City Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel will start her third term in office this March without opposition, but Commissioner Greg Seidel faces a challenge to his second term on Seat 1: Wes Naylor, whom Mayor Steve Leary appointed to the city’s Police Pension Board five months ago.
How those developments will affect the board’s future approach to zoning and planning is anyone’s guess. Even before the election, commissioners this week showed they can act unpredictably on such matters.
Unforeseen Zoning Votes
Sprinkel, who often agrees with Leary on zoning issues, did just that with most items on Monday’s agenda. But she joined forces with Commissioner Carolyn Cooper to oppose a relatively minor lot-split request, defeating it in a 2-2 vote from which Seidel abstained because the applicant was building him a home.
Later, Seidel, who often sides with Cooper on zoning matters, found a third ally to defeat a contentious request affecting a westside neighborhood.
The applicant, Morgan Bellows, wanted to rezone a single-family lot on Comstock Avenue to higher density R2 so he could build a large single-family house. R2 zoning would give him an extra 600 extra square feet so the house could be 4,300 square feet.
Seven residents made impassioned pleas against the project because of the cumulative effect such rezonings and larger structures would have on the small westside community.
Racism an Issue?
“Inch by inch, block by block, you start changing,” said Martha Hall about her neighborhood. She recounted the history of efforts to remove blacks from west Winter Park starting in the 1800s. “You all may look at it in a different manner, but when you look at racism, when you look at discrimination, it happens. I always say, there’s a zebra and can a zebra change its stripes? You all continue to make the same decisions” on westside development.
Opponents weren’t optimistic their arguments would be heard. The Planning and Zoning Commission had voted 2-2 on the request, with board member Randall Slocum abstaining because he was working for Bellows. On Monday, city commissioners also heaped high praise on Bellows’ application and design.
Commissioner Pete Weldon even chided Hall by name. “I am sick and tired of people coming here and associating the performance, the judgment, and the thought processes of the people who serve this community as racist, and I don’t want to hear it again, Miss Hall.” Leary agreed the racism words “disgusted” him.
“You will hear it again,” a woman in the audience called out.
Then Weldon did the unexpected. He said he was voting against the rezoning, “not because the neighbors are all against it, not because Miss Hall thinks I’m a racist, but because in my judgment it is an accommodation without strategic purpose for the neighborhood or the city.”
Interviewed after the meeting, Hall, surprised by the 3-2 vote, said, “I was pointing out history and what has happened through the years and what continues to happen. I didn’t call anyone up there racist.” She said it’s important to talk about issues like racism to address them. “When a person can’t sit down and talk about it, something is wrong.”
Parking Lot Nixed
Perhaps the most unexpected vote of the evening was the commission’s unanimous denial of Phil Kean Designs’ request for a parking area in a residential neighborhood. The Fairbanks Avenue business wanted to rezone a single-family lot behind the business, making the front portion R2 and the back portion parking for Kean’s business.
Planning and Zoning had voted 3-2 for approval, and city planners argued that fencing would shield neighbors from the parking. Commissioners also heaped high praise on Kean, a luxury home developer, but Weldon moved to deny the request, with Cooper seconding. The rezonings were defeated 5-0.
In addition to the Seat 1 election, the city election on March 14 will include a charter question changing the way the city handles multi-candidate races. Currently, the city holds a primary race in February when there are more than two candidates. The charter amendment would put the first ballot in March and hold a runoff, if needed, in April.
Seidel is on the ballot again after two years because he ran successfully for the remainder of Leary’s term after Leary resigned to run for mayor in 2015. Seidel previously served on the city’s Utility Advisory Board as its chairman. He is vice president of a Winter Park-based civil engineering firm and has lived in the city 16 years. Naylor, a retired Naval officer, is president and managing partner of an Orlando consulting group serving businesses seeking military contracts. He moved to Winter Park five years ago.
The campaign is going to be about taxes, taxes, and taxes. Seidel will have to take his opponent very seriously. And Seidel, to keep his seat, will have to tell the voters early, often, and emphatically that he never proposed raising taxes any more than the voters approved for the library bond. Further, Seidel will have to pledge clearly, and unequivocally, early and often, that, if re-elected, he will never propose, support, or vote for a tax increase.
And no “Well maybe if it was good for Winter Park…” qualifications,” Or maybe just a teeny tiny bit” either.
Naylor will be a VERY aggressive opponent who will make every voter aware of ever word Seidel ever said about raising taxes. That’s all he has to run on. He’s certainly not going to campaign that Winter Park needs someone who helps businesses take taxpayer money from the US Military whose budget is already greater than all of the other nations militaries in the world COMBINED!
