Winter Park tables Park Avenue code changes

To be reviewed later

  • By
  • | 9:44 a.m. July 25, 2012
Photo by: Isaac Babcock -
Photo by: Isaac Babcock -
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
  • News
  • Share

Would Park Avenue get hair salons, chiropractors or plasma clinics? Those were among a slew of what-ifs explored during Monday’s Winter Park City Commission meeting that sought to decide whether the Avenue south of Comstock Avenue would be allowed to open its definition of permitted business types.

No decisions were made Monday, as the Commission tabled the proposal for further review.

City staff had proposed the idea of opening up the southernmost block of the Avenue to a broader range of businesses to help fill in vacancies. But that aroused the rancor of some commissioners, and a string of business owners and residents spoke up at the meeting in protest.

Exactly how different that block would look after changing business permitting for office-based businesses from conditional use to permitted use dominated the discussion.

“A month doesn’t go by that some hairdresser just has to have their salon on Park Avenue,” Planning Director Jeff Briggs said. “This ordinance would allow that. Gary Lambert [salon] isn’t hurting this particular block of Park Avenue.”

Briggs said that such a change may help longtime vacancies that had been hard to fill.

“Are you saying nothing has been turned down in the past five years?” Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel asked about the possibility that owners or the city were being picky with tenants. “They’ve been sitting empty for quite some time.”

Briggs said that a few potential suitors, including restaurants Five Guys and World of Beer, have been turned down in the past.

Commissioner Tom McMacken said that when the right business comes along, and the city approves, they’ve done well on that section of the avenue.

“We just had a new burger place (BurgerFi) go in [on the block in question], and I thought 4Rivers had moved in,” McMacken said, citing the popular Winter Park restaurant. “We had a line almost around the corner.”

McMacken suggested that if a unique business such as Kennedy’s All-American Barber Club were to petition the city for a conditional use on that block, he’d be happy to listen.

But resident and Park Avenue property owner Woody Woodall was more blunt, calling into question the appearance of the empty buildings, and blaming the owners for the vacancies.

“If they choose not to make that building look attractive, and sublet it out to pare down to a more attractive size, then they’re never going to rent that out,” the longtime property owner said.

John Dowd, a longtime city board member and past president of the Park Avenue Area Association, agreed.

“The only property that is vacant belongs to one property owner,” he said. “I wonder if that particular property owner is making an effort to lease those buildings anyway.”

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper suggested that problem may right itself soon, with a slowly rising economy and the construction of a new hotel nearby.

“We’re pulling out of an economic decline, the Alfond Inn is going in, and people are going to be walking up and down that block,” Cooper said. “This is not the time to diminish the zoning requirements there.”

The discussion was tabled until the city’s Economic Development Advisory Board could review it. A date has not been set for it to return to the Commission. But before discussion ended, Woodall asked the Commission to look down the road to a neighborhood next door.

“If you want to see what this is going to do, it’s very easy to go over to Baldwin Park and see,” he said. “They have lured away our best retailers and one of our biggest employers. What don’t they have? They don’t have customers. Why? Because who wants to walk down a street and look in a chiropractor’s window? They have killed themselves. The new rules are going to ruin that avenue and you are never going to recover from it. It’ll ruin that part of that street forever.”


Latest News