No Break for Summer Task Forces
Winter Parkers have been busy this summer, giving generously of their time to serve on one or another of three task forces. All three groups are set to complete their tasks this fall.
The Orange Avenue Steering Committee is studying redevelopment opportunities along the Orange Avenue gateway to our city. The Charter Review Task Force is reviewing the City Charter, line-by-line, as it must every 10 years. A dedicated and creative group — the Old Library Reuse Task Force — has been tasked with figuring out what to do with the current library facility once the new library at the Canopy has opened.
What follows is a snapshot of where each of these groups is in their process. It’s said the devil is in the details, and these 25 volunteers are way into the weeds as summer winds down and hurricane season gears up. Every person in Winter Park owes these volunteers a debt of gratitude for their hard work this summer.
Orange Avenue Overlay Steering Committee
The Orange Avenue Steering Committee is charged with creating an actionable document and providing input and recommendations to the City Commission for an Orange Avenue Zoning Overlay District.
Steering Committee Members are Jill Hamilton Buss, Sheila DeCiccio, Michael Dick, Ben Ellis, Sally Flynn, Lamont Garber, Phil Kean, Lambrine Macejewski, Bill Segal, Bill Sullivan, Laura Turner.
Previous Studies, but No Action — City discussions surrounding the redevelopment of Orange Avenue began in the early 2000s. The Commission requested Planning Staff to explore the creation of new codes that would facilitate redevelopment opportunities, but over the years, none of the studies yielded any actionable documents or created any City Code. These studies included Plan the Possibilities, Vision Winter Park and portions of the updated 2017 Comprehensive Plan.
Committee Has Heard a Variety of Views — Since May 29, the Steering Committee has met every two weeks. Meetings have featured panels of speakers representing area residents, small property owners, Rollins College, larger property owners who have developed property, such as Commerce National Bank & Trust and Jewett Orthopedics, and large property owners whose property is as yet undeveloped. Developers-in-waiting include Holler Properties, Demetree Global and the City of Winter Park, which probably will sell the property at Progress Point to a private developer.
Orange Avenue Issues — Panelists and Committee members alike have agreed that the issues along the Orange Avenue Corridor are insufficient parking, inadequate drainage and storm water management, traffic and pedestrian safety – and insufficient parking.
Did We Mention Insufficient Parking? The lack of sufficient parking along the corridor, combined with dangerous road conditions and archaic zoning codes, has caused obsolescence. Existing small businesses, including many along Designers’ Row, are at or over their allowed floor area ratio (FAR) – which is to say, the size of the building exceeds what is allowable for the size of the lot under current codes.
Upgrades or renovations undertaken by an owner would require bringing the building up to current code, and that’s frequently not possible because there just isn’t room. The most frequently mentioned barrier is insufficient space to create the required parking.
The Steering Committee will meet at least two more times, on September 4th and 18th from 5:30 to 7:30 pm in the Commission Chamber at City Hall. Planning Director Bronce Stephenson stated in an email that his department planned to ask for more time for the Task Force to complete their recommendations. “We only get once chance at this,” wrote Stephenson, “and we don’t want to rush the process.”
The public is welcome and urged to attend the Task Force meetings.
Charter Review Task Force
Every 10 years, the City Charter – Winter Park’s primary governing document – is reviewed and updated to reflect changes in state and national legislation and to incorporate revisions relevant to the City as it is now.
Task Force Members are Steve Brandon, Marjorie Bridges, Lisa Coney, Mary Daniels, Amanda Day, James Johnston, Bud Kirk, Lawrence Lyman and Nick Pope. The Task Force is facilitated by Marilyn Crotty.
The Voters Decide — After exhaustive study and discussion, the nine-member Task Force will submit their recommendations to the City Commission. The Commission then will deliberate to accept or reject Task Force recommendations and to incorporate their own changes. Final Charter revisions will be placed on the March 17 ballot for a decision by the voters.
Charter Review Issues — Questions discussed at the Charter Review Task Force meetings have included, but are not limited to, the following:
- If Winter Park is to have non-partisan elections, exactly how does the City propose to define the term “non-partisan.” What may candidates do and not do during their campaigns, and how would rules be enforced?
- The mayor and commissioners are currently elected ‘at large.’ In order to ensure even distribution of representation, should the City be divided into districts, with each commissioner representing one of those districts, while the mayor is still elected ‘at large’?
- Should the authority for appointments to Citizen Advisory Boards continue to rest with the Mayor, or should that provision be stricken from the Charter and Advisory Board members be appointed by the Commission as a whole?
- Should Police and Fire Departments continue to report to the Civil Service Board, or should they report directly to the City Manager?
- Should compensation for the mayor and commissioners be increased?
No Final Determination — The Task Force has not yet finalized their recommendations. With the generous time allotted for public comment, citizens are encouraged to attend meetings and express their views.
The Task Force meets at the Community Center on New England Avenue from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. Public comment is taken both at the beginning and the end of the meeting. There will be one or two September meetings, depending on need. Check the City website for meeting dates. Because the proposed Charter revisions must go on the March 17 ballot, the Task Force will submit their recommendations to the Commission in October.
Old Library Site Reuse Task Force
Five people are charged with the task of recommending the future use of the current library facility once the new library at the Canopy site has opened.
Task Force Members are John Caron, Miguel DeArcos, David Lamm, Jack Miles and Marjorie Thomas.
Possible Uses — Although a recent appraisal cited the “highest and best use” of the property would be to sell it to a developer for luxury condos, the majority of the Task Force discussion has focused on ways to keep the facility as a City amenity and avoiding selling it.
Among the uses that have been discussed are branch library, public art space, senior activity center, incubator space, temporary space for City staff while City Hall is renovated and various combinations of all the above.
Rollins CFO Ed Kania stated at one meeting that Rollins has no interest in purchasing the site.
Issues with the Old Library include two years of deferred maintenance and the current state of the building, the cost of renovation, the fact that it is in a residential neighborhood and therefore not appropriate for commercial or restaurant use, inadequate parking and Fairbanks traffic.
The Task Force meets at noon in the Chapman Room at City Hall. Check the City website for September dates.
On the Orange Avenue issue:
Build a public parking building on the City property as well as covered sidewalks on most of the length of the Avenue.
On the City Charter issue:
1. Increase the number of Commissioners to seven which may avoid the voting block that we have seen in the past. 2. Stop the insane desire to increase City population by approving high density residential construction. 3. Provide more Affordable Housing for Seniors as well as for workers who will be employed at all the new planned hotels.
On the Library issue:
Sell to Rollins for their announced desire to expand the Alfond hotel or sell to the developer of the Residences for condos
Overall – 1. Use funds enjoyed from selling City property to rebuild City Hall using the architectural design demonstrated on the Fire Station on Canton as well as include the Library and a parking building on the site on Park Avenue, where it belongs. 2. Let the Canopy replace the Murray Center as a premier event location as a stand alone. 3. Require SunRail to offer limited weekend service.