As the last Winter Springs City Commission meeting neared an end Monday evening, one of the final agenda items garnered a passionate response from a group of residents, who one by one urged city leaders to adopt a 90-day moratorium on development in Winter Springs.
Winter Springs resident Sheila Benton was among those who spoke in support of the moratorium. She said it would support the needs of residents impacted by Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole.
“When those folks came in to speak to the Commission at that time, the message that they gave the commissioners was, ‘Do something’,” Benton said. “Give us some relief from the building. Now’s your opportunity to do something.”
After more than an hour of discussion, the ordinance was approved in its first public hearing.
The moratorium would pause development as the city amends code to enhance its stormwater design requirements and conducts a stormwater management study, following impacts from the recent hurricanes and large storms.
Stormwater department manager for Pegasus Engineering David Hamstra gave a presentation to the commission and city residents on the design and performance of the area’s stormwater management systems. The engineering firm has been contracted by the city to conduct its stormwater management study.
“There is some, what I would call housekeeping or cleanup, to be recommended to the City Commission on closed basins to make it quite clear what the design should be, on your primary systems, and most importantly your secondary systems,” Hamstra said. “Secondary systems are the area the public has to deal with when they are driving their car or emergency vehicles have to get in and out of an area.”
The moratorium was discussed on Nov. 17 by the city’s Planning and Zoning Board, where it unanimously passed and moved on to the City Commission for approval in two public hearings. The second public hearing date has not yet been announced.
The motion passed 4-1, with only City Commissioner Victoria Colangelo voting against. She did not participate in the conversation about the moratorium and did not offer a reason for her dissent.
According to the ordinance, the moratorium would exempt applications for final engineering plans and subdivisions of land filed and deemed complete by Oct. 10. It would also exempt development applications that do not require the permitting and construction of a stormwater management and drainage system.
Former Winter Springs City Commissioner Robert Miller spoke in favor of the moratorium, urging commissioners to consider the impact the recent hurricanes had on residents who experienced flooding.
“We’re talking about our city, we’re talking about a lot of people who may have a worse experience next time than they had in the past,” Miller said. “And if any of that can be tied to the fact that the city was busy going on with new development programs and that we kind of pushed this issue under the table… I think we may have a lot of people who are going to sue the city for failing to repair and be responsible of duties.”
Paul Partyka, former Winter Springs mayor and past president of the Oviedo-Winter Springs Chamber of Commerce, spoke against the moratorium, saying it would signal to new development opportunities that “we’re closing”.
“We don’t want to have a moratorium,” Partyka said. “I don’t care if it’s for three months or six months or two months or two weeks. What we want to do is allow people with new opportunities to come in and present those opportunities.”
Commissioner Ted Johnson expressed his support of the moratorium prior to the commission’s vote.
“I think the public expects us to do something,” Johnson said. “I think the moratorium is the vehicle to do just that.”
President and CEO of Equinox Development Ryan Stahl spoke against the moratorium, saying a national grocer whom they’d directed towards developing in Winter Springs was concerned.
“I need to call them with an update tomorrow,” Stahl said. “But their comment is nationwide when a moratorium happens, typically it’s a negative sign for any sort of future development and their big concern is on the backside of what that’s going to cause.”
“Clearly there is no simple solution here,” McCann said, just before the vote. “These problems are long in coming; the solutions may take a bit of time. We’re not interested in undue pain to organizations or individuals.”