Henderson Hotel Stalled
Defect in City-wide Public Notice Delays P&Z Hearing
by Anne Mooney / November 24, 2020
The Winter Park Planning Department announced they have postponed a December 1st Planning & Zoning (P&Z) hearing on the controversial Henderson Hotel at Lake Killarney until after the holidays. The P&Z hearing now will take place Tuesday, January 5. If P&Z approves the project, it will go to the Commission for a first reading and public hearing January 27th and a second reading on February 10th.
The postponement stems from a defect in the Public Notice that was published in the November 1st Orlando Sentinel. Property at 1310 Fairview Ave. was omitted from the Public Notice. Included instead was property at “1310 Grove Ave.,” which does not exist.
The mistake, the result of a City staff error, involves a large parcel at 1310 Fairview that is slated to become a park, a portion of which will also form the roof of the subterranean parking garage that will serve the hotel.
The Henderson Hotel project first came before the City in February 2019, but the application was later withdrawn after a deal to acquire land on 17-92 from Hillstone’s Restaurant fell through.
This fall, revised plans for the five-story Victorian style hotel were submitted to the City for the three-acre site on Lake Killarney. The new design features a restaurant and bar, ballroom, increased green space, subterranean parking, a reduction in overall building size from 210,522 square feet to 129,100 square feet (not including the garage) and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The hotel will be set back 84 feet from Lake Killarney and 145 feet from 17-92.
The developer, Winter Park Historic Hotels Group, is requesting changes to the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Map, vacation of portions of Killarney Drive and Fairview Avenue and a Conditional Use Approval. The hotel has gone from 118 to 132 rooms and ranges in height from 55 to 73 feet. The developer is asking to rezone to C3 Commercial four residential lake-front lots and two parcels zoned office. Although the number of rooms has gone from 118 to 132, the amount of parking went from 245 spaces in 2019 to 235 spaces in 2021.
Winter Park Land Trust not involved in the Henderson project
In return for these concessions, Winter Park Historic Hotels Group plans to offer an easement to just under an acre of land on Fairview Ave. for use as a public park. Some confusion, however, has been created by the Henderson Hotel website www.hendersonhotelwinterpark.com which implies involvement of the Winter Park Land Trust. According to the WPLT that is not the case.
Winter Park Land Trust issued the following statement.
“The Winter Park Land Trust was established to create more park space and green space in our city, and to help ensure that we keep the green space we already have. One method of doing so in this city that is already extensively developed is for the WPLT to accept conservation easements over green space that is to be included as part of redevelopment projects such as those being considered on the Orange Avenue Overlay and adjacent to Lake Killarney.Conservation easements are permanent restrictions preventing the future development of green space. It should be clear, however, that the WPLT does not endorse or support development projects even when the developer may be contemplating the donation of a conservation easement.
We have not endorsed the Henderson Hotel project. Negotiation to include open space within a development is the province of the City. WPLT can help ensure that such green space is permanent, but we will accept an easement only after:
- A project has been approved by P&Z and the City Commission
- A developer provides us with specific plans for the proposed green space
- The agreement has been reviewed by the appropriate WPLT committees and legal counsel
- The WPLT Board of Trustees has voted to accept the easement.
None of these steps has been taken for the Henderson Hotel.”
Neighbors divided. On the one hand . . .
David Brenner, a Lake Killarney Dr. resident, said he thought the Henderson seems like it would be a good building for Winter Park. “We were initially concerned about the impact on the lake,” said Brenner. “But when we went to the public forum at the Farmer’s Market a couple of years ago, we were very impressed that [Henderson Hotel developer] Adam Wonus wants to reach out to people who live in Winter Park. We don’t need another Trader Joe’s with the parking and traffic nightmare. If we could get a world class hotel that draws from the history of Winter Park, it would be a great. Adam is listening and trying to make his project work in a way that makes people happy.”
Charles Brenner, who has lived on Killarney Dr. for more than 50 years and is the father of David Brenner, said the health of the lake is the most important thing to him. He looks forward to Wonus’s plans to clean up the eastern side of the lake, which is quite shallow. “A lot of trash comes into the lake from 17-92,” said Brenner, “and that side of the lake has long been neglected. I look forward to it being cleaned up, which Adam and his company plan to do. This is a situation similar to the Alfond, where we have the opportunity for a beautiful project, which will be a great thing for the city.”
On the other hand . . .
In a letter to Commissioner Marty Sullivan, Lake Killarney neighbor Jim Cunningham wrote, “. . .the hotel project is beautiful, and for that reason I wish I could get behind it, but I can’t. . . . I see a correlation between the city’s longing for this project and the German version [of the Cinderella story]. You remember that after Cinderella lost her glass slipper, a search was made throughout the land to find the woman whose foot fit the slipper. When the prince came to Cinderella’s house, the evil stepsisters were willing to cut off their toes to try to make their over-sized feet fit into the slipper, leaving the slipper covered in blood.”
