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Photo by: Isaac Babcock - Casa Feliz nearly fell, but an uprising saved it. With another house at the gallows, residents want protections to be permanent.
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Wednesday, Jun. 26, 2013 9 years ago

Winter Park looks to preserving homes

City questions own rules
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

The future of Winter Park’s last historic homes is hanging in the balance as the City Commission tries to fix the system the city uses to preserve them.

The shifting historical status of the Capen House resulted in a public outcry, and now residents and the City Commission are questioning the effectiveness of the system that’s designed to keep the city’s historical buildings safe.

“It’s a wakeup call,” Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel “I don’t think anybody would have predicted it, but now it’s here; you’ve got to do something with it and you can’t ignore it.”

The City Commission discussed what exactly counts as historical preservation and the differences and similarities between a national historic register and a local one; many historic Winter Park buildings fall under one or the other.

Residents who’ve rallied together to try and save the Capen House since word got out last month over it’s possible destruction continue to question the city processes that brought them to this place.

“With all due respect, I feel that the events in recent weeks have caused our community to lose faith in our government’s ability to protect our historic resources,” said Betsy Owens, a Winter Park resident and executive director of Casa Feliz. “Looking back a little further over the last 20 years, one in every eight homes in Winter Park has been demolished.”

While some residents argued that the city is unable to protect its historic landmarks, Mayor Ken Bradley wasn’t as quick to say the system is broken.

“I don’t agree with the assessment that historical preservation is dead in this city,” Bradley said. “I’m not coming from the assumption that everything is broken and suddenly needs to be fixed. I don’t know if it is or isn’t.”

“We need to look at it in a much more realistic way.”

Bradley suggested looking at other communities like Gainesville, Coral Gables and Sarasota for guidance on historic preservation.

“I think that’s really important for us to say who are the organizations or cities that have done this really well and what kind of efforts that they embrace in the community to get it done,” Bradley said.

During this month’s first City Commission meeting, Capen House home owners John and Betsy Pokorny were represented by attorney Trippe Cheek who told the Commission that his clients would be willing to relocate the home as long as it was a “reasonable offer within a reasonable amount of time.”

The owners are currently speaking with private companies about relocating the building, with one anonymous company submitting a relocation method this past week, Assistant City Manager Michelle del Valle said.

Meanwhile, the City Commission will continue to work to take a closer look at the city’s methods of historical preservation.

“I think this will be on our agendas for many times to come,” Bradley said.

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