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The Revelations of Beth Hall

The following reveals exactly why we must not elect Cynthia Mackinnon as mayor and exactly why we must elect Steve Leary as mayor.

This post responds to Beth Hall’s views as expressed in a comment on this blog. Beth goes into great detail about her concerns and in doing so offers our city an opportunity to discuss context so that we are all working off the same set of facts.

Beth Hall says;

Sometimes, rightly or wrongly, candidates for office pay the price for the sins of their forbearers. Witness the outcome of the recent mid-term elections at the national level. Similarly, witness the dismay in some quarters that anyone named “Bush” or “Clinton” would dare run for President. I would posit that what we have seen in our lovely Winter Park is the building- or the proposal to build- structures or features that are decidedly too large, too massive or too intrusive to be appropriate for this village we all love. Examples are Paseo, Lakeside, Ravaudage and the baseball stadium. Only the latter has failed to become reality. Yet.

We need to take the examples Beth offers one at a time as each is unique.

I suggest reading these posts to understand the development realities the city must live within:

Paseo – I agree with Beth on the size of the Paseo project. I do not support any more R4 apartment only projects in Winter Park excepting those already entitled in Ravaudage. The reality of Leary’s involvement was to approve, along with 3 other commission members, the entitlements that were granted to and grandfathered for this property in 2006, avoiding legal action by the property owner. To my knowledge there is currently no other land zoned R4 High Density Residential or larger in Winter Park except in Ravaudage and I trust Leary not to support any new R4 apartment projects unless West of 17-92.

Lakeside – The zoning entitled the owner to build an 80,000 square foot, four story office building with 320 surface parking spaces. He instead built a less than 40,000 square foot, single story retail center with parking that (after many issues) exceeds code. The city can only deny projects built within the code if it is prepared to pay the property owner for the loss of value imposed by denial using taxpayer dollars.

Ravaudage – The only control Winter Park has over Ravaudage is to adhere to the entitlements that came with the property when the 50+ acre project was annexed into Winter Park in November 2012. We would not even have this little bit of control if we had not annexed it. If the city had not annexed this acreage Maitland would have annexed it or Orange County would have kept it. In either such case Winter Park would have had zero influence over what was developed and Winter Park would have received zero tax benefits from properties on our border but not in Winter Park. It would have been absolutely crazy not to annex this property with the entitlements established for it from Orange County.

Is there anyone among us who does not see that large scale development means that traffic on 17-92, Fairbanks and Lee Road will be even worse than the current gridlock, if such a thing is possible? (And if you don’t think there is gridlock, get out there and drive!) Once Paseo is fully leased up and that many additional vehicles (200 cars? 300? 400?) clog ingress and egress roads, it is possible that Denning and Canton will join the “roads from hell” category. Remember that Paseo comprises 200 units: 16 of which have three bedrooms and 69 of which have 2 bedrooms.

Beth’s concerns about traffic are simply false. The vast majority of the current and future traffic volume in Winter Park has nothing to do with new Winter Park residents. The traffic comes mostly from the 2,000,000 people that surround Winter Park whether visiting Winter Park or passing through. We cannot materially impact traffic unless FDOT allows Winter Park to control Fairbanks and 17-92, which after numerous efforts we know will not happen (although the city continues to try).

The Lee Road punch through opposed by affected residents but supported by Leary will only add to traffic woes. Even now, it currently takes me 15 minutes or more to reach I-4…no matter how I approach it… from my home less than 4 miles away in Winter Park. Add the Ultimate I-4 project’s impacts to our self-inflicted wounds and you have a recipe for traffic disaster. 

I have measured my time to get from Via Lombardy to Par on I4 for 25 years and it has always been about 15 minutes regardless of route. I am confident that the change in the Lee Road pass through to Webster will significantly relieve congestion on 17-92 while not having material adverse impacts on cut-through traffic through Winter Park on Webster. The realignment was approved by the commission 4-1. Beth’s language presents a sentiment that is unsupported. I don’t know what “disaster” means.

A comp plan (or zoning) which allows the gigantic Paseo, or the Lakeside plaza with its inadequate parking, or a baseball stadium just off of Fairbanks… is not a sane or sound plan. Variances or up zoning which aid and abet such projects are hazardous to our quality of life.

