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Improving Winter Park Historic Preservation

As I have noted in previous writing (here and here), historic preservation policy for private properties in Winter Park needs to offer meaningful incentives and be less threatening to encourage voluntary participation.

Current policy and the proposed draft both compel private owners into compliance with a deeply flawed “historic district” policy. Current policy requires a 66+% vote of neighbors to compel participation of 100% of properties within a proposed district. The draft policy proposes to reduce this threshold to 50+% resulting in even more likely neighborhood fights and related legal action.

When a critical mass of our 8,500 single family property owners find out about this 50% threshold the policy will result in political push back with new people running for city commission to reverse such a policy if enacted. There is no value in neighborhood fights, legal battles, or political turmoil in Winter Park.

So, what do we do to increase the quality and meaningfulness of historic preservation in Winter Park?

Here are some specific ideas:

  • Replace the ability of the HPB to arbitrarily grant variances with a simple incentive of 5% increased floor area ratio when properties are improved/redeveloped (thanks to George Wiggins for this concept). Historic properties will still have to meet other boundary conditions such as height, setback, and impervious coverage limits.

This change will assure property owners that planned improvements to their “historic” home can take advantage of available floor area at least on an equal basis with non-“historic” homes, and that they can benefit from increased floor area by designating their home historic.

Removing variance approvals by HBP will avoid the current practice of granting variances simply to get another home listed as “historic” at the expense of arbitrary variances imposing on neighboring homes. All variances should remain with the Board of Adjustments subject to existing hardship rules.

  • Limit the authority of HPB review and approval to street facing fa├žades.

Private homes are exactly that, private, meaning no one can visit the home without permission of the owner. Therefore, the only community value of a private home designated “historic” is what is seen from the street. While owners of historically designated properties will likely seek to preserve interior layouts and materials such details are not within the city’s purview other than to enforce building codes equally applicable to all properties.

  • Add a new R1H zoning class for properties included both on the Winter Park Registry of Historic Places and on the National Register of Historic Places to encourage national registration. This residential zoning class would allow for limited public tours at the owner’s discretion coordinated with the city, have a unique identifying plaque paid for by the city, and have special recognition in city documents and media materials (among perhaps other benefits, ideas?).
  • Make all designations whether “historic” or “contributing” voluntary on the part of the property owner.

The character and quality of historic preservation in Winter Park will improve under policies that are voluntary, and that invite participation with meaningful incentives and regulatory limits respecting the private nature of the property.

Let’s vet these ideas and ideas from others to improve historic preservation in Winter Park on a voluntary basis.

Regards, Pete Weldon

Posted in Development, Districts, Policy.

4 Responses

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  1. George Schiele says

    An excellent common-sense approach to the question.

    It would be helpful if all those with radical ideas about Historic Preservation would take the time to read and consider the Weldon suggestions. It is even more in all our interests to avoid imposing a heavy bureaucratic hand on what is for most our largest asset, as it is to hope to preserve those relatively few genuinely Historic structures in Winter Park.

    It is easy to impose the unpredictable heavy hand of government on our lives and all-Hell-to-pay to relieve the pressure when it descends on us.

  2. Civility says

    This is a very gentlemanly and generous proposal. And all should support the Weldon plan. Unfortunately, I expect it will be trampled on and desecrated with the same kind of thuggery that brought about the proposed ordinance.

    And that’s a shame.

    Well reasoned, cool headed thinking is no longer in vogue in Winter Park. Instead, reactionary, mean spirited, deception rules the day. I don’t know who started it. But it has to stop. Commissioners have been stealing everything in sight when it comes to residents rights for the past three years. So it comes as no surprise to some of us that property rights is their next “grab.” Unless they have the “Vision” to give us back what rights they have already stolen from us and vow to keep their hands in their own pockets going forward, we absolutely will be looking at a newly elected City Commission in 2016.

  3. Pitt Warner says

    I was going to provide the HPB with my suggestions for a revised HP ordinance similar to what the volunteer group submitted. But you’ve done all the work! Your suggestions are a great start to what should be a positive, friendly step towards a revised ordinance. Why does WP have to mimic Gainesville, Sarasota or St. Pete? Let’s do this the WP way!

  4. Beth Murray says

    I totally agree with Pete Weldon”s fair plan . In my neighborhood there is one historic house.
    The oldest house in WP and is protected. It is terrible condition with code violations galore.
    If our beautiful WP were to adhere to this level of repair and yard maintenance we would live
    in a very horrible city. The owners keep it this way because that is the way the yard was
    in 1884. And that is what I think of HP!

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