Commission Discusses Single-Member Districts, Backyard Chicken Pilot Program

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Wednesday’s Winter Park City Commission meeting addressed several topics including single-member districts, traffic solutions for the Killarney Estates neighborhood, budget suggestions, the adoption of Orange County Fertilizer Regulations, and a backyard chicken pilot program.

Deliberation of single-member districts was prompted by Commissioner Todd Weaver’s motion to add the topic as an agenda item during the August 12 city commission meeting following pleas for equal representation from numerous residents of Hannibal Square, a historically Black neighborhood on the West side of Winter Park. The commissioners and Winter Park Mayor, Steve Leary, debated whether a referendum on single-member districts ought to be included on the ballot in March 2021 for residents to vote on.

Currently, the city uses an at-large voting system. Some residents, mainly those who reside in Hannibal Square, are concerned that the current system does not lend itself to balanced representation and have been advocating for a change to the system for years. They argue that a switch to single-member districts, which would allow separate districts within the city to each elect a representative, will provide better opportunity for varied representation. Advantages and disadvantages regarding the switch to single-member districts were brought up during the discussion. Ultimately, the commission voted 3-2 in favor of drafting an ordinance for a referendum on the upcoming ballot.

Also addressed was the agenda item to relieve cut-through traffic for the Killarney Estates neighborhood, which has been impacted by the traffic coming from U.S. Highway 17-92. The City Commission approved a plan, currently being tested in the community, to separate the commercial traffic from the residential using a green space and other blockades for permanent road closures in certain areas.

Budget suggestions proposed by the commission and city staff were discussed at the meeting as well. Commissioner Sheila DeCiccio stated during this discussion that she plans to vote against the increase to the Winter Park millage rate. Commissioner Marty Sullivan, who initially proposed the increase, also shared in an email to constituents this week that he would not vote to increase the millage rate “unless the City foresees serious financial trouble.”

The ordinance for Orange County Fertilizer Regulations had a second reading, which reflected revisions previously requested by the commission. The regulations are aimed towards curbing the negative impact of dissolved fertilizers making their way into water systems such as lakes via runoff. The ordinance “prohibits phosphorus, sets limits on the amount of nitrogen, prohibits fertilizing within 15 feet of a lake and prohibits application of fertilizer right before a forecast storm event such as a hurricane.” The commission approved adoption of the ordinance.

The first reading of an ordinance to establish regulations for a pilot program for backyard chickens occurred at the meeting as well. This program was approved by the city commission and will allow for up to 25 backyard chicken permits for two years in an effort to satisfy increased interest in backyard and community food production.

Wednesday’s commission meeting concluded with commission reports during which commissioners asked that the following topics be included as agenda items for further discussion during future meetings: safety measures for events and parks, plans for the Central Park main stage, review of the City of Winter Park Sustainability Plan, and development of economic recovery plans including hosting events in the downtown and Hannibal Square areas.

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