Moratorium on Commercial Overdevelopment

Moratorium on Commercial Overdevelopment

We Need One Now

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.

Overdevelopers

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.

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.

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Window of Opportunity to Expand Central Park

Window of Opportunity to Expand Central Park

Open Letter to Mayor and Commissioners

Guest Columnist Beth Hall / January 26, 2020

What is the Most Laudable Use for CRA Funds?

Looking over the agenda for tomorrow’s Commission meeting, 1/27/2020, I see both the library-events center and the Post Office acquisition are coming before you.  I know the use of CRA funds is contemplated both for funding part of the library-events center and for acquisition of the Post Office property. I ask myself:  what is the best use for CRA funds?

Is It Filling Gaps in the Library-Events Center Budget?

There is no doubt the library-events center is a very important civic project. But the thing is, we voted to issue bonds in the amount of $30 million to pay for that project. Then, we secured an additional $6 million in tourist development tax grant money for the project. Still, we lack the necessary funding to build the library and parking surfaces. The budget is approaching $42 million now.  CRA money is essential to be able to dream of completing the project. Was that the way we planned it?

If precedents like the current library facility and the Rachel Murrah Civic Center tell us anything, the new building also will have a finite lifespan. Maybe an Adjaye-designed building will enjoy a longer life span – there is no way to know.

Or Should CRA Funds Be Used to Expand Central Park?

On the other hand, we have the potential opportunity to expand Central Park by acquiring the Post Office property. This is priceless — a thing of value beyond dollars and cents. Central Park is the crown jewel, the pride of Winter Park.

The significance of the Park for our city will only grow, as Winter Park becomes more and more developed, with projects at Ravaudage, Orange Avenue, Fairbanks and Lee Road already coming online.

The Window of Opportunity Closes Tomorrow

The Post Office Notice of Intent to negotiate with the City of Winter Park expires tomorrow, January 27. We must act now.

For this reason, I urge you to assign the acquisition of the Post Office property the very highest priority in terms of designating the use for CRA dollars. There is only one Park, and the opportunity to expand it is within your grasp. I cannot think of a greater legacy for this Commission or a greater gift to all generations to come.

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What’s Wrong With the Orange Avenue Overlay As Written?

What's Wrong With the Orange Avenue Overlay As Written?

 

by Beth Hall Guest Columnist

The list is long.

To begin with…the idea of the OAO did not originate with you or your neighbors. Not at all.
The Voice has one thing right. It is true that “mixed use” is already allowed all along the Orange corridor as well as throughout Winter Park. Has been for a long time.
Here’s what the Voice and the city staffers are not telling you. Only low intensity/ low density mixed use was allowed.
Here’s another thing they are not telling you:
High density residential apartments/condos (R-4) are BACK!!
Large scale multi-family residential buildings will again be permitted in Winter Park. Yes, that’s right. High density residential apartments (or condos) like the Paseo will now be allowed- again.
This means that when the city commission voted UNANIMOUSLY on April 24, 2017, to eliminate high density residential apartments from our futures (except where grandfathered), they apparently meant “only for a little while.” (The backlash from the Paseo was the driving force. No more Paseos we were told.)
Pete Weldon even RAN on it in the last commission race. “I removed R-4 (high density apartment zoning)”, he crowed! I preserved Winter Park’s residential character! Leary endorsed Weldon praising very specifically the move by Weldon to get rid of the bane of high density residential (R-4) from all of our lives. No more Paseo’s.
Did either Leary or Weldon mean it? We will soon find out.
And, did Seidel, Sprinkel and Cooper all mean it when they voted unanimously on 4-24-17 to eliminate developers’ future ability to seek high density (25 units per acre) residential housing under our comp plan and zoning codes? We will soon know.
Just how serious and how genuine were those votes? The “issues” on Orange were all well known at the time of the vote and well before the vote to remove R-4 on 4-17-17.
If they vote to adopt the overlay as written at the meeting on January 13, 2020, then Paseo-like high density residential will be back with a vengeance.
In fact, the buildings with all the units will be even bigger. This is because It won’t just be the apartments or condos, it will be the giant parking garages that go with them.
IF the overlay passes as it is, a new high-density complex of over 200 units can now be built by Holler on the vacant RV parcel at Denning and Fairbanks; and, Demetree will be entitled to build over 200 housing units on the site of the original Lombardi’s building.
These mega complexes will be allowed to reach 5 stories and 7 stories in height, respectively. And the big parking garages they need will be excluded from FAR calculations which previously acted to limit total massing. Poof! Not anymore.
Winter Park residents cherish the traditional scale and character of Winter Park. They value the low-density residential character of the city. They have said so over and over and over again.
The votes cast by commissioners on January 13, 2020, will tell us whether they intend to honor the commitment they made to us on April 24, 2017.
Mixed use zoning or an overlay does not HAVE to mean the return of high-density residential housing (R-4). But if THIS overlay is approved as written that is exactly what we will be getting. They’ll just call it something different.

 

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Can an Old House Weather This Storm?

Can an Old House Weather This Storm?

