Preservation Ordinance Survives Wrecking Ball
Second Reading December 14
Once again, Winter Park citizens crowded the Commission Chamber to hear the second of two “First Readings” of the proposed Historic Preservation Ordinance. Because it was the last item on the November 23 agenda, everyone who wanted one had a seat, but most of the seats were occupied.
Ordinance Read as Amended Nov. 9
The proposed ordinance was brought before the Commission bearing the amendments agreed upon at the first “First Reading” November 9. The substantive nature and sheer number of amendments created the necessity for the second First Reading. To read about the amended ordinance, click here.
City Planning Director Dori Stone offered two clarifications in the language of the proposed ordinance. She stated that when the City receives a petition for designation of an historic district, votes are counted as one vote for each property. A property with multiple owners has only one vote, with the assumption that the property owners agree.
Stone further stated that votes for an historic district would be mailed to the City Clerk to be opened and counted on a predetermined date.
No Money for Financial Incentives
Commissioner Carolyn Cooper inquired about the incentives for property owners who wish either to designate an individual home or to create a district. She was assured by City staff that suggested incentives would be a part of the Second Reading, scheduled to occur at the November 23 Commission meeting. Presently, said Stone, there is no City funding available for financial incentives for historic preservation. She said the Commission would have to create a fund for this purpose as part of the City budget.
Speakers Evenly Divided Pro vs. Con
Citizens present seemed to be evenly divided for and against approval of the proposed ordinance. Fourteen spoke, seven for and seven against, including one who delivered an impassioned campaign speech in opposition to the ordinance.
Commissioners Vote 3 – 1 In Favor
None of the Commissioners changed course. Commissioners Greg Seidel, Carolyn Cooper and Tom McMacken voted in favor of the proposed ordinance as amended. Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel voted against. Mayor Leary was absent.
Everyone likes the old Knowles Chapel at Rollins College, Casa Feliz, and the iconic victorian house that sits on the Alabama condo property. Beyond that, it seems like nobody can agree on what’s historic in this town and what isn’t.
Making matters even more adversarial (as if that was possible), all registered voters in each proposed historic district, don’t get a vote. That’s right. As proposed, it’s one vote – PER PROPERTY. You want the historic district. Your husband doesn’t. You don’t get 1/2 vote each. You have to both agree one way or the other – or forfeit your voting rights entirely – if you own the property jointly. That’s because neither one of you alone has the right to cast a vote for a property you don’t have at least a majority ownership interest in.
Seems like it would simplify matters – and make it more democratic – to have a regular election at City Hall among ALL registered voters in the proposed historic district. And if 50% + 1 of all registered voters cast votes saying “Yes” on the appointed election day, a historic district it should be, without controversy, recount, or litigation.
This isn’t about democracy, fairness or civility. It’s about a faction of anti-growth residents, virtually all living in non-contributing homes or condos or even worse, Orlando,, wishing to stop the tide of change. This ordinance may pass, but a district will never be formed under this format. Hopefully, a new commissioner or two will allow property rights to be returned to residents. In the meantime, we have pandering pols looking for votes. This, too, shall pass.
What’s this I hear? Commissioners naughty this year? Hmmm. Making my list…Hmmm…Checkin it twice….Hmmm….I see…What?….A little elf told me that Commissioners have been busy taking residents’ property rights, voting rights, and what’s this I hear? Say that in Santa’s ear…..Taking even the right to sing a Christmas carol on the Park Avenue public sidewalk? Hmmmffffff! I may have to pass up my trip to Winter Park Commission Chambers this Christmas Eve altogether. Reindeer’s backs get sore carrying all that COAL. Merry Christmas, Winter Park!!! Ho Ho Ho
Winter Park didn’t fall for it. Neither should Windermere residents in the unlikely event the County Commissioners abdicate their responsibility to defuse Bryan DeCunha’s cynical ploy.
Remember back in the nineties when the signature golf course in Winter Park found itself in the over-development cross hairs?
A ballot referendum sent the over-development interests packing. That course and clubhouse were included on The National Register of Historic Places, thereby increasing the value of surrounding Winter Park property. I know all of this because my late cousin’s work in Pittsburgh was the model for The Historic Preservation Act of 1966 which created The National Register of Historic Places.
We’ve seen this over-development movie before. A few years ago, a Windermere over-developer tried to build a 70,000 square-foot behemoth on property he had purchased across from Windermere’s City Hall, one of two National Register properties fronting Main Street. I founded Friends of Windermere to save the finest remaining Old Florida village in the state. It took me five years to obtain a National Trust “threatened” listing for Windermere from The National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Winter Park and Cypress Gardens National Trust “threatened” listings took less than a third of that time.
Over-development devalues the entire village of Windermere. The over-developer is betting that the County Commissioners will fall for the “siren song of tax-revenue windfalls at the expense of unique scenic quality,” as I remarked in “Stakes for Windermere, Winter Park,” (Orlando Sentinel MY WORD column, January 27, 2006).
All Windermere citizens need to light up the switchboards of their County Commissioners, Mayors, Congressmen, Senators…you name it. Tell them that you are a local voter and taxpayer who would not be allowed to walk off with 155 acres of Windermere Country Club golf course property for $2,450,000 for the purpose of building 95 single-family homes. So, why would the County Commissioners be allowed to circumvent the 1986 agreement that prevents Mr. DeCunha from doing precisely that?
As has been the case with Winter Park, Windermere, and Cypress Gardens, the public’s intellectual capital will prevail!
Founder, Friends of Winter Park
Founder, Friends of Windermere
Founder, Friends of Cypress Gardens
Founder, Friends of Florida’s Coasts