What to do about Winter Park’s Infestation of Carpetbaggers?
Open Letter to the Mayor, Commissioners and my Winter Park NeighborsEditor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.
Guest Columnist Todd C. Weaver
Population Threshold is a topic that rarely comes up in conversations about public policy, but it should, and particularly with regard to the proposed 18-unit Planned Urban Residential Development (PURD) on Aloma between Lakemont and Phelps.
What is Population Threshold?
A Population Threshold is the point at which the rate of increase of the per capita cost of public services is more rapid than the rate of increase in population. You’ve likely heard the false narrative that increasing the size of our tax base is good for Winter Park.
In the long run, nothing could be further from the truth.
Taxes Go Up as Thresholds Are Crossed
As population density increases, the cost per capita for public services increases at a faster rate than the population, and any increase in housing density never pays for itself. It gets paid for by increasing taxes on the entire population. Likewise, chances that an increase in the commercial tax base pays for itself are slim to none.
Winter Park boasts a fine staff of experts that oversees the functionality of our city services. These people can tell you that at certain thresholds, city service costs, which are funded by taxpayer dollars, must accommodate increases in development at certain trigger points or “thresholds.”
Hundreds of Miles of Buried Pipe and Conduit
Staff responsible for public works and utilities can tell you that we have hundreds of miles of piping and conduits buried under the City to handle sewage transfer, storm water and potable water. We also have a plan in place to use recycled water for irrigation, requiring more miles of underground piping. The same is true for the electric undergrounding effort, currently underway.
At some population threshold, the carrying capacity (size) of these pipes and conduits must be increased, at a substantial cost to present and future residents and businesses. Streets must be dug up, traffic rerouted, expensive horizontal drilling where traffic cannot be practically diverted, temporary diversions of flows during construction, additional pumping and lift stations, water treatment facilities, increased electric substation equipment . . . and the list goes on.
Public Safety Costs Increase
The cost of Public Safety rises commensurately. The frequency of police calls from high-density, multifamily developments is far greater than those from single family homes and most businesses. This requires increased patrols, call answering and staff. We need more manpower and more sophisticated firefighting and EMT equipment to handle high-density structures as development and population increase.
Increased density brings increased automobile traffic, adding to the nutrient loads draining into our lakes. We must compensate for the increased nutrient load in our waterways with expensive herbicides, increased labor and expensive aquatic equipment to handle tussocks, algae blooms and dredging exacerbated by development. Every time additional pavement or impervious surface is laid, storm water runoff increases, putting us closer to another threshold.
High Density = Variances
The development at Aloma and Lakemont is all too common a scenario. Despite having a Comprehensive Plan and zoning codes in place, a small number of players, who are well aware of the limitations of land use imposed by City regulations, now expect the Planning & Zoning Board and the Commission to roll over and grant their claims for significant variances, zoning changes and other non-compliant requests.
The developer, ANSAKA, LLC, bought four single family lots and one office lot. At the April 9 Commission meeting, the City will be asked to rezone them all — on the primary east-west corridor through the City. When combined, the lots do not meet the 2-acre minimum required by code to build such a development.
Profit Is Not Dependent on Zoning Changes
I’ve developed multiple commercial and residential properties in several Florida counties over the past 20 years. Never once did my company believe it had the right to ask for any variance to local or State codes. We were happy to have the assistance of municipal and county staff to guide us through the maze, and were content with a reasonable profit in every case.
Developers have a right to make a profit — that’s not the argument. What we have now in Winter Park, however, are a few developers who think it’s their right to maximize profits at the expense of Winter Park residents and businesses, and at the expense of our standard of living. These firms are like the carpetbaggers of the Reconstruction South, arriving with an empty bag, staying long enough to fill the bag with money, then leaving the townsfolk to deal with the resulting mess.
Asking Everyone to Use the Same Playbook
All we ask is that everyone play by the same rules — the rules we all agreed to in our Comprehensive Plan and zoning codes.
I respectfully ask the Commission to consider the above facts and logic and do the right thing by holding the line on our Comp Plan and zoning codes in the interest of your current and future constituents.
Todd Weaver is a 22-year resident of Winter Park, and a 45-year resident of central Florida.
After graduating from UCF’s College of Engineering, Weaver spent much of 30 years as an aerospace & mechanical design engineer. He also attended UF Gainesville, taking graduate courses in biochemistry, veterinary medicine and other life sciences. He holds a Florida General Contractor license and has developed several residential and commercial properties.
Three years ago, Weaver and two partners founded a Winter Park-based company, TruGrit Traction, which has designed and patented a new type of wheel for underground pipe-inspection robots. Weaver’s company supplies Winter Park’s Water & Wastewater Utilities Department with wheels for their camera robots, at no charge to the city. TruGrit Traction proudly engineers, manufactures and assembles all products in the USA, with sales in 50 states, Canada and the European Union.
