The $30 Million Question
New Library? Or Not?
When Winter Park voters mark their ballots, they face a decision that will have a far greater, more lasting impact on the life of this City than any politician is ever likely to have. Commissioners come and go, but this is a 20-Year, $30 Million Dollar Question. Will the citizens of Winter Park vote to spend $30 million tax dollars over the next 20 years on a new combined Library – Events Center?
Official ballot language
“For the purpose of building the Winter Park Library and Events Center, to include library facilities, civic meeting and gathering facilities and related parking structure, and improvements, and all purposes incidental thereto, shall the City of Winter Park, Florida, issue not exceeding $30,000,000 general obligation bonds, bearing interest at not exceeding the maximum legal rate, maturing within 20 years from date of issuance, payable from ad valorem taxes levied on all taxable property in the City area, without limitation as to rate or amount; as provided in Ordinance No. 3020-15?”
Two PACs – Two Points of View
Citizens are divided. Two political action committees have been formed to advocate for and against the Bond Referendum. You can follow these links to their websites.
PAC Leaders Speak to the Voters
The PAC presidents articulated their positions for The Winter Park Voice. Jeffry Jontz, President of the Board of Winter Park Library Trustees, speaks in favor of building a new library. Michael Poole, who currently chairs the Keep Winter Park Beautiful and Sustainable Advisory Board, speaks in favor of leaving the Winter Park Library in its current location.
Voters Will Have the Last Word
A Yes vote is a vote for the Referendum. A No vote is a vote against the Referendum. The vote is not for or against the Library. Winter Park will always have a Library, but You, the Voters, must decide whether or not the City will issue $30 million in bonds to erect a new building in MLK Park.
As an Architect and City Planner and Winter Park resident, I feel obliged to comment on the continued de-centralization of this amazing walkable City. By now the admonition of “there is no there, there” is a well worn out statement, but it is spot on with regard to what threatens our City.
Ask any planner who has studied the quality which makes us special and the answer is always the remarkable walkable dynamic of Park Avenue, embraced on the South by Rollins College, on the North by our Golf Course, University Club and Casa Feliz,, on the West by Central Park, the Rail Station and the Post office and finally on East, the Alfond Inn, the City Library and the remarkable Pontoon Boat Tours of our fabled Lakes. Take any one of those elements away from our walkable City and we draw closer to any town USA. The connections between the vital needs of our community are dispersed, rather then strengthened.
Strengthen our assets, preserve the connectivity. Don’t move the Library
Wait a second, you think that having an out-of-date, decrepit library somehow adds to Park Avenue and this is Winter Park’s only asset?? There are a few things wrong with this position.
First, the current library actually detracts from the image of Park Avenue. Park Avenue is the crown jewel of Central Florida and it attracts visitors and residents due to its lovingly maintained and upscale offerings. The library does not fit this mold anymore. You mentioned the Alfond Inn as a shining example, yet this is a new addition to core downtown that would not have been possible if everyone adhered to the don’t modify Winter Park mantra. Moving the library would provide a wonderful opportunity to improve the core downtown area.
Second, Winter Park is NOT just Park Avenue. Over the course of the past few decades city planners have been keen on expanding improvements from the core downtown. Hannibal Square is now upscale. Fairbanks has improved. Winter Park Village has emerged. 17-92 has exciting developments. None of this would have been possible if everyone took the position that only Park Avenue is deserving of improvement. Positioning a new library and events center is a brilliant move that would cement and secure the revitalization of Morse and the connections between 17-92 and Park Ave.
We have an amazing opportunity here, get a new, modern library and opening up a downtown parcel of land to further development akin to the Alfond Inn. It would be crazy to say no.
Yes. It’s about the money. It’s about taking the money from you and me the taxpayers, and putting our money into the pockets of those who will build the new library, and those who will profit from real estate deals and ancillary businesses in the vicinity of the proposed site. Period.
This is 2016, and the internet and Amazon have made libraries all but obsolete, except perhaps as a convenient place to park the kids during a shopping trip on Park Avenue.
