Killarney Estates – No Longer the ‘Forgotten Triangle’

Killarney Estates – No Longer the ‘Forgotten Triangle’

Killarney Estates – No Longer the ‘Forgotten Triangle’

Can the City Reunite the Neighborhood?

In late January, plans to build the Henderson Hotel in the triangle bordered by 17-92, Fairbanks Avenue and Lake Killarney, known as Killarney Estates, ran headlong up against Comprehensive Plan Policy 1-J-9, which 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 . . . .”

Just before midnight on January 27 — before the Commission could vote on Commissioner Marty Sullivan’s motion to deny – attorney for developer Adam Wonus withdrew the application to build the hotel. It was Game Over.

Killarney Neighborhood’s cut-through traffic

Despite the outcome for the Henderson, Adam Wonus’s two-year effort to win approval for his project produced some positive results for this neglected corner of Winter Park by shining a light on serious traffic problems and general infrastructure neglect by the City. For years, Killarney residents had been plagued by cut-through traffic trying to avoid the major intersection of 17-92 and Fairbanks Avenue, and the development of way-finding apps has only made matters worse as Waze and others direct drivers going from 17-92 to Fairbanks (or the reverse) through the back streets of the neighborhood.

City Planners to the rescue

When Adam Wonus began meeting with the Lake Killarney neighbors about his proposed hotel, they described their traffic woes and Wonus alerted City Planners to their need for help. Commissioners and City staff met with the neighbors and decided to field test a traffic barrier on the southern leg of the intersection of Killarney Dr. and Fairview Ave. The City also created a permanent physical separation of Grove Ave. from Dallas Ave. and Broadview Ave. Adam Wonus even paid for the planter bollards that formed the barrier at Killarney Drive and Fairview Ave.

The traffic calming measures worked, cut-through traffic has slowed to a trickle and most Killarney neighbors are living happily ever after.

Unintended Consequences – A Neighborhood Divided

The demise of the Henderson project, however, has left what would have been the commercial hotel property separated from the rest of the neighborhood. The successful measures to tame cut-through traffic in the residential area southwest of Fairview now separate that part of the neighborhood from the portion north and east of Fairview.

The northeast part of the neighborhood is a mix of residential, commercial and office, and part of it fronts on 17-92, but there are still residential lakefront parcels in that area which most of the Killarney neighbors and the all of the City Commission wish to protect from commercial development.

How to put the neighborhood back together?

At a special Commission meeting February 11, 2021, the Commission directed staff to come up with additional options to protect the residential lakefront property and to reintegrate those properties into the existing transportation network. City staff also has initiated negotiations with mapping companies to eliminate cut-through routes through the Killarney neighborhood.

Decisions on traffic solutions must be based on future land use

At the March 24 Commission meeting, Planning Department staff presented 12 possible solutions to the remaining traffic problems.

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper quickly pointed out how the cart may have gotten ahead of the horse. “There are very different possible traffic solutions, depending on what the land use is,” she said. “Before we talk about zoning, let’s talk about what future land use really makes sense on these five or six parcels. The traffic solution must be based on a resolution of future land use by this Commission.”

Commission agrees to future workshop to discuss future land use

Of the possible solutions to the traffic problems, the City’s first option describes measures that either are already in place or well into the planning stages. It includes the planter bollard barrier at Fairview and Killarney Dr., and a small park area that would cut off the connection between Broadview, Dallas and Grove Avenues. This area already has been cordoned off with temporary barriers and cones. The only thing missing was a funding source. To build the “parklet,” as it is called, the City had to find $165,000 in additional funds.

CRA or Parks Acquisition Fund?

Since the intersection of Broadview, Dallas and Grove falls within the CRA, money could come from CRA, or because it’s a ‘parklet,’ the money could come from the Parks Acquisition Fund.

Commissioner Sheila DeCiccio made a motion to move forward with this option, to leave the bollards as they are, build the ‘parklet’ with $165,000 from the Parks Acquisition Fund and to hold a workshop to discuss future land use and a more permanent traffic solution based on the future land use. Commissioner Todd Weaver seconded. Weaver amended the motion to add approximately $3,600 to reimburse Adam Wonus for the cost of the bollards, with a second from Commissioner Marty Sullivan.

The main motion, as amended, passed on a 5-0 vote.

 

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Special Commission Meeting Called Over Chamber Flap

Special Commission Meeting Called Over Chamber Flap

Special Commission Meeting Called Over Chamber Flap

1:00 p.m. — Thursday, February 11, 2021

by Anne Mooney / February 9, 2021

After cancelling the February 10 regular Commission meeting, because there would not be a three-member quorum physically present, a Special Meeting of the Commission has been scheduled for Thursday, February 11 at 1:00 pm at the WP Community Center at 721 New England Avenue. Virtual meeting attendance is also available by clicking https://cityofwinterpark.org/government/live-broadcasts/

This will be a Special Commission meeting. Commissioners can vote to take action, and public comment will be taken.

