15th Annual Shred Event

15th Annual Shred Event

15th Annual Shred Event

Are you drowning in paper? Tax returns from the 1980s? Love letters you wouldn’t want to discuss?
Get rid of that old paper. Commerce Bank & Trust on Orlando Ave. can help.

15th Annual Shred Event

No binders, trash, metal clasps or disks.
JUST PAPER, PLEASE!

When: Friday, June 17, 2022 from 9:00 – Noon

Where: 1201 South Orlando Avenue
Winter Park, FL 32789
407-622-8181

Limit 6 boxes per vehicle;
call 407-622-8181 for larger quantities.

 

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Local News Matters

Local News Matters

Local News Matters

Guest Columnist Geri Throne / May 25, 2020

Local news matters. It connects our community. It keeps us informed about major city decisions that affect our quality of life. It keeps track of government, shining a bright light on the actions of government officials, both elected and appointed. It helps foster political involvement.

Each spring, the Winter Park Voice seeks donations and pledges to support its newsgathering efforts. I hope you can respond generously. As a reader and a journalist, I believe that financial support of the Voice is more important now than ever.

Why? Because Winter Park is one more example of the precarious state of local news coverage nationwide. Just a few years ago, the Voice’s Anne Mooney had plenty of company at City Hall when she reported and researched stories. Fellow journalists from the Orlando Sentinel and the weekly Winter Park Observer also attended City Commission meetings and wrote about City Hall news.

But in 2019, the Observer ceased covering Winter Park. And as the Sentinel continues to trim its staff, its local news coverage has greatly diminished.

Meanwhile, in Winter Park, the Voice remains.

From its inception 10 years ago, the Voice has strived to be an impartial, reader-supported source of local news. Like a growing number of online “hyperlocal” news outlets throughout the country, it focuses on local government. After all, what happens at City Hall has the most direct effect on residents – from zoning decisions and parks improvements to bond issues and tax increases. The Voice not only reports and publishes articles online, but also invites community members to submit columns and comments. It moderates the Winter Park Voice page on Facebook.

As a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel in the 1980s and 1990s, I quickly learned that failure to pay attention to government boards or agencies, no matter how insignificant they may seem, could result in decisions that have little to do with the public good.

Unfortunately, Central Florida’s struggling news industry mirrors a nationwide trend that began with the rise of the internet. Declining advertising revenues over a period of 15 years has shuttered more than a quarter of our country’s newspapers. More than 60 dailies and 1,700 weeklies have closed. Remaining newspapers often lack the resources to cover routine public meetings and hold public officials accountable. The Voice does not need bricks and mortar to keep local news alive in Winter Park, but it does need your support.

Keep in mind — the less we pay attention, the more we pay the price. Your contributions are vital to sustaining the Voice. Please give as generously as you can.

Thank you.

Geri Throne, author of the recently published novel “Secret Battles,” is a frequent contributor to the Winter Park Voice.

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Local News Matters

Top Young Composers Coming to Steinmetz

Top Young Composers Coming to Steinmetz

by Geri Throne

After a two-year hiatus due to Covid, the National Young Composers Challenge will return April 10 to Orlando. The Composium – part concert, part competition, part seminar – will be largest in the NYCC’s 17-year history. It will be held in the new Steinmetz Concert Hall at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

Admission is free. Winning compositions will be rehearsed, discussed and recorded before the live audience. The NYCC receives submissions from throughout the United States for the event. A panel of judges selects the top three orchestral and top three ensemble compositions to be performed. Because of the Covid hiatus, twice as many composers as in past years will be featured.

The national event is billed as a chance for audience members to connect to the orchestra and view the inner workings of orchestral composition. Christopher Wilkins again will serve as maestro and audience guide. The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, expanded this year with 11 more string players, will perform the works. It also will perform winning compositions from the 2021 national challenge and from the previous two years.

Founded in 2005, the NYCC is a non-profit charitable organization whose goal is to promote the creation of new orchestral music and foster the careers of the next generation of American composers.

The Composium begins at noon and continues through 6 p.m., followed by a reception. Attendees can come and go during the day, but they are encouraged to register online in advance at www.drphillipscenter.org.

 

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Partnering for Parks

Partnering for Parks

Partnering for Parks

by Geri Throne / March 28, 2022

A unique alliance between the city and a local non-profit group could mean extra money for city parks.

In a deal thought to be a first for Winter Park, the city and the Winter Park Land Trust have agreed to share the cost of hiring a grant writer focused exclusively on pursuing parks funding. The city and the non-profit each will contribute up to $30,000 a year toward the position.

City commissioners unanimously approved the alliance at their last meeting.

“It’s kind of a historic thing,” said Steve Goldman, chair of the Land Trust’s board. Formed in 2018, the Winter Park Land Trust is an independent 501c3 dedicated to making sure the city has sufficient parks and open spaces. Like other public land trusts, it seeks to identify, acquire and preserve land for the benefit of the public. The United States has more than 1,200 of such organizations, but relatively few are in Florida.

Grant writers not only research the availability of funding from a variety of sources, but also write grant applications.

Under the agreement, the city and Land Trust will identify properties they both agree would be worthwhile to add to the city’s green space or to improve for better public use. That list will serve as a foundation for the grant writer’s research. The grant writer must have the city manager’s and Land Trust chair’s approval before applying for any grant.

At their meeting, several city commissioners stressed that for this alliance to work, good communication about the city’s priorities will be essential. Goldman agreed on the need for mutual consensus. “The city and the Trust have to come to agreement on each individual project.”

Grants for parks can come from a wide variety of sources. For example, Goldman said, “there’s a lot of federal money available for stormwater and transportation” that could also benefit parks. Several commissioners made that same point at their meeting. Commissioner Todd Weaver noted that the city of Orlando received grants for its Dubsdread Golf Course from the Florida Department of Transportation because the course’s improved ponds now serve as stormwater retention for the expanded Interstate 4.

Commissioner Marty Sullivan later expressed similar optimism. “This is a new kind of venture. City staff has worked on this and the city commission has looked at it and said, Yeah, let’s do it. I think there’s lots of county, state and federal opportunities” for money for green space improvements.

 

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A Decades-Old Debate

A Decades-Old Debate

A Decades-Old Debate

by Geri Throne / February 2022

To develop or not to develop; that’s a question Winter Park has debated for decades.

These days, with little unused space left in the city, the question has more to do with redevelopment. Should a golf course be developed as a subdivision? Should a lakefront residential lot become part of a commercial project? Should a swampy parcel be filled with dirt to build a home?

How the city should deal with such questions is the subject of six city charter amendments on the March 8 ballot. Five would set a higher bar for major land-use decisions involving wetlands construction, lakefront zoning, parks, residential density and the sale of city-owned property. A “supermajority” vote of 4-1 would be required for approval in certain situations, instead of a simple 3-2 majority. The sixth amendment would require an additional public hearing if a project changes considerably after it was submitted.

Sentiment for and against the amendments is evident. E-mails are clogging inboxes. Signs are popping up all over town.

Opponents sympathetic to development say the amendments set too high a bar and would make future land-use change impossible. Supporters concerned about preserving the city’s character say the amendments wouldn’t stop growth but would result in more compromise and public involvement for major changes.

PAST CLASHES OVER DEVELOPMENT

Tension between commercial and residential priorities has a long history in Winter Park. In the 1950s, as Interstate 4 was being designed, a push to extend Lee Road to downtown Winter Park failed as a result of residents’ objections. A decade later, neighborhood opposition squelched the dream of two consecutive mayors who wanted highway bridges built over Lakes Osceola and Killarney. The mayors’ priority was to move traffic easily to the new university east of the city.

Every decade since has seen clashes over land use. In the 1970s, the battle was over building heights. In later years, it was over road widenings, new subdivisions and the expansions of such established entities as the Winter Park YMCA, the Winter Park Hospital and Rollins College.

In the late 2000s, the biggest issues were the proposed SunRail commuter train and the Carlisle mixed-use high-rise. SunRail and its downtown station prevailed. The Carlisle – a massive condominium and retail building – didn’t. The high-rise would have loomed over Central Park in the current Post Office location. A two-year fight ended with the city buying out the developer with reserve funds and residents’ donations.

THE CURRENT CHARTER DEBATE

Among those supporting the charter changes are all current city commissioners and 1000 Friends of Florida, an organization that advocates for smart growth. The nonprofit group, which endorsed all six amendments, has advocated for a decade for supermajority votes when land-use changes can affect a city’s unique sense of place. Last year, it reaffirmed its support of supermajority votes. Its president, Paul Owens, said such changes “should have the highest level of support” and deserve more than a simple 3-2 majority. You can find the 1000 Friends of Florida document here.