The existing library is perfectly adequate for any demands the public may have on it now or in the future. A $10 million makeover would make the place opulent. Too much. Remodel the bathrooms. Swap out the carpet. Add a spiral staircase or two. And a perimeter parking deck (not garage). And you’re done. For less than $2 million.
“A new library? Why not renovate?” Please read http://www.wppl.org/new-library-why-not-renovate
OK. Here’s a quote from the above linked report of the new library Task Force. Here’s what they are telling us is “needed” for the old library. “$5.1 million renovation + $1 million code upgrades + $1.5 million for furnishings, equipment and technology + $1 million or more to move + $2 – 3 million garage + $1.5 in fees and miscellaneous costs = $12.1 – 13.1 million to renovate a building that will still be too small to adequately serve the community.”
Everyone knows a renovation of anything can cost however much the imagination can dream up, so $5.1 million is a subjective number. Tables, chairs, computers don’t have to cost $1 million. Nobody has to incur $1 million in moving costs either. There are lots of libraries in Orange and Seminole counties that would be glad to help WP Library patrons during any downtime and Rollins College Library is right across the street and open to the public every day! No $3 million new garage is needed. The rather few additional parking spaces actually needed could be created simply by adding a second parking level and ramp above SOME, not all, of some of the existing parking spaces. So, the $13 million renovation quote is anything but “needed.” Nobody is complaining about anything that would cost even one-tenth of that amount. This is a manufactured “crisis,” the work of politicians and real estate people for their own purposes, not for the residents.
Those Orange and Seminole libraries do not let us Winter Parkers use their full services and Rollins is an academic library not a public library they are very different. I do not think we can use the full Rollins library either. I do not want a parking garage or an ugly deck ramp right on my drive in on Fairbanks. Talk about poor development.
You are right, a renovation could cost even MORE! Why renovate a too small space when a short jump to the other side of town for a combined civic project will give us more bang for our buck?
You must be a very privileged and pampered “little bird.” Libraries serve the entire community including those who don’t have the Internet. Also, it serves readers. Do you even have a library card? I doubt it. This project is a community center. A gathering place and a resource for education. I’m happy to say I’ve already voted for it, absentee due to my travel schedule.
In 9 minutes of video, why doesn’t someone show visuals of what’s wrong with our library? Also you could show other libraries and what they have that we could have. I am very disappointed that there have been few details….just lots and lots of talk and yammering….. nothing to make me want to vote for this. I watched the whole boring 9 minutes, but I doubt many would.
The con side is equally boring and should offer some drawings of how they would fix the current library. If you’re going to do a video, for goodness sakes take advantage of what you can do!
Please follow the links in the article to the library website, where you will find a collection of ACi’s conceptual renderings. They are quite lovely. You might enjoy them.
While the library planning process has been taking place, Winter Park’s Visioning Committee has undertaken a much broader process to gather public input about the future of Winter Park. On January 28 of this year, the committee released an excellent progress report entitled, “Formulating the Winter Park Vision, A Milestone Summary”. This document, available online at http://visionwinterpark.org/document/formulating-winter-park-vision-work-progress , deserves close attention during the debate over approval of $30 million for a new library, because movement of the library out of the downtown area to the traffic clogged sprawl of the 17-92 corridor runs exactly counter to the findings of the visioning report.
The report suggests nine themes for Winter Park’s future the first two of which are:
• Retain our extraordinary village to live, work and play
• Plan our future growth based on the mix of neighborhood, village and urban character
In a page of community values, two of the most prominent are history/heritage and village ambiance/small town feel.
Virtually every image in this comprehensive document is of Winter Park’s downtown and its parks—the things that make the city so unique and desirable.
Given this clear and appropriate direction produced by the extensive and inclusive visioning process, why on earth would the city want to spend $30 million on the largest civic investment likely in a generation to move the library from the downtown where it reinforces and is part of the community character people say they want to retain, to an area of the kind of automobile-oriented development which is so commonplace in Florida today?
Winter Park’s library should remain in our downtown; investment in its modernization should be consistent with and reinforce the characteristics that make Winter Park such an exceptional place to live.
Bob and Jill Bendick
Couldn’t agree more, See my earlier comment.
