Another $15,000,000 Down the Drain?

The current commission is not only spending our money unwisely (see links below), they are also devaluing city property while adding to our tax burden.

We don’t know the market value of these properties as the commission has declined to seek formal appraisals and failed to invite private interest in these properties. The best information we have is the estimated market value from the Orange County Appraiser, who (based on current zoning) estimates Progress Point is worth $4.8 million, that the former library site is worth $4 million, and that the city hall site is worth $6.2 million.

So, what does the commission have in mind for these properties totaling 8.5 acres with a likely combined private market value in excess of $15 million?

Progress Point – The commission has already spent over $200,000 on consultants and has approved over $2 million in additional tax dollars to construct a park on approximately 1.5 of the 4 acres. They have no specific plans for the balance of the property but continue to discuss a parking structure built at taxpayer expense.

Former Library Site – The recommendation of the Library Reuse Task Force was to use the building as a permanent or temporary city hall, creating future opportunities for the current city hall site. The commission, however, is going in the direction of using the old library building for “collaborative spaces” and arts and culture, and other civic uses that are ill defined and place a new cost burden on Winter Park taxpayers for building improvements, maintenance, and staffing for these uses.

City Hall Site – The commission is pursuing a formal historical designation for the existing city hall building to severely limit future changes. They intend to prevent redevelopment of the city hall site.

This commission has chosen to limit all this land to civic uses supported at taxpayer expense, when clear opportunities exist to leverage the land value for both the financial and civic benefit of Winter Park residents. That is, the commission is rejecting the opportunity to create civic amenities paid for by private interests that generate additional tax revenue. Instead, they embrace uses driven by personal notions rather than market demand, all to be paid for with our taxes.

We could easily define compatible development for Progress Point along with a significant green space requirement under a long term land lease and ask private parties to bid, eliminating the cost of improving and maintaining this land while generating new tax revenue.

We could readily convert the former library building for use as city hall and have the conversion cost more than paid for by a long term land lease on the current city hall site, subject to compatible development rules. Such rules, for example, could retain the existing green space on Park Ave while mirroring the terraced buildings across Park Avenue, adding new retail, restaurant, residential, and parking amenities private developers would pay for along with significant new property tax revenue.

The magnitude of our problem becomes especially clear when we consider the $15 million pursuit of the post office property, wasteful spending of the $15 million in Federal “Rescue” act money, along with this abandonment of private investment opportunities on the $15+ million of properties we already own.

Please contact the commission and ask them to reverse course.

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