It didn’t take long for newly-elected Winter Park City Commissioner Peter Weldon to come through on one of his biggest campaign promises.
Winter Park’s recently amended historic preservation ordinance was the point of discussion at the end of Monday’s City Commission meeting, with Weldon pushing to bring the ordinance back for potential changes.
The new City Commissioner made it a point during his campaign that he would lead an effort to undo the changes made to the historic preservation ordinance last December. The new ordinance made the process easier for a neighborhood with historic homes to be named a historic district – a title that offers a barrier of protection to historic buildings. Any alterations, additions or demolition involving historic resources within the district must go before the Historic Preservation Board for review – a fact that left some residents believing their property rights could be infringed upon.
In order to form a historic district, the city’s previous ordinance required two-thirds of the residents within the proposed district to vote in favor. That percentage requirement was changed to 50 percent plus one — a simple majority vote.
Weldon provided a series of new proposed changes to the ordinance on Monday, which included revising language to clarify that historic preservation is “voluntary,” allowing that variances to properties listed as historic and within historic districts can go before the city’s board of adjustments, and restoring a two-thirds vote to form historic districts.
“We spent over a year debating the historic preservation law,” Weldon said. “I think the issues are clear and I would like to see the Commission – if I could get three, four or five votes – to consider rewriting four very critical elements of the ordinance that deal with whether or not we’re going to allow voluntary participation in historic districts and at the same time find ways to encourage and reward those who adopt the values of historic preservation.”
Weldon also proposed several ideas for new incentives for those who choose to name their homes to the historic register, including helping owners “apply for national register status and then to provide a small level of city support for maintaining such properties when national register status is granted.”
But newly reelected City Commissioner Carolyn Cooper and Commissioner Greg Seidel spoke against bringing the ordinance back.
“This has been going on for a long time,” said Seidel, adding that the city hasn’t received any applications for historic districts since the ordinance was changed anyway. “…My personal opinion is that we have a lot more issues to address.”
Mayor Steve Leary, Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel and Weldon gave the majority consent to discuss the proposed changes at the April 11 City Commission meeting.
“The opportunity here is to decide what is real historic preservation and what is an attempt to control neighborhood redevelopment,” Weldon said. “I’m not saying I’m not interested in talking about other ways to address neighborhood redevelopment, but I am obviously known to be serious about what we consider to be ‘historic.’”