City gives partial approval to 53-unit Winter Park Commons project
The proposed rentals on the west side drew concerns about parking, flooding and traffic
Oct. 26, 2023
By Beth Kassab
City Commissioners gave partial approval Wednesday to a new development of townhomes between Swoope and Webster Avenues near Winter Park Village, despite objections from residents over potential flooding, traffic and the overall whittling away of the historically Black neighborhood on the city’s west side.
Commissioners stopped short of a full approval for the 53-unit Winter Park Commons, delaying until the Nov. 8 meeting a vote on details of the conditions required of the developer.
Mayor Phil Anderson said the delay would give the city and the developer time to perhaps widen the entry and exit points of the project to mitigate traffic concerns.
A number of residents said they did not like how the project, which would replace a now-vacant church, would add mostly townhomes rather than single-family homes to the neighborhood, possibly prompting some longtime families to leave the neighborhood because it’s changed so drastically.
“I just want to say I think beautification is important … we can help existing residents who might not be able to afford to beautify their homes,” said Roda Ward Carter, who owns a home on West Canton Avenue. “But, wow, you want to save the trees that are there. What about the families that are there? Families are more valuable than trees.”
One of the conditions the city is asking of the Miami-based developer, who bought the land in 2019, is to preserve three live oak trees on the land.
Rebecca Wilson, an attorney with Lowndes who is representing the developer, said Winter Park Commons has gone above and beyond the city’s typical standards for such projects and noted the property has been zoned for multi-family housing since the early 1970s.
The developer has already agreed to add additional stormwater retention — enough to hold three inches of water rather than the two inches required by code — to ease concerns about the special flood hazard area. Flooding of homes and streets in that area was particularly severe following Hurricane Ian last year.
“I have not lived in this city nearly as long as these neighbors have … I appreciate the things they said,” Wilson said. “No one is denying they went through a tremendous tragedy with stormwater during those hurricanes. We recognize that and we are doing what we can, which is more than what any other developer has been asked to do, to address stormwater.”
Other conditions, which likely will increase in number before the next meeting, include:
- The five parcels involved (totaling 4.5 acres) will be consolidated to one, and the single-family units now included in the plan will be zoned as individual lots so they can be sold that way in the future.
- No changes are allowed within a 20-foot radius of three live oak trees in the interior of the project.
- The seven single-family homes to be built on Capen Avenue must show architectural diversity and cannot be the same style or color.
- The newly required water retention areas must include planting new cypress trees as well as perimeter landscaping.
The seven single-family homes in the plans were originally townhome duplexes, but concerns about compatibility with the neighborhood drove the change.