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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022 4 months ago

Windermere Historic Preservation Board chairman resigns

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George Poelker announced his resignation during ongoing discussions regarding the town of Windermere’s boathouse leases.
by: Annabelle Sikes Staff Writer

The chairman of the town’s Historic Preservation Board announced his resignation Tuesday, Jan. 11, during the town’s latest discussion regarding its ongoing dispute over boathouse leases.

George Poelker made his announcement during his comments regarding the issue. Poelker said he moved to Windermere more than 30 years ago to purchase a boathouse with his former girlfriend, now wife. The couple later purchased a house and worked on renovating it. 

Poelker said the Town Council last April asked the HRB for a recommendation regarding the boathouses. Because of his personal connection to the issue, he chose not to participate in the discussions, but the HPB recommended continued private ownership of the boathouses. 

Poelker said although he is pleased the Town Council wants to preserve the boathouses, he also wants members to consider doing more to ensure all of the local historic buildings, not just the boathouses, are preserved. 

“I say all of this because for a lot of different reasons I’m going to resign as the chairman of the board and resign from membership of this board and all boards … effective immediately,” Poelker said. 

Although he did not cite the boathouse lease discussion as the sole reason for his resignation, Poelker acknowledged the dispute has affected him personally.

“Throughout this process, I’ve been told several times not to take this personally …well dang it, it is personal. It’s very personal to me and several others, and I just want you to know that.”

Located west of Main Street in Palmer Park, the five boathouses are estimated to be more than 100 years old. The question of ownership has been debated for years, with the town lacking ownership documentation and occupants only possessing quit-claim deeds, which only transfer title to a grantee.

About 20 years ago, the town decided to lease the boathouses out and entered into five different lease agreements, with an initial 10-year term. The leases then automatically renewed for another 10-year term. However, those leases expired in February 2021. Since then, the town has debated how to proceed with new leases.

Resident Judy Black talked about the history of the boathouse debates, which date back to the 1980s. She said the topic has been “packaged as a problem that needs a permanent solution.”

“The thing is, there is no problem,” Black said. “The boathouses have changed hands without issue for (more than) 100 years. The surrounding neighbors are in favor of them and have no objections. The owners are more than willing to put money and repairs into the improvements.” 

Black said the residents who bought the boathouses pay taxes, pay insurance, pay for maintenance costs, clean up the lagoon, monitor undesirable activities in the area and adhere to the town’s conditions. 

“Why do you insist that a hard reset is called for?” Black said. “It means denying and rejecting the boathouse owners.” 

Parks and Recreation committee chair Nora Brophy also chose to speak on both a personal and a professional level. 

“I’ve lived in Windermere only 20 years, so I don’t know the whole history of the boathouses,” Brophy said. “I know the town’s lawyers say the town owns the boathouses, and I think it is equitable for the Town Council and the town management to represent everybody who lives in the town of Windermere and give them all a chance using the lottery to be able to enjoy those boathouses. … It will give all the other town residents a chance to enjoy a great town amenity.”

Resident Bob McKinley said he is also in favor of the lottery system and defended the Town Council’s situation.

“There has been a lot of negatives publicly, like name calling, and you can disagree without being disagreeable,” McKinley said. “And that bothers me to no end about fellow residents who go on social media and call the town manager all kinds of names.” 

The council ultimately chose to continue the discussion to a later date. Town Council Member Tony Davit made a motion to send the issue back to the HPB, LPR and parks and recreation for other options. The boards and committees have 60 days to bring back their options for a Town Council workshop. 

Windermere State of the Lakes 2022

Lakes Consultant Amy Giannotti gave a presentation on the Windemere State of the Lakes 2022.

Giannotti said upcoming work includes a survey of Lake Butler, Lake Down and Wauseon Bay and an inspection of all sites under the town’s management.

Giannotti said the habitat for fisheries and wildlife in the area is excellent and all permits are up to date with required compliance inspections completed. 

The consultant also suggested things for the town to work on including the pollution issues from construction sites and an improvement of public signage. 

The full presentation can be viewed on the town’s website

IN OTHER NEWS

The Town Council approved a variance to allow a dock to encroach 107.4 feet over the property and extend into the lake at 11536 Lake Butler Blvd.

Town Council members approved a variance to allow a garage on a contiguous corner lot with a 19-foot setback at 453 Butler St.

The council held the first reading and approval of amending the adopted town comprehensive plan to adopt a new property rights element and an amendment to the recreation and open space element related to Fernwood Park. The second and final reading was moved to the February agenda.

The council approved the 90% design of the West Second Avenue stormwater, roadway and potable water improvements. 

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Annabelle Sikes is a staff writer at the West Orange Times & Observer, Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com. She graduated in May 2021 from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in sociology.  Her past...

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