Moratorium On Development Voted In By Winter Park City Commission

Aug 19, 2020 No Comments by

During August 12th’s commission meeting, a moratorium was voted in for the improvements along Orange Avenue in the same meeting where a study reported a $799 million loss in revenue for Winter Park as a result of COVID-19.

The study, conducted by The Balmoral Group and commissioned by THRIVE Winter Park, a nonprofit comprised of Chamber and local business leaders, went on to report job loss of 5,428 workers since the start of COVID.

Chamber president Betsy Gardner Eckbert noted that the estimates were conservative and only represented the four major sectors: Restaurant/Retail, Construction/Professional Services, Health/Education and Finance/Information.

The full report can be found here.

The study showed a budget shortfall for the city as well, $2.6 million of which are from property taxes alone. Property tax revenue is the largest contributor to the City of Winter Park’s general fund revenues, at around 40%.

After Wednesday night’s economic analysis presentation, the city commission voted in favor of the moratorium ordinance for the Orange Avenue Overlay, 4-1. The 270-day moratorium on any new mixed use is unusual in that it is a contingent moratorium that goes into effect if the lawsuit against the city on the repeal ordinance is won. The clock doesn’t start until such time, which could halt development on Orange Avenue for much longer than nine months and the moratorium could be extended indefinitely. For context, a moratorium is typically used for school concurrency issues or capacity issues with water, sewer or utilities. Or, in a time like this, moratoriums are imposed to waive things like impact fees. Speaking of impact fees, had development been allowed and the Orange Avenue Overlay not rescinded, the city would have greatly benefited from that revenue alone.

The Orange Avenue Overlay (OAO 1.0) was a visionary zoning framework that was created by the entire community through a 15-month process with extensive public input that would have allowed for a mix of uses, along this strictly commercial corridor most of which was not funded by the city but by the private sector. P & Z board members commented that there shouldn’t be a need for such moratorium if the city is sincere about having another overlay (OAO 2.0) brought forth within the next 9 months, as the schedule indicates. So why then was it voted in?  One P&Z member said that “it feels more like a legal maneuver rather than a planning maneuver.”

Another member of the public asked the commission to consider the 10 vacant storefronts on Park Avenue, the 50% vacancy rate at Winter Park Village, and the small businesses closing in our community. A commissioner replied that with those facts “the last thing we need is more development.” The Orange Avenue Overlay stakeholders would like to remind that commissioner that new development is not funded by the city but by the private sector and that redevelopment increases the tax base, keeps current taxes the same, brings fees into the city and creates much needed jobs. One mixed-use development project alone would have brought in more than $2.4MM in real estate taxes, nearly $20MM in community enhancements (parks, trails and intersection/traffic improvements) and 400+ jobs, and could cover the city’s projected property tax shortfall.

The Orange Avenue Overlay could have been the solution to aid Winter Park in economic recovery efforts, without increasing home owner and resident taxes, according to a release.

 

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