Cunningham continued, “This project is beautiful . . ., but the hotel is not a good fit for the neighborhood. Changing all the city’s ordinances, codes and Comp Plan in an effort to cram this project into a residential neighborhood is reminiscent of the stepsisters’ willingness to do whatever it took to make the slipper fit. . . . The project, as currently conceived, is not a fit for our lakefront community. No amount of ‘cutting off toes’ will change that.”
A group of citizens has put up a website opposing the Henderson project at www.nohendersonhotel.com
The 2019 application for the Henderson Hotel project said that the required number of parking spaces was two hundred and sixty five (265), not 245.
How did the parking requirement shrink to 235 spaces even as the number of rooms increased? The ballroom is still there. The restaurant/food and beverage space is still there. Pre-function space is still there.
The developer has also said that the parklet’s 31 additional spaces will come in handy when the hotel experiences “peak demand” during events.
If the commission plans to green light this thing, I pray they will make sure the provided parking is adequate. If the developer says he will need the parklet parking at times, what does that say?
Another Trader Joe’s situation? Shame, because I like that store but avoid going there just because of the miserable parking conditions that were allowed.
In their on-line FAQ, the developer states:
“Fortunately, the research shows that hotels have different peak hours than what is normal for regular businesses. In other words, the hotel will not make traffic on US 17-92 worse during peak hours (e.g., 8am – 10am or 4pm – 6pm). Hotels tend to attract the most visitors in the evenings. Because of this, we anticipate the Hotel to have a fairly neutral impact to traffic.”
In other words, traffic on 17-92 is already a mess, but there are two short windows each day when it’s not quite so bad. But now the Henderson will step in to fill that void, and ensure that traffic on 17-92 will ALWAYS be a mess, even at those hours when it was previously manageable.
Their renderings show a very nice looking project. The question is, how many “nice looking projects” can we handle before we have 24-hour gridlock and congestion in the City and our quality of life is irreversibly, forever lost? I think we’ve already passed our saturation point. Time to hang up the “No Vacancy” sign in Winter Park for anything but re-development that matches the same square footage and FAR as the property being re-developed.
How many throughout the city aren’t paying attention or don’t care because this project does not impact them? Everyone should think twice. Wake up.
If this commission allows a HUGE, 5 story hotel to be built on a property which is largely zoned single family, what makes you think they will protect your home and your neighborhood when developers have YOUR home and YOUR neighborhood in their cross hairs?
Our land use regulations forbid this project from being built. Sooo, the developer group is asking the commission to throw out the rules. Will they do it? If so stand by. No neighborhood is safe.
They did it to the west side. They did it to the medical arts district over by WP Hospital. Think it can’t happen to you? Think again.
The reader makes a good point. Once the pandemic of overbuilding starts it’s hard to stop it. It knows no neighborhood bounds.
Most of the people filling up the new rooms, won’t come to the new hotel to check out the books in the new Library, folks, or to have a Wedding.
The MLK Park building project is built as an Art Museum, folks. Always has been. Does it LOOK like a a Library? C’mon. Well DOES it? Tourist Trap. Come one. Come all. Line up to buy your ticket for the latest exhibit. THAT kind of Art Museum. A MAGNET to draw TOURISTS to Winter Park. THAT’s why the new hotels.
At the root of the problem is not over development or traffic. It’s there that we we see its ultimate effects. At its root is government dishonesty and deceit. So deep and so pervasive that even some otherwise honest people within government are still in denial about what is really going on, or don’t WANT to look at it, or themselves, or their complicity in the heist of the residents’ tax dollars and quality of life.
Winter Park is becoming a circus town. Where tourists are king and residents are left to clean up after the elephants do what elephants do when nature calls The Voice won’t print this because somehow they have found it more lucrative to ignore the real problem and to escort readers down the road that the government wants residents to go down – namely to feel like they’ve “won” when the hotel agrees to add a couple more parking spaces or reduce the number of rooms by a few. The Winter Park “deck” is stacked against residents every way they turn, and that’s exactly how the ruling establishment wants it.
LAST CALL…. 2:00 AM….IN A NEIGHBORHOOD! STOP THIS NOW!
Can you hear the neighborhood residents pleading with the city leaders to vote NO?
Why is this enormous project back again?
Tearing up historic residential homesites, creating light, sound, traffic and pollution. MOST CONCERNING IS: the real possibility that the operator of this proposed 132-room Hotel, Bar, Large Restaurant, Ballroom, and Balcony pre-function meeting space operation will be granted a LIQUOR LICENSE ALLOWING ALCOHOL SALES UNTIL 2:00AM (the city staff confirmed this would most likely be permitted). The ballroom sits less than 150 feet from occupied Winter Park homes. Imagine the large events, parties, wedding receptions, fraternity gatherings, etc. that will be held in the hotel and ballrooms right next to homes with children living there. Commercial (C-3) zoning belongs on a highway, not in a historic Winter Park neighborhood. This should never even be considered! Protect Winter Park. Once it’s allowed, your neighborhood might be next.