You Must Pre-Register for Virtual Commission Meeting Tomorrow at 5:00
Registration is Open Now
by Anne Mooney / March 29, 2020
The virtual dais at the Live Virtual Commission meeting at 5:00 pm tomorrow night, Monday, March 30, will once again feature five live Commissioners. Newly elected Commissioners Marty Sullivan and Sheila DeCiccio will now be sitting in Seats #1 and #2 respectively.
Our gratitude for their service goes to former Commissioners Greg Seidel and Sarah Sprinkel, who can now watch from the comfort of their homes.
Public Comment Form — If you would like for your comments to be read during the meeting, submit the Public Comment Form found at <cityofwinterpark.org/public-comment> The form will be accessible at 5:00 Monday as the meeting begins.
Phone – If you are unable to submit online comments, the City will activate the public comment phone line at 5:00 pm Monday – 407-599-3410. Calls will be answered by City staff, and your verbal comments will be entered into the online system on your behalf. Phoned-in comments will be read during the meeting as part of the official record.
All comments will be monitored in accordance with City standards of decorum.
Dry Run for Special Commission Meeting Monday, March 30
by Anne Mooney / March 27, 2020
Yesterday, March 26, from 5:00 to 6:30 pm, the Winter Park City Commission held its first Virtual Meeting – and probably the first meeting ever attended by all 7 past and present commissioners. And even with 7 Commissioners present, the meeting began and ended right on schedule.
Work Session on City Response to Coronavirus Lockdown
The meeting was a live-streamed Work Session on the City’s response to the coronavirus situation. Participating from home but visible and audible on computer screens across the City were Mayor Steve Leary, Commissioners Carolyn Cooper and Todd Weaver, soon-to-be-former-Commissioners Sarah Sprinkel and Greg Seidel, Commissioners-elect Sheila DeCiccio and Marty Sullivan and City Manager Randy Knight with key city staff.
Exec Order from Governor
The meeting was made possible by an Executive Order from Governor Ron DeSantis suspending the Florida statute that required a quorum to be present in person at a specific place. The Executive Order allows local governments to utilize media technology to hold meetings.
As with any Commission Work Session, there were no Commission votes or public comment.
Dry Run for Monday’s Commission Meeting
Yesterday’s Work Session was a dry run for a Special Commission Meeting Monday, March 30 at 5:00 pm. At that meeting, the Commission will vote and take public comment. If you missed last night’s meeting, you can tune in Monday at <cityofwinterpark.org/cclive>
Public comment will be taken at the 5:00 pm hour, as usual. You can comment in advance of the meeting by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org Emailed comments will become part of the record, but will not be read aloud. You can also comment by phone, and your comment will be recorded and will be audible on the live stream. The public comment line, which will be activated Monday at 5:00 pm, is 407-599-3410. Live comments will be monitored in accordance with City standards of decorum.
Meanwhile, although City Hall is closed to the public, the City itself is Open for Business.
Police and Fire-Rescue Departments are at full staffing. The Police Department reports a decline in criminal activity and calls for service, due to fewer people being on the streets.
Fire Chief Dan Hagedorn reported that, as of yesterday, there were 2,235 reported COVID19 cases in Florida, with one fatality. Two cases have been reported in Winter Park – one is a resident and one a non-resident. Emergency crews who transported these patients to the hospital are on 14-day quarantine as a precaution, but are showing no symptoms.
Parks & Recreation Director Jason Seeley reported that the March 13 order of a 10-person-group limit marked the drawdown of City recreational programs. Playgrounds are now closed, but open spaces such as Central Park and Mead Botanical Garden are open, with social distancing required. Monday’s Commission meeting will likely see decisions to close the Dinky Dock boat ramp and the Winter Park Golf Course. Citizens may enjoy continued lake access from their private docks.
Infrastructure departments such as the Electric Utility, Water & Waste Water, Code Enforcement and the Building Department are open and active.
In his discussion of the budget, City Manager Randy Knight acknowledged that the City anticipates a drop in revenue, but said it is difficult to tell at this early stage how great or small that will be or how long it will last. Knight said he does not anticipate cutting essential services for residents. He plans to present the Commission with a revised budget for this Fiscal Year.
City Assistance to Residents & Businesses
Utility cutoffs for non-payment have been suspended, and staff is working on programs to assist residents and businesses with utility payment plans. City Staff will work with the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce to help local businesses apply for loans and other financial assistance. Restaurants are allowed to offer takeout and delivery services.
City staff is working to develop virtual programs for youth and seniors. The City is considering creating a micro-loan program for businesses in the CRA. And the City Manager is looking into acquiring Federal assistance available to state and local governments.
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 email@example.com 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.
