TO: Mayor, Commissioners, and Fellow Citizens
FROM: Pete Weldon, 700 Via Lombardy
- I support neither unfettered private property rights nor unfettered government rights.
- The only property in Winter Park in which I have any interest is our family home.
- I continue to believe that the best city in Florida needs rational, experienced, and professional leadership.
Our City Commission will be having a “listening session” during their regular 3:30 PM meeting this coming Monday, October 26, 2009 on the subject of building codes unanimously approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) on August 18, 2009. Four members of P&Z voted to recommend these codes to the City Commission: Drew Krecicki, Rick Swisher, Michael Dick, and Carolyn Cooper. The fifth P&Z member, Sara Whiting, did not attend the August 18, 2009 meeting.
Our City Commission should “listen” to this:
It is time to appoint a new slate of citizens to P&Z.
I, more than most people (I think), appreciate the time our current P&Z members have put in authoring the Comprehensive Plan and related Zoning Codes. However, given the results, it is clear that this work does not serve or represent the interests of the City of Winter Park, our 28,000 residents, 11,500 property owners, 14,000 households, or 17,000 voters; but rather, serves only the personal preferences and political dogma of the people making up the rules.
Current members of P&Z are responsible for a Comprehensive Plan that effectively lowers the value of hundreds of million dollars of downtown Winter Park real estate and also limits opportunities for all commercial and multi-unit residential property throughout the city without any justification (except that they have the power to do so). The Comprehensive Plan and these proposed zoning code changes further restrict floor area, building heights, setbacks, and impervious coverage. Many pre-existing limits have been in place since 1971, some the 1990’s, and some from the early 2000s; a long period of time during which our city and commercial core have largely prospered and our quality of life has improved. What is the justification for the increased limitations? There is none.
P&Z members now recommend commercial and multi-unit residential building codes throughout Winter Park that further erode property values and redevelopment opportunities by increasing setbacks and reducing heights, among other new restrictions. These newly proposed restrictions have no basis in experience or reality. No member of the current P&Z Commission has offered any rational social or economic justification, nor considered the consequences of these changes.
Under the general category of “Development Standards” proposed code changes from P&Z members grant the City Commission what can only be interpreted as arbitrary unilateral authority to “limit and restrict the achievable floor area.” This applies to all commercial and multi-unit residential building codes, not to single family codes. Think about this a minute. What if you wanted to build a new single family home and the City Commission could step in at any time and deny you the floor area otherwise written into the code after you have invested considerable energy and dollars planning your new home? In such circumstances common sense (remember that?) would tell you to build your home someplace other than Winter Park. That is exactly what has happened to our commercial and multi-unit residential opportunities under the current Comprehensive Plan, and these proposed building codes will only further erode these opportunities. People will invest elsewhere and the value of Winter Park property will decline. Perhaps this is the unspoken objective of the current P&Z members? The wise observer might ask, “To what do we owe this blatant discrimination to the detriment of legitimate interests of commercial property owners?”
This consistent, grotesque over reaching and unsupportable dogma has reached the point of no return, the point where polite discussion does not elicit rational response.
These policies and priorities are wrong for Winter Park and dangerously undermine our ability to finance our quality of life.
My objection to this unrepresentative imposition of personal preference and political dogma on all Winter Park property owners and citizens (directly and indirectly) is not an endorsement of big ugly buildings with parking garages. My objection is founded in a clear need to populate our city boards with rational, experienced, and professional citizens. Citizens with the foresight and judgment to promote land use and related codes that balance interests so as to attract quality reinvestment in our city; reinvestment that will complement the character and quality of Winter Park while contributing new revenue to sustain our roads, our parks, our trees, our lakes, our public safety; our quality of life.