Leary & McMacken: Lead Players in Park Avenue Zoning Drama

Think of the Park Avenue story as a much-loved play that never closes. The show goes on year-after-year running through directors, cast and crew who strive to keep the play fresh — and producers who struggle to keep investors happy. When times get tough, producers may replace the star or maybe just repaint the lobby. Sometimes they drop ticket prices. Sometimes the public responds well. Sometimes they don’t.

This year’s twist on Winter Park’s long-playing zoning drama is the furor produced by city efforts to revitalize one corner of the “Avenue” – the block between Fairbanks and City Hall. All recent zoning-change proposals submitted by city staff — including the current proposal to change rules for Avenue restaurants — have been poorly received by Winter Park merchants and residents who are deeply suspicious of any changes to Park Avenue zoning.

In an attempt to better understand the city’s current proposal – and to find common ground –Commissioners Tom McMacken and Steve Leary agreed to meet last week. The December 4 meeting was publicized as required by Florida’s Sunshine Law and attended by the two commissioners, staff and a handful of city residents and merchants.

Jeff Briggs, Director of City Planning, has pointed out again and again that rule changes on the Avenue are nothing new. Historically, city leaders and staff have responded to changing times (and fortunes) by tightening and loosening city ordinances regulating Park Avenue commerce. Recently, city staff worked hard to accommodate Burger Fi, a popular new player at the south end of Park Avenue. Public response to the restaurant has been good, but now, city staff and the restaurant are in hot water over “Fine Dining” rules that were bent, then broken.

The latest proposal to recast Park Avenue — and the tepid support it has received — raises the question of whether city leaders will once again pull back their proposal in deference to the fears of the stars and established cast on the Avenue who are clearly worried that the wrong sort of player could spoil the show.

The video clip shown above is an excerpted record of the meeting between the commissioners. This video is one of a series that will showcase city meetings at which proposed ordinances, initiatives and city policies are developed and vetted. Readers who want to access full-length coverage of these events can often find audio recordings of the meetings on the city’s website here.

Commissioners, board members and other meeting participants who wish to correct or expand on WPV coverage of these meetings are welcome to submit comments, articles and columns for publication in the Voice.


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    By: Tom Childers

    Tom was the previous editor of the Winter Park Voice and a citizen of Winter Park. He was a tireless advocate for Winter Park.

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