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Land Swap is a Positive Deal for You

January 27, 2012

The “no” people are all riled up again.

They want to convince you that the city commission decision to swap the land on Denning for the land on Orange Avenue is something connived by the forces of evil (that is, people who do not share their point of view) in the hope you might vote for Nancy Miles, a candidate with no relevant experience and no history of contributing to our city.

Steve Leary offered another review of this deal in the current political context that I publish below. The bottom line is that a factual comparison of the initial RLF deal and the final CNL deal results in the CNL deal clearly better serving the city’s long term best interest. So, why all the ruckus?

Jack Rogers is the “R” in RLF. Jack says he no longer has any management or financial interest in RLF. His recent letter in the Winter Park/Maitland Observer with his son John offers this insight. They see themselves in “a battle between forces of responsible development, thoughtfulness and preservation and the forces of demolition and replacement with, frequently, out-of-scale and lesser structures, whether commercial or residential.

That is, Jack and John wanted the city to utilize only 60% of the value of the Denning property so the firm with their name on it could be the architects for a renovation of the existing State Office Building rather than tear it down, showing off their commitment to preservation. Your interest as a Winter Park resident is secondary to their presumption of what is “out-of-scale” and a “lesser structure.” Wow!

It is also apparent that Jack and John want their proxies on the city commission so they can tell you what is acceptable on your property “whether commercial or residential.” Wow again!

Politics at its worst.

Time to vote for Ken Bradley.

Regards, Pete Weldon


—–Original Message—–
From: Steven Leary []
Sent: Friday, January 27, 2012 4:03 PM
Subject: SOB Letter Addendum


A few months back I wrote to you to answer some questions as they related to the State Office Building (SOB) transaction.  I had predicted then that…

“The rumors will start and the whisper campaign will proceed, after all it is campaign season.”

Admittedly, this prognostication was not on par with picking the Jets over the Colts in Super Bowl III or the US Olympic Hockey Team over the Soviets in 1980.  It is clear that some supporters of Mayor Bradley’s opponent are attempting to use the SOB deal as this year’s Carlyle, to create discord in our Community.  After all, when you have little to run on (e.g., a record, any relevant experience, a plan, etc…), you create something to RUN AGAINST.  Don’t be surprised if you see a negative postcard in your mailbox this weekend, that does seem to be the standard operating procedure of this group.

I thought I should provide an addendum to my e-mail as one aspect of the transaction was modified prior to finalizing the deal.  We had originally included in the deal, language to allow us the opportunity to abandon Palmetto Avenue which bi-sects the Progress Point (PP) property.  This was stricken from the deal as land and business owners were concerned that closing this street, without providing an alternate North/South passageway, could potentially harm their property and business values.  Three things:

First, by signing the deal as presented, the street would not have automatically closed as some would have you believe.  We would still be required to a minimum of 2 public forums wherein any individual or group could offer input prior to a vote by the City Commission.  But that detail doesn’t fit when you are trying to convince voters that the Mayor doesn’t value community input.

Second, we could close Palmetto Ave and still provide access to all properties via Cypress Ave which has a stoplight on N Orange Ave.  However, we were investigating alternate treatments for continued North/South vehicle traffic so as to allow greater access to the property/business owners.  When this was discussed at the second reading, I personally met with land/business owners to inform them that our Planning Department was developing alternate routes for traffic, most notably alongside the railroad tracks.  This direction was supported for if we combine the two sites, it creates a more developable piece of property, which in turn would raise the value of their land and businesses.

Third, not closing Palmetto does affect the value of Progress Point.  Though not enough so as to negate the overall value of the deal.  There are so many other aspects of this deal, many of which I did not even include in my original calculations.  As I wrote:

There are other considerations such as the expense to demo the State Office Building ($100,000 net value) and the environmental easement ($343,000 value) that I have not even factored in.

The deal is a good deal and does not solely rely on this single aspect to make it so.  Some in our community are desperately trying to enlist people in their cause to rally against this deal.  The attempt to use Palmetto Avenue, property owners and business owners as pawns against a deal, or more specifically against a Mayor, is fairly transparent. 

From my perspective, most of the people that object to this current deal do so on the merits of the deal itself.  Some people just do not like the deal, and I appreciate that perspective.  I don’t believe that we should ever expect 100% acceptance on a transaction the scale of the PP/SOB deal.  However, it seems that many of the same people that supported the RLF proposal are the most vocal opponents of the current deal.

Here are my issues with that:

1.     The RLF deal was valued at $2.5 million in Net Present Value.  The PP/SOB deal is valued at $5.0 million in Net Present Value.

2.     In an attempt to maintain RLF in our core downtown, this Commission unanimously approved a plan with a major property owner to allow for an expansion of RLF’s current space.  This would have more than accommodated their growth projections.

3.     As the RLF deal was being discussed, they had 100 professionals working in Winter Park, not 130.  While saying we lost 130 high-paying positions makes for a better story, it is inaccurate.  RLF’s growth plan was for 130 positions, but in actuality they took 100 employees to Baldwin Park.

4.     In a meeting with city staff in early 2011, RLF senior leadership sought $600,000 to $1,000,000 to remain in Winter Park.  City staff asked RLF to make a formal request to bring forward to the City Commission.  They never did and I can only assume they believed that they would have little support.

5.     There is still plenty of space available to keep RLF in Winter Park. A quick check with city staff can confirm.  As well, we will have a new, 90,000 square foot Class A office building on the SOB site in a very short period.

So to keep RLF we would either have to agree to a lesser deal on the State Office Building leaving almost $2.5 million on the negotiating table, or we would have had to agree to handing over between $600,000 and $1,000,000 in tax payer money to a private company.  Neither of these was in the best interests of Winter Park.  This is not a slight to RLF.  They leveraged the emotional equity of their brand in an effort to secure a better deal for their shareholders.  That is their fiduciary responsibility.  But we too have a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interests of our shareholders, the taxpayers and residents of Winter Park.  I do not have a problem with RLF’s approach whatsoever. 

I do have a problem with others using the RLF/City dealings in an attempt to further their own political agenda.  I cannot see a day wherein Winter Park will ever compete with a struggling neighborhood as Baldwin Park’s commercial/retail center currently is (see Orlando Sentinel article 1/18/2012 Baldwin Park’s Downtown Struggles… ).  Getting more for less is WalMart’s motto, not Winter Park’s. The City Commission moved the best deal to date on the State Office Building and we are already seeing additional benefits:

·         Plans for the DMV site are being developed

·         Plans for the property on the corner of W. Swoope and N. Denning (large parking garage) are being developed

·         We are fielding questions from parties interested in developing Progress Point

·         CNL is in multiple discussions to lease out the space in the new SOB building

If anyone tells you that we did not work to keep RLF in Winter Park, they are either not aware of the efforts, or they are intentionally conveying false information.  Regardless, neither uninformed or disingenuous are qualities that I seek in a public official.

Thank you once again for taking the time to read my note.  One final point, as information is indeed powerful, misinformation can be dangerous.  I will continue to fight to make sure that the truth, in context, gets to you.

Happy 2012, hope to see you all soon.

Best – Steve

Posted in Election 2012, Elections.

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