Re-Thinking Winter Park Historic Preservation

The Historic Preservation Board will be having a work session (no public comment) on Wednesday, June 17 at 6 PM at city hall to discuss the draft ordinance and input from the May 7th public meetings.

Click here to email members of the Historic Preservation Board (HPB) and ask them to re-think the current draft ordinance.

“Especially in politics, any relationship between the effect of policy, the goal of policy and the stated goal is often incidental to the point of randomness.” Holman Jenkins Jr.

In this post I analyze the stated goals, actual goals, and the effects of our current and draft historic preservation policy.

Stated Policy Goals: “It is the policy of the city to promote the educational, cultural, and economic welfare of the public by preserving and protecting historic structures, sites, portions of structures, groups of structures, manmade or natural landscape elements, works of art, or integrated combinations thereof, which serve as visible reminders of the history and cultural heritage of the city, state, or nation.”

Actual Policy Goals: Based on input from supporters of the proposed historic preservation ordinance at the May 7th meetings the actual goals are;

  1. To require you to comply with arbitrary redevelopment requirements from an appointed city board where a majority of neighbors arbitrarily define your neighborhood as “historic.”
  2. To require you to redevelop your home in ways your current neighbors find acceptable (referred to as “neighbor rights”). Keep in mind that we already require objective standards and that the proposed ordinance will subject many more property owners to the arbitrary opinion of an appointed board influenced by neighbor opinion (this has nothing to do with “history”).
  3. Use the force of law to obstruct the demolition and replacement of homes against the will of the owners.

 

Actual Policy Effects:

  1. Both the existing and more so the proposed ordinance chase away viable candidates for voluntary historic designation by requiring arbitrary control of redevelopment and demolition by the Historical Preservation Board. Presuming you loved and wanted to preserve the historic aspects of your home, would you voluntarily turn over your flexibility to redevelop your home to an appointed board who could veto any and every request?
  2. Requests for historic designation have been used to manipulate property values in bankruptcy. See this letter from SunTrust concerning a home put on the Winter Park Register of Historic Places during bankruptcy litigation.
  3. Arbitrary and lax standards are used to approve requests to be listed in the Winter Park Registry of Historic Places and in districts. See these homes currently included in the Virginia Heights East Historic District. Where is the sense of “district” that serves as a visible reminder of our history and culture? What other areas in the city credibly offer an opportunity to have a real sense of “district?”
  4. Property owners with historic status obtain variances to redevelop in ways not available to other property owners and not otherwise available as hardships through the Board of Adjustment. The variance process is arbitrary and results in inconsistent results, some of which impose on neighbors through extraordinary setback variances.  See this example (1520 Glencoe) and this example (500 N. Interlachen).
  5. Districts are created through gerrymandering votes, forcing properties no reasoned person would consider “historic” into the arbitrary Historic Preservation Board review requirements. See this example of the Virginia Heights East district. The originally proposed district was much larger and failed to meet the 67% approval threshold so supporters downsized the district to capture 30 homes where 20 owners had already voted for formation of a district. See these pictures of all the homes on Highland Road within the Virginia Heights East Historic District. Do you see a consistency of design or architectural value across properties that justifies a sense of “district?” Note that only some of the homes on Highland Road are formally “in the district” but that they are all in the same neighborhood. The proposed 50% voting threshold will only enlarge these arbitrary districts and force many more property owners under Historic Preservation Board control (pitting neighbor against neighbor and likely resulting in more law suits against the city).

Where, exactly,  does our actual experience with Winter Park historic districts under the current or proposed ordinance “serve as visible reminders of the history and cultural heritage of the city?”

If we are going to be serious about historic preservation we need much higher standards to define what is truly historic, we need the voluntary cooperation of owners of properties that are truly historic to seek historic designation, and we need to stop trying to compel owners into an arbitrary approval regime for redevelopment and demolition.

Finally, if there are properties people in this city care deeply about then start raising private funds to bid on them when they become available and turn them into public places as has been done with Casa Feliz and Capen House (note that most homes designated “historic” in Winter Park are private – no one can visit without the owner’s permission). If you care about the historic nature of your home do what Anne Saurman did and propose it for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places in addition to the Winter Park Register. These examples are real historic preservation, they are voluntary, and they are constructive.

We should look at the reality and develop a reasoned, voluntary, and constructive historic preservation policy that focuses on quality over quantity.

Regards, Pete Weldon

 


6 Responses to Re-Thinking Winter Park Historic Preservation

  1. Ellie Warner says:

    Small point: I believe 1451 Highland is new construction w/in last 10 years or so. Could be wrong.

  2. Thanks. It appears from the Orange County Appraiser’s web site that 1451 Highland was built in 1998, not 1967 as indicated in the PDF.

  3. sarah sprinkel says:

    We bought 1451 Highland Rd. in 1972 and sold it in 1976. It is definitely a new construction – the Kimbrough’s built a beautiful home on a great lot – but our old home had been featured in Better Homes and Gardens and was a wonderful house.

  4. Ellie Warner says:

    Interesting. While I’m sure Sarah’s home was neat and it would be fun to see the magazine spread, the new construction on that lot is also quite attractive. Nice to have the options and freedom to build a beauty.

  5. Friend of Freedom says:

    Anyone ever tally up the total economic impact this ordinance could cost Winter Park?

    Construction revenue, property tax revenue, legal fees, settlement costs, all the businesses that depend on construction, etc.

    Just today in federal court, our City Commissioners were sued again – this time by those they had arrested under the wacky anti-free speech ordinance they passed.

    Commissioners are hissing away your tax dollars and your liberty.

    Do not re-elect.

  6. Not so long ago says:

    It’s interesting to compare protests/ reactions/ issues. During the Casa Feliz demolition drama, many loud and ugly protests occurred at its former location on Interlachen. If memory serves, a sitting city commissioner actively participated in the very unfriendly targeting of a Winter Park property owner. Nobody in authority rushed to protect that citizen.