Charter Amendments on March Ballot

Voters Will Decide on Super-Majority Voting Requirements

by Anne Mooney / January 13, 2022

In addition to choosing candidates for Commission seats #3 and #4, the March 8 ballot will ask voters to decide on six amendments to the City Charter requiring a Super-Majority vote in certain instances. The so-called Super-Majority is four out of five Commission votes; currently, Commission actions need only a Simple Majority of three out of five votes.

Winter Park goes back and forth on the subject of Super-Majority votes. The last time it came around was in 2014, when the Commission passed an ordinance abolishing Super-Majority votes. What one Commission can enact, the next Commission can repeal.

Only voters can decide

This time, instead of having the Commissioners decide by ordinance, the Commissioners have chosen to let the voters decide the question in the form of amendments to the City Charter. Charter Amendments passed by voters can only be repealed by voters.

Super-Majority votes can be wonky, boring, complicated subject matter – and it can also have a profound effect on the way our City will develop and grow into the future.

The ballot questions ask voters if they want a higher bar — four out of five Commission votes — in six distinct situations. To cast informed votes, voters must understand each situation – so hang in there.

All ballot questions will refer to Sections 2.08 and 2.11 of the Winter Park City Charter. We have left out that verbiage here to save your eyes and your patience, but you will see the language on the ballot. To read the full ballot questions, click here: https://cityofwinterpark.org/government/election-info/. This language also will appear on Sample ballots, which will be mailed February 18.

Question #1 – Sale of City-Owned Property

“Shall . . . the Charter be amended to require at least four of five members of the city commission to vote in favor to approve the conveyance of . . . city-owned property?”

Welcome Center

Simply put, if the City wanted to sell a piece of property it owns, like City Hall or the Welcome Center, four Commissioners would have to vote in favor.

 

Question #2 – Rezoning Parks & Public Lands

“Shall . . . the Charter be amended to require at least four of five members of the city commission to vote in favor to (i) approve . . . rezoning of city-owned park land; and (ii) approve rezoning or change of use of land currently zoned public and quasi-public district or zoned parks and recreation district.”

The rezoning of parks and recreation land is pretty straightforward. If this amendment passes, parks and recreation land, such as the West Meadow, could not be changed to another use without four of the five Commission votes.

West Meadow

Public and Quasi-public (PQP) rezoning is more complicated, as it is not limited to uses one might ordinarily associate with public spaces. PQP zoning can include schools and uses associated with schools, like gyms, dorms, bookstores, dining halls, theaters etc., post offices, parking lots, museums, medical care facilities, nursing and convalescent homes and assisted living complexes, public utility services, uses in performance of governmental services, churches and community service organizations, along with a host of uses associated with facilities of this sort.

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper said of this proposed amendment, “I do think changing use in property that is currently serving the public and creating part of our collective public realm should receive the support of an overwhelming majority of local leaders before its use is redirected.” Cooper also pointed out that many of the PQP uses serve only a narrow group and pay no taxes.

Question #3: Residential and Lakefront Property Map Amendments

“Shall . . . the Charter be amended . . . [for] rezoning (i) from a residential to a non-residential category, or (ii) lakefront property from a residential use to a commercial use, mixed-use, medium density residential use or high density residential use?”

This amendment would make it more difficult for higher density types of development of single-family residential property, particularly lakefront single-family residential. It would also provide increased protection for residential communities against commercial encroachment.

Question #4: Density and Intensity Increases

“Shall . . . the Charter be amended . . . rezoning that increases the maximum allowed residential units per acre (density) or floor area ratio (intensity) by more than twenty-five percent from the existing maximum allowed density or intensity of use?”

This amendment would require four of the five Commission votes to increase density (units per acre) and intensity (square footage) of development by more than 25 percent.

Question #5: Development in Wetlands

“Shall . . . the Charter be amended to require at least four of five members of the city commission to vote in favor of . . . development within wetlands?”

Question #6: Ordinance Changes During Adoption Process

“Shall . . . the Charter be amended to require an additional public meeting and reading of a proposed ordinance . . . if, during the adoption process either (i) a substantive or material change is made, or (ii) a change is made to a proposed zoning or comprehensive plan amendment ordinance resulting in an increase in the maximum allowed density or intensity of uses or a change to the permitted uses?”

If, in the process of adopting an ordinance, a substantive change occurs in the language of the proposed ordinance, the meeting at which the change occurs will be considered the “First Reading” of the ordinance, and there will be an additional noticed public meeting and another Reading and the public will have the opportunity speak to that change.

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    By: Anne Mooney

    Anne Mooney has assumed the editorship of the Winter Park Voice from founding editor Tom Childers.

    Mooney got her start in New York as a freelance line editor for book publishers, among them Simon & Schuster and the Clarkson Potter division of Crown Books. From New York, she and her husband and their year-old toddler moved to Washington, D.C., where the two ran a newswire service for Harper’s magazine. “We called it Network News,” said Mooney, “because it was a network of the Harper’s writers, whose work we edited into newspaper style and format and sold to papers in the top U.S. and Canadian markets. We were sort of like a tiny UPI.”

    The newswire ceased operation with the death of Mooney’s first husband, but Mooney continued to write and edit, doing freelance work for Williams Sonoma cookbooks and for local publications in D.C.

    In 2005, Mooney moved to Winter Park, where she worked as a personal chef and wrote a regular food column for a south Florida magazine. She took an active interest in Winter Park politics and was there when the Winter Park Voice was founded. She wrote occasional pieces for the Voice, including the Childers bio that this piece replaces.

    The Winter Park Voice is one of a large number of “hyper-local” publications that have sprung up across the U.S. in response to the decline of the major daily newspapers and the resulting deficit of local news coverage. The Voice’sbeat is Winter Park City Hall, and its purpose is to help the residents of our city better understand the political forces that shape our daily lives.

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