Jeffrey Blydenburgh, Marty Sullivan, Carl Creasman and Sheila DeCiccio met early Friday morning at the Chamber of Commerce for the first of two debates on issues which two of them will face during their terms in office as Winter Park City Commissioners. The second debate will be held at the Winter Park Public Library on Wednesday, February 19, at noon.
Eight questions were posed during the hour-long session, moderated by the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee Chairman, attorney Lee Steinhauer. There was a respectful atmosphere of comradery among both audience and candidates that has been missing from Winter Park in recent years. Each question, with a brief description of the candidates’ responses, appears below. Full video is posted at the end of this article.
What is your vision for Orange Avenue between 17-92 and Fairbanks Avenue (i.e., the Orange Avenue Overlay District)?
Candidates approved of the Orange Avenue Overlay process and thought it was an excellent start. They also thought the project still has a way to go. They agreed that Progress Point should be preserved for public use, and they liked the idea of a park and a theater district there. Some expressed concern about excessive entitlements for developers, traffic, stormwater management and open space. They agreed that how it gets implemented is now what’s important.
Pass-through commuters and I-4 runoff traffic are a problem. There are those who are critical of the proposed overlay who fear that multi-use density would make matters worse. Others who are supportive of the overlay would say that the overlay would employ traffic-calming methods. What is your view of corridor traffic that you will bring to this commission, should you be elected?
Candidates acknowledged that Winter Park traffic is a regional issue, and that the City needs to work with FDOT & neighboring communities to figure this out. They spoke about multi[-modal transportation, turn lanes at major intersections, smart signaling and the so-called “last mile” – public transit necessary to move people from their cars to Sunrail or other modes of public transport. They also spoke of the need for dynamic traffic modeling, and agreed that Sunrail should transition from commuter rail to transit rail.
How do you feel about Incentivizinig developers with additional entitlements if they’re willing, in return, to underwrite the cost of storm water treatment & filtration?
Like all infrastructure questions, this is about the pressure Central Floridians are feeling from heavy, rapid population growth. The candidates expressed, each in his or her own way, a desire for developers to give back some of what they get from the City, but cautioned against “giving away the store.” They also agreed that our responsibilities to minimize flooding and keep our water clean exist on regional, local and personal levels.
The Commission is considering the purchase of Winter Park’s downtown Post Office to expand green space near Central Park at a price of $7.5 million. Although the US Postal Service did not initiate the sale of this property, under what conditions should the city purchase this property?
Candidates agreed the City should strive to expand Central Park, but not everyone agreed on the appropriate cost. All were committed to keeping the retail part of the Post Office in the city core and relocating only the distribution center.
Are zoning and ordinance inconsistencies the reason Winter Park is seeing signs of blight along its major gateway corridors?
Candidates agreed that Winter Park’s zoning ordinances need updating. They found the overlay concept useful in this regard, because it offers an opportunity to help small businesses as well as large developers. Sullivan pointed out Winter Park’s bus stops as one unnecessary example of blight. People awaiting buses sit on transformers or curbs with no protection from sun or rain. There is CRA money to fix at least some of this, and he urged that the city proceed immediately to remedy the situation.
How do you view Sunrail’s current and future usefulness and the transition to assume local management costs in 2021?
Blydenburgh began by pointing out that it has taken a while for people to change their habits and begin to use Sunrail. The others agreed we’ve made a good start, but we need to continue to invest to make it a workable system. It should become a transit system, not a commuter system. Our cities need adequate connectors to the airport. Sullivan suggests considering a parking structure behind the Winter Park Sunrail station and expansion of the current rail schedule to include nights and weekends – especially during weekend events like the art festivals.
One Commissioner believes their community-wide advocacy for or against a project prior to Commission review is okay. Others feel it is a violation of Florida’s ethics and sunshine laws. What do you believe is proper and right?
Sullivan acknowledged that if two Commissioners communicated about an issue outside a public meeting, they would be in violation of the Sunshine law. Creasman noted the intent of the law was to “protect” the policy-making process from politics. DeCiccio spoke to the need for increased transparency in the City and thought more communications should flow from the City. Jeffrey Blydenburgh spoke of the need for more collaboration among Commissioners and of the inconvenience and difficulty created by the law’s requirement that all decisions take place in the public eye.
The question, which interrupted the flow of the debate, was a reference to “Cooper’s Perspective,” in which Commissioner Carolyn Cooper emails constituents about issues that are scheduled for an upcoming Commission agenda. It appeared to have come as an afterthought, but no member of the Chamber was available for comment or confirmation at the time of this writing.
