Winter Park City Commissioners broached the topic of implementing a new land-use category during their Monday, June 11, meeting.
The proposed mixed-use land category would apply to developments that combine retail, residential or office. Its interaction would make that kind of development more feasible in certain parts of the city.
Because mixed-use projects play a significant role in shaping areas of Winter Park, Director of Planning and Community Development Dori Stone recognized a potential land use category would be one of the most significant pieces of the city’s comprehensive plan.
“It’s probably the most provocative item we have to deal with,” Stone said. “It has the potential to possibly be the most controversial item that we have to deal with, so we really take our time with this.
“Today we’re going to ask you a question,” Stone said to commissioners. “We’re going to ask whether the current land-use and zoning categories are sufficient to promote the best development in Winter Park. Or does the city want a specific mixed-use development option for properties that are located along the gateway corridors of the city?”
Stone said the city currently allows mixed-use projects in specific commercial business district areas in the city such as Park Avenue, Hannibal Square and Winter Park Village. What all three of those areas have in common is walkability, connectivity, nearby green space and shared parking. Understanding what the city has done right with these areas could help Winter Park decide where mixed-use could go in the future, Stone said.
When trying to understand where such projects could go, Stone acknowledged many of the major streets in Winter Park don’t feel walkable.
“There’s not a lot of trees,” Stone said. “The sidewalks tend to be a little bit smaller, and sometimes, you (have) those cars right there that give you that little nervous sense as you’re trying to walk around. Orange Avenue is a very tight corridor. Aloma is a very wide corridor. Fairbanks is a rather underdeveloped corridor. All three of those present their own challenges for how we look at mixed-use.”
Another question was whether mixed-use should be a land use designation on its own or an overlay, which could be placed over an existing zoning along a specific corridor and would allow certain entitlements for developers.
An overlay would allow the projects to operate jointly and help the city get a better feel of what the corridor could look like in the future.
Mayor Steve Leary said a new mixed-use option should be explored, because it’s something that’s outlined in the city’s comprehensive plan.
City Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel agreed.
“In my mind, this is appropriate to build community, not to take away community,” she said. “Community is about those four aspects: walkability, connectivity, open space and shared parking. I look at this as a mechanism in which you could create another type of Park Avenue.”
City Commissioner Carolyn Cooper said Winter Park first should decide what public amenities the city doesn’t have and can’t build under the current codes.
“Those public amenities, we need to talk about,” Cooper said. “We really need to sit down and make that list. My first step is to say, ‘What is it we really want that we don’t have?’ Then the next step would be, ‘Do we not have it because we don’t implement our own codes? Or do we not have it because our codes don’t allow it?’
“There’s an opportunity to talk about, as a community, what are we willing to give up to get,” she said.
Stone said the city also could have mixed-use projects scrutinized by a development review committee.
It’s certainly going to be an excitable topic moving forward, Stone said, adding that Orange Avenue may be the best corridor to explore mixed-use options.
“A little bit of it is the fear of the unknown,” she said.