It is critical that Beth and all Winter Park residents understand that OUR CURRENT COMP PLAN ALLOWS FOR ALL THESE DEVELOPMENTS AND THAT NEITHER PASEO NOR LAKESIDE RECEIVED UPZONING OR MATERIAL VARIANCES. Where a project meets existing or grandfathered zoning the city has VERY LITTLE influence, just as the city cannot tell you what kind of home to build if your plans meet the residential zoning code. IT IS A PIPEDREAM to assume you can take zoning rights away from property owners. We can influence some changes but if we deny approval of entitlements you can be sure owners will sue the city and that doing so will be expensive.

With plans underway for a “Visioning” process to take place soon- a visioning that will necessarily inform future development and/or a future comp plan- I am concerned that we may see more of the same types of things which we have all recently seen.

Beth’s perspective here is fascinating in that it clearly reveals the intent of those opposed to development. The visioning process, a process initiated by the commission in response to the “no density” uproar of last summer, responding to a clamour for more citizen input before changing our comp plan, is seen by Beth as a mechanism for justifying changing what she already doesn’t like for what she presumes she will like even less. Beth’s suspicion here confirms that she doesn’t want the people of Winter Park to work through these issues together, she just wants nothing to be developed or developed how SHE would like it without regard to existing zoning rights.

Leary or Mackinnon. Whose vision more closely matches my own? I have to ask this question when I cast my vote for mayor. Steve Leary overtly states that he is proud of the development built in the last few years and of his voting record. Moreover, he is a supporter of Bellows’ projects. He has recently voted to allow parts of the Ravaudage development to be built closer to Lee Road than city regulations would permit. He told me the difference was so minor it was not significant. He also voted for up zoning on the property adjacent to the Winter Park Wedding Chapel at Bellows’ request. (See City Commission vote on 2-25-13 to increase R-1 to R-2 specifically. See “Bellows persuades. Sprinkel Switches. A neighborhood changes. Link is: )

Beth’s insinuation that Leary “is a supporter of Bellows’ projects” continues an irresponsible narrative about Bellows and his influence on commission decisions. The zoning change from single family to R2 should only be controversial with those obsessed with never changing anything. This property abuts the railroad track, the block in question had been mostly vacant for years, and the scale of the construction as two story multi family does not conflict with the single family zoning across the street (go look at it yourself, Lyman West of New York). Further, Beth might consider that this R2 residential development locks in this zoning for 50-100 years, precluding even more intense development near our downtown core that may be seen as acceptable by a future commission (but not me).

Also, Leary was in favor of excluding parking garages from calculation of the FAR “before he was against it” in the span of a few minutes at a commission meeting. See the WPM Observer story dated May 7, 2014. (Will he flip back to being “for” this if elected? Would he have voted for it if Bradley actually been present at the meeting to provide some cover on this vote as well? Answers unknown.)

Beth should clarify that the proposal to remove parking garages from FAR only applied to Planned Development zoning. Overall building size is primarily a function of the intended mix of uses (office, retail, condo, restaurant, etc.) that define parking requirements and the other constraints of allowable height, building coverage, impervious coverage, and setback requirements. Accordingly, the overall size of a project where a parking garage was not included in the FAR limitation would not necessarily be larger than that currently allowed by our R4 zoning rules, or in any case, would not be materially larger.

Moreover, Steve Leary acquired the Thomas Lumber Property on Orange Avenue with partners and then voted on a development issue before the commission that affected that very property. Yes, he obtained an ethics opinion prior to the vote which said he need not recuse himself from that vote… even though it affected his interest in the property favorably. Still, would it not have been taking the high road for him to recuse himself from the vote thus avoiding “even the appearance of impropriety”?

Beth is totally off base here, offering insinuations that do not respect either the legal or factual reality. The only vote taken on the “development issue” Beth refers to (Rollins/Manatee baseball stadium) was to instruct the city manager to study the concept, various possible locations, and funding sources. Further, FLORIDA LAW REQUIRES LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIALS TO VOTE ON ALL MATTERS WHERE THEY DO NOT HAVE A CONFLICT OF INTEREST. Given that Leary went to the extent of clarifying with the state ethics office whether a conflict of interest existed, HE WAS LEGALLY REQUIRED TO VOTE. Another piece of relevant information is that Leary stated repeatedly while the evaluation was proceeding that the location that could make the most sense if everything came together (and it did not) was the Ravaudage development, NOT the Rollins property near Thomas Lumber.

The horror of a lot of Winter Park residents at what they have seen come to pass as well as all that which has been merely proposed, makes many wary of anyone who has been seated on the dais during the approval process or even the building of the aforementioned projects. Who is minding the store? Who will protect gracious, lovely WP?

 Those who wish to vote purely on fear and misunderstanding have a right to do so.

