Mayor Leary’s Message – September 2016
Your city staff has been working with city advisory boards as well as an appointed Task Force to make revisions to the city’s Comprehensive Plan. The Comp Plan is an important document that guides city policy related to transportation, utilities, land use, recreation, and housing, to name a few. Florida State Statutes 163 requires all local governments to regularly review and make adjustments to their Comp Plan.
The Comp Plan works with the Land Development Code and the Florida Building Codes to ensure the charm and quality of Winter Park remains. In 2012, the city engaged Wallace, Roberts & Todd (WRT), a national collaborative practice of city and regional planners, urban designers, landscape architects and architects, to review our existing Comp Plan. WRT spent months working with city staff, interviewing stakeholders, and reviewing our processes and procedures related to development. The WRT report listed the core issues as a “Lack of agreement on the role and purpose of the Comprehensive Plan vs. Land Development Code… Absence of a shared consensus on community vision…Perceived conflict with the notions of growth and preservation…using a ‘one size fits all’ approach… Disagreement on adopting a traditional vs. form based zoning approach…Lack of clear long-term economic development goals in the Comprehensive Plan.”
The City Commission recently accepted and approved Vision Winter Park, which was one of the WRT study recommendations. I am hopeful that recommendations from the WRT study, as well as the information gleaned during the 16-month visioning process, will inform our Comp Plan.
Regardless of hyperbole, the Comp Plan is not a “sacred document,” nor is it the city’s “bible.” Comp Plans are guide books. Roadmaps. They provide direction for a community from a planning perspective. They are amended quite often as one would be naïve to believe that a single document can perfectly guide a city’s growth, especially given the rapidly changing environment that we find ourselves in today. New technologies. Shifting demographics. Mass transit. All of these can and will impact how communities evolve. Comp Plans and all community strategic “plans” must be flexible enough to not only allow for, but to actually plan for, evolving market dynamics, transformative concepts, diverse tastes, etc.
“A few strong instincts and a few plain rules suffice us.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Many are familiar with Greeneda Court on Park Avenue which houses Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen and many other shops and offices. Greeneda Court could not be built again today under the current Comp Plan. Indeed much of Park Avenue, one of our most valuable and visible public assets, could not be rebuilt under the current Comp Plan. This is a problem. Our current Comp Plan does not allow us to maintain the unique, quaint character of our downtown. In addition, as you drive through Winter Park, look at the eclectic nature of our home. Some may not like an individual home or building, but overall the diversity of styles is one of the most appealing aspects of Winter Park. We must not be so convinced of our own tastes and preferences that we create regulations so prescriptive that they subvert individuality. There are beautiful communities nationwide, as well as locally, that restrict individual tastes and design. However, that has never been Winter Park, nor was that ever the plan of the founders.
The Comp Plan is just one of many items that your elected officials, city staff and appointed board members tackle on a regular basis to ensure the long-term relevance of Winter Park. We look forward to receiving your feedback and input at the many public opportunities that are available to you. For the most updated schedule for these public Comp Plan discussions, please visit cityofwinterpark.org/comp-plan.