccio: We need to improve the city communications department. We need to all have the same information so that we are all speaking from the same page. I would also like to see at least one Commission workshop every month, where Commissioners can publicly discuss their thinking. We should not have to wait for weeks to get minutes from a board or commission meeting.
Will you support an increase in city funding for the new library? If you are asked, as a commissioner, to stop or delay the library project, would you vote yes or no?
Blydenburgh: Our job as commissioners is to ensure the new library is delivered on the budget and the schedule established by the current commission. I would not support a stop or delay in library construction.
Creasman: We should increase city funding for the library, and I would vote no if someone tried to stop the project.
DeCiccio: I am in full support of the new library and increased city funding for it. However, if cost overruns get out of hand, then I would have to take another look. It is very difficult for me to say yes or no to that question. If serious problems surface, I would not be doing my job if I didn’t take another hard look.
Sullivan: Paraphrasing Winston Churchill, “Winter Park can be depended upon to do the right thing once we’ve exhausted every other possibility.” We need the best in-depth research possible to determine our citizens’ wishes. Hence, as your next commissioner, I will represent you, the citizens, on this issue and, from the results of the research, I will do your bidding.
Referencing 17-92, knowing that the infrastructure has already experienced failure with the present load, why is this not given paramount consideration when higher FARs [floor area ratios] are being put into place over existing codes?
Creasman: I think city has done a good job of budgeting, and city staff has done a good job of maintaining our infrastructure. I would look forward to continuing to support the expertise of city staff.
DeCiccio: We are fortunate that our sewer and water lines are in such good shape that the city has been able to reallocate that money into undergrounding our power lines. Water quality and water treatment are the important issues now, so that we avoid contaminating our lakes, streams and aquifer.
Sullivan: The city has done a good job of maintaining our core infrastructure. We need concurrency with our infrastructure and our new development to make sure new development does not over-tax our infrastructure system.
Blydenburgh: And to reach concurrency, right now the burden is on the city. We need to shift the burden to developers by implementing developer impact fees. The developers need to pay for the impact of their development on our infrastructure.
Are you in favor of Orange County Mayor Demmings’ one-cent transportation tax? State the reason for your position.
DeCiccio: Strongly support. Fifty percent of it will be paid for by tourists and it will be applied to transportation infrastructure. Right now, only 32 percent of the people in Winter Park both live and work here. Everyone else commutes. It can take up to two or three hours on Lynx, so if we could have more direct routes, that would be fewer cars on the roads. We also need to connect Sunrail to the airport and have it run nights and weekends.
Sullivan: Strongly support. Compared with other cities our size, we have about one-third the public bus system we should have. The tax will provide a dedicated funding source to invest in mass transit. We should turn Sunrail into a transit system and expand it. Every rider on Sunrail is one less car on the road.
Blydenburgh: Strongly support. The estimated amount coming into Winter Park annually is between $8 and $12 million. This is something the community should support.
Creasman: Strongly support. We need to invest in our police force, a mini-mass-transit system and Sunrail expansion. If we are going to solve the problems confronting us, we have to be willing to pay for solutions.
Do you support the Rollins plan to move their graduate business school and the Cornell Fine Arts Museum to property they own north of Fairbanks
Sullivan: To locate the Cornell Museum there would be wonderful. Bringing the Crummer Business School to that site would be the first time Rollins has brought classes north of Fairbanks. The third issue is the massing of the buildings, without much open space. I think there should be more open space, and I am not in favor of bringing students north of Fairbanks.
Blydenburgh: I support the project. The current commission has made several recommendations for increased setbacks and open space. I don’t have a concern with students coming north of Fairbanks, and to have the Cornell there would be a huge plus.
Creasman: I would listen to the residents on this one, to find out what works for everybody. Generally, Rollins has been very positive for our city. In fact, as of 2008, they were the second-largest taxpayer in the city, but I think Rollins has more work to do on their design.