Please join us at the Chamber forum on the Library this coming Friday morning from 7:45-9am: http://winterpark.org/event/good-morning-winter-park-10/?instance_id=3212 – Also, the next candidate debate is being held at the library on Friday from noon-1pm. I believe all of your questions will be answered.
LOVE your reply Flo! 🙂
I am all for the newly proposed library and event venue. World class, what Winter Park deserves. I find it odd that the opposing pac is called ‘save our library’ because if you talk to the library or read their research, having a new facility is what will in fact save our library. The individual coat is nominal and the potential impact on our city is priceless. This was an incredibly well-vetted project; investigated, task-force public meetings, commission meetings, meetings to introduce the hopes and plans to the community… and now we act like it is new news. The library’s mistake was not campaigning for this for the last decade. I vote YES!
The real issue should be what will we do with the current library property. There are many potential users and surely would be many interested buyers. I hope that the City keeps that, because once it is gone it can never be returned.
The City has made lots of “progress” and I surely do not favor all of it. This is a project that can benefit us all, and our children and their children. Let’s not be dissuaded from this amazing opportunity. The time is right. We can make something great happen. Please join me, VOTE YES.
Aren’t libraries a thing of the past? Why do we even need a new library? Why do we even need a library? Good questions. For answers to those questions, as well as the Task Report’s process and final report, and MUCH MUCH more, please go to http://www.wppl.org/about-us/building-new-library.
Once one is completely informed, then one can make an informed decision. Hearsay, half-truths and political spins add nothing to an intellectual exchange of ideas.
Winter Park is a lot more than just the two-block wide swath on either side of Park Avenue, although that seems to be all that anyone against the library cares about. The current library is outdated and more difficult to access by its actual users than the proposed library. Can you really make a sensible argument that it is easier to get in and out of the current library, given the traffic on New England and Lyman these days, with the Alfond, and the popularity of Park Avenue and people trying to get to and from the Ave? The task force examining the library issue has worked hard, held focus groups, public meetings, posted information online, and done just about all they can do to get the information to the citizens of WP. Everyone I know who has taken the time to hear them out with an open mind has come away convinced this is a great plan and the new library will be beautiful, modern, accessible and yet another jewel in Winter Park’s crown. If you didn’t attend those meetings, look at the available information, or otherwise seek out answers to your questions, it’s not because the information hasn’t been made available, more likely it’s because you don’t want want to hear things that might threaten the opinions you established before the process even began.
I totally agree Brad. I would ask how many of the people touting the walkabilty of the current library actually walk to it or use it at all. What is missing in this conversation is the overall gain is much bigger than just a library. We are getting a place for events that will be world class among other small cities in America with the rich heritage that Winter Park has. The current community center is embarrassing and the combination of a new library and events center would be a great event space that we don’t have now. There is a big effort to link the Park Ave area with MLK park with bike paths and pedestrian ways. It is not a far walk by any stretch of the imagination. As long as style and aesthetics don’t matter to community quality, then keep it as it is. I travel many places and as a lifelong Florida resident and a 30 year resident of Winter Park, I am sad for the people that can’t see past the frumpy and grumpy that doesn’t want things to improve. Winter Park has paid off all previous projects without issue. This will be a great space for the city, beyond books and computers, that will make all residents proud for many years to come. Hannibal Square renovation has not diminished how great Park Ave is, and I think it has expanded the greatness of our city. These are not mutually exclusive ideas. Winter Park is not all about Park Ave. Everyone doesn’t have to have a financial gain to appreciate quality and embrace big picture thinking.
I am a lover of books, new materials & libraries and am a serious user of the WPPLlibrary but I only occasionally notice too many people trying to use it at once (mainly AUTO parking spaces constraints). I admit I rarely do a lot of work there but almost always notice empty seats that could be used by students who found working there congenial.
I am not convinced of the absolute need for the giant new facility–for all sorts of theoretical things we could do, and for the larger spaces and many sorts of initiatives that imply much greater operating expenses in the future (unless all the help we give to kids is done with mainly volunteer labor and donated equipment and maintenance people for the IT equipment that seems to be necessary for this grand vision). Could Winter Park help area kids more cheaply to be good readers and digitally literate with more creative organizing utilizing the community/school/churches/nonprofit spaces in off-hours? The fixation on this large investment in a brand new facility seems to fit too well the economic interests that lobby and put pressures on city government to capitalize the properties east of the 6-lane Route 17-92.
