P & Z Thwarts West Side Zoning Change
Approves Comp Plan Change for Lakeside Crossing
Lakeside Crossing Wins More Parking
On June 2, Unicorp’s request to the Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Board for a Comprehensive Plan change, unlike many of their previous efforts, sailed through. Unicorp was requesting permission to add 75 parking spaces at the Lakeside Crossing project on the site of the former Mt. Vernon Inn. The additional spaces will change the garage from two to three levels, amounting to a 3.4 percent increase in Floor-Area Ratio (FAR). According to developer Chuck Whittall, half the spaces will be for Lakeside Crossing use and the other half will be for public parking.
City Planner Jeff Briggs stated that the change in the Comp Plan would apply to all developments along the 17-92 planning area. Most unusual in this context was Briggs’ smiling countenance as he enthusiastically recommended that P&Z approve the Comp Plan change. P&Z approval was unanimous.
Applicant Seeks West SideUp-Zoning
In an all-too-familiar scenario, the next applicant, land planning consultant Javier Omana, requested a zoning change for a single-family lot on West Lyman Avenue in the Hannibal Square neighborhood. Omana and his partner, Chris Hite, plan to build a single-family dwelling and wanted the lot re-zoned from R-1 to R-2 to enable them to build a larger house. R-2 zoning would allow them to build a duplex on the property if they chose, and would allow greater square footage.
The subject property is in the middle of a block that is zoned R-1. The Comprehensive Plan specifically prohibits rezoning lots smaller than 50 by 150 feet, which this lot is. Granting the request would set the stage for other lots in that area to be up-zoned.
Omana assured city staff that he had no intention of building a duplex on the land, that he simply needed an additional 220 square feet in order to complete a two-car garage at the rear of the property. City staff and P&Z Board members suggested possible remedies for the 220-square-foot shortfall and offered to help the applicant obtain a variance, which would require no zoning change.
Omana and Hite insisted on their demand for up-zoning. As part of their justification, they presented an ‘Urban Design Plan’ for the entire neighborhood to show what the area could look like — if only the zoning were different. There was liberal use of buzz words like context, connectivity, place-making, new urbanism, and TOD (Transit Oriented Development). Omana regretted the City’s lack of “institutional and regulatory framework to allow us to do what we’re doing. However,” he said, “we appeal to the City’s sense of doing the right thing.”
Bellows Weighs In
Speaking on behalf of the applicant, developer Dan Bellows supported the application for R-2 zoning, insisting that the City “amends the Comp Plan all the time.” He failed to mention his own experience before this board, which repeatedly turned down his requests for up-zoning in the Hannibal Square neighborhood, finally resulting in a project that is compliant. The Orlando Business Journal reports that Omana has served as a consultant to Bellows on the Ravaudage project.
Neighbors Aren’t Buying
One Winter Park resident approached the podium, somewhat sheepishly admitting that this was “the most awkward way” he had ever found to meet a new neighbor. His back yard adjoins the back of the lot on which Omana plans to build. He stated that he and his wife had made a substantial investment in their home and hoped that the single-family, low-density character of the neighborhood would not be disrupted.
The remarks of Christina Hite’s son brought into sharp relief the difference in perspective between those who live in the Hannibal Square neighborhood now and those who would move in. He stated his belief that history should not be a concern, because there was really “not much there.” In his view, the block is largely empty and up-zoning would create an opportunity for others to move in to the area and improve it.
Once again, P&Z was unanimous in their decision, this time to deny. Tom Sacha argued for maintaining current zoning, citing previous attempts to change the zoning. In each case, the applicants eventually came back with plans that fit within current zoning requirements. While Sacha did not name the applicants, it was clear that at least one project he referred to had been proposed by Dan Bellows.
Pete Weldon summed up the board’s stance in the interest of the City. “The City should be patient,” he said. “It shouldn’t be stubborn and it shouldn’t be dogmatic, but it should be patient. I don’t see anything here that says we should become less patient than we are.”