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.

 

To comment or read comments from others, click here →

In Answer to ‘A Letter to Winter Park Residents’

City Funding Decisions – Let’s Set the Record Straight

City Funding Decisions – Let’s Set the Record Straight

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

Guest Columnist Dr. Katherine Lee Johnson / January 31, 2021

In his latest missive to Winter Parkers, former Commissioner Peter Weldon chides members of the current Commission for redirecting funds to repair City parks.

If we are going to start casting aspersions on Commissioners who direct City funding to specific purposes, then we need to start looking at how and when this policy started. It began in 2015, when Mayor Steve Leary and Sarah Sprinkel, the Vice mayor at the time, committed $1 million from the Municipal Utility budget to support a non-Winter Park charity.

For those who may not recall, Mayor Leary committed the City of Winter Park to a $100,000 annual donation for the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center (DPAC) for ten years. This action occurred in 2015 when I served as the Chair of the Utility Advisory Board (UAB).

The UAB members were gravely concerned about the long-term ramifications of his decision. When the City purchased the utility from Florida Power & Light (now Duke Energy), the infrastructure was in disrepair and badly needed service and upgrades. During my tenure on the UAB, we focused our energies on the need for new equipment and began implementing utility undergrounding to improve overall system reliability.

In 2015, thanks to staff’s careful management, the Utility had a surplus in its annual budget. As stewards of this utility, the UAB wanted to use those funds to pay for additional operations and badly-needed maintenance. More fundamentally, we wanted these ratepayer dollars used for the utility, to benefit the ratepayers, rather than having it siphoned off to an out-of-town charity.

When I voiced my concerns at a Commission meeting that this approach could set a dangerous precedent, Vice-mayor Sprinkel publicly reprimanded me in an open meeting for wanting to share this information with the utility ratepayers.

For the past 30 years, I have worked as a consultant with utility companies to establish and evaluate energy efficiency programs—and so I am well-versed in the long-term consequences when utility funds are redirected for political purposes. It happened in several jurisdictions as early as 2010 (see link: Governors Raiding Utility Funds), and I certainly didn’t want this to happen in Winter Park. I worried the DPAC donation could set a dangerous precedent.

Isn’t it ironic that Weldon now supports donating $1 million from Winter Park ratepayers to support a charity in Orlando, but bristles when Commissioners allot funding for City parks and playing fields that will directly benefit the residents of Winter Park?

Let’s set the record straight. Ms. Sprinkel has always supported redirecting funds for whatever political purposes the Commission deems appropriate. If we are going to revisit previous Commission funding decisions, let’s be sure we air all of the facts.

Dr. Katherine Lee Johnson is President, Johnson Consulting Group. She served as UAB Member and Chair (2010-2016; Chair 2013-2016).

Rollins College, The Crummer School, MBA 1990

University of Southern Queensland, Australia, Ph.D., Organizational Change & Strategy 2010

www.johnsonconsults.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kjohnsonconsults/

 

To comment or read comments from others, click here →

Hi-End Auto Seeks WP Home

Hi-End Auto Seeks WP Home

Hi-End Auto Seeks WP Home

Or, when is a car not ‘just a car’?

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

Guest Columnist Douglas Bond / December 6, 2020

Douglas Bond is a Winter Park car enthusiast.

What types of businesses would you like to see in Winter Park? Innovative? Elegant? Exotic?

McLaren Orlando LLC is seeking permission to open a dealership at the former Orchard Supply store on 17-92 and Orange Ave., which has been vacant since Orchard Supply closed their stores about two years ago.

For those unfamiliar with McLaren cars, they are hand-made in Surrey, England, and have a long racing history. McLaren cars are extremely high end and rare; there are only 21 McLaren dealerships in the United States. Fewer than 1,500 cars per year are sold here – at prices that range from $300,000 ‑ $500,000 per car, with some rare older models bringing over a million dollars. McLaren is looking to convert the empty Orchard Supply building into a luxury car boutique. They intend to enhance the look of the building and increase the green space around it.

There has been concern about the McLaren dealership going into that space. Neighbors worry about cars racing the streets during test drives, and they don’t want the extra traffic a dealership might bring.

A prospective buyer has to jump through a series of hoops to even test drive a McLaren. Test drives are by appointment only and are granted on a very limited basis. Potential buyers must go through an application process before they are awarded an appointment to test drive a car. Test drivers will be accompanied by a sales rep and will be required to observe all local and city laws and speed limits.

A McLaren dealership would not bring the extra traffic a normal car dealership would attract. The number of employees on site would range from 10 to12 – far fewer employees than the garden supply store the building originally housed. While the facility will service existing McLarens, only two to three cars can be serviced on a given day.

The total number of cars on site would be 20 or fewer, with most of those being on display in a showroom. None of the cars will be outside. Rather than being shipped by big 18-wheelers, the McLarens will arrive one at a time in an enclosed single-vehicle transport. No big trucks will be clogging up the streets or making excessive noise.

The City should be selective about what goes here, but it should not turn away a business that will enhance Winter Park. Since McLaren is not a conventional car dealership, it will cause less congestion and will be more attractive than other businesses such as a fast food restaurant, strip mall or storage units, all of which have been considered for this site. To have McLaren select Winter Park for this facility is an honor, and with the property improvements McLaren is planning to make, their car boutique will only add to the beauty and charm of our city.

EDITOR’S NOTE: McLaren Orlando LLC came before the Planning & Zoning Board on December 1, 2020, to request a Zoning Code text change to establish a new Conditional Use and definition for ‘Specialty Transportation Business,’ which they would use to put a McLaren auto dealership at the former Orchard Supply store on 17-92 and Miller Ave.

Because the original Orchard Supply store was permitted with a “warehouse” designation, it lacks the necessary parking capacity for either retail or office and, as a result, has remained vacant since it closed two years ago.

Both City staff and the Planning & Zoning Board have recommended denial of McLaren’s application to put their dealership in that location. The Comprehensive Plan specifically restricts any type of automotive business to locations north of Webster Ave., west of Denning Drive, East of Bennett and on the west side of Wymore north of Lee Road.

Winter Park does have its car enthusiasts, however, and one gentleman who would love to see a McLaren dealership go in where Orchard Supply used to be reached out to the Voice (see above).

Even though both the City and P&Z recommended denial of McLaren’s application, according to McLaren’s attorney Mary Solik, McLaren will proceed to submit their application to the City Commission at the January 13, 2021 meeting.

To comment or read comments from others, click here →

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.)

To comment or read comments from others, click here →

Moratorium on Commercial Overdevelopment

Moratorium on Commercial Overdevelopment

We Need One Now

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.

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.

To comment or read comments from others, click here →

Window of Opportunity to Expand Central Park

Window of Opportunity to Expand Central Park

Open Letter to Mayor and Commissioners

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

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.

To comment or read comments from others, click here →