Seems like a reasonable request – same rules for everybody. . On that same note – need anyone be reminded the HUGE mistake on 17-92 by our Maitland neighbors that fell asleep at the wheel while their trusted commissioners played big league ball with huge developers!!!! What a mess! One can hardly wait to see the traffic nightmare once all those building are full of people. Oh wait, it is already a traffic nightmare! Progress – I think not. Best interest of the citizens…..I think not. Pockets lined by big developers…..I think so!
Hello . Could you please provide biographical information on the author as you usually do. . I find this helpful . Thank you
We enjoy Winter Park’s low mileage rate as an extra perk for living in a great small city. Unfortunately Winter Park is very limited on where it can grow. It may need a little “up” if it can’t grow “out”. Without growth, a small city shrinks compared to its neighbors growth. Maitland has made some boneheaded decisions as writer mentions mostly because 17-92 traffic is maximized as is. Otherwise 17-92 would be the obvious location for large scale apartments. Aloma suffers as much or worse than 17-92 and agree that a zoning variance is not warranted at this location. That said, Winter Park needs long range plans for annexation in office & industrial locations for mixed use development to help buoy and protect our residential similar to Maitland’s office Center, which is proving itself a smart long range investment. Winter Park could do same on smaller scale and make it sustainable, unlike our neighbors.
Sorry, but I cannot agree with any further population growth in our little Village, vertical or horizontal.
As the article states, growth for growth’s sake is most often very expensive in terms of infrastructure requirements for the future.
Aloma westbound is already a nightmare at Phelps now….. Just wait…….
Your open letter makes sense, even if it is the opposite position of most NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) proponents. My question is: How can a developer respond to both critics who say “don’t build far out of town, as that extends utilities unnecessarily.” and to those taking your position that building in the urban center also taxes services and all City residents.” ? Seems as if all this project needs is another lot or two. The existing sngle family homes that abut Aloma Avenue directly have a problem with an environment that is not conducive to serene living. Thanks for your thoughts, though “Carpetbaggers” is too strong a term.
Very thoughtful comments. As a resident in the neighborhood in the quadrant of the proposed project, I appreciate your acknowledgement that bigger is not always better, and reasonable profits can be made with comprehensive consideration for all affected (not solely the builders/developers). Thank you.
I must say that I agree with the writers premise, I think capping our population is fine and I’m sure Todd is correct that infrastructure costs will exceed benefits to growth, if there are any benefits and a village of under 30,000 residents.
Heck we can’t even underground our utilities in less than 20 years? Let’s postpone the $30MM library project and get undergrounding done so that another epic storm or two won’t devastate our community. That’s why we voted for undergrounding in the first place.
Two fallacies: (1) Growth is inevitable; (2) Growth is good. Growth only happens when municipalities LET it happen. Look at Carmel-by-the-Sea in California. They would likely tar and feather any developers who tried to pull the stunts we routinely see approved by our Winter Park City Commission. I an so tired of hearing Pete Weldon – and others – rail about “property rights.” Property rights are the rights that come with the property WHEN YOU PURCHAESE IT. Anyone wising to do something ELSE with their property is dealing with PROPERTY WISHES.
I want to thank Mr Kiamoto for his very succinct definition of what
“property rights” mean. The commission should not be granting
wishes to developers or anyone for that matter.
Give me one example of where Pete Weldon has granted a property owner a variance? You template is smeared with ideology. Clean it off and let’s hear what Pete has approved that you find a “stunt”.
It’s a conspiracy theory to say there are traffic jams in Winter Park.
Those crazy conspiracy theorists will say anything.
Anybody can drive across town in minutes. Just drive around 3:30 in the morning. What’s the big deal? It’s cooler then too.
And don’t start whining, “but there’s nothing open at that time.” That’s a conspiracy theory too. There’s lots open. The hospital is open. The all night Walgreens is open. The streets are open. So just drive your car in the middle of the night and keep your conspiracy theories to yourself..
The carpet baggers are moving on. The residents are reclaiming Winter Park.
The dismal turnout in the 2018 mayor’s election PROVES that Winter Park residents HAVE HAD ENOUGH!!! The low turnout was the battle cry of the residents to RESTORE WINTER PARK! Never has there been fewer votes for mayor of Winter Park – never.
By not voting by the thousands, Winter Park residents voted “NO CONFIDENCE” in the current regime.
Let’s restore Winter Park’s one time greatness, that has been replaced with strip malls, high rises, high density, bars, gridlock traffic, and high taxes!
