Town Council members in Windermere continued the pavilion project discussion at the Town Council meeting Tuesday, July 11.
Before voting to terminate the Healthy West Orange pavilion, Mayor Jim O’Brien asked the Town Council if it would be favorable to tabling the item so the town could take another look at bringing something positive to the community.
“I was disappointed in the result — not so much about the building per se, but I think we learned a lot and learned a lot about what people were thinking, what people were concerned about, what was bothering people, what was on their minds,” he said. “I think some of it was tough to hear, to be honest with you, but still always constructive to hear. I think that there are some opportunities to take this kind of tough thing and turn it into a potential positive.”
The proposed outdoor pavilion planned for downtown Windermere continued to face mixed opinions from residents following a Town Council workshop in June. The project is a partnership between the West Orange Healthcare District and Windermere Rotary Inc.
At the workshop, council members unanimously consented to do nothing with the project and return the cost spent to date.
At the time of the meeting, O’Brien said he hated to give back money and believed the town needs to take a closer look at events, and the size of events, in the future.
“I wrestle with this,” he said. “I really feel like we’re taking out some displeasure on events on a pavilion. But … certainly I do hear all the feedback and respect all of that feedback. I wish we could go to take a different look at it and a better look at it, but I think it’s pretty clear that council doesn’t feel that way. … I understand that, and I think that we will probably … maybe regret (this decision). … You’re basically telling a funding source that we’re not a viable place for them.”
Following the June meeting, O’Brien said he met with Byron and Norma Sutton, longtime Rotary members.
The Suttons said they are willing to take the discussions back to the Rotary board and the other involved parties to see if the agreement can be worked out without the separate proposed building.
“I don’t want to say exactly what the result of that will be, but I believe that they have the ability to get that approved, most likely, by Healthy West Orange and allow us, in my mind, to do some things that are more Town Hall centric,” O’Brien said.
Council Member Tony Davit he was glad to hear the discussion brought to the table.
“I truly believe there’s a win-win here,” he said. “I think there’s some reconfiguration, and if both parties kind of take a step back, look at the master plan, look at the other opportunities we have down here at Town Square, I truly believe there’s value there where we can get to a point that everybody’s happy.”
Council Member Molly Rose said she sat in on a phone call with Town Manager Robert Smith, Rotary and HWO where HWO officials said they were not in favor of looking at a different type of project.
“Obviously, I would love to get some money and help us … but I think we should take Rotary out of the equation,” she said. “I think we should do our negotiations directly with Healthy West Orange. I think we’ll get the best for the town and the citizens that way and that’s who the project is for us, the citizens.”
In addition, Rose said she is not in agreement with what HWO is asking for in terms of prices.
The Town Council voted unanimously, with Council Member Tom Stroup absent, to table the project for 90 days.
The project also has spurred a slew of comments regarding events.
Based on recent comments, O’Brien said he wants to make sure the events the town is hosting make sense for the community and serve local residents. He proposed scheduling a workshop to further discuss the thoughts of the community.
“What I was hearing and thinking with the input that we received was are we being strategic with the events that we are having,” he said.
The Town Council consented to O’Brien’s proposal.