WINTER GARDEN — Winter Garden city leaders passed the first reading of a series of ordinances that will restrict door-to-door distribution of leaflets, pamphlets and other paper handbills.
Under the new rules, property owners or tenants can post a “no soliciting” or “no handbills” sign on their property and can call the businesses or groups distributing unwanted paper and ask them to stop. After the call is made or a sign is posted, citizens may complain to the city if paper keeps littering their property. City staff will issue a warning, and if the littering continues, it can pursue other remedies, including fines up to $500 or 60 days in jail.
The ordinance will not distinguish between political and other forms of speech.
City commissioners passed two ordinances, one for private and one for public property. City Attorney Kurt Ardaman modeled the ordinances on similar restrictions in Altamonte Springs. However, he warned the commission that the ordinances were not easy to enforce. Furthermore, complications can arise in situations in which a homeowners association posts a sign but some members want to receive handbills.
Mayor John Rees said the ordinances prohibit scattering handbills on top of other piles of handbills on a property. The ordinance states handbills cannot be left on a property if it’s clear to a “reasonable person that any previous day’s distribution of any such material has not been removed.”
Winter Garden resident Sharon Lambert, who asked the commission to consider these stricter regulations at the May 14 meeting, asked the commission to take steps to enforce the regulations. She said she called the Orlando Sentinel “ad nauseum” but could not stop the weekly coupon section from being dropped in her driveway. Organizations use third-party distributors, who are difficult to track down.
Commissioners voted unanimously to approve restrictions on public property. The commission approved private property restrictions 4-1, with Commissioner Bobby Olszewski disssenting. He cited concerns about restrictions on free speech and the difficulties of enforcing the rules on private property. Neither ordinance will become law until it passes on the second reading, scheduled for the July 9 commission meeting.
Commissioners unanimously voted to contribute $7,000 toward a playground at the Winter Garden Little League fields. The playground cost $33,000. The league paid $16,000 and received a pledge from Sports Authority for an additional $10,000. The city’s contribution pays for the rest of the cost.
UNITY IN THE COMMUNITY
Winter Garden resident Anthony Peterson, organizer of the Unity in the Community event, asked the commission to allow him to bring the event back at 1 p.m. Aug. 25, at Zanders Park.
In 2014, the city denied the event a permit because of police department and community concerns about violence and drug use at previous events. Rees and City Manager Michael Bollhoefer asked Peterson to meet with community development groups to see how they could make the event work, but Peterson said he didn’t do that. Bollhoefer said the last time the event was in Winter Garden, there were three shootings, including one into an Orange County Sheriff’s Office vehicle.
Olszewski said Peterson’s “heart was in the right place” and applauded Peterson’s efforts to help the east Winter Garden community.
The event took place in Winter Garden for seven years prior to 2014. Bollhoefer offered to meet with Peterson to try to find a solution.
IN OTHER NEWS
• Commissioners unanimously approved spending $12,634 of Justice Assistance Grant funds to purchase body cameras and holsters for 15 more police officers. The department used a similar JAG grant last year to buy cameras to outfit 15 other members of the force. Commissioner Bob Buchanan asked how much 20 more cameras to outfit the remaining members would cost. Police Chief George Brennan said in addition to the cameras, costs include storing the footage, handling public record requests and redacting video when necessary. Bollhoefer said buying cameras over time as the city is doing enables the city to apply for JAG grants to cover costs and train officers to use cameras properly.
• The commission unanimously approved an ordinance to rezone about 0.19 acres at 161 S. Boyd St. from R-2 Residential District to C-1 Central Commercial District. The owner plans to demolish the building and build a retail/office facility on the site.
• Commissioners postponed a condemnation hearing on the property at 160 E. Plant St. until the July 23 meeting.
• The commission unanimously approved an ordinance to allow the commission to negotiate waivers or reduction of impact fees within the historic downtown. Community Development Director Ed Williams said waiving impact fees could provide “an inducement to quality development” in downtown. If the city would like a developer to build something a certain way, waiving impact fees could provide the proper incentive. Commissioners will receive weighted criteria to help make decisions about when it would be appropriate to waive fees. This ordinance will expire in two years.
• The commission reappointed Johnny Clark and Bruce Woloshin to the Code Enforcement for three-year terms.
• Commissioners unanimously approved an amendment to the 2014-2015 budget to authorize spending $5,441,859 of revenue on projects in the budget.
• City offices will be closed on Friday, July 3, in observance of the Fourth of July.
• The next commission meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. July 9, in City Hall Commission Chambers, 300 W. Plant St.