Winter Park City Commissioners vote down New England Avenue project

A three-story, mixed-use project set for a parking lot on E. New England Avenue has been voted down due to ongoing issues with meeting parking requirements.

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  • | 7:25 p.m. July 12, 2017
A project that was rejected on Monday could have changed the skyline along Park Avenue.
A project that was rejected on Monday could have changed the skyline along Park Avenue.
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A retail, restaurant and office space project that’s been in the works for over a year was voted down by Winter Park City Commissioners at their meeting on Monday – a result of the developer falling short of city parking requirements.

The three-story, 52,601-square-foot project set for the parking lot next to the Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream Shop was the latest project by Battaglia Group Management LLC, who previously constructed the Bank of America building just across the street.

A parking area in the project was set to include 57 spaces, but the overall size of the project required 162 spaces as per city code.

To make up the difference, Daniel Butts of the Battaglia Group requested that the project be allowed two variances for the parking: one requesting that 90 spaces be used in the existing Bank of America garage across the street and another requesting that the city only require 3 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet instead of 4 parking spaces, as per current code.

The combined variances between the two buildings would lower the requirement to 122 spaces for the new project and give the developer a combined 147 parking spaces –  a surplus of 25 spaces.

But residents claimed the variance requests were straying too far from the code. Some said they feared the project would eat into existing parking and hurt surrounding businesses.

The three-story building just across the street from the Bank of America building would create a “canyon” effect, Michele Massoni-Dubac said.

“What may appear to be the best thing for the owner of the building may not be in the best interest of his neighbors, their patrons, the Winter Park CBD and Winter Park citizens,” she said.

“I think this is a beautiful project, it’s just too big,” said resident Allen Deaver, owner of Taylor’s Pharmacy nearby on Park Avenue. “Why can’t we just ask them to make it smaller?”

Attorney Michael Grindstaff, representing the Battaglia Group, responded that his client is a trusted entity in the community, and that they will ensure that the project will succeed.

“Staff has looked at this project and they felt comfortable recommending the three per 1,000,” Grindstaff said. “It’s within your purview to do this if you think it’s the right thing for the city.”

City Commissioners ultimately decided the project was too far off from the parking requirements, voting it down unanimously 5-0.

“The building is lovely, so it’s not an issue of architecture,” City Commissioner Carolyn Cooper said.

“I would love to see a properly-parked, scaled building go forward. There are many ways that we are willing to compromise relative to the shared parking. We are willing to do that. We are willing to work at ways that we can help reduce this to some reasonable parking, but we’re not there. We’re not close.”

Winter Park approves joint use agreement with Orange County Public Schools

The city will now have a new area for recreational sports after Winter Park City Commissioners approved a joint use agreement with OCPS on Monday.

That agreement allows Winter Park to use Brookshire Elementary School’s playground after hours on weekends for public use.

“It basically gives us extra playground area, as well as some green space area,” Parks and Recreation Manager Jason Seeley said. “The green space area is one that we do lack. We get a lot public input from our citizens wanting a place to kick a ball or throw a ball with their child.”

The contract also includes the potential use of Lakemont Elementary School’s playground as well.