Guest Columnist John Skolfield

The Waddell House at 1331 Aloma Avenue was built in 1901, the year Walt Disney, Ed Sullivan and Louis Armstrong were born, the year President William McKinley was assassinated and Theodore Roosevelt became the 26th U.S. President. Hurricane Donna may have roughed up the old house in 1960, but she stood firm and hardly blinked at the Cuban missile crisis. In the end, however, she was no match for the Tennessee attorney who sheared off her façade — the intricate porch design that had been the face of this grande dame for more than 100 years.

Historic Designation in 2005

In 2005, Charles B. and Lurinda J. Smith had the home placed on the Winter Park Register of Historic Places. Mrs. Smith’s family had owned the Waddell House for well over 100 years. This act was intended to bring peace of mind and the assurance the house would be preserved and protected.

Situated on 45,600 square feet of land, historic designation allowed the Smiths to subdivide a 90-foot lot on the east, while preventing further lot splits by future owners. The Smiths could have razed the old house and, with city approval, split the lot into three 15,200 square-foot home sites. They chose instead to preserve a bit of history.

New Owners in 2019

In February 2019, fully aware of the designated historic status and the protections this provided, David and Deborah Dunaway purchased the home for $480,000. According to an email from City Planning Manager Jeff Briggs, the Dunaways met with City staff to confirm their intention to restore the home. They indicated the porch was unstable and that they planned to remove and replace it exactly like it was. Staff advised that before they could do that, their plans had to go to the Historic Preservation Board for approval.

Porches Removed Within the Year

On the weekend of July 8, however, the Dunaways applied for a permit to remove the porches, and rather than wait for the permit to be granted, they had the front and rear porches removed without a permit on the weekend of July 13-14, just before they returned to their home in Tennessee.

City Issues Stop Work Order

On Monday July 15, the Building Department issued a Stop Work Order and directed the owners to submit plans for the restoration of the porches. A tarp had been draped over the roof, but it was improperly secured, and by mid-September, the house had endured two months of water intrusion — a house with horsehair plaster walls and heart of pine floors. Briggs emailed the owners, who said they would correct the problem, but by October 7, nothing had been done to secure the tarp to prevent water intrusion. There was no reply from the Dunaways.

‘Don’t Think We Can Fix It’

Briggs wrote that the owner later said he has retained the services of Orlando Constructors and Inspectors, “to do a complete appraisal of the structural integrity of the home to determine if repairs are possible and feasible or if the home needs to be demolished.”

The neglect of the house appears to be strategic.

City Ordinance Requires Reconstruction

On Tuesday, October 29, I met with City Manager Randy Knight, Assistant City Manager Michelle Neuner, City Planning Manager Jeff Briggs, Director of Planning and Community Development Bronce Stephenson, and historic preservation expert Christine Dalton. They confirmed that City zoning code, Section 58-500, requires the historically accurate reconstruction of the removed porches and provides for heavy penalties for illegal removal.

Demolition by Neglect

In an email to Jeff Briggs, Christine Dalton, formerly Historic Preservation Officer for the City of Sanford and currently a Trustee of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, expressed her concern about the condition of the Waddel house. “With the information I have received so far,” she wrote, “it appears obvious that the property owners are engaging in Demolition by Neglect. They are dismantling the home and have not properly protected it from the elements. As you know, this is a strategy of many property investors – create conditions for deterioration, then hire a structural engineer to write a report stating that the building is unsafe and therefore must be demolished.”

Case Goes to Code Enforcement Board Dec. 5

On November 1, the City sent the owners a Notice of Violation advising them that a Public Hearing before the Code Enforcement Board was scheduled for 3:00 pm on December 5, 2019. The description of the violation was “Porch Structure Removed Illegally Without a Permit.”

Stated Compliance Requirements were, “Submit Plans for the Restoration of the Porch Removed Without a Permit,” with a deadline of November 15, 2019.

According to Briggs, “Nothing can happen with the home until a proposal/plans are submitted to the HPB [Historic Preservation Board], or (upon appeal) the City Commission can approve the demolition of the home.”

 

 

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Talk to Hotel Developer – Farmers Market Event Tonight

Talk to Hotel Developer – Farmers Market Event Tonight

Talk to Hotel Developer – Farmers Market Event Tonight

This evening at 6:00 to 7:00 pm at the Farmer’s Market, developer Adam Wonus will be available to answer questions about the proposed Henderson Hotel.

 

Opinion by Adam Wonus, Developer of the Henderson Hotel at Lake Killarney

The Henderson Hotel at Lake Killarney takes its name from the Henderson family who owned and operated the Lake Shore Motel on the site next to the proposed Henderson Hotel at Lake Killarney. The proposed hotel site consists of approximately 2.6 acres of lakefront property. As with any new project, there are questions and concerns. Below are answers to some of the questions I have received.

