Questioning committee choices
Will Winter Park’s vision be skewed in favor of developers?
The credibility of the city’s upcoming visioning process to determine Winter Park’s future direction was called into question on Monday by City Commissioner Carolyn Cooper, who feared that land-use attorney Rebecca Wilson being appointed to the city’s steering committee would give developers too strong of a voice.
Cooper pointed out that Wilson frequently represents developers coming before the City Commission looking for approval on projects.
“The people that are on that steering committee actually go out and talk to another five people and then another five people,” Cooper said. “I just don’t think that someone who makes a living from bringing successful developments in front of this board needs to be on that committee. That’s not going to help us in creating trust in the process, and I think trust in the process is critical.”
Wilson is one of eight steering committee members nominated by city staff this month. The City Commission voted in favor of the nominated members, along with two additional members per commissioner, but Cooper requested Monday to have the vote reconsidered.
The motion failed, with the rest of the Commission in disagreement.
“I’m of the opinion that you want to engage everybody in the process,” Commissioner Greg Seidel said.
“[Wilson] believes in Winter Park. I want to hear from the development side and I want to hear from the non-development side.”
“I think it’s extremely presumptuous for anybody to pull one person’s name out and do that,” said Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel, adding that she received many emails requesting Wilson not be on the committee. “It’s very bothersome for me … I feel like Becky Wilson was targeted and that is very unwarranted.”
Residents spoke out during the meeting in agreement with Cooper, questioning the process of member selection by city staff.
“You have succeeded in destroying the concept of a reasonably well-balanced visioning steering committee that represents a cross section of all of Winter Park,” Winter Park resident Pat McDonald said.
“One has to conclude that this was the plan all along: stack the deck with pro-density members. Then when the visioning steering committee presents its pro-density recommendations, the Commission will throw up their hands and say ‘Winter Park has spoken! Winter Park wants density!’”
Local developer Dykes Everett has also been nominated to the committee. Other members selected by city staff include Rev. Shawn Garvey of the First Congregational Church, representing faith-based community organizations; Patty Maddox of the Winter Park Health Foundation, representing health-oriented organizations; and Jeffrey Eisenbarth of Rollins College, representing higher education.
There are 20 total members thus far according to city spokesperson Clarissa Howard, each coming from varying fields that include technology, agriculture, the arts and hospitality.
Mayor Steve Leary concluded the discussion by saying that Wilson, who was chosen to represent commercial businesses, is more than qualified to be on the committee and should be given a chance.
City Attorney Larry Brown added that he saw no legal conflict with Wilson being a member of the steering committee.
Winter Park’s visioning process is set to start in early May.