Letter: Town of Winter Park fails to honor railroad underpass agreement
November 26, 2014
To the Editor:
In a letter to your paper, Claude Diamond, a resident of Winter Park, questioned if the Town of Winter Park is obligated to fund the railroad underpass scheduled for construction in 2015. The answer is yes – the Town approved and signed the Leland Creek Annexation agreement to fund the Underpass, support the project and close King's Crossing Road at the tracks.
While negotiating the Leland Creek annexation agreement with the Town for Cornerstone Holdings Winter Park Holdings LLC – I witnessed first-hand the Town Council's commitment and approval of the agreement at a public hearing in 2004. Over the last three years Winter Park has breached the terms of this agreement and spread false information about its intentions and obligations under the agreement.
The underpass is not a windfall for Cornerstone (hasn't the "developer card" been played enough?). The underpass is a public facility for all to use and the Town of Fraser will maintain it. The developer is paying its way – Cornerstone is funding the bulk of the total project — 70 percent ($7.06 million); UPRR will fund 19 percent ($2.4 million). Winter Park agreed to fund 11 percent ($1.75 million) in exchange for the benefits of Leland Creek developing in its jurisdiction; and the increased public safety and convenience gained for its residents by being able to cross the tracks at any time and not be blocked by trains.
The town manager and certain Council members have told the public they do not have to honor the agreement because a court ruled in their favor. The truth is that the court's judgment states that the annexation agreement is in full force and effect – meaning the Town must fund its share of the costs of the project and close King's Crossing. Both parties agreed to this settlement.
The Town has been spending hundreds of thousands on King's Crossing Road rather than fund its obligation to the underpass under the agreement – putting at risk these funds, since it is highly likely that King's Crossing will be closed at the tracks because the Public Utilities Commission's policy is to close at-grade crossings near underpasses out of respect for public safety. The underpass is 417 feet from the King's Crossing (you can see its location from King's Crossing). Also, the new signal at US Highway 40 may be removed – because the CDOT Access Permit approval is conditional.
The Town Manager and members of the Town Council of Winter Park are not being truthful or transparent about the Town's obligations with the community. The Town's actions have serious legal and financial consequences and are undermining its credibility with the public, its vendors and anyone thinking of conducting business with the Town.
Principal, Bestall Collaborative Limited – Planning & Development Advisory Services
Project Manager to Rendezvous and Grand Park – 1999 to 2006
Consultant to Cornerstone Winter Park Holdings LLC – 2010 to present