HomeGovernmentSparks fly in Winter Springs over vetoed moratorium ordinance
Sparks fly in Winter Springs over vetoed moratorium ordinance
Residents, city commissioners, and mayor debate the issue at two special meetings
It looks innocent enough. Not a lot of digits or anything that might confuse or mislead a person, but those six numbers may turn out to be one of the most contentious and controversial ordinances ever debated in the annals of Winter Springs government.
Sparks flew Monday night as residents filled the council chamber at city hall, and even spilled over into the reception area. On the docket? Two special meetings to deal with an ordinance to place a 90-day moratorium on commercial projects passed by the Council 3-2, but later vetoed by Winter Springs Mayor Charles Lacey.
“We’re going to proceed with some alacrity here,” said Lacey. “It is my intention to adjourn this meeting at 6:30 so that we may proceed to what I expect to be a much longer meeting to essentially decide the future of Winter Springs.”
The two meetings, scheduled for 6 PM and 6:30 PM, blended together into one session that lasted a little over an hour. Seven residents spoke during public comments, with six in support of the moratorium, and one in favor of Lacey’s veto.
“As I have stated previously, there is much that is good in this ordinance, but there are also disturbing concerns. Upon review, I have concluded that the positive elements contained in this ordinance can be accomplished without the over–reach of the entirety of Ordinance 2019–02. Chief among these is an overdue review of the Comprehensive Plan and a review of the City‘s growth management strategies.
In the time that this Commission has been seated, it has approved several residential applications. In contrast, by this ordinance, passed by a 3–2 vote, a moratorium that effectively stops commercial development would have been enacted. Having spoken to hundreds of residents, I have heard that this is the inverse of the preference of our citizens.
Residential growth, in particular, multifamily, stresses the infrastructure (specifically, roads and schools) in a way that reduces the quality of life for us all. Contrary to recent actions by the Commission, I oppose further concessions to multifamily projects until the comprehensive plan is reviewed and supportive infrastructure plans are in place.
I would sign a narrowly crafted moratorium ordinance. But I don‘t see a compelling need or potential benefit that justifies the negative consequences of this broad ordinance.”
By far the most vocal opponent of Lacey’s veto was Commissioner Kevin Cannon, who also wrote a memorandum in response.
“Mayor Lacey you and I have agreed on 99% of the things up here in the last four-plus years that I’ve been on this council, but I have great concerns with the exercise of your veto,” Cannon said. “I do not dispute that the mayor has the right to veto an ordinance, but clearly, under this charter, it is the five elected commissioners charged with establishing the policy of this city. Not the non-voting mayor, but the five elected commissioners. And there can be no greater policy decision-making of an elected official than land use. And a temporary moratorium during a period while we are undergoing revisions to our comprehensive land use plan and our zoning ordinances. It was a mandate of the voters that we move forward with tapping the brakes on the development in the city. Not all of it but some of it.”
Winter Springs has a unique form of government that includes a five-member set of commissioners that form the voting Council. The mayor does not have a vote on the Council but does have veto power. However, a veto hasn’t been used by a Winter Springs mayor in over 20 years.
Commissioner Geoff Kendrick voted against the moratorium ordinance and was in support of Lacey’s veto at the meeting.
Before his remarks, Kendrick asked city staff about current applications and learned there were only three pending, one of which is over one-year-old, and no new applications.
“So there’s nothing new on the horizon… so we can have a lot of workshops and I completely agree – workshops work. We do need to update our comprehensive plan. And I think all of us could bring a lot of great ideas to re-envisioning our city. But to slap a moratorium down, it tells the public we have to hold back the onslaught of applications when none of them are even effective in the last three months. One of them is at least a year old. This is not New York City or Miami. If we had 30 applications and we needed to put the brakes on I would completely understand. But to this point, I just think this is putting a psychological blockade on our city. Let’s not wreck the image just to put something political out there.”
Commissioner Tianna Hale, along with Commissioner Ted Johnson and Cannon were the affirmative votes for the moratorium, and Hale wanted to speak directly to the residents that she was attempting to do what she determined was the will of the people.
“So, here’s the thing…To say we’re hurting developers with a 90-day moratorium is not reasonable,” she said. “They can still have their pre-application meetings, they can still have their pre-application meetings, they can still discuss things. We’re not stopping them. We are honoring the wishes of the residents. We want their input. We want to come together to make our community better. And our job… the residents are absolutely number one. They are in charge. We work for you. And time and time I’m having you come to me and say ‘please help us’ and that’s what we’re trying to do. But we’re being stopped. I just want you to know we’re trying to look out for you all. You are our number one priority.”
Johnson spoke briefly and wanted to make certain everyone understood what a moratorium’s purpose was.
“Municipalities and cities, counties have in the past put moratoriums on. The purpose of a moratorium is to pause, take a breather… let’s revisit these ordinances and let’s get it right.”
Commissioner Jean Hovey joined Kendrick in voting against the moratorium, and that had not changed at the two meetings.
“I think we need to revisit our comp plan and special exceptions, but I don’t think we need a moratorium. We discussed having several workshops and inviting citizens to come and let us know what they would like to see and move forward with that.”
Four city commissioners would have to vote in favor of overriding Lacey’s veto of Ordinance 2019-02 in order for it to pass.