In the “zone”….

It is my hope that the most wise and thoughtful Winter Park citizens will review these circumstances and get involved with this issue.

My last writing on the continuing saga of the post office property ended as follows:

“Please contact [email protected] and tell them to stop the misrepresentations and obfuscation. Tell them if they want to buy the post office they should support a referendum seeking the approval of the voters and stop playing games.”

Well, today’s meeting offered some hope (see below) but confirmed that the current process is replete with misrepresentations and obfuscation, and that games are being played.

Phil Anderson represented that the motion he was putting forth with Beth Dillaha was based on the premise that “no taxpayer funds will be used” and he specifically noted that the value of any land given to the USPS as part of the project would need to be paid for with donations and not with taxpayer funds. However, co-author Beth Dillaha made it clear that she supported donating our land on Denning Drive to the USPS, thereby expending taxpayer funds for the project. Margie Bridges indicated her agreement with Beth Dillaha.

The expected group of park supporters pleaded anew to buy the post office property (without offering any additional monetary support) noting how our descendants will thank us for being so farsighted. These were the exact same people who told us they would raise private donations to pay the costs of terminating the post office redevelopment, which exposed our city to a $25,000,000 liability and was eventually settled for over $4,000,000 in taxpayer funds.

Anderson, Dillaha, and Bridges voted for the motion modified so as to require City Commission approval of a more detailed plan at the next meeting and approval of a fund raising committee at the subsequent meeting. (Bradley and Diebel voted, no.) So, the saga continues, totally disorganized with no clear path.

The most hopeful aspect of the meeting was an initiative by Ken Bradley to change the zoning of the existing post office property back to “Public Use” from “Commercial Use.” The zoning was changed to “Commercial Use” (C2) from “Public Use” (PQP) as part of the original Carlisle development approvals. City Counsel offered a convincing argument that the USPS is unlikely to have a cause for action as a result of down zoning from C2 to PQP given the original PQP zoning and subsequent circumstances.

I wish I had thought this through as Ken Bradley has. Those willing to think will note that changing the post office zoning to PQP lowers the market value of the property and leads eventually to a public use for the property when the USPS disposes of it (“park” anyone?). Further, effective February 2010 without a zoning change the USPS is free to sell their land as C2 zoning to the highest bidder (unless they renew the agreement with the city for another year, but why would they?). The USPS is now in the business of closing 1,000 post offices because technological change is rapidly eroding their revenue. If we change the zoning to PQP and let the current acquisition alternative lapse we will eventually have all the property for public use at public use prices without spending a dime today (our descendants will thank us).

Hmmmmm…

Please contact [email protected] and tell them to think through the rezoning option. Maybe we will find out that we have at least three wise and thoughtful leaders on our City Commission.


15 Responses to In the “zone”….

  1. Anonymous says:

    Pete,
    Under the scenario voted on last night when do we (taxpayers) get our $3.7 mil back? Will it be a part of the eventual sale of the Denning property? But if the Denning property is given to USPS, how is the city (taxpayers) made whole?

  2. The $3.7 million settlement actually cost us $4.0 million because we assumed some liabilities of the developers.

    We paid that $4.0 million out of general fund reserves and we will never get it back.

    Any sale of the Denning property does not repay anything. This is a city asset and is not pledged or restricted in any way that I know.

    If the city ends up giving property to the USPS the only way to be made whole is for contributors to pay. This is one (and not the only) reason the $4.0 million donation number being used by City Commission members is bogus. There is (in addition) another $2.0 million in cash the USPS will want on top of land and buildings to make themselves whole on the existing contract with the city. This was never directly discussed in public.

  3. Bill Walker, Glencoe Road, WP says:

    Peter:
    Generally, yours is a thoughtful and accurate description, both of which are helpful characteristics to a civil discussion of these difficult issues. I listened to the debate on line and thus can attest to the accuracy of your comments.

