Charter Amendments Win Big

by Geri Throne / March 9, 2022

Winter Park voters sent City Hall a clear message Tuesday: They want the city commission to be more cautious in approving major zoning and land-use changes.

Voters approved all six amendments to the city charter by an average of more than 20 percentage points. The biggest vote-getter on the entire ballot was the sixth amendment, which requires an additional hearing if a proposed ordinance or zoning change is significantly changed while under consideration. That amendment drew 4,351 votes for approval – more than 62 percent.

The other five amendments will require 4-1 supermajority votes to approve land-use changes involving wetlands, public land and certain density increases. The charter results heartened supporters, who see them as essential for protecting the city’s character. Opponents had argued that the amendments will create overwhelming barriers to development.

Weaver and Cruzada prevail

Voters also re-elected Todd Weaver to a second term over political newcomer Elijah Noel, the only candidate to oppose the charter changes. Weaver won by more than 10 percentage points – 3,885 to 3,139.

In the much closer Seat 3 race, Kris Cruzada beat Anjali Vaya by less than four percentage points – 3,579 to 3,305.

The city’s modest overall 31.6 percent voter turnout bested other Orange County municipalities with elections Tuesday. Neighboring Maitland had a 14 percent turnout.

More Winter Park voters cast their ballots by mail than in person. Mail-in ballots alone did not decide any race or issue, but they widened margins in some cases. Weaver, for example, was ahead by 75 votes until early voting and mail-in votes increased that margin to 746.

Speaking to more than 100 supporters at Mead Gardens on election night, Weaver said he was happy with the results. He apologized for his role in “a rift” that had developed because his supporters were split between Vaya and Cruzada, who ran on similar platforms. Weaver, who had backed Vaya, called on his supporters to get behind her “the next time she runs.”

A disappointed Vaya wasn’t ready to talk about a next time following the vote tabulation. She said she would continue her service to the city as a member of the CRA advisory board.

Cruzada credited supporters and his family for helping him win his close race. He expressed hope that more new candidates will step forward to run for the commission in the future.

Elijah Noel could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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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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