It is my hope that the most wise and thoughtful Winter Park citizens will review these circumstances and get involved with this issue.
My last writing on the continuing saga of the post office property ended as follows:
“Please contact MayorandCommissioners@cityofwinterpark.org and tell them to stop the misrepresentations and obfuscation. Tell them if they want to buy the post office they should support a referendum seeking the approval of the voters and stop playing games.”
Well, today’s meeting offered some hope (see below) but confirmed that the current process is replete with misrepresentations and obfuscation, and that games are being played.
Phil Anderson represented that the motion he was putting forth with Beth Dillaha was based on the premise that “no taxpayer funds will be used” and he specifically noted that the value of any land given to the USPS as part of the project would need to be paid for with donations and not with taxpayer funds. However, co-author Beth Dillaha made it clear that she supported donating our land on Denning Drive to the USPS, thereby expending taxpayer funds for the project. Margie Bridges indicated her agreement with Beth Dillaha.
The expected group of park supporters pleaded anew to buy the post office property (without offering any additional monetary support) noting how our descendants will thank us for being so farsighted. These were the exact same people who told us they would raise private donations to pay the costs of terminating the post office redevelopment, which exposed our city to a $25,000,000 liability and was eventually settled for over $4,000,000 in taxpayer funds.
Anderson, Dillaha, and Bridges voted for the motion modified so as to require City Commission approval of a more detailed plan at the next meeting and approval of a fund raising committee at the subsequent meeting. (Bradley and Diebel voted, no.) So, the saga continues, totally disorganized with no clear path.
The most hopeful aspect of the meeting was an initiative by Ken Bradley to change the zoning of the existing post office property back to “Public Use” from “Commercial Use.” The zoning was changed to “Commercial Use” (C2) from “Public Use” (PQP) as part of the original Carlisle development approvals. City Counsel offered a convincing argument that the USPS is unlikely to have a cause for action as a result of down zoning from C2 to PQP given the original PQP zoning and subsequent circumstances.
I wish I had thought this through as Ken Bradley has. Those willing to think will note that changing the post office zoning to PQP lowers the market value of the property and leads eventually to a public use for the property when the USPS disposes of it (“park” anyone?). Further, effective February 2010 without a zoning change the USPS is free to sell their land as C2 zoning to the highest bidder (unless they renew the agreement with the city for another year, but why would they?). The USPS is now in the business of closing 1,000 post offices because technological change is rapidly eroding their revenue. If we change the zoning to PQP and let the current acquisition alternative lapse we will eventually have all the property for public use at public use prices without spending a dime today (our descendants will thank us).
Please contact MayorandCommissioners@cityofwinterpark.org and tell them to think through the rezoning option. Maybe we will find out that we have at least three wise and thoughtful leaders on our City Commission.