Winter Park’s charm has left the station and headed to places like Winter Garden, and parts of Lake, Osceola, and Volusia counties. But it’s not too late.
You can be an Operation Restore Winter Park ambassador in your neighborhood! Have your neighbors over and tell them about the vision: RESTORE WINTER PARK. Show them this movie about what Winter Park once was and can be again!
Winter Park can once again be a place where you can drive from one side of the city to the other in less than an hour. Winter Park can once again be a place where residents are more important to the City Commission than real estate developers from out of town. Winter Park can once again be a place when you walk down Park Avenue you already know the people sharing the sidewalk with you. The political system has failed. It’s up to neighbors to make Winter Park great again!
If everyone helps just a little, we cannot fail. Always remember, there are more of us than there are of them.
“Every great journey began with a single step.” Author Unknown
I’ve only been in Winter Park for 25 years but this video from Operation Restore Winter Park is a Chamber of Commerce promotion of our city and all about a mid century message for growth. I’m not sure how it reflects a message about slowing down development. Our population has almost doubled since 1960 and we have many more day tourists so the days of “knowing the people sharing the sidewalk with you” aren’t likely to return. I also don’t believe that the low voter turnout was any kind of indication of “no confidence”. It simply showed that having a mayoral election on a day with no other items on the ballot led a lot of people to not bother. It wish that were not true and that more of our citizens would speak up through the ballot box. All of that being said, while I’m also not sure that this corner is an appropriate place to add this density of residence it is at least not like the huge monstrosities in Maitland.
What the movie shows is a fabulous quality of life in the 1960’s here in Winter Park compared to what it is today. Get in your car and drive around and you can see that the city today is staggering in a cesspool of traffic congestion, out of scale size buildings, and a ridiculously high number of restaurants and retail.
True, in the 1960’s Winter Park was trying to grow. But this isn’t the 1960’s anymore. Winter Park is already busting at the seams. We don’t need to grow. Today it’s the opposite problem. We need to SHRINK. Today, Winter Park is a city wearing clothes FIVE SIZES TOO SMALL for it’s bulging mid section!
And every super size building built that makes Winter Park grow even more makes the beer belly hanging over Winter Park’s belt buckle less attractive by the day.
I tend to agree that this is a terrible traffic route already–and it does remind me of Maitland’s 17-92 corridor. Let’s watch the process very closely and make sure variances are granted only if they don’t effect the issues in this article.
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him… The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself… All progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
George Bernard Shaw
Thank you for sharing this film. WP was still this charming in the 70s through the early 90s.
It was an idyllic place to grow up in; thought it would be a good place to return for retirement, but the traffic and vulgar, oversized development is overwhelming, grating.The ambience is now unpleasant.
WP is a textbook case of some amazing citizens engaged in political struggle with predatory developer capture of a municipal government.
WP residents leading this struggle remind me of the of leaders of one of the best known examples of citizen activism: Jackie Kennedy Onassis and the Municipal Art Society members who led the campaign to save Grand Central Station after the razing of the even more beautiful Penn Station.
In 1975, Jackie wrote this letter to a responsive mayor:
“Dear Mayor Beame…is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud moments, until there is nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future? Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters…”
FYI We were told that in Winter Park after land is zoned R2 apartments can be built on the land without any other approvals. The developer can cut up the sq footage as detached space as long as the detached spaces are joined under one lease to meet the min. units so if the land is zoned R2 residential and the land has a max of 4 units they can build 8 detached spaces with each of the 8 spaces having a bath and kitchenette can be rapped under 4 leases (2 spaces per lease = 4 leases)
Thank you, Todd Weaver, for your well-informed article & for educating readers about Population Thresholds & how they relate to services, population growth, public safety, traffic, the environment & taxes.
A question we should be asking is, with a Comp Plan in place that spells out how we should proceed with development of our once “serene” city, how did this proposal get past the Planning & Zoning Brd. It should have been stopped in its tracks right there. (Does anyone wonder why the good citizens of WP are convinced that there is corruption in the leadership?) That this request was passed by P & Z to proceed to the Commission is unconscionable.
Perhaps we need criteria for serving on P&Z which bars DEVELOPERS from serving on same. There are city planners, architects and other qualified citizens who could serve without the bias of some developers.
And who created the myth that without growth a city becomes stagnant? Growth can exist in many ways without changing the character of a small city. I wonder if cities like Coral Springs, Carmel, CA or Westport, CT feel compelled to increase their density. We should not forget that we have not yet experienced the impact of development already on the books: i.e. Ravaudage or the new library.
Again, Mr Weaver, thank you for your broad perspective & your wisdom.
Winter Park is 9 square miles.
The goal of the politicians is to cram as many people, cars, and building square feet into those 9 square miles as is possible.