Playhouse Purchase and OAO Guidelines Highlight Mayor DeCiccio’s First Meeting

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The first woman be elected Mayor of Winter Park took the oath of office before presiding over her first City Commission meeting on April 10. Before discussing agenda items, Mayor Sheila DeCiccio took a moment to thank outgoing Mayor Phil Anderson for his leadership. “You have made us better,” she said. “It has been my honor and pleasure to serve with you for the last three years and to sit beside you. You will be missed, dearly.”

City Manager Randy Knight, Commissioner Marty Sullivan, former Mayor Phil Anderson, Mayor Sheila DeCiccio, Commissioners Todd Weaver and Kris Cruzada, and Assistant City Manager Michelle del Valle take a group photo before the April 10 city meeting.

During the meeting, Commission revisited the ongoing issues of finding a permanent home for the Winter Park Playhouse and clarifying the guidelines of the Orange Avenue Overlay.

Winter Park Playhouse purchase

City Manager Randy Knight said staff has begun working on an application for Orange County Tourist Development Tax (TDT) funds to acquire the Winter Park Playhouse building.

The move is the latest plan to permanently house the 23-year-old nonprofit after it lost the lease on its current facility. A lease extension to August of 2025 has allowed for several options to be presented to City Commission, but purchasing and leasing the building back to the Playhouse was deemed the most feasible. The city is interested in keeping the Playhouse within the city limits due to its longstanding place in the local arts community and its estimated $1.9 million economic impact, generated by the 30,000 guests it welcomes each year.

“Technically, the city would be the applicant and they would be the operator of the facility,” Knight said. He is also working with the current building owner on a tentative purchase contract that would be brought before City Commission for consideration.

The TDT Board’s latest funding window opened on April 1 and runs through April 30. Knight estimates the grant request would be $8 million with half going toward the building purchase and the rest for remodeling.

Heritage Market Trail

Commissioners heard a proposal from the engineering team of Forest Michael and Peter Gottfried regarding a partnership with the city’s engineering consultants to create a pedestrian and bicycle trail connecting multimodal transportation systems with recreation, business, and residential areas.

The project, dubbed the Heritage Market Trail, fits within the Winter Park Transportation Master Plan, which includes the creation of a pedestrian and biking network between low volume, low speed streets (aka a “greenway”). Commissioner Marty Sullivan suggested Michael and Gottfried meet with the city’s Public Works staff and representatives from the Florida Department of Transportation and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for input on details to develop a project scope and timeline to aid in grant requests, and to make sure that the plan does not overlap with existing trail plans.

Sullivan agreed to be in on the meeting, which will be planned for a later date. The results will be presented at a future City Commission meeting.

Architectural guideline committees

McCraney Property Company’s office building proposal revealed the need for clarification to the architectural guidelines of the Orange Avenue Overlay. Confusion over mixed-use definitions and height requirements led to two months of debates that did not bode well for future projects.

During the March 22 Commission meeting, staff was directed to present an ordinance for the creation of an ad-hoc committee responsible for revising and updating OAO guidelines. A second committee was also requested for updating the facade design guidelines of the Central Business District and Morse Boulevard. According to city documents, each committee would consist of five members – one appointed by each Commissioner – and would sunset after six months.

“The committees are necessary so the developers, staff, Planning & Zoning, and (commissioners) will all know what the design guidelines are,” Mayor DeCiccio said. She also stated that the Central Business District guidelines needed to be updated to better match the OAO to “create some kind of consistency so you don’t just have different types of styles helter-skelter.” As with the original codes, the updated guidelines would become grounds for accepting or refusing a project.

Commissioner Sullivan suggested the existing OAO Architectural Review Board could fill the need. “Perhaps we give that board an additional assignment,” he said. “Rather than initiating a new separate board when we already have a staff of architects that are somewhat familiar with Orange Avenue.”

DeCiccio then suggested the existing OAO Review Board could be replaced by the ad-hoc committee; however, Commissioner Todd Weaver expressed concern over a six-month limit to a vital entity. “This could be a big mess without another architectural review board – I’m just trying to avoid controversy, here.”

Commissioner Kris Cruzada asked if it might be possible to consolidate the proposed responsibilities into one ad-hoc committee. DeCiccio pointed out that, despite the need for continuity in exterior designs, there is also a need to consider the distinct personalities of each area. “My only concern would be, would the committee be able to differentiate that?”

Planning & Zoning Director Allison McGillis was confident that it would be possible and suggested a seven-member committee, similar to the Planning & Zoning Board. A motion to combine the ad-hoc committees was unanimously passed with the understanding that the sunset date could be extended if necessary.

The next City Commission meeting is scheduled for April 24 and will include the final vote on whether the referendum on the city’s gas-powered leaf blower ban will be on next year’s ballot. The winner of Tuesday’s Commission Seat 2 runoff election will also be sworn in before that meeting. Information on city meetings, virtual access, and downloadable recordings of past meetings are available at

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