Winter Park holds visioning event to develop town’s master plan
The town of Winter Park continued the development of Imagine Winter Park, the town’s updated master plan, with a visioning event held at town hall on Tuesday. Residents from Winter Park gathered to see where the plan stands, and to have their voices heard on important issues facing the town.
“I was impressed with the turnout,” said John Crone, housing coordinator for Winter Park. “We’re a town of 1,000 people in the middle of offseason and people were walking in the door fifteen minutes early.
“Mostly I’m happy that we got good feedback. There was a passion for Winter Park you could see in some of the comments and some of the recommendations.”
The event served as an open house for the town, inviting residents in to speak with town officials and write down their concerns and recommendations for the town. There were numerous informational posters set up around the room, where participants could read about major issues already raised by the town in stakeholder interviews and online surveys.
Residents could then write down their thoughts on post-it notes and place them on the board for all to see. Topics covered everything from broad concerns like protecting the environment to more specific recommendations such as creating a more proactive approach to keeping bears out of the garbage.
Among the most popular topics of conversation was affordable housing.
“I have a five-year-old child who is growing up where there are no neighborhood kids to play with,” said Anna Szczepanski. “So I’m concerned about the lack of affordable housing and the lack of family friendly housing. There’s a huge number of second home owners who are often not here and not contributing to the sense of community. So I’m trying to figure out what the town plans to do about those issues and be part of the solution hopefully.”
Other major topics included sustaining a year-round population, adding public parking, increasing recycling availability, and making the town more accessible to pedestrians.
“Updating the master plan is critical, and there’s a lot of new issues,” said George Stevens. “Affordable housing is on everybody’s mind, but there are other things that are more personal to me and that’s dealing with main street. Main Street should be Main Street and not the US-40 Corridor. There’s lots of things to do, so let’s make it more pedestrian friendly. Let’s make it more pedestrian safe. The town is growing and it needs to be addressed.”
Others showed up to make sure that their section of the town isn’t left behind as development in the downtown area booms.
“I’m here advocating for Old Town Winter Park to make sure that everything that happens in downtown Winter Park is also happening there,” said Gigi Dominguez, a business owner in Old Town. “That goes for street lights, flowers and signage so that it feels like a good connection between downtown, Old town and the resort.”
Imagine Winter Park is a year long initiative meant to engage the public in creating a vision for the town that officials can use to create policy and make decisions for the next 10-15 years. The process began in May with a series of stakeholder interviews and online surveys from residents.
Tuesday’s visioning event marks the second of four steps in the process. There will be another workshop sometime between November and January, and a public review of the draft plan sometime between February and June. At all stages there are opportunities for residents to fill out online surveys as well at wpgov.com/imaginewp.
“We’ve all seen the 20 percent property increases, Aspen moving in and all the construction happening,” said Crone. “Change is happening, and what I’ve seen and what’s impressed me is a willingness to accept that change, while keeping the desire to stay true to Winter Park.”
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