Henderson Hotel Stalled

Henderson Hotel Stalled

Henderson Hotel Stalled

Defect in City-wide Public Notice Delays P&Z Hearing

by Anne Mooney / November 24, 2020

The Winter Park Planning Department announced they have postponed a December 1st Planning & Zoning (P&Z) hearing on the controversial Henderson Hotel at Lake Killarney until after the holidays. The P&Z hearing now will take place Tuesday, January 5. If P&Z approves the project, it will go to the Commission for a first reading and public hearing January 27th and a second reading on February 10th.

The postponement stems from a defect in the Public Notice that was published in the November 1st Orlando Sentinel. Property at 1310 Fairview Ave. was omitted from the Public Notice. Included instead was property at “1310 Grove Ave.,” which does not exist.

The mistake, the result of a City staff error, involves a large parcel at 1310 Fairview that is slated to become a park, a portion of which will also form the roof of the subterranean parking garage that will serve the hotel.

The Henderson Hotel project first came before the City in February 2019, but the application was later withdrawn after a deal to acquire land on 17-92 from Hillstone’s Restaurant fell through.

 

Hotel Redesigned

This fall, revised plans for the five-story Victorian style hotel were submitted to the City for the three-acre site on Lake Killarney. The new design features a restaurant and bar, ballroom, increased green space, subterranean parking, a reduction in overall building size from 210,522 square feet to 129,100 square feet (not including the garage) and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The hotel will be set back 84 feet from Lake Killarney and 145 feet from 17-92.

The developer, Winter Park Historic Hotels Group, is requesting changes to the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Map, vacation of portions of Killarney Drive and Fairview Avenue and a Conditional Use Approval. The hotel has gone from 118 to 132 rooms and ranges in height from 55 to 73 feet. The developer is asking to rezone to C3 Commercial four residential lake-front lots and two parcels zoned office. Although the number of rooms has gone from 118 to 132, the amount of parking went from 245 spaces in 2019 to 235 spaces in 2021.

 

Winter Park Land Trust not involved in the Henderson project

In return for these concessions, Winter Park Historic Hotels Group plans to offer an easement to just under an acre of land on Fairview Ave. for use as a public park. Some confusion, however, has been created by the Henderson Hotel website www.hendersonhotelwinterpark.com which implies involvement of the Winter Park Land Trust. According to the WPLT that is not the case.

 

Winter Park Land Trust issued the following statement.

“The Winter Park Land Trust was established to create more park space and green space in our city, and to help ensure that we keep the green space we already have. One method of doing so in this city that is already extensively developed is for the WPLT to accept conservation easements over green space that is to be included as part of redevelopment projects such as those being considered on the Orange Avenue Overlay and adjacent to Lake Killarney.Conservation easements are permanent restrictions preventing the future development of green space. It should be clear, however, that the WPLT does not endorse or support development projects even when the developer may be contemplating the donation of a conservation easement.

We have not endorsed the Henderson Hotel project. Negotiation to include open space within a development is the province of the City. WPLT can help ensure that such green space is permanent, but we will accept an easement only after:

    • A project has been approved by P&Z and the City Commission
    • A developer provides us with specific plans for the proposed green space
    • The agreement has been reviewed by the appropriate WPLT committees and legal counsel
    • The WPLT Board of Trustees has voted to accept the easement.

None of these steps has been taken for the Henderson Hotel.”

 

Neighbors divided. On the one hand . . .

David Brenner, a Lake Killarney Dr. resident, said he thought the Henderson seems like it would be a good building for Winter Park. “We were initially concerned about the impact on the lake,” said Brenner. “But when we went to the public forum at the Farmer’s Market a couple of years ago, we were very impressed that [Henderson Hotel developer] Adam Wonus  wants to reach out to people who live in Winter Park. We don’t need another Trader Joe’s with the parking and traffic nightmare. If we could get a world class hotel that draws from the history of Winter Park, it would be a great. Adam is listening and trying to make his project work in a way that makes people happy.”

Charles Brenner, who has lived on Killarney Dr. for more than 50 years and is the father of David Brenner, said the health of the lake is the most important thing to him. He looks forward to Wonus’s plans to clean up the eastern side of the lake, which is quite shallow. “A lot of trash comes into the lake from 17-92,” said Brenner, “and that side of the lake has long been neglected. I look forward to it being cleaned up, which Adam and his company plan to do. This is a situation similar to the Alfond, where we have the opportunity for a beautiful project, which will be a great thing for the city.”

 

On the other hand . . .

In a letter to Commissioner Marty Sullivan, Lake Killarney neighbor Jim Cunningham wrote, “. . .the hotel project is beautiful, and for that reason I wish I could get behind it, but I can’t. . . . I see a correlation between the city’s longing for this project and the German version [of the Cinderella story]. You remember that after Cinderella lost her glass slipper, a search was made throughout the land to find the woman whose foot fit the slipper. When the prince came to Cinderella’s house, the evil stepsisters were willing to cut off their toes to try to make their over-sized feet fit into the slipper, leaving the slipper covered in blood.”

Cunningham continued, “This project is beautiful . . ., but the hotel is not a good fit for the neighborhood. Changing all the city’s ordinances, codes and Comp Plan in an effort to cram this project into a residential neighborhood is reminiscent of the stepsisters’ willingness to do whatever it took to make the slipper fit. . . . The project, as currently conceived, is not a fit for our lakefront community. No amount of ‘cutting off toes’ will change that.”