Commissioner Weldon is disgusted? Let me define disgusted. Apparently, Mr. Weldon feels free to call out, chastise, insult, by name, from the dais, a citizen whose comment he doesn’t like.
In speaking in opposition to a request to the Commission, Mrs. Martha Hall, an African American lady and West Side resident referenced the 100+ year old history of the loss of that historically black neighborhood to development. She called that history discriminatory, racist.
This is not a new argument. Much has been written by historians about the loss of the African American West Side neighborhood of Winter Park, which began decades ago. I was a member of the CRA in the ’80s when the impact of development on the West Side was a constant topic of discussion and concern.
The thin-skinned Mr. Weldon apparently took Mrs. Hall’s reference to historical fact as calling him a racist. In righteous indignation, this white man from his position of power accordingly felt free to call Mrs. Hall out by name, tell this African American lady he is “disgusted” with her and “doesn’t want to hear it again,” as if she were a naughty child instead of his constituent.
Mr. Weldon has made himself Exhibit 1 to her argument. The irony of his comment is inescapable. Sad day for the leadership of our City.
Whats sad is even when the FACTS are handed out in Black and White Ms Mackinnon continues to ignore the FACT that Ms Martha Hall does NOT live in the Westside of Winter Park. In fact she does not live in Winter Park. She is a Maitland resident who even ran for Maitland city commissioner a few years ago and lost that election. Its a perfect point to understand who is a resident of a neighborhood and who is not when you are either supporting or in opposition to a re zoning request.. There are property owners in the Westside who actually live in the community that do and have supported the gentrification of a blighted and unsafe neighborhood.
You may want to study the actual reality of portions of the Westside community where industrial, commercial and medium density residential is currently and has for as long as I can remember existed. The rezoning request of Morgan Bellows had nothing to do with the size and design of his proposed homestead. He was merely attempting to clean up the old and antiquated zoning map so as to reflect what is actually in use in this specific block or surrounding blocks.
Again you have a NON resident complaining but Mr Bellows has letters of support from the abutting Fourteen (14) property owners. Some day commissioners will vote because its right and not worry about there reelection
Dan Bellows a Westside resident of more then 16 years and a Winter Park resident of 52 years/.
Thank you, Cindy. Well said.
Thank you Cynthia…well said. I, in turn, am “disgusted” with most of the development that is occuring not only on the West Side but on the East Side as well. Next week, I will watch, from my porch, the destruction of Casa Disena, a charming 2 story Spanish style apartment complex on Interlachen, across the street from where the Capen House once stood. It is being replaced by a 3 story condominium complex with an underground garage that looks like an office building on Morse. It would never have been approved if we had any sort of architectural review board in this city. Everlything feels totally out of control!
Nailed it Cindy….I hope this issue Co times to be discussed. Martha Hall deserves respect and not intolerance from Pete Weldon due to his personal discomfort about the topic.
Why is everything “racist” when it comes to that area of Winter Park? Private owners are selling, buying, leasing, gifting their property to total strangers, family members or anybody else they want to do business with. If WP drew a wall around this area 25 years ago with an artificial designation of historic preservation the owners of the land would have been irreparably harmed and they would be wallowing in a low value, stagnant neighborhood that nobody could change. Instead, just like all other parts of Winter Park, the owners own property in a great location with high values and strong buyer demand. Don’t sell if you don’t want to. Or cash in your equity and sell. But either way, the owners are going to get top dollar in the Metro Orlando area for their property. If that’s racist, it sure backfired. Color blind property rights protect and enrich the owners. Rather than boo the commission, maybe they need to be congratulated.
It was a privilege to stand with Cindy Mackinnon and to work for her candidacy when she ran for Mayor. I stand with her now, for her remarks on behalf of Martha Hall and her neighbors and her contempt for the treatment Mrs. Hall and the community received from Commissioner Weldon and, frankly, by their silence, from the City Commission as a whole. I continue to believe that Winter Park is better than that.
Mr. Weldon doesn’t understand that his role as Commissioner includes listening respectfully to all residents, not just those he agrees with. Obviously Mrs. Hall struck a nerve to elicit such a sharp response. He needs to man up and work on his conduct…and quit watching Fox News.
It’s appropriate this week to reflect on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., the man whom Winter Park honored several years ago by naming a park after him.
And given the above column and comments, it’s clear that some remain uninformed regarding the importance of the civil rights Dr. King fought for while he was alive.
It’s also appropriate, given the entry of a career military man into the race for City Commissioner, that we pause to listen to what is perhaps Dr. King’s best speech – long forgotten, and long since blotted out of the history books.
King gave the speech exactly one year prior to his untimely death.
The speech is known by the title “Time to Break Silence,” and you can hear it in its entirety by following the link below: