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A Few Trees, Lots of Concrete, Little Expanded Park, Lots of Your Money

Views expressed here are mine and should not be construed as the views of other members of the city commission, or of the city.

The editor of Winter Park Voice, Anne Mooney, has stopped her pretense of providing “news” and has gone public with her true purpose, that being to use her blog and Facebook page to promote her policy prescriptions for Winter Park. Notably, these prescriptions are underpinned by conspiracy theories and based not on fact, but on suspicion that those who actually spend their time serving the city must have some unjust ulterior motive, because they don’t share her views.

I am going “full monty” on this because the people of Winter Park deserve to understand the manipulation. I expect, and believe you deserve, city policy driven by full and thoughtful debate, not driven by political manipulation from people for whom a political agenda supersedes respect for the facts and respect for those who serve our community.

Ms. Mooney’s latest piece exposes her efforts as a significant disservice to Winter Park.

Please read: “Keep the Bowling Alley Property – Expand MLK Park,” and then return here for some facts:

“Final Decision June 12” is false. While the commission will vote on the terms of a formal “Notice of Disposal” and there may not be agreement, a sale will not be “final.” Presuming the “Notice of Disposal” is approved, bids for the property will be sought. There is no certainty the commission will vote to accept any bid that may be offered, and the sale of the property will not be “final” until such time.

“Bowling Alley Background” is false. The Rollins purchase of the bowling alley property was to provide for contemplated lacrosse practice fields and had nothing to do with their baseball considerations of several years ago (while irrelevant, I guess it makes for a nice convoluted conspiracy). A glaring omission in the “background” is that, when agreeing to purchase the property in 2016, the commission specifically denied use of existing park acquisition funds as they did not want to commit to use the property as park space.

“People Want Trees & Grass – They’re Being Ignored” is false and grossly unfair. To state that “the comprehensive Plan underwent its seven-year cycle of massage and manipulation” is cynical and grossly unfair to city staff, board members, and commission members who spent endless hours working to make it better and to reflect the vision statement. That these documents and priorities fail Ms. Mooney’s test of legitimacy speaks volumes about her suitability as a community commentator. Also of interest is that city staff proposed using the bowling alley property for basketball courts and parking, hardly more “trees and grass.”

“Well, Part of MLK Needs a Plan” misrepresents the facts, again in an unwarranted effort by Mooney to sow suspicion. From where I sit, the engagement of GAI for an MLK park plan was premature and should have been coordinated with the library project. This was a management failure and was not related in any way to the decision to put the bowling alley property on the market.

“Why Sell the Bowling Alley?” selectively distorts my views (listen to the entire video). Here are the actual notes I made for that meeting that are spoken in the video:

Pete Weldon notes for 4/1/2017 CRA/Commission Work Session

$1,762,000 is in the CRA 2017 and 2018 fiscal year budgets for a New York Avenue streetscape project.

If we suspend this project indefinitely, we can expect $2.8 million in available CRA cash accumulated through fiscal year 2018, given current budget projections. These funds will then be available to fund tangible and functional investments within the CRA such as electric undergrounding, street trees, MLK park improvements, the library parking structure, a parking structure downtown, and potential long term buy out of the USPS property.

Can we agree that this project should be put off in favor of projects that offer greater tangible value for our residents?

I would like to see if we can get agreement to sell the Fairbanks property after taking right of way to widen Fairbanks. If we have agreement, let’s see if we can agree of the use of the proceeds from such a sale.

My current view is that we should allocate a prospective $3 million sales price as follows:

  1. $500,000 dedicated to park improvements over and above the current level of annual spending.
  2. $1,500,000 added back to general fund reserves.
  3. The CRA portion, $1 million, dedicated to fund a third story on the library parking structure to provide additional parking for MLK park.

These amounts would be pro-rated based on the actual sales proceeds.

Making these decisions now (postponing the New York streetscape project and selling the bowling alley property) provides funding to make tangible and immediate functional improvements within the CRA, while getting our general fund reserves closer to our policy goal.

The suggestion to add a level to the library parking structure was to point out that we could provide for the same parking use suggested for the bowling alley property, by adding a deck to the parking structure we know we are going to build, and that we could do this for half or less the money tied up in the bowling alley property (same use, half the money). Lack of support for the parking structure suggestion means more money will be available from the sale of the bowling alley property for other MLK park improvements.

We took money out of city reserves to purchase the bowling alley property at some risk, and I am committed to use proceeds from sale of the property to re-invest in MLK park. Not exactly the message Ms. Mooney is proffering.

“Property Sale on Consent Agenda” is not forthcoming. The fact is that public comment on the item to put the bowling alley up for sale was taken by the commission.

“Fix the Park and Don’t Sell the Bowling Alley” unwisely presumes the commission should base its policy judgments only on public input at the April 25th meeting. While citizen input is always critical in making sound policy judgments, it is not the only factor. The narrow voice of a limited number of people is cause for questioning, not acquiescence.

“Plans Minus Funding = Toothless Tigers” is the most disturbing part of Ms. Mooney’s bias and policy misunderstanding.

She says, “Comments opposing the sale of City land are too numerous to count,” but I have counted them. To date twenty-six people have written the commission on this subject out of 20,000 registered voters and 30,000 residents.

All commission members want more and better parks, and we all want better pedestrian and bicycle connectivity. You can’t fund these things by spending city reserves on non-strategic land acquisitions that consume money that could otherwise be used to improve existing parks or purchase land having strategic value. Please go visit the bowling alley property, 1111 W Fairbanks and judge for yourself.

More Trees? Less Concrete? Expand MLK Park? Really! Wait for it…

I agree with the nice words quoted from Mr. Bendick but Ms. Mooney seems to think the way to make progress on this vision is to lock up $3,000,000 of our cash in a 1.6 acre property abutting a busy commercial corridor and a parking lot for the Rollins softball field; a property whose most obvious civic use is for basketball courts and parking, that is, maybe a few trees, lots of concrete, and little expanded green space.

I encourage the people of Winter Park to send an email to MayorandCommissioners@cityofwinterpark.org and urge us to sell the bowling alley property and apply the proceeds to park improvements and increased city reserves.

For more substance on the bowling alley property and the judgments involved see my response to the Parks board chair’s letter to the commission.

And, when Ms. Mooney writes again, you will know her purpose is to mislead you to further her political agenda.

Sincerely, Pete Weldon
Vice Mayor of Winter Park

Posted in Ethics, Parks, Policy.


8 Responses

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  1. Dave Johnston says

    Pete
    Thanks for providing us with factual information on this subject. We all know that Anne and the WP Voice is a political PAC representing a small group of people who hide behind this front. It is time to require the WP Voice to register as a PAC so that those individuals who don’t want their names to see the light of day are listed as the financial support of Anne. The residents deserve to know who her backers are. Dave

  2. Bob Gardner says

    Agree with former Mayor Johnston. This small group of people have been attempting for years to impose their views on the City, most in opposition to the view of the elected commission and the staff. If the commission has lost its way (and I don’t think they have), the way to redirect policies is through the ballot box. Sniping and back biting has gone far enough in the country; we don’t need more piled on in Winter Park. Thanks Mayor and Commission for all your good work.

  3. anonymous says

    I’m going to go “full monty” like the Mayor and say I feel like I’m living in an episode of Melrose Place or the movie Mean Girls…………..thinking 20 acres in Marion County looking better and better by the minute.

  4. Ellie Warner says

    Many of us could probably guess at the 26 letter writers. The latest iteration of yellow signage could provide clues for those with a keen interest in sleuthing. Thank you for laying it all out, Pete.

  5. William Higgins says

    Pete has a tough job and he’s right to respond to critics with facts on each of his points. His factual statements are helpful and sufficient and if he drops the “full Monty” references and calms down it will bring less attention to his citizen critics. I’m grateful he’s not tweeting about it.

  6. Kathryn Grammer says

    The WP Voice may lean toward preservation of Winter Park’s unique character, but opinion in journalism is expected. What is not expected, nor does the Voice fall into this category is propaganda. It is fair, balanced and unafraid.
    I am surprised, Commissioner Weldon, that you would publish a letter so full of vitriol for another’s point of view. Anne Mooney is not a liar, so I suggest that you don’t continue to spread that message. You are a steward for all the people not just for special interests.
    We all know how some CRA money is spent; i.e., refacing the old Barnett Bank Building, owned by a wealthy, private family, used CRA funding. Another property owned by this family and primed for development lies within the CRA. Is helping the wealthy the purpose of the CRA?
    You’ve tallied the cost benefits of putting the bowling alley property on the market very persuasively. Policies must be weighed for their potential financial gains.
    I suggest holding the bowling alley property for now to see what is best is best for Winter Park and we know how the footprint of the new library/event center/parking garage will impact the rest of MLK park.

  7. Pete Weldon says

    Kathryn, PLEASE read and compare both Ms. Mooney’s piece and my reaction again. Ms. Mooney offers zero reasoning in support of keeping the bowling alley property while weaving a web of imaginary intrigue. As can be verified by seeking the facts, Ms. Mooney’s entire piece is filled with falsehoods, innuendo, intentional material omissions, and (at best) misunderstanding. Ms. Mooney is welcome to her opinion about the disposition of the bowling alley property but she does our community a great disservice by couching her opinion in untruths and cynicism. I encourage you to read my response to the chair of the Parks Board linked near the bottom of my post. In it you will find reasoned analysis of the value propositions. I welcome reasoned analysis of all positions. Such analysis will add constructively to the judgments required.

    And Kathryn, I do not “lean toward toward preservation of Winter Park’s unique character,” I am committed to it. That is why I led the effort to get rid of High Density Residential Zoning and why I led the effort to extend the Denning Drive “right sizing” project and invest much more than initially planned in its landscaping and beautification, among other initiatives I have started or supported. And it is why I want to expend a portion of the proceeds of the sale of the bowling alley property on improving MLK park.

  8. David Bond says

    Work Together, Please

    I am a new resident to Winter Park. It is clear there is a great divide in the community. This seems related to the challenges of rapid growth in the community and preservation of the existing community.
    All of the comments at public meetings and hearings voice consensus about the beauty, charm, and advantages of this city/town atmosphere.
    This time of change is an opportunity for all of us to share and prosper together, while retaining the positive community aspects we enjoy.
    Let’s stop the divisiveness and finger pointing and work together toward this end.
    This type of bickering is one of the negatives in some small town environments.
    Create a forum that incorporates a diversity of opinions and respects and recognizes each individual’s contribution and input.
    Act as a model city within the divided country we now have.
    I am willing to contribute what I can.
    David S. Bond



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