Moratorium on Commercial Overdevelopment

We Need One Now

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

Moratorium on Commercial Overdevelopment

March 8, 2020 by Guest Columnist Will Graves

Developers. I used to exchange Christmas cards with some of them. One donated $6,000 to a charity I championed.  Another agreed to gift $21,000 for our Lisa Merlin House Golf Tournament fundraiser. One, who occasionally assists with the bread and wine at my church, prayed for forgiveness of my sins one Sunday. 

Falling Out of Favor

How did I fall out of favor with these people?  By publicly writing and speaking to shine a light on the existential need to preserve the unique scenic quality, historic character, architectural heritage, authenticity and property values in our pristine small-scale village of Winter Park.

Overdevelopers

Now, Florida State Senator Tom Lee (R – Hillsborough County), another with whom I used to exchange Christmas cards, wants people like me to shoulder the burden of all legal costs, should we find ourselves on the wrong side of an overdeveloper lawsuit. If that’s not enough, overdevelopment interests, seeking to economize on their tanning lotion by avoiding the sunshine, are now pushing the folks in Tallahassee to eliminate the requirement for those legal notices in newspapers that document what Winter Park citizens need to know to protect their interests.

It no longer matters what the zoning is — it’s who we know who can do an end run around the pesky public to get the variances and Comprehensive Plan changes we need, and forget those disgruntled Winter Park citizens who fear losing sight lines, driving down shadowy road-canyons and wasting time in traffic gridlock.

Gridlock

If you wish to continue to be able to move through Winter Park in an orderly and timely manner in the coming years, a long overdue Moratorium on out-of-scale commercial development should be enacted.  Sooner rather than later. The traffic you’re dealing with today pales in comparison to what you’ll be dealing with soon. That’s what happens when Private Interests are allowed to do your village planning for you.

Be Prepared to Fight

Barbara Drew Hoffstot, Rollins Class of ’42 and Rollins Walk of Fame honoree, nailed the problem in her book, “Landmark Architecture of Palm Beach.” 

Mrs. Hoffstot warned us, “Will you care very much for your country if it becomes largely one of visual concrete commercialism? The decision lies with each and every one of you, my readers. You will get what you want, what you fight for, and what you deserve.  So, don’t let your very fine past be taken away . . . without your knowledge and consent. Be prepared to fight when necessary!”

 

Will Graves is recipient of the 2019 Individual Distinguished Service Award from the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, a statewide partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A six-person statewide jury made the award decision.

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    By: Anne Mooney

    Anne Mooney has assumed the editorship of the Winter Park Voice from founding editor Tom Childers.

    Mooney got her start in New York as a freelance line editor for book publishers, among them Simon & Schuster and the Clarkson Potter division of Crown Books. From New York, she and her husband and their year-old toddler moved to Washington, D.C., where the two ran a newswire service for Harper’s magazine. “We called it Network News,” said Mooney, “because it was a network of the Harper’s writers, whose work we edited into newspaper style and format and sold to papers in the top U.S. and Canadian markets. We were sort of like a tiny UPI.”

    The newswire ceased operation with the death of Mooney’s first husband, but Mooney continued to write and edit, doing freelance work for Williams Sonoma cookbooks and for local publications in D.C.

    In 2005, Mooney moved to Winter Park, where she worked as a personal chef and wrote a regular food column for a south Florida magazine. She took an active interest in Winter Park politics and was there when the Winter Park Voice was founded. She wrote occasional pieces for the Voice, including the Childers bio that this piece replaces.

    The Winter Park Voice is one of a large number of “hyper-local” publications that have sprung up across the U.S. in response to the decline of the major daily newspapers and the resulting deficit of local news coverage. The Voice’sbeat is Winter Park City Hall, and its purpose is to help the residents of our city better understand the political forces that shape our daily lives.

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15 replies
  1. John Parker says:

    Thank you Will, for your very timely comments. I believe that Winter Park is at a very significant crossroads . . . the intersection between “community” and “commercialism.” The founders of Winter Park made great efforts to protect the special qualities of this community. They set aside our Central Park knowing that it would become the center of activity in our community (which it has). Since then the city has wisely set aside additional park and recreational lands for the enjoyment of all Winter Park residents (and others who are drawn to our community). What concerns me is, “Will we, the residents and taxpayers of Winter Park, be able to get to and enjoy any of these wonderful assets we are supporting in the future?” Some people have said that traffic is no heavier in Winter Park than 15 years ago (including a former city commissioner.) Now that I am retired, I have the opportunity to go out on our streets at different times of the day, and I know for a fact that traffic congestion is much greater on all of our major arteries at all times of the day. And the Orange Avenue Overlay will allow for much greater density of residential and commercial properties. I don’t get it. This will make it frustrating, if not impossible, for people to get to the new businesses and services that will occupy these new developments. Who will want to lease a space in an area that people can’t comfortably get to? And who is going to want to go to an area where traffic is congested, and they can’t find a place to park relatively near to where they are going? This is insane and self-defeating. I understand that the area in the Orange Avenue Overlay is ripe for redevelopment, but PLEASE!!! . . . do it RIGHT! You have one opportunity to DO IT RIGHT!!!

