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Windermere Observer Monday, Sep. 16, 2019 4 weeks ago

Windermere Town Council paves way for new business downtown

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The Town Council removed two properties from the downtown development district overlay, including a spot for a potential new business.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

Windermere has a new commercial property in its downtown.

Town Council members voted to remove two properties — 111 and 119 W. Fifth Ave. — from the Downtown Development District overlay and rezone 111 W. Fifth Ave. from residential to commercial.

The rezoning opens the door for a potential new business at 111 W. Fifth Ave behind the Dixie Cream Cafe, next to the parking lot at 119 W. Fifth Ave. owned by Windermere Ministries.

Town Council member Andy Williams recused himself from the vote, because his family is behind the LLC that owns 111 W. Fifth Ave.

Town Manager Robert Smith said the Williams family was looking to get the maximum use of the property, and that removing the overlay restriction, which limited the property to only be developed into a parking lot, was the best and easiest option. A single-family home currently sits on the property at 111 W. Fifth Ave.

The adjacent property at 119 W. Fifth Ave. also was removed from the overlay to make the two properties contiguous, Smith said. The property will likely remain a parking lot in perpetuity, because of needs of the church nearby, he said. Restrictions placed on the properties keep the intent of the overlay intact as well, Smith said.

Resident Genevieve Potthast spoke against removing the overlay from the two properties.

“I just want to ask you to really carefully consider that the Windermere Master Plan was developed by professional town planners to create a plan for our future with the good of all the residents in mind,” Potthast said. “In summary, 111 and 119 need to continue to have the restrictions of the Master Plan on them. … If 111 is to go commercial, I ask that you consider making it restricted commercial.”

Resident Chuck Ingram, meanwhile, supported the changes.

“Progress isn’t necessarily bad,” he said. “We don’t want to turn into the city of Winter Garden. We don’t want to turn into downtown Orlando, but there’s nothing wrong with moving forward.”

Smith assured nothing has been determined yet about what kind of commercial operation could go on the property, even though Windermere Brewing Company has been eyeing the property as potential location, he said.

“We didn’t want to raise it, and we didn’t want to lower it at this point. We felt that staying right where we were was going to allow us to do everything we wanted to do within the budget.” 

— Jim O’Brien, Windermere mayor

“(The brewery) has expressed interest in that piece of property, but that is a separate issue from the Williams, because there are no contracts, no leases to enter into,” Smith said. “If they do want to locate there, they’re still going to have to go through other processes in order to get that approval. … I’m not going to say that that’s not what it’s going to be there or be there in future, that’s just not what this whole process was about.”

Smith said the council’s vote wouldn’t be setting a precedent, because these kinds of decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

“What happens on one property is not necessarily going to happen to another,” Smith said. “Each situation is very unique. With this situation and with the types of uses that it’s surrounded by with church, church, commercial and civic, there’s no other property that we can determine that has the same circumstances right now.”

The council voted to amend remove the two properties from the overlay and rezone 111 W. Fifth Ave. by a count of 3-1, with Town Council member Bob McKinley dissenting.

“It is council’s sole job to balance the needs of the entire community and to balance that small but smart feeling that we strive to have — it is the toughest part of the job by far,” Mayor Jim O’Brien said.

 

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

See All Articles by Tim

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