News Alert--Bowling Alley Slides Into Gutter on a 3-3 Split

The Voice reported on September 19 that the Community  Redevelopment Advisory Board and the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board narrowly approved the purchase of the Fairbanks Avenue Bowling Alley at 1111 Fairbanks Avenue. On September 22, however, the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) voted down the $3,250,000  purchase of the 1.6 acre property on a 3-3 split.

 

Bradley, Leary, McMacken on Losing Side

Bradley_McMackin_Leary_500x180.fw

The CRA Advisory Board is made up of citizens serving in an advisory capacity only. The Community Redevelopment Agency, which is comprised of the mayor and four commissioners, plus a representative from Orange County, Frank DeToma, is the decision-making body.

 

Knight: “The price is the price.”

Bowlingv2 Bradley

City Manager Randy Knight kicked off the discussion by reporting that he had

spoken with the seller, Scott Fish of UP Developments, and that Fish was

unwilling to take less than the $3.25 Million asking price. “So,” said Knight, “the price is the price.”

But, What’s the Value? 

Whatever the price, the value is still unclear. City staff has, to date, not had the land appraised nor are they able to answer questions about what other, similar pieces of property are available.

McMacken: “We’re adding a substantial piece to a great park.”

Arguing in favor of the acquisition, Commissioner Tom McMacken said he thought, long term, this would be “money well spent.”

Bradley later stated, “This is a property that’s never been on the market . . . never, ever been on the market.”

Cooper: “Don’t Talk to me about an asphalt park.” 

Bowlingv2 Cooper

“The struggle I’m having,” said Cooper, “is that staff’s plan for this – and generally those plans come to fruition – is for this to be an asphalt parking lot . . . So that’s not park. Don’t talk to me about an asphalt park.”

 

For Commissioner Sprinkel, the deal didn’t pass the sniff test. She said that while the bowling alley acquisition deal may have been familiar to some on the dais, “It just dropped into my lap.”  She said she felt the commission had not spent sufficient time discussing the acquisition or exploring the different possibilities that might be available to them. “I just feel like it’s too fast,” she said, “it’s not considering everything, and it just doesn’t feel right.”

How Are We Going to Pay for This?

Bowlingv2 Sprinkel

One issue that arose repeatedly was the funding source. The acquisition of the property had first come up during the budget discussion at the August 25 commission meeting.

 

The city proposed to use $1,650,000 from CRA reserves, $975,000 from the Parks Acquisition Funds and $625,000 from the sale of land to the medical practice of Dr. Ivan Castro. The CRA reserves, however, had only $1,400,000 — not $1,650,000. Where to find $250,000?

 

$245,000 Mysteriously Materializes

Expenditures for CRA Projects and Community Initiatives in the CRA budget proposed on August 25 totaled $1,165,148. Without a murmur, by September 22, total CRA expenditures had fallen to $920,648.

 

These are the projects that took the hit.   

CRA Project or 

Community Initiative

8/25 Proposed

Budget

9/22 Proposed

Budget

Heritage Center Operation

40,000

30,000

Housing Rehab Assistance

20,000

0

Business Façade Matching PRG

25,000

0

West Meadow Ice Rink

225,000

225,000

W. Morse Blvd. Streetscape

100,000

0

Signs and Wayfinding

90,000

0

                    

The money cut from these projects totals $245,000 – just about enough to make up the shortfall needed to purchase the bowling alley.

 

Bowlingv2 WilliamsCitizens Object to Lack of Transparency

As the mayor opened the floor for public comment, Larry Williams of Eucalyptus Properties approached the podium. First he pointed out that the mayor had been mistaken when he stated that the bowling alley property had never been on the market. “Indeed, it has been on the market,” said Williams, who explained that he himself had optioned the property six years ago, but decided not to buy it because it would be difficult to develop.

Williams went on to address the City Manager: “What you did, Randy, was not right,” he said. “This is a lot of money. You don’t negotiate this kind of deal without putting it out on the table. . . .There’s one thing that’s been absent in this conversation far too much, and that’s the price.”

Williams pointed out that not only is the city paying a premium for land that has limited utility, but also, the city staff at no time requested a property appraisal or verification from Fish of $300,000 in carrying costs he was asking from the city.

Woody Woodall: “This is Not a Park.”

Woody Woodall, who currently sits on the CRA Advisory Board and who voted against the acquisition, insisted, “This is a lousy deal.” He objected to depleting CRA reserves. If the money is there, he said, “I’d rather we spend it on something that will be a positive addition to our parks.”

Will the Commission Seek Last-Minute Appraisal?

As the Commission prepared to vote, Commissioner Cooper proposed to table the matter until the city could get an appraisal on the property, but that amendment failed.

The Board then voted for an amendment to seek a property appraisal. Commissioner Sprinkel questioned the value of such an appraisal. “What happens if the appraisal comes back at less than what the price is?” she wanted to know. When Bradley asked if she wanted to put that forward in the form of an amendment, Sprinkel replied, “I’m not going to vote for it anyway, so it doesn’t make any difference to me.”

When Bradley sought to reassure Sprinkel that the property was “sure to appraise,” especially since there is a building on it of “who knows how many square feet,” Sprinkel replied, “No one knows. That’s the whole problem – we don’t know any of this.”

Bowling Alley Purchase Fails

With that, the clerk read the role. Leary, Bradley and McMacken voted for the purchase.  Sprinkel, Cooper and DeToma voted against.

The 3 – 3 vote was not enough. The motion failed. 

  

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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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