    Peter, I would prefer you not use demonizing descriptions about those elected officials or others who take positions other than yours. For a man of your intelligence, it is beneath you, and I encourage you to avoid such in the future.

    I join you in affirming the Bradley recommendation as a wise strategy to increase the assets of our city government rather than to deplete them. As usual, the counsel of City Attorney Cheek was quiet, sound and insightful.

    Bill Walker (Senior Counsel with WHWW-of which Trippe Cheek is president)

  4. Bill,

    Thank-you for your comments. I have edited out the gratuitous slam.

    Part of this process for me is learning to accept the reality that those with honest and thoughtful desires to do well for our city are constantly faced with unthinking obstruction.

    I promise to work on this.

  5. Sandy Womble says:

    Mr. Walker, in all due respect, since you’re concerned about our Commission ‘depleting our City assets’, perhaps you and your board could return the City owned parking lot you arranged to be GIVEN to your organization along with the $1 million give by the City to fund the Genius Foundation parking lot a few years ago while your law firm represented both the City and the Foundation. I find it interesting that Park Ave merchants complain there are so few parking spaces when so few use the TOP floor of Park Place – intended for them – for parking.

    While you may not share the same opinion and belief in park space, it would be fruitful to all if we didn’t have this ongoing criticism from the development community and Pete Weldon attacks. Why not reach out and become part of the plan and give up those hurt feelings.

    Paying umbrage to the Genius/Morse family, I would think is very important to you Mr. Walker and it would seem to me, your and the Genius Foundation’s primary mission would be to support any action that would improve and add to their generous 11-acre donation to the City over 100 years ago.

    And finally, I disagree – it’s not beneath Pete – it IS Pete to denigrate others. His ongoing uncivil discourse has been a black mark on the community and has not contributed towards any positive healing or resolution. We should all be involved in more important issues rather than continuing the dissension over a city park.

    I hope we can all come together – even when we may not agree on an issue.

    Pete, who is being the obstructionist here – you may want to look in the mirror.

  6. Sandy will note that I have published her comment denigrating me. Are we “even” now?

    Let’s get on with thinking through the implications of the zoning change idea.

    Sandy, under the zoning change approach future generations get the current post office property for public use without spending anyone’s money today (private donations or the taxpayers). Do you think this is the best approach or do you support buying the current post office property now? If you support buying the current post office property now how much are you willing to contribute? Do you think taxpayer funds should be used to buy the post office property now? If so, how much in taxpayer funds seems appropriate to you?

  7. Bob Hartnett says:

    The “Denning Property” was originally purchased by the City of Winter Park in about 1952 and donated to the State on condition of building a “statte Office Bldg” to enhance the economic development of the city.which the state did. However the then city Attourney failed to insert a reverter clause in the donation deed. When it became apparent that the State was in the procees of closing down the State unemployment and other offices Commision Barbara De Vane and I “hatched ” a plan to regain the property back to the City. I was engaged as the City’s Tallahassee lobbyist and so we prevailed upon the House and Senatemembers to introduce a bill whcih would return the property to the City upon abandonment. It took 2 years and a small payment from the city get return ownership. The intent was to use it as a “temporary city Hall “when the existing City Hall was going to be torndown and re done in a mixed commercial and City use. So it was not intemded to be traded for Post office use. And shouldn’t be now.
    I suggest that the Commision place Parks and
    Rec. personel in the park for a month or two and do head count on an hourly basis and see how much actual use it gets other than Big shows like the W.P.art show and an occasional car show. Then lets see if we need more park for “our grandchildren ,etc.”

  8. Sandy Womble says:

    An earlier post by Pete Weldon forwarded by me to the City Commission for public record:

    “Our very own obsessive cadre of paranoid amateur chess players will never go along with thoughtful judgment. They will insist it is all a plot to redevelop the post office property, then whine and fuss and manipulate, trying to force the purchase of the post office property down our throats at our expense (even though they said, “no taxpayer funds would be used”).

    I rest my case.