DeCiccio: I strongly support the Cornell Museum relocating to that site, but I am opposed to the current design for the business school. The massing isn’t right. I support the college moving Crummer there, but they need to redesign the building so it doesn’t look so much like a prison wall.
Everyone should have received their Vote by Mail ballots by now, and if you’ve read yours, you may still be scratching your head. In addition to the four candidates for City Commission, 11 Charter Amendments appear on the ballot — in the form of questions.
You Still Have Time to Register to Vote
Before we get into that, if you haven’t registered to vote, there is still time to do so. You have until February 18 to register. Call the Orange County Supervisor of Elections at(407) 836-2070. The folks down there are courteous, knowledgeable and anxious to help.
Charter Must Be Updated Every 10 Years
Every 10 years, the City Charter is updated by a group of citizen volunteers, with professional guidance from an outside consultant – this year, Marilyn Crotty led the effort. A group of your neighbors spent an entire summer going through the City Charter, (in effect, our Constitution) going page-by-page, line-by-line, to make changes and clean up archaic and obsolete language. The result of their efforts is what you see on your ballot – only in question form.
Help Available at the City Website
The Communications Department at the City of Winter Park has put up a very informative page that shows you exactly what has changed. You will see about half the questions are simply housekeeping – such as making the Charter language gender-neutral. The other half, if passed, would make a change in the way the City operates. Click here to view the Charter changes.
Referring to the questions as they appear on your ballot, below is a brief explanation of each one. Between this and the page on the City website, you should easily be able to decide how you want to vote.
This is a rather comprehensive housekeeping question. Among the things it does is to make the Charter language gender-neutral and to delete obsolete language. There is no change to the way City business is conducted.
This changes the base salaries of the Mayor and Commissioners, which have not been changed for more than a decade. If this question passes, the Mayor will receive $15,000 a year and each Commissioner will receive $12,600 a year.
This simply acknowledges that the City has a “Commission-Manager” form of government. Nothing changes, we’ve had that all along, it just adds the language.
Language in this question will make our Charter language consistent with County and State law regarding the conduct of elections. No real change here.
Less complicated than it looks. Deadlines for citizen referendum petitions have been extended from 30 to 45 days, giving citizens more time to collect petition signatures. After you’ve submitted your petition, if the Commission fails to adopt a proposed ordinance within 60 days, or fails to repeal the referred ordinance within 30 days, then they have to hold a special election and put it to the voters. That election shall be held not less than 30 days and not later than 90 days from the date the petition was determined sufficient (i.e., accepted by the City).
If there is an election already scheduled within that time frame, there would not be a special election. Instead the measure would go on the regular ballot.
If a Commissioner becomes unable to serve within 60 days of a general election, this gives the remaining Commissioners the option of either appointing someone to fill the vacant seat or operating with a Commission of four members until the election is held.
This establishes the size of City advisory boards at seven members. It gives the Mayor the right to appoint three board members and gives each Commissioner the right to appoint one board member. If passed, this would change the current system which gives sole authority for all advisory board appointments to the Mayor.
This would allow the Mayor or a Commissioner to be counted present for voting purposes if they video-conference into the meeting. The privilege would be limited to three times a year for any Commission member.
Currently, Commissioners can teleconference (audio only) in to a meeting, but they cannot vote on measures that come before that Commission meeting.
This would simply change the term of the contract for the City Auditor from three to five years.
If passed, this would strengthen the ‘non-partisan’ status of Winter Park elections by denying any candidate the right to campaign as a member of any political party or to accept campaign contributions from any political party, and it establishes penalties for candidates who do not comply.
This question would renumber the section containing the Charter Amendment Process (housekeeping), and would extend the deadline from 60 to 180 days for the City to hold an election on a Charter Amendment proposed by a citizen petition.
Not So Bad
I confess I had the same reaction many of you may have had when I first saw the ballot questions. In the end, though, they’re not so tough. And they come as a welcome reminder that our Winter Park City Charter is, indeed, a living document.