I like the intimacy of the current library. It is not the only place in our community to hold a meeting either. And Is a massive renovation the only other option to the giant building near 17-92? Or could we get by with just regular good maintenance in the current location?
And what about a third alternative. Could we use a lot smaller amount of public funding to provide all school kids (K-12) and pre-school kids with accompanying adults with FREE Tickets on SunRail from Winter Park to Orlando and back to use the much larger Orlando library there whenever they want (e.g. getting some kind of ticket stamped at the Orlando Library for refunds at City Hall). I think there is a cooperative agreement with that library and Winter Park’s. We could expand the subsidy to all who wanted to attend any event downtown in Orlando’s Library, and also help train local people of the advantages of using the lonely single line SunRail so they may support more extensive public transport in the future, helping reduce some auto traffic in the area as gridlock woes continue to increase. Then we could keep the unbuilt city property for future uses (or even parks!) when we are sure what we might need to do with the impetus of digital technology and its shifting uses by citizens. I am realistic, so know that there will always be people with economic interests in property trying to get elected or to influence local governments. who affect the use of property. This project seems suspicious since it seems to suit the current groups who’d like to capitalize (intensify) on some existing and potential property developments near 17-92). As a 32 year resident here I have seen this movie before, not always with a benign ending or benevolent agents of change involved.
Last, a question: Am I right to think that at $30 million, each of the approximately 11,000 residence units in Winter Park (according to WP Wikipedia pages) will pay an average of something like $6,000+ each in greater property taxes over the next 20 years (for principal and interest on the loan)—and since ad valorem, the very expensive residences much more and the cheaper-than-average-valued residences less?
I think the current building is too small. The facility is cramped and needs expansion but that costs over 20 million. And I don’t want a bigger building right on the road at the Fairbanks & New England corner, it feels too close to a highway. Fairbanks is whizzing all day and people use the parking lot as a cut thru. I have almost been run over trying to get inside, usually people on cell phones .
My yearly tax increase for this project isn’t terrible. From what I read, it is $50 per 100,000 of taxable value. My home is tax assessed at 319K (market value is higher) so its probably $160 dollars for me. I don’t think that’s so bad. I pay almost as much for one month of cable and phone.
I will vote Yes. I think this is a worthwhile project. I also like that we are taking care of the civic center and adding park improvements.
I agree with others who say that we should think bigger than Park Avenue.
Another thing, I have read the opposition website and I think they are deliberately misleading people and using scare tactics. I also do not see them advocating any sort of plan of their own. All they say is “it can be done” well that is easy to say, but will they work to see it happen? I think they are trying to make themselves look like they are helpful when really they will disappear as soon as the election is over. Very dishonest.
I would like to reply to my own comment to say that there is someone from the opposition who is so nasty and unreasonable posting on the WP Voice FaceBook all the time that I almost can’t stand to see any post by them anymore. Their obnoxiousness has turned me toward a Yes vote more than anything.
First, while I did not attend every task force open forum, I did attend several, asked questions before and after, and attempted to educate myself on all the issues. I concluded the task force was composed of a number of very civic minded, long-term residents of our city who had the best interest of Winter Park at heart. I accept that their recommendations are the result of hard work and good intentions. I also know the people who formed the PAC opposing the library. They are likewise long term, involved and conscientious citizens. I respect their opinions. There are definitely two well reasoned sides to this issue. Before we spend $30 million, it behooves all of us to examine all the issues thoroughly.
Much of this “discussion” is filled with name-calling, and demonizing the other side. Not helpful and ultimately very counterproductive. It gets tedious and people looking for a reasoned discussion quit reading.
