Historic Preservation: Are We Getting Serious?
Hearings Begin. Lawsuit Threatened. New Home for Capen House – Maybe
|On Friday, the Sentinel broke the news that the Capen House will be cut into two pieces and floated across Lake Osceola to the grounds of the Polasek Museum – if Winter Parkers are willing to pony up $650,000. It’ll have to be a fast pony, too.In an interview with the Voice, Debbie Komanski, Executive Director of the Polasek Museum, confirmed that all the money will have to be raised and the house moved within the next seven to eight months. Komanski stressed that for Winter Parkers, “Now is the time to commit, to step forward” with funds to move Capen House.
The Voice will feature more of Ms. Komanski’s interview and more in-depth Capen House coverage in an upcoming story.
Historic Preservation Board Tackles City Ordinance
On Wednesday of last week, the city’s Historic Preservation Board held the first of several hearings to review Winter Park’s preservation policies. Mayor Bradley has asked the board to lead the review and consult with the P&Z Board and the Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB). Mayor Bradley, with the strong support of Commissioner Leary, chose this approach instead of appointing a Task Force – the approach recommended by Commissioner McMacken and members of the preservation community.
A second Historic Preservation Board (HPB) meeting will be held today at 6:00pm in City Commission chambers.
Board Must “Move Along Briskly” to Meet October 15 Deadline.
Board members expressed concern that reviewing city preservation policies, coordinating input from other city boards and giving Winter Park residents adequate opportunity to participate in city hearings over two to three months could present a stiff challenge.
HPB member, Candace Chemtob noted “I think we’re really going to have our work cut out to go back through the ordinance and really re-write those codes so that they’re extremely clear. That doesn’t give us much time . . .” Ms. Chemtob reminded the board that it took the board “a year or two” to review the original preservation ordinance. Ms. Chemtob’s remarks can be viewed at 16:55 on the WPV video of the HPB hearing (click video image above).
Board Chair, Randall Glidden and board member Christi Underwood, an attorney specializing in construction law, stressed that the board needs to communicate to citizens the voluntary nature of historical designation – a process that does not conflict with the property rights of homeowners. Ms. Underwood explained that “This board does not have the authority, nor does it seek the authority, to take away the private property rights of owners.” (22:10)
In response to Ms. Underwood’s point, City Preservation staffer, Lindsey Hayes took the opportunity to debunk what she called mythical “horror tales” she encounters from time to time. “There are certainly a lot of myths out there . . . the devaluing of [ historic ] property is another myth that there’s just no evidence about.” (23:00)
Ghost of Capen House Controversy Still Haunts Board/Commission Members.
Comments by HPB member Genean McKinnon, demonstrate that the intensity of community response to the handling of the Capen House Historic Designation has had a lasting impact inside City Hall.
Ms. McKinnon mentioned more than once that she was “shocked” by “unacceptable” comments from Winter Park residents and by details that came to light after the HPB voted to grant Historic status to Capen House in 2011. (15:15). McKinnon called for a review of the Capen House affair so that “the full facts can be known.”
Commissioner Leary Scolds Preservation Community.
Commissioner Steve Leary (and/or the city residents he talks to) also appeared to feel the sting of preservation-minded sentiment more than most. In his response to the conciliatory letter sent to the Commission by Betsy Owens and other city preservationists on June 20 – a letter that was well-received by Mayor Bradley and others on the Commission – Mr. Leary scolded the preservation community on behalf of some of his constituents.
In an email obtained from the city by the Voice last week (excerpted below), Mr. Leary highlighted the “many” comments he has received that “harshly criticized the Friends group and the Historical Society” for “instigating this divide” within the community:
Click button below to view the full text of Mr. Leary’s email.
Who are Mr. Leary’s “Bomb Launchers”?
The strongest proponents of re-establishing the Historic Designation of Capen House – and NOT moving it from its original setting – are among those who have most sharply criticized the actions of the City Commission. It is this criticism, expressed in letters and in city hearings that has outraged some Commissioners and HPB members. Some in this group are undoubtedly among Mr. Leary’s “bomb launchers.” These citizens have not, however, limited their criticism to City Hall insiders – they also disagree with others in the preservation community who have worked with the Pokorny family to facilitate moving Capen House to another location. The feelings of this group are freely expressed on a popular Facebook page: SaveWinterPark.
On Sunday, SaveWinterPark posted a July 12 letter from attorney Howard Marks, representing unnamed Winter Parkers, demanding that the City Commission “set aside” their rescission of the Historic Designation of Capen House. In his letter Mr. Marks informs City Attorney, Larry Brown that
This is an excerpt of the Marks letter. To view the full text of the letter, click the button below.
Minutes after receiving Marks’ letter, City Attorney Brown responded as follows:
This is an excerpt of the City Attorney’s reply. To view the full text of the email, click the button below.
Winter Park Voice will update this story and provide continuing coverage of the city’s hearings on Historic Preservation ordinance revisions.