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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Friday, Apr. 5, 2019 1 year ago

Funeral home project passed by Winter Park P&Z

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The Winter Park Planning and Zoning Board supported the construction of a new two-story building at Glen Haven Memorial Park.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

A new building planned for a private cemetery in Winter Park has taken another step forward.

The Winter Park Planning and Zoning Board recommended approval of a new two-story, 9,000-square-foot building for business offices and facilities for visitation and funeral services at Glen Haven Memorial Park at its Tuesday, April 2, meeting.

An existing one-story office building would be removed to make way for the new facility, and several parking spaces would be re-stripped to make way for a new 57-space parking lot south of the building.

The private cemetery, located at 2300 Temple Drive, sits on 44-acre piece of land that has been operated as a cemetery for more than 60 years.

Attorney James Johnston, representing the cemetery, said the new building will allow patrons to have the funeral planning, the funeral, the burial and the reception all in one place.

He added the addition of a building for visitation and funeral services wouldn’t have significant traffic impacts and that providing funeral and interment services at one location would decrease the number of funeral procession that come onto the property. Johnson noted cremation and embalming services will not be provided at the new building and that the cemetery also has seen a drop in interments — from 450 five years ago to 386 in 2018.

“We don’t think that what we are adding is degrading the peak level of service of the traffic on Place Vendome or the surrounding streets,” Johnston said. “Based on our client’s experience in the funeral business, we think this proposed use is going to have limited impact on traffic.”

But several residents living nearby disagreed. Jason Johnson said the cemetery sits on land zoned as parks and recreation and — despite being the site of commercial activity with the selling of cemetery plots — shouldn’t allow a commercial operation like the one being proposed.

“I’m not anti-development — I recognize that development is inevitable and believe it’s even important for our city, but development needs to be done within the bounds of both the code and the comp plan,” Johnson said. “The application is an improper attempt to backdoor a rezoning of Glen Haven as commercial property. The application violates the policies of the comp plan and — despite city staff’s comments — the application fails the requirements of city code for approval of a conditional use under at least three subsections. … Regardless of whether Glen Haven likes it, its property is parks and recreation land. Full stop.”

Resident Aaron Stearns said he and his family bought their home specifically because it sits near the quiet cemetery and has limited through traffic. He also noted that the funeral home likely will serve clients with loved ones being buried outside of Glen Haven, as well.

Planning and Zoning Board Chairman Ross Johnston said that although he sympathized with the concerns from the residents about traffic and the safety of the roads, that is an issue between the residents and the city — not the residents and the applicant.

The board still deemed the request within code and approved the project by a 4-1 vote.

Tim Freed was the managing editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Southwest Orange Observer. He previously spent six years covering the Winter Park/Maitland area and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.

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