A lawsuit filed against the Winter Park City Commission regarding the historic designation being lifted from the Capen House last year may get in the way of the community’s efforts to move the house across Lake Osceola.
A local organization called Concerned Citizens for Historic Preservation Inc. initiated the lawsuit, expressing that the City Commission removed the historic designation in a matter that was “inconsistent with the Defendant City’s Historic Preservation Ordinance.”
The lawsuit further accuses the City Commissioners of engaging in “unauthorized private communications between one another and with third parties interested in removing the designation.”
Attorney Howard Marks filed the lawsuit on behalf of the organization on Sept. 30, just seven days after Mark Terry, president of the Board of Trustees for the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Garden, announced to the City Commission that they would tap their reserves to guarantee that the historic home be moved to the grounds of the museum.
The removal of the historic designation left the house vulnerable to the wrecking ball earlier this year when homeowners decided they wanted to build a new home on the property, thus starting the community effort to save it.
“We firmly believe that we came up with a very good future plan for the house, and one that will make it a community asset,” said Debbie Komanski, executive director of the museum. “We very much hope that we can carry forward and still accomplish the project successfully as soon as possible.”
Komanski said that while the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Garden stepped forward to fund the remaining cost to move the house, another $250,000 is still needed to stabilize it on the museum grounds. This process includes securing the foundation of the home and renovating its inside for public use.
“It would be a tragedy to see this lawsuit result in uprooting all the plans that have been made,” Komanski said.
Preservation Capen Project Director Christine French assured that the lawsuit wouldn’t affect the progress of the relocation effort and that movers will begin preparing the house to move this week.
“I have read the lawsuit that was filed with the city and we don’t expect that it will impact our work there,” French said. “We’re moving ahead with our plans to move the house.”
Winter Park Director of Communications Clarissa Howard said that the City Commission members hadn’t seen the lawsuit yet and were unable to comment.