Questioning an extension
Winter Park could be coming closer to a new Whole Foods Market location and an extension of Lee Road to help traffic along U.S. Highway 17-92, but it may come at a great financial risk to the city.
The Winter Park City Commission members discussed a three-way deal between the city, developer UP Fieldgate and the Orange County School Board during their meeting on Monday that surrounds the sale of the Winter Park Vo-Tech property, a piece of land that needs to be acquired by UP Fieldgate so it can build an extension of Lee Road adjacent to the campus.
A curved extension that continues Lee Road farther east past U.S. Highway 17-92 and then south to Webster Avenue is a requirement of the developer by the Florida Department of Transportation – if it wishes to construct a new Whole Foods Market along U.S. 17-92, that is.
The deal involves the city making the initial $2.5 million purchase of the prop
erty and being compensated by UP Fieldgate. The developer would also be required to complete “cure work” on the Vo-Tech property, which includes the reconfiguration of the site’s parking, a new access point leading to the Lee Road extension, drainage improvements and parking lot lighting.
But City Attorney Larry Brown expressed great concern over the deal, telling the City Commission that as the property’s buyer they’d be responsible for paying liquidated damages – a penalty of $5,000 a day – if the cure work carries on past the deadline of Dec. 31.
The Orange County School Board, which was only willing to convey the property to the city and not the developer, would have the right to review and approve the cure work.
“Just for the record, I don’t like this agreement,” Brown said. “I don’t like the format of it.”
“$5,000 dollars a day against the city as the purchaser…the whole thing is unnecessary.”
Brown added that the developer alone would be able to control the pacing of the construction and whether it gets finished on time.
“We’re basically relying on the developer and his financial capability,” Brown said.
The Lee Road extension required of UP Fieldgate was met with opposition last year by City Commissioner Carolyn Cooper, who was unsure whether the new road would direct more traffic through nearby neighborhoods.
“For me, to jump right to cutting through our neighborhoods really gives me heartburn,” Cooper said last May.
The City Commission voted to table the agenda item to a future meeting date in hopes of renegotiating the deal.
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