A group of citizens has put up a website opposing the Henderson project at www.nohendersonhotel.com

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Stormy Weather Ahead

Stormy Weather Ahead

Will the Lights Stay On?

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

Peter K. Gottfried, Guest Columnist

Tropical Storm Maria has now become Hurricane Maria and is battering residents of the Caribbean — even as they are still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Irma. Too soon to tell if Maria will turn toward Central Florida, but one thing remains certain – the City of Winter Park is still not ready for a major hurricane.

This rotten utility pole at Stovin and Park Avenue fell during Hurricane Irma.

Storm Water Has No Where to Go . . .

Flooding occurs in the same areas of the City it always has – and thanks to continuing development without proper storm water management, it is getting worse. The City knowns about these areas, but continues to take a go-slow approach to addressing them.

. . . Except Into the Roads

Lake Mendsen within Martin Luther King Park – site of the proposed $30 million library-event center — is woefully inadequate to handle existing storm water drainage from the Winter Park Village, the Paseo Apartments and the CNL Heritage Center. Even a heavy afternoon thunder storm will cause flooding on Denning Drive and Harper Street. The construction of the new library, with its associated impervious surfaces, can only make things worse. Other areas of the City that routinely flood include the intersection of Kings Way and Fawsett Road and stretches of Palmer Avenue, where water rises to the curb top after an afternoon downpour.

High Rates Alone Won’t Keep the Lights On

Reliable electric power during major storms is a significant issue. Like many other customers in Winter Park, I was without power for a week following Hurricane Irma.

Let’s Bring Our Infrastructure Into the 21st Century

Winter Park purchased the electric utility from Progress Energy/Florida Power in 2005 with a promise to underground all lines within 10 years. According to the City website, that target completion date has moved out to 2026. Progress is measured in terms of how many miles of line have been undergrounded rather than the number of additional customers served. The current debate is less about how and when to underground and more about how to pay for it. For information about undergrounding in your area, go to https://gispublic.cityofwinterpark.org/ugstatus/

Editor’s Note: The City of Winter Park issued a statement that said undergrounding timeline was 20 years.

Winter Park can do better. There is no reason we should scramble every time there is a major storm. Let’s bring our infrastructure up to date so we can have some peace of mind when the next storm hits.

Peter K. Gottfried is President of Natural Systems Analysts, Inc. which provides technical and scientific support to the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Bureau of Land Management. He served as a City Commissioner and on the Planning and Zoning Board, Lakes and Waterways Board and, currently, on the board of Mead Botanical Garden.

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Library Teams Up with Aspen Institute

Library Teams Up with Aspen Institute

Leaders Gather to Discuss 21st-Century Library

winterpark-library2The Winter Park Public Library partnered with the Washington, D.C.-based Aspen Institute to convene community gatherings to discuss the role of the 21st century library. A panel discussion on the evening of June 8 at the University Club was open to the general public. The following day, a group of 30 community leaders gathered at the Civic Center for a day-long roundtable discussion.

Public Forum at University Club

The library dialogue led off with a Wednesday evening event entitled, “Your Winter Park Library: A Conversation About the Future.” The panel discussion was moderated by Amy Garmer, Director, Dialogue on Public Libraries, from The Aspen Institute. The formal presentation was followed by lively input from the audience.

Featured panelists were John Bracken, V.P. for Media Innovation at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Richard Adler, Principal, People & Technology and Distinguished Fellow, Institute for the Future.

“We are excited to have John Bracken share his extensive knowledge and national perspective on what it takes to create and sustain healthy, informed and engaged communities in the digital age,” said Winter Park Library Executive Director Shawn Shaffer. “And Richard Adler’s vast insight into the successful marriage of people and technology . . . will set a strong foundation for the Winter Park Library Dialogue.”

Winter Park Will Be Model for Other Libraries

“Winter Park is the first of five communities across the country that we will be working with in the next year and a half,” explained Garmer. “The engagement of the City of Winter Park in exploring the future of the library and the opportunities to re-envision its role for the 21st century will serve as a model for other communities across the country.”

Community Leaders Meet – By Invitation Only

The public event was followed the next day by an invitation-only meeting of community leaders and representatives who gathered to discuss how the library can meet changing community needs in an environment of rapid, radical change in information technology.  For a list of attendees, click here.

The Winter Park library dialogue was based on a framework established by The Aspen Institute in 2014 that explores how libraries can respond to increased demands for high-speed information access, changes in our education and job training systems, and community services to help people compete in a changing economy.

Round Table Discussion

Participants in Thursday’s moderated roundtable addressed four strategic opportunities.
1. Aligning library services in support of community goals
2. Providing access to content in all formats
3. Cultivating leadership and citizenship in the community
4. Ensuring the long-term sustainability of the library

In the coming weeks, The Aspen Institute will report the results of the June meetings.

‘Be Grateful for the City You Live In’

Amy Garmer remarked on how impressed she was by the level of sophistication, knowledge and commitment she encountered in Winter Park. “Winter Park is unique,” she said. “You are so fortunate. Be grateful for the city you live in.”

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