Close to midnight, the Maitland board once again found itself at an impasse.
The six-member Community Redevelopment Agency Board — made up of City Council and a county representative — had been in deadlock for months on whether Town Center developer Bob Reese should build the new fire station.
The latest tie vote was the catalyst for Mayor Doug Kinson.
“I knew something needed to happen and it was up to me. … so rather than go back to the drawing board, I thought through a way to put forth a plan that everybody would like,” he said.
Two weeks later, his plan got unanimous approval. It allowed the city to build both the fire station and city hall on land the city owned and with money it had, while mostly keeping intact the plan for the Town Center.
“That’s probably one of the most impactful things that I did in all the time I was mayor,” Kinson said.
After almost five years, Kinson will resign the mayor’s seat on Jan. 3. Replacing him is Councilman Howard Schieferdecker, a veteran of the Planning and Zoning Commission who was elected to City Council in March.
Probably the most polarizing issue throughout Kinson’s tenure has been the Maitland Town Center development agreement, which was approved in 2007. On Dec. 13, City Council voted unanimously to terminate it.
“I regret the city not having the ability to move ahead with the downtown,” he said. He is proud, however, that Council was able to move ahead with the three public projects that were originally part of the Town Center agreement.
Kinson has taken criticism for remaining loyal to Reese throughout financing fallouts, foreclosure and bankruptcy. But he said his commercial real estate background has helped him to understand why it’s important to stick with Reese and not risk having a developer buy the project land and parcel it out.
Even if Reese isn’t a developer after this month, he’s still a landowner the city will have to work with, he said.
“Whoever comes to the table, now it’s a different environment, but we still need that history that’s tied to Bob Reese to continue. It’s that history and commitment that’s important to stand the test of time,” he said.
List of goals fulfilled
Before he was elected, Kinson made a list of goals for his tenure and pinned it up on the wall. Those items included getting the city on board for commuter rail, erecting a new police station, fire station and city hall, putting together a redevelopment plan for the west side, balancing the budget without raising taxes, and setting up a dedicated funding source for the city’s lakes.
Most of those items have come to fruition: Maitland will have its own SunRail station. The new police station opened in 2009, and the fire station and city hall are scheduled to break ground in 2011. The property tax rate has stayed constant, although the overall rate has increased minutely to cover debt. And in 2009, the city established a stormwater utility fund to restore and maintain its water bodies.
Just in time, at the mayor’s last meeting on Dec. 13, the remaining goal was realized — Council approved the west side redevelopment master plan.
He said it’s hard to believe that some of the projects, such as the fire station and city hall, moved so slowly, but he’s proud of what Council has been able to accomplish.
“We’ve been able to move projects ahead with little impact to taxpayers,” he said.
Besides not realizing a redeveloped downtown, Kinson says he regrets that more people don’t run for office. Of the four council members, three were unopposed in the last election. Three seats are available on March 8, but he hasn’t heard of anyone putting their hats in the ring.
“The issue I have with that is the voters don’t have a say,” he said of uncontested elections, adding “but the voters did have a say — they made the decision not to run.”
He says the positives of serving definitely outweigh the negatives.
Kinson shortened his term by 15 months when he decided to run for Orange County Commission District 5 to replace mayoral candidate Bill Segal. He went up against a well-known and well-funded opponent, former Commissioner Ted Edwards, who outspent Kinson 4:1.
With a full-time commercial real estate job and his mayoral responsibilities, Kinson didn’t have much time to fundraise. But he said the race wasn’t lost until the day of the election.
“I would rather have won, but beginning Aug. 25 (2009), I was starting to reassess what pays the bills and reassess my opportunities professionally.”
The new mayor
Kinson has spent the last few months mentoring the mayor-to-be, who’s tagged along to the Orange County Council of Mayors meetings, among others.
Kinson says he hopes as mayor, Schieferdecker will be objective, do his homework and listen to the people.
Schieferdecker has only been on Council since March but was selected to be the next mayor because he would be able to build consensus and move the city forward, fellow council members said.
As the city moves forward with a new leader, Kinson hopes the city will continue on the path he set it on.
“I brought most people together with respect to the development of a pedestrian-friendly downtown,” Kinson said. “I hope that vision continues in every decision that’s made by Council.”