Can Winter Park tell an apartment complex what to do with its parking spaces?
A dispute between residents and their apartment complex came to a head at Tuesday’s Planning and Zoning Board meeting as Winter Parkers living in Village Park Senior urged the board to uphold the city’s decision forcing the complex to give them more parking.
The current garage at the Denning Drive senior living apartment complex has more than 200 parking spaces plus five outdoor parking spaces, but only 101 spaces are available to residents who pay a monthly $75 fee. A makeshift fence currently shuts off the second floor – put in place to reserve spaces for future residents moving into the empty apartments.
In July of 2016 the city received a petition signed by 85 residents asking the city to take a look at the parking situation in hope of getting more guest parking. Winter Park Director of Building George Wiggins determined that the gate should come down, believing that the residents have a right to use the entire garage based on the original development agreement for the garage, which required 170 spaces be made available to residents.
Atlantic Housing, the company behind Village Park Senior, appealed that decision Tuesday night. Local attorney Rebecca Wilson spoke for Atlantic Housing and claimed that the city was overstepping its bounds by attempting to control how they manage the parking garage.
“Why would we be required to open [parking] up?” asked Wilson, adding that there’s nothing in city code that establishes how much guest parking is required. “If we open up all these spaces, we can’t enforce those people who are playing by the rules and paying their $75.”
But Village Park Senior resident Pamela Read said the need for guest parking is there, and that guests have been told to park across the street at Winter Park Village overnight, which is trespassing, she said.
“When you go to this big garage, you think that parking will never be an issue,” said Read, who represented the group of disgruntled residents. “Every single day it’s an issue … Someone’s in my parking space. There’s not enough parking.”
Planning and Zoning Board member Shelia DeCiccio said she was confused why more parking wasn’t available due to its use by a senior living facility.
“You know with seniors that you’re going to have caregivers and you’re going to have guests occasionally,” DeCiccio said. “I’m wondering why you wouldn’t provide [parking].”
Board member Ross Johnston said that the dispute likely points out a disparity in city code regarding guest parking in garages, but questioned the city’s ability to control a private parking garage.
“Do we even have a legal right to rule on this?” Johnston said. “To me it’s a private garage and there’s no language in the code to go against this.”
“On an emotional level, yeah, but on a legal level, I can’t see upholding George’s decision on this.”
The Planning and Zoning Board ultimately approved Atlantic Housing’s appeal of Wiggins’ original decision, allowing Village Park Senior to keep the fence where it is.