    Reply
  2. Bonnie Ferguson says:

    Congratulations Mr. Graves for being chosen to receive the 2019 Individual Distinguished Service Award from the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation! I very much appreciated your column in the Winter Park Voice, especially the ending quote by Barbara Drew Hoffstot. Thank you for being a champion for Winter Park residents and “the unique scenic quality, historic character, architectural heritage, authenticity and property values in our pristine small-scale village of Winter Park.”

    Reply
  3. Beth Hall says:

    The Orange Ave Overlay is being presented by the City as the solution when it’s actually the problem.

    Is it the architectural standards of the OAO or the idea of 10 foot sidewalks that lead me to say this?

    No, it’s the preferential treatment of two large landowners in the form of permitting development of a mass and scale we have never permitted and a residential density that exceeds that which was outlawed by unanimous vote of the Commission in 2016.That’s not ok. It’s time for a moratorium on development interests and their city allies hijacking the civic and political processes which should be protecting residents, property values and our quality of life.

    Thank you, Will Graves, for this piece. It couldn’t be more timely than on the eve of the final vote on the Orange Ave Overlay.

    Reply
  4. WP Anon says:

    This is so well said and I couldn’t agree more.
    The run away development approvals by this current city commission is deplorable.
    Please get out and vote on March 17th.
    You know which Commissioners should never be allowed to govern our City again, just do your homework.

    Reply
  5. Linda Eriksson says:

    Thank you for this article. I am in total agreement! The sad part is that on most days, aside from early morning, we no longer are able to move through Winter Park in “an orderly and timely manner”. The morning traffic on Fairbanks roars by at high speeds and the longer timed traffic lights at NewYork and Park Avenue have traffic backing up. I live downtown and used to love just driving down Park Avenue. I totally avoid it now, especially on the weekends. Cleaning up various corridors in the city is a great idea but the out of scale development and the variances being given to the developers is not the way to do it. Turning Winter Park into a “brand” and a “destination” is so wrong. Hopefully, residents will be at the City Commission meeting today to voice their opinions.

    Reply
  6. CJ Williams says:

    I live in College Quarter—a neighborhood right behind the upper end of the OAO. I drive Orange Avenue every day. I know how many stop light cycles I need to wait to make a left hand turn onto 17-92 heading south.

    Yes, the OAO is making progress. There are some positive benefits. But the cake, at this stage, is only half-baked. It would be highly premature to move this to final approval today. Why?

    I count on the five of you to ask the tough questions. To check assumptions. To call out a transparent rush to judgement when you see it. I count on you to gather the facts, to challenge your staff to detail all available options. But most importantly, I count on you to provide the critical thinking.

    The Elephants in the Room and the Incovenient Truth are Traffic and Development Rights. Two big ticket items. Two big fiduciary responsibilities.

    First, by definition, these development entitlements mean system-wide impacts to traffic, especially in surrounding residential neighborhoods as well as 17-92 and Fairbanks.

    Although the Kimley-Horn effort looked at exiting conditions and met minimum industry standards, the scope provided by the City did not allow them to produce a discrete model to include impacts on parallel facilities or neighborhood streets. That direction was noticeably missing from city leadership.

    For the City to take a leadership role in managing growth and impacts on the quality of life for our citizens, this must be done. Unfortunately, some years ago the City rejected a $250,000 grant from FDOT to do just that. (Was this opportunity ever brought before the commission? How did each of you vote?)The reason it was rejected? The City did not want to provide the 50% match to create a model that would take the long view. We lost valuable time. We fell behind the curve at a critical juncture for our community. We have no one to blame but ourselves. Now the City has paid an outside consulting engineering firm to pick up this thread again, years later, and once again study traffic impacts on a piecemeal basis.

    So rather than taking a leadership role in determining traffic impacts associated with development, the City is being led by the development community. The City assumes, based on a minimum traffic impact analysis, that in exchange for the proposed developer granting right-of-way for a turn lane in Sub Area J, traffic impacts of the development will be offset.

