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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Friday, Jun. 29, 2018 1 year ago

Winter Park nixes controversial memory-care facility project

Commissioners also discussed preserving trees around the existing Civic Center in Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

Winter Park city commissioners approved Monday, June 25, a proposal to subdivide the property at 1298 Howell Branch Road to accommodate four single-family homes instead of a controversial memory-care facility project. 

Property owner Villa Tuscany Holdings LLC previously proposed a memory-care facility for the property back in 2016, but nearby residents feared an increase in traffic from medical-care providers and visitors. Locals also believed the facility was incompatible with the nearby neighborhoods.

After Villa Tuscany Holdings presented several iterations of that project, it opted instead to subdivide the property to allow for four single-family homes.

“We consider this a success story — we’re optimistic that this is a great outcome for this property to keep the single-family character and scale of the neighborhood,” Winter Park resident Nancy Freeman said.

Civic Center Proposal

Resident Todd Weaver addressed the City Commission with a unique proposal during the meeting regarding the new library/event center in Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

But instead of the building itself, Weaver’s suggestion focused on the property’s trees.

“We’ve talked a lot about that site, and we branded it as ‘The Canopy,’ and we talked about ‘the Library at The Canopy’ and ‘the Event Center at The Canopy,’ but we haven’t talked about ‘the canopy at The Canopy,’” Weaver said. “Right now there’s about two dozen big oak trees on that site — there’s been no talk of saving them. I would like to propose that we do that.”

Weaver said philanthropist Ken Murrah gave an endowment to the city for tree preservation, and that using that in this case would honor his memory. 

But how would the trees be preserved for the several months during construction?

Weaver said he witnessed redevelopment for a housing project in California at which 543 trees were removed from the ground, placed in crates and taken care of for more than five years. The trees were replanted one-by-one in the development.

“I’d like the city to consider saving these trees for replanting next to our new event center and library,” Weaver said. 

He added he would donate the cost of renting a crane to remove the trees.

City Commissioner Greg Seidel said Winter Park should explore the idea.

“What Mr. Weaver talked about with the trees — I thought was a pretty interesting idea to investigate, to see what can be done,” he said. 

Mayor Steve Leary agreed.

“We certainly should look at all options,” he 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....

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