Second, an issue that has arisen for me just lately is the plan to build a new civic center. While I have listened – I thought rather carefully- for the year the library has been under discussion, I was never aware the plan including tearing down the Civic Center. . While I think that would result in a more aesthetically pleasing complex, I haven’t heard a good case for why tearing down the current Civic Center makes economic sense. I have been told it is in need of maintenance and/is underused. Neither of those is a particularly compelling argument for me. If it’s true there has been a lack of maintenance, that doesn’t speak well for our city leaders and managers who are asking to be entrusted with $30 million. If it’s under used, why not address the deficiencies and make it more attractive to potential users?
If the bond issue doesn’t pass, I believe the failure to make a good case for building a new Civic Center could be a significant factor for a “no” vote (along with the opposition to the location).
If it does pass, I will certainly support and contribute to the effort to build a first-class complex for our city.
Mrs. Mackinnon I think we would have been better off under your leadership but I am troubled that you think both sides are well-reasoned. I think the opposition is picking and choosing facts and trying to smear the good people who volunteered for the task force. I see who I think are the task force people commenting online and I must say they handle themselves better than I would if someone kept calling me a liar all the time.
I have read the library’s reports and while a lot of it is over my head I trust the process having heard from several of my friends how much work went into it. The other side are only “well-reasoned” insomuch as they don’t seem to know anything about our library or libraries in general. After reading the report I am excited by how much more our library could do.
I see lots of facts from the library and lots of conjecture from the contrarians. When they are able to provide better facts maybe then I will consider them an authority on this.
From my reading it seems the City Commissioners decided to include the civic center after the library presented their case. I can see from the library report pictures that the task force presented a slightly more central location which I did not like, I am glad they put it where the civic center is.
But it is my understanding that the City Commissioners added the civic center part because they wanted to consolidate the buildings so that less park was utilized which I am also glad they did. I am not sure I would have supported this had it been on the other side of the park.
I am in the civic center sometimes and it is an older building you can tell. Our civic center needs better lights, bigger space to hold more people, better technology, and some building changes like maybe being able to see the lake! These are not issues of poor maintenance, many buildings age.
For example I have had to update my kitchen and for many years it was functional but not the best but we didn’t have the money to remodel the whole thing! Was I being neglectful not updating my cabinets or appliances? No I don’t think so. We finally redid our kitchen and it is so much better now I can’t believe how I cooked in the old kitchen!!
Also I read on the library’s FaceBook that people’s library signs are going missing and that’s just despicible. I can’t believe anyone would stoop so low to steal from someones front yard! If that is how the opposition side behaves, I am appalled.
To clarify, Laurel, I think the LEADERSHIP on both sides is well informed and reasonable. Some of their “followers” are exactly the opposite – quite intemperate in their remarks. We should be inspired by ALL Scalia and Ginsburg – polar opposites in their views re the Constitution, but close friends and admirers.
You are right, Mrs. Mackinnon, that is very honorable and we should strive for that. I hope you will keep reminding people to stay civil, you are well-respected in our community.
I am only finding it hard to understand why people are opposing this so strongly but I suppose it is true like you said that some worldviews are built on certain fundamentals with which I will never agree.
Perhaps libraries are a thing of the past for the 1%, but the rest of us in the community need them. Investing in education plants a seed for future success. I’m not political in town or part of any board or group. Just a citizen who is disgusted by the antics of the anti-intellectuals. Also, I really like nice things like park Ave, Hannibal square, and our community in general. We wouldn’t have them now if our predecessors hadn’t invested. I already voted FOR, on my absentee ballot.
Editor’s Note: Inappropriate language has been removed from this comment.
So I’m torn on the library issue. Sometimes rehabbing an old house costs more than just tearing it down and building a new one. I get that. However, when I hear about how there could be bike trails etc. leading from the Park Ave Area and making the Morse Area great and create a great walk-able ride-able pathway from Park Ave to MLK I just have to ask WHO HAS BOUGHT UP ALL THE PROPERTY IN THE SOON TO BE NON-EXISTENT “BLACK” AREA OF WINTER PARK? FOLLOW THE MONEY. That’s what I suspect this is all about. Picking up non-desirable lots in WP and figuring out a way to make it prime real estate. A quick search on the property appraiser and at sunbiz.org and a little sleuthing ought to tell us all we need to know………….