The Commission will discuss events from the February 5 debate between mayoral candidates at the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce and whether to take action.

Loaded Question

At issue is the final debate question posed to the candidates, in which Commissioners were accused of collusion:

“It was dismaying to see the members of the city commission blatantly colluding to spike the Henderson project, which was approved by P&Z [Planning & Zoning] and was supported by the residents of Winter Park three to one over those opposing the project. As mayor, how would you ensure the commission enacts the wishes of the majority of WP residents, not just the agenda of an entitled few?”

Mayoral candidate Mayor Phil Anderson expressed his own dismay at the content of the question and stated his objection to the decision to air the question to Chamber President Betsy Gardner Eckbert.

After a brief burst of social media activity, each with its own version of events, the Anderson campaign and the WP Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors issued the following joint statement.

Joint statement issued by WP Chamber and Anderson Campaign

“Following an unfortunate incident at the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce Mayoral Candidate Forum this past Friday, The Chamber and Phil Anderson’s campaign have come to terms with the matter and look forward to placing it behind us in an effort to bring our community together. The Chamber thanks Mr. Anderson and Ms. Sprinkel, the two mayoral candidates, for participating in the Forum.”

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In Answer to ‘A Letter to Winter Park Residents’

In Answer to ‘A Letter to Winter Park Residents’

In Answer to ‘A Letter to Winter Park Residents’

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

Guest Columnist Peter Gottfried / February 2, 2021

Peter Weldon, a former Commissioner, recently wrote to “fellow Winter Park Residents” outlining his opposition to Phil Anderson’s candidacy for Mayor.  Mr. Weldon, as many of you know, ran for City Commission three times. He was elected to one term 2016-2019. He lost in 2008 to Phil Anderson, and again in 2019 to Todd Weaver.

Questionable arguments

In his recent letter, Mr. Weldon seeks to lay what he sees as the current Commission’s shortcomings at Phil Anderson’s door and to question Anderson’s character in the process. These questionable arguments deserve closer examination.

First, Weldon claims, “the actions of Commission members Weaver, Sullivan and DeCiccio bring Phil Anderson’s judgment into question.” If you think about that even for a minute, you’ll realize it’s a bit of a stretch.

Weldon’s assertions

Mr. Weldon wants you to believe that the current Commission . . .

  1. Voted to increase the property tax rate 11.5%.”

FALSE:  The tax rate (millage) did not change in 2021 and has not changed for 13 years.

  1. “Voted to “rescind” the Orange Avenue Overlay, changing our Comprehensive Plan in violation of our laws, resulting in legal action against the city (case number: 2020-CA-004388-O).ci”

MISLEADING:  Absolutely no laws were violated. In fact, the judge recently granted the City’s motion to dismiss the Orange Avenue Overlay developers’ lawsuits against the City.

  1. “Spent several hundred thousand dollars for consultants for additional Orange Avenue traffic studies and to plan a design they (the Commission) like for the City owned Progress Point property on Orange Avenue. Their plan has no professional planning input, and they offer no strategic justification for it, nor clarify who they expect will pay for implementation (you?).”

MISLEADING:  This statement is very misleading.  Professional planning input has been provided at every step through contracts to professional architectural and engineering firms; in addition, many professionals have donated their time, free of cost, to advise the Commissioners during their many work sessions.

  1. “Commissioners Sullivan and DeCiccio recently voted to spend $2,800,000 from our emergency reserves outside the annual budget process with no planning and they tried to hide the expense by “borrowing” the money from our water and sewer emergency reserves.”

MISLEADING: This is again misleading. First, there was no attempt to ‘hide’ the expense, it was openly discussed and had the support of Mayor Leary. The funds the current commission plans to borrow will be replenished with funds made available from soon-to-be retired bonds for the Public Safety Building. There is some irony in the fact that Weldon supports a mayoral candidate who gave $1million of taxpayer money to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Arts as a “donation.”  No other City in central Florida, except the center’s home city of Orlando, gave a penny.

  1. “Insisted on a “back yard chicken” ordinance. Do you want chickens in your neighborhood?”

TRUE: The chicken ordinance was limited to 25 permits on a limited two-year trial basis.  So far, two permits have been granted, a third application is still pending, but as yet, we still have no chickens. As a self-proclaimed property rights guy, Mr. Weldon might have been expected to support such a measure. Backyard chickens are already approved in Orange County, Maitland and Orlando, and all three jurisdictions report no problems so far.

