The decision as to whether a new Winter Park Public Library will be constructed or not may lie in the hands of voters this March.
Winter Park City Commissioners voted on Monday asking city staff to bring back an ordinance for a referendum of up to $30 million, the means by which the city would pay for a new library.
If voters approve the potential referendum in March, Winter Park homeowners would see their tax bills rise incrementally based on the value of their homes. For example, those with homes valued at $300,000 could see their taxes rise by up to $122 a year. And residents with homes valued lower at $100,000 would see their taxes increase by up to $41 per year.
Commissioners also voted Monday to set the proposed library at the current site of the Rachel D. Murrah Civic Center in the northwest corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
The estimated cost of the library – including the potential new civic center, a parking garage, furnishings and additional fees – comes out to $29.9 million.
Commissioner Carolyn Cooper noted that a library this expensive needs to be worth it.
“When I got down to the price per square foot is when I started to have a little heartburn,” Cooper said. “If we’re going to do this, I want it to be incredible.”
Winter Park residents caught their first glimpse of what the new library could look like through new conceptual renderings, though the final design has not been established yet.
Drawings depict a three-story library built in a modern style with large windows making up most of the exterior. Visitors are seen reading books out on the grass outside and walking down newly constructed paths.
John Cunningham of ACi, the city’s consulting architect, said the public input from community workshops was that residents wanted something that felt wide-open in connection with the pastoral setting of the park.
But the community response regarding the library’s proposed location was mixed. Former Mayor Joe Terranova said he felt the library would negatively impact the nature in the park.
“The park’s not that big,” Terranova said. “You’re going to have a lot of activates in that space that is going to disturb the environment from my perspective.
Other residents saw the park location as a positive expansion of the city’s core.
“I see Winter Park expanding westward,” Eugene Sullivan said. “We’ve got Hannibal Square that has been redone and we’ve got Winter Park Village. I see the city not abandoning Park Avenue or New York Avenue, but merely extending their great purview to that area.”
“I’m very much in favor of it.”
The referendum ordinance will go before the City Commission for a first reading at its Nov. 9 meeting.