  1. Will the Hotel Provide Lake Access to Its Guests? We will not. We will post signs warning guests to stay out of the lake. The four docks currently on the site will be replaced by a single dock, available for photos and there for people who want to enjoy the view. There will be no watercraft access to the lake from the hotel property.
  2. How will the Hotel Look from 17-92 and Lake Killarney? The Hotel façade on 17-92 is one story. The east and west sides of the hotel step back, increasing in height, to keep the greatest building height in the middle of the property. The hotel is set back at least 90 feet from the lake shoreline and is only two stories in height at the point closest to the shoreline and nearby homes.
  3. What is the size and height of the Hotel and how does that compare to the Alfond? Our architects, Baker Barrios, also designed the Alfond Inn, and we seek to emulate the quality of the Alfond. We have limited the number of rooms to 118, similar to the room count of the Alfond when it was first constructed with 112 rooms. The height is similar to the Alfond (64’-2”) — The Henderson Hotel is 65’-3”. There is an architectural feature designed to give the hotel an historical feel that extends past 65’ as seen in the rendering.
  4. Why are you Vacating a Portion of Fairview Ave? The Killarney neighborhood has a problem with cut-through traffic. We have provided a traffic study from Kimley-Horn, whose engineers have offered several recommendations to help alleviate the increased traffic flow through the community. One suggestion was to create a roundabout at Fairview Ave. blocking access to non-residents drivers. We have offered to pay for this portion of the improvement should the neighbors want to utilize this option. Ultimately, the Killarney neighbors will decide the traffic solution based on what works best for their neighborhood.
  5. What will the impact be to the Lake? The proposed hotel will help clean up Lake Killarney in several important ways. First, we will provide an exfiltration system to treat the storm water. We have committed to the City to install a filter on the existing outfall structure. Presently, untreated storm water is gathered from 17-92 and directed into Lake Killarney. The filter will remove trash and debris that currently flow into the lake from the road. Our engineer and landscape architect will create bio-swales to treat storm water near the lake. We also plan to remove the invasive species along the lakeshore and replant the littoral zone with native species.

A hotel should be more than just a place to lay your head. It should be an important part of the culture of a city and should contribute to the history of the city in a particular period of time. The Henderson Hotel seeks the opportunity to do just that.

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If It’s Broken, Fix It

If It's Broken, Fix It

Guest Columnist Robert S. Lemon, Jr.

Unless you avoid all social media you’ve probably seen a confusing e-mail blast titled Should Winter Park Have a Mayor?  Perhaps you were as mystified by the click-bait as I was.  Is Winter Park contemplating getting rid of the position of Mayor? Who would run the Commission meetings or light the Christmas tree? 

Fear not. Winter Park will have a Mayor. But our Mayor’s responsibilities need to be better defined. Only once every ten years do we, as citizens, get a chance to do that. That’s when we review the City Charter, the document that defines our system of government.

Winter Park, along with 128 other Florida cities with a population over 10,000, has a “council-manager” form of government. According to the National League of Cities, in this form of government, the city council (in our case the Commission) makes policy, sets the budget and appoints a city manager to oversee the day-to-day operations of the city. 

Mayor’s Role

The City Charter also defines the role of Mayor. Most City Charters use language to specifically limit the Mayor’s additional powers to some version of the following.

Presides at meetings of the Commission      

Recognized as head of government for ceremonial purposes

Recognized by the Governor for martial law

Signs deeds and other official government documents

Executes contracts

The Winter Park City Charter’s language also suggests that the Mayor be granted the privilege of appointing the members of all city advisory boards. Only 10 Florida cities — fewer than 8 percent — have bestowed this power on their Mayors. 

Advisory Board Appointments

Why have other Florida cities decided not to use their Charters to grant the Mayor the exclusive right to make board appointments?  Perhaps because they recognize that opening the opportunity for board appointments to all Commissioners leads to better greater diversity of talent and ideas and, therefore, to better governance.

Think about it. Opening the process to all Commissioners will lead to:

            More inclusive boards. Currently there is not one person of color on any of the citizen advisory boards. Serving on boards is often viewed as a path to elected office, where service on one or more advisory boards provides much needed experience to a new Commissioner.

            More diverse opinions.  The Commissioners rely on the advisory boards to help form policy. All Commissioners should have a seat at the table in the appointment process. Currently they can only vote up or down an entire slate of appointees, all chosen by the Mayor.

            Tapping into more talent.  As former Commissioner Phil Anderson wrote, “Winter Park is blessed with a vast pool of talent willing to serve on boards.”  Yet unless qualified citizens who apply for appointments to boards belong to the right political camp, their applications may never even be acknowledged. While, at the same time, there is a fairly select group of people who, year after year, cycle from one board to another, to another.   

If you agree that it is time for Winter Park to join the other Florida cities and strike the Mayor’s exclusive power for board appointments from our City Charter, please write to mayorandcommissioners@cityofwinterpark.org. Today.

It’s that simple. Just remove a single line from our Charter:  “The mayor . . . shall annually appoint members of the city boards . . . .” And guess what – Winter Park will still have a Mayor. 

At tomorrow’s Commission Meeting, the Commissioners will take up the discussion of City Charter revisions. They will decide which issues will appear on the March 17 ballot – and which ones won’t. The meeting begins at 3:30 pm at City Hall. It’s important to be there and make our voices heard.

              

 

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