  1. “Voted to diminish our city’s sovereignty by committing Winter Park’s support to an unaccountable state mandated planning agency.”

FALSE:  This regional planning initiative does not in any way affect our sovereignty. It is a Memorandum of Understanding with the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council. It requires no City funding, only cooperative planning efforts. Considering we have approximately 1,000 new residents coming into central Florida every week, why wouldn’t it be prudent to ask for regional planning assistance, especially if it is free?  Wouldn’t we want to be a part of the regional planning that directly affects our traffic, roads and water resources?

  1. They are now considering spending millions of dollars to buy land on Fairbanks to ‘improve traffic’ without having any idea whether traffic will improve or not.”

MISLEADING:  This from the same person who voted to sell City-owned land that was adjacent not only to Fairbanks Avenue but also to Martin Luther King Park.  We all know Fairbanks traffic needs improvement, and professional traffic engineering firms are actively assisting the current Commission in their planning efforts.

 

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FY 2021 Budget Passes First Reading

FY 2021 Budget Passes First Reading

FY 2021 Budget Passes First Reading

Millage Rate Unchanged

Chickens Squeak Through

by Anne Mooney / September 10, 2020

Chickens will come home to roost

Despite emails indicating Winter Park was split down the middle on the backyard chicken question, the ordinance creating a two-year backyard chicken pilot program narrowly squeaked through its second and final reading on a 3-2 vote – with a few amendments.

Among the raft of amendments was reduction of maximum coop height to six feet, requirement for a fence to obscure the coop from neighbors and a requirement to obtain written permission from all neighbors whose property abuts the property with the chickens. A provision for 48-hour warning before inspections was removed, allowing Code Enforcement to make unannounced spot inspections. Coops can be in backyards only, not side yards. Chicken owners who receive repeated complaints will face escalating fines, and a “three-strikes-you’re-out” rule will remove the chicken owner from the program on the third complaint.

None of the current Commissioners will apply to keep backyard chickens.

Commission passes 2021 Budget, millage rate on First Reading

The FY 2021 Budget passed on a 5-0 vote with only one amendment, proposed by Commissioner Sheila DeCiccio, to grant up to 3.5 percent raises to City staff rather than freezing their salaries.

Mayor argues for rollback rate

The millage rate was kept at 4.0923 for the 13th year, despite arguments by Mayor Steve Leary to drop the millage to the rollback rate of 3.9509. The rolled-back rate represents the millage rate that would generate the same level of property tax revenue as the prior year, excepting growth due to inflation factor and new construction.

Dropping the millage rate to the rollback level would mean removing the contingency, but Leary said he felt comfortable the $17 million in reserves would cover any contingency.

Vice-Mayor: “Situation is too fluid.”

Vice-Mayor Carolyn Cooper disagreed. “I am not comfortable,” she said, “because the City is cutting services and curtailing and freezing staff. First, the City brought us a balanced, but curtailed budget. Then we were told that revenue projections were even lower, but that was followed by state projections that changed again.”

Cooper went on to point out just how fluid the situation might be. “Orange and Osceola Counties have a backlog of foreclosures stacked up until the moratorium is lifted. What happens then? What about people being evicted from apartments? And if empty property remains vacant, what will happen to property valuations? I believe it is prudent to hold back on costs and continue to accrue the same millage rate we have had for 12 years.”

The August 18 Orlando Business Journal noted Central Florida is still dealing with high unemployment and pandemic. “Orlando attorneys were prepared for a wave of evictions and foreclosures when the statewide moratorium neared expiration at the end of July.” According to the most recent data available, the unemployment rate for metro Orlando was 16.5 percent in June, while the rate in Florida was 10.7 percent.

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Commission Raises Tax Cap

Commission Raises Tax Cap

Commission Raises Tax Cap

But Will They Raise the Tax?

by Anne Mooney / August 1, 2020

At their July 22 meeting, the Commission set a tentative millage rate of 4.5623. That figure represents a cap, a not-to-exceed number, and it’s the first raise in 13 years. Between now and September 23, the Commission can decide to leave the rate at its current level of 4.0923, they can raise it a little, or they can raise it to the 4.5623 cap set at the July 22 meeting. Much depends on information the City still does not have, such as information regarding available funds from the state in FY 2021. Ultimately, those projections will depend upon the depth of the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Nothing is final until September 23.

Because each year’s budget is adopted by ordinance, two readings with public input are required. The first reading of the FY 2021 budget is September 9; the second and final reading is September 23. The FY 2021 Budget will be adopted and the final millage rate will be set when the Commission votes on September 23.

It’s not just the City that sets the tax rate.

