It is said that politics makes strange bedfellows, but I'm starting to get confused about where people are sleeping. In a unanimous 3-0 vote Monday, the Winter Park City Commission approved a 250 room J.W. Marriott that will consume the corner of Interlachen and New England Avenues. The proposed six-story structure would dwarf both the ginormous Carlisle project, leveled by a citizen's group known as One Winter Park, and the prodigious parking garage on North Park Avenue. So what confuses me?
In a ninth inning move, the City of Winter Park pulled the rug out from under the Carlisle project after the full court press from One Winter Park that included the defeat of then-mayor Kip Marchman, and the election of Mayor David Strong and the later election of Commissioner Margie Bridges. The killed project cost the City of Winter Park $3.7 Million in a lawsuit settlement with Broad Street Partners d.b.a. Central Park Station Partners. The One Winter Park group purports to want desperately to maintain the village atmosphere that is Winter Park.
Then on Monday, Jan Nichols, a founding member of One Winter Park, appeared before the Commission she helped to elect and put in a successful bid as broker for John Anderson and Jim Heistand to build an even larger structure two blocks from One Winter Parks' beloved village's main street. Nichols' selling point is the placement of a 250 room J.W. Marriott; however, Marriott hotels has yet to confirm any such plan. The original plan for that site was a luxury hotel/condo, which now has no competition thanks to Nichols and One Winter Park.
A check of the Orlando Sentinel Blog, which is usually some feisty reading, found not one objection from the usual naysayers to the Langford project. I have to ask myself , why would the same group who just mounted a "bloodbath" over moving a school from one green space to another, remain mostly silent as a six-story resort moves in downtown? The answer certainly appears to be the leadership of Jan Nichols.
In the last election Nichols donated to both the Bridges and Dillaha campaigns. Beth Dillaha was also a founder and officer in One Winter Park, Inc. Nichols filed a police report on behalf of John Anderson on March 10, 2007, after an incident where Dillaha and Bridges' campaign signs were removed and replaced with signs for Karen Diebel. Nichols stated in the police report that she was a representative for property owner John Anderson, and that he had given permission for Dillaha and Bridges to place their signs on the property. Nichols went on to insinuate that Bill Battaglia was responsible for the thefts.
Nichols' connections seem to have paid off, but the hypocrisy of her actions have not fallen on blind eyes. According to the mission statement of OneWinterPark they exist "to ensure that development and redevelopment in Winter Park will maintain the unique ambiance and character of the City by preserving the Village scale as defined in the Winter Park Comprehensive Plan dated May, 1999." They were "formed by concerned residents who have become alarmed by the large number of redevelopment projects in the City and in particular, the scale, pace and impact of such redevelopment." Nichols' group mobilized to bring an expensive end to the competition posed by the Carlisle, and yet now laud another massive project two blocks away. We tried to contact One Winter Park Inc, but they did not return our emails.
Development is not the problem in this Village, power is the problem; who has it, and who wants it. Nichols, it appears, has used hers to convince the masses they need to limit development; that is, limit it to her projects. We should wake up and realize that development is coming, no matter what you call it. A rose by any other name is still a rose.