Quick takes — open alcohol container discussion, school zoning, tax rate update

Editor’s note: An extra zero was accidently added to the amount the city has earmarked for a federal lobbyist position in the proposed budget. The correct amount is $60,750. 

In this article:

  • The Food Factory Foodie Collective prompts open container discussion;
  • Resident, two council members are against hiked tax rate;
  • Development plans on one of the last vacant OOTP lot is approved;
  • School zoning discussed

The long-awaited Food Factory Foodie Collective is getting closer to opening its doors in Oviedo on the Park, prompting an open-container policy discussion on the Oviedo City Council on Monday night.

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Deputy Mayor Bob Pollack suggested that the Council explore a policy similar to one in Savannah, Ga.’s historic district, which allows people to carry open alcoholic drinks so long as it’s in a 16-ounce cup and not a bottle or flask.

“I saw the Food Factory getting closer and closer to opening and saw the large bar in the center of it,” Pollack said, adding that as more restaurants come online, “people are going to want to walk around with their drink and not have to worry about open-container [prohibitions].”

City Manager Bryan Cobb said open containers are currently allowed in OOTP during events only. He said the city could issue special cups that can be filled by businesses in the area.

Councilman Keith Britton said that adopting an open-container policy could cause unforeseen issues, so the possibility would need to be studied thoroughly. However, he said the revenue made from cup sales could offset issues such as increased litter.

“I can see a lot of downsides to it so we need to look at all angles,” Britton said.

Ruth Zwieg, vice president and chief creative officer of Michael Collard Properties, which owns The Food Factory Foodie Collective, said it was supposed to open in 2021 but supply shortages and the pandemic caused delays. The 14,500-square-foot property will house seven micro-restaurants. An opening date has not been announced.

The progress on The Food Factory Foodie Collective in Oviedo on the Park prompted an open-container policy discussion on the Oviedo City Council. Photo by Megan Stokes.

In addition to directing staff to further study an open-container policy, Pollack asked staff to create a golf cart ordinance for the Council to consider.

Maximum tax rate adopted

Oviedo resident Alberto Buster asked the Oviedo City Council not to adopt a tentative tax rate of $5.48 per $1,000 in property tax value, which is an increase from the city’s current rate of $5.28, on Monday night.

For a resident owning a home worth $200,000 of assessed value, the city’s property tax would be $1,096 (a $40 increase from last year).

Buster said that the $40 annual increase might not be a lot to some, but it can “make or break” the budget of a person on a fixed income, especially with the current inflation rate.

“We could lower this to the current millage rate, as the gentleman suggested,” Councilman Britton said, “but we’re faced with a lot of issues: inflation, just like everyone else, as well as the shortage of staff that we’re finding are unavailable because we’re not as competitive as we need to be.”

The rate was approved, with Pollack and Mayor Megan Sladek dissenting.

Pollack said he’s confident that the city can balance the budget without a tax rate increase. The tentative tax rate sets a ceiling for the rate. The final rate can be set lower than the tentative rate.

Sladek said she “can’t support a tax hike when there are things that feel kinda like fat still in the budget.”

One of those things, she said, is a $60,750 budget item funding a federal lobbyist who functions as a city advocate concerning bills in the legislature that affect the city or when an appropriation request is necessary.

A preliminary tax rate adoption hearing is scheduled for Sept. 8 for the rate and budget and a final adoption hearing is scheduled for Sept. 19. The public is able to attend. Those who can’t attend but want to weigh in can contact their elected officials ahead of time.

The Council directed staff to research city-owned property, looking for parcels that can potentially generate more revenue for the city.

One 3-acre parcel that was discussed is near Lockwood Boulevard and Evans Street. According to Cobb, the city bought it for a possible sewer plant years ago but it’s remained vacant.

One of the last vacant OOTP lots gets development approval

The Oviedo City Council approved the final engineering plans for City Place at Oviedo on the Park.

The 3-acre development includes 25 townhomes atop office space and a small retail space on the corner of Center Lake Lane and City Walk Lane. The project was initially approved in January.

A sign promoting “luxury townhomes” sits on an empty lot in Oviedo on the Park. Photo by Megan Stokes.

Council voices concern over school zoning issue

Oviedo Mayor Megan Sladek is pushing back on an agreement with the Seminole County School Board concerning where students go to school.

Winter Springs was the lone municipal holdout in Seminole County to sign an agreement that dictates where students go to school when new housing is built. If there is not room for a new student at their zoned school, they attend one within a certain proximity to that school. There are statutes that limit bus-ride lengths to 50 minutes for elementary students and 60 minutes for middle and high school students.

The agreement also allows the school board to make changes to the agreement with only 88 percent of the parties’ approval, which was one of the biggest sticking points for Winter Springs.

“Winter Springs said, ‘Hey, when we build new things we don’t want our students to be zoned outside of Winter Springs. We want them to be in local schools,” Sladek said. “I suggested that we don’t want anybody to be bused 8 miles to Geneva. You come to [Oviedo], you expect to go to school here. Who doesn’t? But that’s not how the proposal was.”

Oviedo had already signed on to the agreement but Cobb said they could possibly strike a new deal.

“There’s a lot of folks who are not too happy with it,” Cobb said, referring to the other cities who signed on to the new agreement.

“If Winter Springs gets their own special agreement… as one of the growing communities, I would want to have our children coming here as well, staying in our area.”

Sladek sits on the school district’s public facilities committee and said that because enrollment in SCPS has consistently been declining, it’s unlikely that any new elementary schools will be built in Oviedo.

“What we have is probably all we’re going to get,” Sladek said.

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