Yes, the developer of Lakeside Plaza (Unicorp) is going to build on the Mt. Vernon site and add more parking to bail out his own parking challenged Lakeside. But what if there was not another developable parcel nearby to add some desperately needed, though remote, parking spots? And what if he hadn’t been able to procure the Mt. Vernon site? Or what if he had not come up with a plan that made said procurement profitable enough for him? Is the solution to a parking disaster at one development always to secure another nearby development site to cure it? Acting first and thinking it through later is not a workable plan.

Beth does not have her facts straight. When the initial off site parking site plan was abandoned by the developer THE CITY WITHHELD THE CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY ON THE 7,000 SQUARE FOOT BUILDING THAT WAS THE SUBJECT OF THE OFF SITE PARKING APPROVAL. The builder would have not been able to lease that 7,000 if sufficient additional parking was not provided.

Voters in WP may just send a message that they are fed up and do not want another Carlisle debacle or another Lakeside or a Paseo. Can one say that these voters are wrong? Or do they simply want to have a city government that will listen to them? Development and its appropriate scale is a major issue. Obviously.

Query: Ought the comp plan be changed to prevent just these types of massive or intrusive projects? If so, Leary’s own statements, his history, and his voting record cause me to question whether he shares my concerns. For this reason I will vote for Mackinnon.

Beth Hall

Beth’s closing confirms that she and many other residents who have been wound up in a knot about development do not understand the consequences of what they want. Equating the Carlisle with Lakeside or Paseo is hardly appropriate except to point out that where the city denies or repeals permits to build what is legally allowed within the code the taxpayers will pay a steep price. The liability the city faced by refusing to issue the Carlisle permit was $25,000,000 and the city was forced to settle for $4,000,000, wiping out our reserves at the time.

Beth’s views are dangerous for Winter Park. Beth is never going the believe me, but I hope she and others with similar views make an effort to educate themselves about our zoning rules and the related legal issues. We will never be able to have a constructive discussion about development as a community unless we all understand the factual context within which we must live.

See clearly. Vote wisely.

Regards, Pete Weldon

Posted in Election 2015.

4 Responses

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  1. Ed Sabori says

    I spoke to Beth right after the Library debate today and we touched on many of the issues you addressed. And while my comments were no where near as detailed or as well constructed as yours, I found Beth to be very willing to listen. I was especially impressed by her saying that, ” you can’t believe everything you read in the newspapers or word of mouth, which is why doing your research is so important.” I don’t expect she will change her vote, but I think she will read your comments in the manner in which they were intended.

  2. Beth Hall says

    As your guest on this blog (all comments are moderated), I truly appreciate the chance to share my well informed, personal views. While you and I do not happen to agree on most aspects of my post, I respect that you are equally entitled to your views. More so since it’s your blog!
    Having lived in WP since 1960, my love for and my feelings about the city are strong. Last I checked I was still in possession of all of my faculties. Reasonable minds can, and do, differ on what is appropriate for Winter Park. As Ed points out he and I had a long conversation yesterday after the library debate. We agreed on some things, respectfully disagreed on others, and still parted friends. Steve Leary and Lauren Rowe joined us at various points during our talk. Rowe did an outstanding job as moderator and I hope we have her again. Leary was earnest and determined when we spoke. He was apologetic for not getting back to me on something I had e-mailed him about. To be fair, Cynthia Mackinnon also did not respond questions which I directed to her.

    One thing Ed and I agreed upon is that these candidate forums ought to be held in larger venues, such as the Rachel Murrah Civic Center. People want to hear and see the candidates. Standing room only crowds have been the norm this go ‘round. Would everyone like a seat? I am betting the answer is yes.

    Here is my main point of departure with you. Apparently, you believe that if we all only knew everything that you know about everything, we would all agree with you …and Steve Leary would be every single voter’s choice for mayor with the exception perhaps of Alex Mackinnon and the extended Mackinnon family -whom I presume would vote more based on family affiliation and affection.
    My post was intended to convey that voters in WP have different visions of what is right for Winter Park.
    Each voter has a right to select the mayoral candidate who most closely articulates his or her vision. Like you, some may see development as an indomitable juggernaut over which we as citizens are powerless due to current zoning laws, the Bert Harris Act, or the march of “progress”. Me? I do not feel powerless and I will not choose to be silent when it comes to opposing FUTURE oversize, denser projects in the city, just as I have opposed them in the past. Lots of other voters’ voices will be expressed only through the casting of a ballot. Who will win? I do not know.
    If you will, permit me a few remarks in response, Pete…

