City purchase of Bank of the Ozarks land moves a step closer
A decision by commissioners to continue negotiations is the latest sign a deal could happen
Aug. 24, 2023
By Beth Kassab
Winter Park Commissioners kept alive the potential for the $6 million purchase of of a two-acre vacant lot owned by the Bank of the Ozarks that could nearly double the size of Seven Oaks Park and link it to the nearby tennis courts and Mead Botanical Gardens.
While some commissioners expressed reservations about how to pay for the land and objected to selling the old library to raise the money, the general consensus was that such a purchase is possible and even desirable. The bank is in talks with Dan Bellows’ Ravaudage mixed-use development to construct a branch there instead.
Acquiring the property would not only add greenspace, but could provide space for underground stormwater treatment along with the flexibility to use some of the parcel for traffic improvements along Orange Avenue in the future, commissioners said.
“I think there’s a lot of good things from buying the property,” said Mayor Phil Anderson. “I think the stumbling point has always been the funding. I’m actually in agreement with Commissioner [Todd] Weaver that the old library is not really currency for this transaction.”
Anderson said he would rather see the city hold on to the old library and sell it later if the need came about such as to build up a fund to buy the Post Office. Commissioners diverted money from that line item in the Community Redevelopment Agency’s budget to flood prevention efforts because so far the Post Office has been unwilling to sell.
About $1 million is available in the parks acquisition fund and the board of trustees at the Winter Park Land Trust has pledged $500,000 toward the Ozarks property. Anderson suggested the remainder could come from reserves or by floating bonds. Anderson suggested that if the private donations don’t come through, the city could put the land back on the market.
“I’m struggling with need vs. want,” said Commissioner Kris Cruzada. “… $6 million is an awful lot and I don’t necessarily want to use our reserves to do it.”
The matter is likely to come up again at the next meeting in September.
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