The City establishes the millage rate by creating a draft budget that seeks to balance projected expenses and revenues. Simultaneously, four other entities are doing exactly the same thing – each with eyes on our tax dollars. Our tax bill is based on a combination millage rates set by five entities — Orange County, St. Johns River Water Management District, the School Board, the City of Winter Park and the private debt created by Winter Park voters to build the Public Safety Complex and the Library-Events Center. These five millage rates will combine to form the rate we will pay on the assessed value of our property. The current rate for Winter Park is 16.3156.

Only about 25 percent of that total goes to support City services, while 44 percent goes to the schools and 27 percent goes to Orange County.

The economy has contracted in the pandemic.

According to Finance Director Wes Hamill, the City is currently facing a shortfall in 2020 of about $3 million due to the coronavirus pandemic. Hamill said he believes that by cutting costs, but without cutting services, there is still a good chance the City will break even by the September 30 year end. Some events, such as the Fourth of July parade, were cancelled because of the pandemic, thus saving those funds. Several open City positions have been frozen. If there is still a shortfall at the end of September, Hamill said the City will use reserves to cover the difference.

SunRail contribution postponed.

Hamill says he anticipates a $1.4 million decline in the FY 2021 budget from 2020. He did have one piece of good news, though. The City’s obligation to contribute to Sunrail has been delayed for two years, and will not begin until 2023.

Despite the doom-and-gloom spin circulating the blogosphere, the City remains in good shape. The proposed budget document points out, “Winter park is fortunate to have the lowest operating millage rate among major jurisdictions in Orange County.” A comparison of tax rates is below.

 

To review the entire 401-page document, click here. https://cityofwinterpark.org/docs/departments/finance/budget/proposed-budget-2021.pdf

What does this mean for us?

The chart below illustrates the impact a rise to the current Winter Park millage cap would have on the average Winter Park homeowner. (This does not include increases from the other four taxing entities.) The chart was prepared by Finance Director Wes Hamill and Assistant City Manager Michelle Neuner.

There is still much we don’t know about FY 2021projections, and these are very uncertain times. “If you asked us to guess on a hurricane, we’d be pretty good,” said Michelle Neuner. “This year, in a pandemic, it’s a little tougher.”

 

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In Answer to ‘A Letter to Winter Park Residents’

WP Needs a Financial Advisory Board

WP Needs a Financial Advisory Board

Open Letter to Mayor & Commissioners

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

Guest Columnist Jim Fitch / July 14, 2020

The City of Winter Park has a budget of $170 million. This breaks down to a General Fund of $59 million, $33 million for Water & Sewer and $44 million for the Electric company. The budget document is 401 pages.

Discussions have begun for the FY2021 City Budget, and the annual marathon of Commission workshops to review it is on the schedule.

I believe the City might consider another, perhaps saner, approach to the Budget. That would be to create a Financial Advisory Board (FAB) to review the budget, department by department, and to do it closely, constantly, steadily over the period of a year.

Each Department has a broad category called Operating Expenses, encompassing everything that department does. Take one example. On Page 264 of this year’s budget, we find Street Sweeping. That department has one employee who is paid $77,011. Their operating expenses total $273,670. The annual budget for the department is $350,681.

The document indicates that streets are planned to be swept every two weeks.  My street, Via Genoa, is lucky to get swept once a quarter.  Most street sweeping is done by individual home gardeners.

So, there is one well-paid operator and one piece of equipment. An FAB might be able to delve into the details of what actually is included in that $350,681.

The City Manager of Haines City, FL instituted an FAB some years ago. The FAB consisted of five people — a banker, an educator, a housing administrator, a retiree and a civil engineer.  Over the course of the year, the FAB met during the week with each department.  The meetings were held in the early evening. They were publicly posted, open and informative – and they rarely lasted past 8:00 pm. The FAB spent 125 hours reviewing the $40 million budget. The five Haines City Commissioners spent less than 10 hours reviewing the budget, but they had the advantage of the knowledge and the advice of the FAB.

The Haines City FAB made several recommendations to the Commission about such things as the annual millage rate, adoption of a Fire Service fee, purchase of a $700,000 fire truck and other capital equipment and the reorganization of the Water, Sewer, Parks & Recreation departments. The Haines City Commission adopted all of the FAB recommendations. The Commissioners felt the FAB provided a valuable service to the City.

With the size of the Winter Park City Budget – not to mention the size of the budget for a single project, the Winter Park Library-Events Center – we, the taxpayers, would be well served with a Financial Advisory Board.

I believe the City Manager wants to hire yet another outside consultant to audit the Library-Events Center Project. It’s only Taxpayer’s Money. . . .

(No, I am not available to serve on such a Board.)

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