    Traffic? Happily, each voter’s own observations will inform that voter’s opinion on the issue of traffic on our roads. If daily experience and one’s own empirical observations tell you traffic is lighter than it has been in the past (and as it has been suggested that hard DOT data proves) or your own travels tell you that traffic is no problem now, then you may well be very comfortable with more large scale, higher density FUTURE development on a scale such as the Paseo or Ravaudage. Common sense dictates that traffic consequences will accompany large developments like the aforementioned. I gotta say no matter how many people tell me I am not stitting in traffic too much or that I do not spend an inordinate amount of time to get anywhere, or if they tell me that many more cars on the roads will not matter, I am not convinced. Judging from the debates, Greg Seidel seems to have reached a similar conclusion about WP traffic woes. He even has concrete suggestions for things that could help. Synchronizing traffic signals with help from the DOT for one. I hope no one clues him in that misguided people like me only “think” there is more traffic; that it’s actually getting better all the time! I would like to see his suggestions implemented.
    As for the baseball stadium that was “only being studied” – I suppose concerned WP residents could have remained vigilant, but SILENT,until firm plans were in place and
    vote(s) with far reaching, permanent consequences were at hand. But would that not have entailed expenditure of a lot more man hours on the part of many people as well as a significant expense to explore something that held little allure for most WP residents? As it was, a sports team was disappointed and residents in the paths of projected sites and beyond were caused to be alarmed. Was money spent in the exploration? How much? Citizen opposition was fierce, Rollins reacted accordingly, and the idea had a wooden stake driven through its heart. City residents have learned the hard way that they cannot assume that the city commission will divine their apprehensions. They have to speak up.

    Further, I AM opposed to the upzoning to which you maintain no rational person could be opposed. I do not believe I am non compos mentis. The upzoning next to the wedding chapel is just one easy example. It was also one that specifically involved Bellows. It also was posted to you tube for all to view if they so desire. Single family sites on the west side should be preserved, not plundered. Ken Bradley’s stated stance of “I hate the smell of vacant land” is not a sound guide to land use planning. Winter Park is not so desperate for tax revenue that we have to sell our souls to get it.
    As for the Bert Harris Act. Yes, I am aware of it. More importantly so is my choice for mayor. Despite suggestions in debates or elsewhere that Cynthia Mackinnon does not comprehend the almighty, the far reaching, the intractable Bert Harris Act or its impacts and that, if elected, her ignorance and utter recklessness would place the city in grave financial jeopardy, my views are rather different. My position is this: When it comes to interpretation of Florida statutory provisions and the real life application of applicable laws, a capable lawyer with decades of experience not only with a highly reputable law firm but later as a sitting circuit court judge, would certainly be head and shoulders above any competition without these qualifications. If I were playing Final Jeopardy and the answer was “This 2015 WP mayoral candidate has the background , training and experience to most ably steer the city when it comes to matters of law and jurisprudence, including the Bert Harris Act”; I’d wager it all and my response would be “Who is Cynthia Mackinnon?”. She probably could advise the City Attorney on many legal matters if need be. Moreover, equanimity seems to me to be her middle name.

    My views dangerous? Hardly. A view that the commission or we citizens are powerless over the city’s present and future course is much more dangerous. A view that only ignorant citizens could oppose Leary on multiple fronts is also faulty. Reasonable minds can differ on the right choice for mayor. My own well informed choice is Mackinnon.

    • Ed Sabori says

      I think if there were more well thought out dialog exchanges as demonstrated between you and Pete, I for one would feel more comfortable that the best interests of Winter Park were being considered versus a “don’t confuse me with the facts, I’ve already made up my mind” attitude too often seen in neighborhoods such as mine. As you and I discussed, having an ordinance that would deny the placing of yard signs altogether would go a long way toward helping to cool the divisiveness between neighbors, unfortunately, it would also violate the First Amendment. So the next best answer IS more dialog/debates as you suggest at the Murrah Civic Center. More face-to-face discussions instead of political mailers or signs should set the standard for how we determine which candidate to vote for.

  3. Pete Weldon says

    Beth, thankyou for re-explaining your views.

    Your loyalty to Cindy is laudable. However, the facts dispute the extent to which you are well informed. Nothing personal intended.

    Cindy allowed herself to get all wound up as you are about development projects the city was not in a position to deny. These projects would have been approved by Cindy because her only other choice would have been to spend hundred of thousands of dollars of our money on legal fees arguing that they are “incompatible” when they are not, and then back down or agree to millions of dollars in settlement costs.

    Don’t fret. If Leary is elected you will get the same balanced and productive results we have seen for the past four years.

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