Is this a violation of Florida Sunshine Laws? Established in 1995, Florida’s ‘Government in the Sunshine Law’ provides a right of access to governmental proceedings of public boards or commissions. According to <floridabar.org>, “The law is equally applicable to elected and appointed boards and has been applied to any gathering of two or more members of the same board to discuss some matter which will foreseeably come before that board for action. There are three basic requirements of section 286.011, Florida Statutes: (1) meetings of public boards or commissions must be open to the public; (2) reasonable notice of such meetings must be given; and (3) minutes of the meetings must be taken and promptly recorded.” For more information, go to https://webprod.floridabar.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/18-RW-Opengovernmentoverview.pdf
Reached for comment, Commissioner Cooper had this to say. “This is clearly not a violation for me to communicate with the people who elected me to represent them. Wouldn’t you rather have your elected officials provide you with information and facts upon which to base an informed decision? There is nothing in any law that prevents me from sharing information about important issues in our city that impacts the lives of all of us. I will never stop communicating with my constituents. The people with whom I cannot communicate, outside of a formally noticed meeting, are my colleagues who sit with me on the Commission.”
If elected, will you uphold the Commission’s vote to move forward with the Winter Park Library & Events Center?
After acknowledging the project was “contentious” and “painful,” all four candidates were clearly eager to put aside the differences and to move ahead. Yes, they all support the project. They agreed they missed the Civic Center and looked forward to it “coming back to life,” as one put it. They all expressed the need to bring the project in “on budget and on time.”
The acknowledged budget was a maximum $41.7 million. “That’s got to be the final price when we’re all done,” said Blydenburgh. Sullivan responded, “It’s now time for us to come together and make sure that this is the best library and events center possible to serve our citizens.”
Blydenburgh: “As commissioner, I would represent 29,000 citizens. People matter – everyone of you matters. We all have the good fortune to live in Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood. We may not always agree, but we all work together, we live together, and that’s how we should behave together.”
Creasman: “In deciding to run, I thought about the tone we have with each other, both here and on a national level, and that makes me nervous. I know where that possibly can go. It’s important to keep in mind that what should drive us is how much we care for one another. Every person matters, every person has value and every person’s voice should be heard. We are our best together.”
DeCiccio: “I respectfully request your vote on March 17. I have the experience and I have the time to devote to being your City Commissioner. We are the stewards for the next generation, and it is our responsibility to leave this city better than we found it. We have some serious issues to work on, but I truly believe the best is yet to come.”
Sullivan: “Critical projects that need critical thinking and knowledgeable oversight are the Library and Events Center and the Orange Avenue Overlay. We need leadership with a strong engineering background. I seek to achieve a more citizen-focused government. We are a premier urban village, and I will work to preserve what’s best about our community.”
Doesn’t matter what your position is on any of the of issues that will be addressed the afternoon and evening of Monday January 13 by the Winter Park City Commission – while we won’t suffer in silence, we will all suffer together.
Five-and-a-half Hours – Minimum
The number of minutes projected on the January 13 Agenda on the City website comes to five hours and 35 minutes. Not included in the time projections are all the preliminary stuff like the Pledge of Allegiance and the Mayor’s report, closing remarks by Commissioners and . . . Public Comment.
City Manager’s Report
Estimated at 5 minutes, this report has no fewer than 23 items on it, 10 of which are slated to happen in January. Randy Knight is good at what he does, but he’ll have to employ some advanced ‘speed-dating’ tactics to get through this one in five minutes.
Consent Agenda – Progress Point
This one – nine minutes – lists five types of items. Under “Approve the Following Contract Items” (one minute) is a contract for $89,765 to demolish the building at Progress Point. Last time this came up, the discussion lasted considerably longer than one minute.
Action Items Requiring Discussion – The Canopy
First on this list is – yep – Final Approval of The Canopy. This is the long-awaited “Guaranteed Maximum Price.” The agenda framers have allotted an hour and a half for this topic. Maybe they could get through it in 90 minutes – but only if there is no public comment. And what are the chances of that?
Public Hearings – Orange Avenue Overlay
In the grand old tradition of saving the best til last, #4 on the list of four items is The Orange Avenue Overlay – for three hours. Two ordinances, one to amend the Comprehensive Plan, and the other to amend the Land Development Code, will go through a first reading. If they are approved, they will go to Tallahassee for review and then return to Winter Park for the second and final reading in late January or early February.
The Orange Avenue Overlay concept has gone through more than 20 public meetings, workshops and walkshops. People who normally go quietly about their business have been spewing out emails and firing word-bullets back and forth for months. The pro and con camps are about evenly split, neither one is quiet, and many of them will be at this meeting.
The second 13.1 miles of the race begins here, on Orange Ave. Everyone will be tired. Perhaps it would help us to remember we are all neighbors, living together in one of the most desirable places on earth, and to treat one another accordingly.