    With sub-Area parcel D, we have no commitment to grant easements to extend Palmetto to 17-92 or to grant the city ownership of Harmon. That would certainly be a start. But we are not there yet. We, the citizens, receive nothing in return for exceeding the current FAR baseline. That’s not a negotiation. That’s not how you win at cards. That’s a giveaway.

    The City has positioned itself to bargain with developers on a piecemeal basis instead of providing the leadership and guidance needed to protect the unique character of Winter Park.

    Until a dynamic, in-depth model is developed, critical information will not be available to support the decision making process. We just won’t have the facts.

    The cumulative traffic impact of proposed developments in this city remains unknown. Where’s the critical thinking?

    Lastly, the city must retain Progress Point. It is a public asset.

    A footnote on the value of public comment:
    Asking citizens to remain in chambers until 2:30 a.m. (on a school night), just to make sure three major [half-baked] projects get their final reading by this commission, rather than waiting for a new commission to be seated, is government and civics malfeasance. There is no excuse. If anything, it is the single biggest red flag that points to a rush to judgement. It’s sloppy. It’s how mistakes are made. It’s not the city government I signed up for nor is it the municipal representation we deserve.

    Reply
  7. Rachel Andre says:

    Thank you for a very well written article. I am a relatively new WP resident (2+ years), although I have visited the city many times in the past. I chose to move here because of the scenic charm and gorgeous trees, and the feel of the area. I am horrified to see what is about to happen, especially considering that I live blocks from the intersection of Orange/Denning/Minnesota and currently already deal with the traffic problems at that intersection on a daily basis. I am very disappointed that most of our commissioners are more concerned about developers’ interests than those of their constituents. I truly hope our better angels prevail this evening and that the leadership considers the real impacts on not only current residents but more importantly, on how approving this amendment will pave the way to completely change the character of WP.

    Reply
    • Mary R Randall says:

      I agree with all of the above, realistic, informed comments.

      I hope & pray that the commission places a HOLD on the

      OAO Project.

      Reply
  8. Mary Dipboye says:

    We moved to the Orlando metro area in 2004 and then discovered the charms of Winter Park. I was able to persuade my husband to move to Winter Park in 2010.

    However, the City is in danger of losing what makes it a “special place” by permitting the massive structures along a major gateway corridor.

    Commissioners Seidel and Sprinkel, the City’s future is your hands. Be bold. Vote “no”on the second reading of the OAO.

    Reply
    • Another Point of View says:

      This following was on WP Voter. It seems reasonable to me. 906 people are moving to Florida every day. Let’s manage growth rather than react to it.

      “Did you know that only 2 properties are allowed to exceed three stories? The rest stayed the same or were decreased. The two properties which is often referred by the city as bookends is where height may be increased. These buildings are the similar height of Park Avenue buildings Bank of America Building, Suntrust Building, and the building where Panera Bread is located. These larger buildings will give residents affordable places to live and work. They will also support the businesses in Orange Avenue Overlay district just like Park Avenue.

      Did you know before one of the two bookend developments can even get to 3-4 or 6 stories, they have to add items from the following list:
      shared parking, larger setbacks, meaningful open space (25%!) tiered levels, adding storm water treatment to an area that currently has none (this is good for the environment) and allows for private property to be added to be used to improve traffic by adding turn lanes, etc.”

      Reply
  9. So... says:

    Tell us, Voice Readers.

    Orange Avenue Overlay was approved last night.

    You’re 7 days away of once AGAIN losing a City Commission election.

    So…

    How’s that “Civility”program working for ya?

    Isn’t it about time you told The Voice to start publishing CANDID reader comments?

    Reply
    • WP Voter Watcher says:

      WP Voter is populated by people with close ties to developers and development interests. Read the names people, read the names…
      The idea of formation to attract “young voters” is a ruse. It is an organization
      which finds its roots in development related activity. Study those who will profit under the recently passed OAO and look at the list of known affiliates of
      WP Voter. Some are associated with the land owners, others on steering committee, etc.
      Think about it. They say they aim to attract “young voters” and they say that
      this means voters “under 50” years of age. Well, I don’t know if they know it but those are the same folks that AARP represents. That is the age of entry into
      “the senior years”. Maybe they will offer discounts on walkers and hearing aids next. Get your WPVoter discount by signing up today! People aged 35 to 49
      who won’t or can’t be informed and vote accordingly don’t need babysitters, do they? Apparently the developers think they do.

      Reply

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