    Mr. Hartnett – I certainly appreciate your efforts to regain ownership of the the Morse – Denning property. Thank you.

    For years we as citizens stood by as city parcels were given away to private clubs, millionaire homeowners and nonprofits including the Chamber to make way for the Carlisle. For once a park is going to be expanded for all to enjoy, not just a few special interests. So I think it would be generous and conciliatory for you guys to calm down and try to refrain from so much criticism. Enjoy yourselves, if that’s possible….

  9. Readers will note that I published Sandy’s missive above to validate my characterization of obsessive paranoid amateur chess players.

    Readers will also note that Sandy never answered my questions addressing the real issues (see above).

    For the most obsessed, this park fiasco is about retribution for perceived ills when it should be about common sense and thoughtful judgment. I am certain this pursuit will needlessly continue to polarize our community and cost us millions of dollars. That is why I am against it. I am for parks. The wisest course of action is to change the zoning, wait it out, and move on to other issues.

  10. Pitt Warner says:

    “I am certain this pursuit will needlessly continue to polarize our community and cost us millions of dollars. That is why I am against it. I am for parks. The wisest course of action is to change the zoning, wait it out, and move on to other issues.”

    Amen. A fundraising campaign will only keep this a divisive issue. Let’s talk to experienced developers, commercial bank loan officers and architects about what can be built on the post office site within the context of 2009 zoning (once changed back to quasi-public), lending and building environments. I think this research will provide the pro-park folks with enough comfort to sit back and wait for the market to turn and not burden the property with an unmarketable future. Who knows what WP residents may want in 2020 or 2030? FYI, Park West Condominiums started out as a bank building that was fought by residents. 10 years after that battle, Park West was approved. Is there anyone who says that was a mistake? Sometimes, doing nothing is the best decision.

  11. Michael Schwartz says:

    I have owned and operated Pannullo’s for the past 17 years. I have a direct view of the Park from my front window. A few people walking dogs and not picking up every day. A few kids using the Christmas tree as a bounce house on weekends. Not much more use than that. What happened to that woman who was going to take her money for her big screen T.V. and donate it so the city could cxl the approved Carilse. Wow 4 million in taxpayer money. Did not work out so well. How much did Mayor Strong kick in? I am not for tearing down the park to build a highrise but give me a break. The park is never used and more business will help the city fund fire and police protection. The day is coming when you will need your garden hose to put out a fire in your homes. Good luck to all.

  12. FYI –

    David Strong did not contribute anything to the $4,000,000 of taxpayer money spent to pay off the developers of the Carlisle.

    David Strong pledged $100,000 to the fund he established to pretend to buy the post office property with donations. His mother donated $100,000 to this “park” fund and asked for it back immediately after her son lost the last election.

  13. Michael Schwartz makes a good point. This isn’t a park expansion plan. It’s a stop development plan. The fundraising isn’t “for” anything. It’s “against” a potential building 10, 20 30 years from now. Why on earth would anyone take one of the best pieces of real estate in W.P. and eliminate it from any potential development bargaining by turning it into more park? I’m not saying it needs to be a condo tower, but maiking it a dead piece is short-sighted.

    When the city rezones the property, all control reverts to the voters and elected folks of the future. That doesn’t worry me, but it appears to bother some. Maybe that aspect needs to be discussed.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Pete,
    What’s your take on the new city attorney? I support RFP’s to keep everyone on their toes, but it seems odd to pick #2 on list. And it may be time to switch, but to switch to a firm from Orlando with no WP ties, no history with the town, again seems odd. Is it retribution for Winderweedle being the attorney during the time of real estae craziness? And the cities that are represented by this firm are in my opinion, low class outposts in comparison to WP. Nothing against Winter Springs, or Altamonte but they are inferior. Why would we take their lawyer? What do you think?

  15. I see nothing wrong with changing the law firm representing the City from time to time.

    However, petty nonsense, personal agendas, and vendettas should never be connected with such actions.