Maitland denies gate-scheduling request

The City Council also moved a medical marijuana dispensary ordinance forward.
By: 
Aug. 18, 2018

Maitland parents and residents clashed over a gate’s proposed schedule change during a lengthy City Council meeting Monday, Aug. 13. 

The city received complaints from residents since April saying hours of operation regarding a gate to Orangewood Christian School and church’s operational hours have not been followed. The city contacted the school’s staff about the issue, who said they were unaware of the requirements. The extended hours continued into May, where the gate was damaged by a delivery truck.

Austin Thacker, an attorney representing Orangewood Presbyterian Church, approached council in July with a request to amend the covenant between the church and the city to change the hours of operation for the gate. Thacker said both the church and private school have become much larger than predicted when the covenant was signed more than 30 years ago. Because Orangewood initially developed through a permitted conditional-use process, the property must seek approval from the council for a change in its covenant agreement. 

“We think its critical for the safety of our students, our teachers, our staff and to the community to do what we can to provide a safer way onto our property,” Thacker said. “What we want to do is be a church, a school, a ministry, and we don’t want to have to wait six weeks or however long it might take to get an approval from this body to make that happen.”

As it stands, the gate is operational from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays. The new hours would be 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. 

Although the church currently requires approval from council for special events that won’t affect traffic on Sandspur Road, city documents claim the new wording would allow the declarant to keep the document over for several events without provisions. 

A number of Orangewood churchgoers and parents as well as Maitland neighbors spoke both in support and opposition of the change. 

Council unanimously rejected the proposal and said the request was worded in a way that allowed the gate to remain open for any special event. 

“If they had come to us with a temporary problem for a health and safety issue, that’s something we could be dealing with but that’s not how this if framed,” Councilman John Lowndes said. “This is not a temporary fix. This is a forever fix to a problem they perceive, and as such, I think it needs more process. I understand Mr. Thacker didn’t want to wait six weeks for a decision, but sometimes with government, it’s what you got to do because people want to be heard.”

Medical Marijuana

A proposed plan to allow medical marijuana dispensaries moved one step closer following an expansive debate among City Council members. 

After council issued a 180-day moratorium on medical marijuana-related decisions — which is set to end in October — city staff returned with a plan allowing dispensaries to be established in the city. The hypothetical dispensaries would be required to be licensed by the state. They also would not be allowed within 500 feet of a school or 1,250 feet of an actively operating drugstore or pharmacy — unless allowed by council. Any operations established before Sept. 1 would be grandfathered in and any drugstores or pharmacies discontinued or abandoned for 180 would have their legal status terminated.

The Planning and Zoning Commission voted in favor of a ban in July, but in the absence of said ban, recommended council approve it without the ability to alter the 1,250-foot restriction. The Development Review Committee approved the ordinance with the 1,250-foot alteration ability intact. 

A point of contention among council members was that ability to alter the 1,250-foot restriction. The restriction would keep possible dispensaries a quarter-mile apart. However, the ordinance could block pharmacies such as CVS or Walgreens from being close to existing dispensaries. 

As has been the case from the beginning, both Councilwoman Bev Reponen and Mayor Dale McDonald were strongly against the ordinance, with McDonald questioning the efforts to allow the dispensaries, considering the possibility of expensive legal action against the city or the state pre-empting their laws anyway. Reponen went so far as to move to deny the first reading at the last minute. 

“I’m here to tell you, the mayor’s not accepting it, and I’m not accepting it,” Reponen said. “I think it’s wrong for our city. I’ve struggled all these years to make Maitland a place that’s better and good for my kids and grandkids, and I don’t think this is how you build a city of quality. I want cultural things. I want music, art, dancing, and we’re trying to chase good businesses out of our town and we’re bending over backwards to accommodate marijuana.”

Her motion was rejected 3-2 and was immediately followed up with a motion to introduce the ordinance, which passed 3-2.

“I don’t know what businesses we’re chasing out of town,” Councilman Mike Thomas said. “But as for a dispensary, it’s going to be a boring little storefront that’s going to be nondescript. It’s not going to have any impact on families, it’s not going to change Maitland.”

The public hearing and action date for the plan will be Monday, Aug. 27. 

 

IN OTHER NEWS

 The City Council increased the purchase order for the reconstruction of the Lake Destiny Soccer Field parking area. While beginning demolition work, the Central Florida Enviromental Corps. engineers discovered an electrical junction box requiring an increase of $12,542.19 to relocate. 

 Maitland approved an Interlocal Agreement with Orange County for the convene of Maitland Avenue to the city. City staff and contractors are required to obtain a county permit for each repair or replacement for the road. While the transfer to Maitland would cost an additional $35,000 each year, city staff believe streamlining the system will be beneficial overall.