Other amendment supporters say a 3-2 vote is too easy for major land-use changes unlikely to be reversed. Take the sale of rare city-owned land, says Winter Park Mayor Phil Anderson. “Once sold, the opportunity to use it for vital city operations is gone.” The same irreversibility applies to rezoning parks, he says, noting that currently it would take only three commission votes to decide to sell the West Meadow of Central Park and rezone it for offices and condos.

Anderson notes the importance of carefully considering land-use changes that could affect property values and alter the city’s quality of life. For such changes to pass with a 4-1 vote, commissioners would have to discuss them thoroughly and reach consensus. Compromise would be likely.

Opponents of the charter changes include former mayors Steve Leary and Ken Bradley and former commissioners Pete Weldon and Sara Sprinkel. Weldon filed last month to create the Winter Park Governance political action committee, which mailed out fliers against the amendments. The bulk of the PAC’s budget was contributed by real-estate developer Allan E. Keen’s company, Keewin LLC, which gave $10,000.

Weldon’s posts online describe the issue through the lens of past commission decisions. He accuses the current commission of being afraid that its use of Progress Point on Orange Avenue as a park could be overturned in the future. He sees the amendment on lakefront lots to be tied to the since-abandoned proposal for a hotel on Lake Killarney. The amendment dealing with residential density increases arose from the Orange Avenue Overlay debate, he says.

The amendments “will deter investment, paralyze Winter Park, and make serving on the city commission meaningless,” Weldon said in a Jan. 6 post.

SUPERMAJORITY VOTES NOT NEW

Central Florida is no stranger to supermajority votes. Neighboring Seminole County, for example, recently required them to dispose of natural land that the county obtained for conservation.

Supermajority votes aren’t new to Winter Park either. Previously, the city code required them for such decisions as changes to the city’s comprehensive land-use plan. But that requirement was dropped in 2013 when Ken Bradley was mayor. All mention of supermajority votes was scrubbed from the code.

Dropping the code requirements was easy because code changes need only the vote of three commissioners.

Changing the city charter, however, is much harder. Commissioners must ask voters for approval. So, if a majority of city voters approve the amendments this election, it would take a majority of city voters to remove them in the future. Think of the charter as a local constitution. It defines the essentials of how a city government works, its organization, powers and functions. Voters alone can amend it.

In the March 8 election, Winter Park voters will decide whether to set that high bar for major zoning and land-use changes in the future.

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Will City Hall Be Designated a Historic Landmark?

Will City Hall Be Designated a Historic Landmark?

Will City Hall Be Designated a Historic Landmark?

Commission Will Vote on Resolution at Jan. 26 Meeting

by Anne Mooney / January 23, 2022

The Historic Preservation Board has brought forward its unanimous recommendation that the City of Winter Park add Winter Park City Hall to its Register of Historic Places. The Commission will vote on the resolution at the January 26 meeting. Readers are urged to let Commissioners know their thoughts by writing mayorandcommissioners@cityofwinterpark.org

Designed by Unique Architects Collaborative

Built in 1964, Winter Park City Hall was designed by the Winter Park Architects Collaborative, a group of local architects with national reputations. They were George Tuttle, Jr., John Langley, James Gamble Rogers II, Nils Schweizer, Gordon Orr, Jr., Clifford Wright and Fred Owles, Jr.

Mid-Century Modern Architecture

The City Hall building is a classic example of Mid-Century Modern architectural style. The two-story scale is compatible with the village scale of Park Avenue. Generous setbacks from Lyman and Park Avenues mirror the open green space of Central Park.

Roof Raised in 1978

Originally, the west wing of City Hall was one story, but in 1978 that structure was increased to two stories by raising the 80-ton roof some 14 feet to create the City Hall we see today.

City Hall Meets the Criteria for Historic Designation

To be designated a historic landmark, a building must possess “a quality of significance in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. . . .” The building also must fit at least one of the following additional criteria:

  • An association with historic events, or
  • An association with the lives of significant persons, or
  • Possess high artistic values, or
  • Represent a significant and distinguishable entity . . . .

A great deal of history has been created within those walls over the past 57 years. The Architects’ Collaborative is a unique effort and the style of the building they created is significant, especially to those of us who live in Winter Park.

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