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Dogs can stay

A sign in Mead Botanical Garden reminds citizens that dogs are not allowed in most areas of the city park.

A sign in Mead Botanical Garden reminds citizens that dogs are not allowed in most areas of the city park.

Isaac Babcock

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Dogs will continue to be allowed on Park Avenue, according to Winter Park city officials responding to an uproar at Monday's City Commission meeting.

That decree came after an alleged rumor circulated that the Commission planned to bar dogs from Park Avenue along with prohibiting them from Mead Gardens, Kraft Azalea Gardens and Dinky Dock Park.

"Someone's spreading massive disinformation," Commissioner Phil Anderson said.

"Somebody out there is really doing a poor job and spreading a lot of misinformation."

The city's parks board had recommended barring dogs from certain city parks, with the exception of certain circumstances such as loading dogs onto boats at Dinky Dock Park, and for police or service dogs.

But Anderson said some residents are perpetuating a "rumor mill" to scare other residents about the Commission's intentions.

"This is not about getting rid of dogs on Park Avenue," Anderson said.

Commissioner Beth Dillaha said she agreed that some places should be off limits for dogs in the city, but that Winter Park should be a welcoming place for dogs.

"It is the culture of the city," Dillaha said. "But it doesn't mean everywhere, all the time."

Commissioner Tom McMacken said he hoped to sit down with the parks board soon to discuss what changes could be viable and what wouldn't work.

One of the more controversial suggestions by the board was that the city discourage dog-related events on Park Avenue, and that the city prohibit dogs along Park Avenue during city events near Park Avenue, excluding parades.

"I'm really on the same page as Commissioner Dillaha in wanting to sit down with the parks board and talk to them...and look into how we work with dogs," McMacken said.

Towers

The audience was packed at Monday's Commission meeting for more than just talk about walking the dog. The Winter Park Towers retirement community had been designing an expansion for four years before Monday's meeting, but at that meeting tensions came to a head when residents, representatives of the community and former Winter Park mayors at times begged the Commission to allow the potentially $20 million expansion.

The Towers plan to add 60 new apartments plus double the parking space.

The project's biggest elements of contention revolved around its height and setback from the road, which the Commission seemed wary of, and the parking garage structure, which could add up to 207,900 square feet of parking.

"When people see it on paper people think 'Oh that's just a building' but that parking garage is the size of a football field," Dillaha said.

Former Mayor Allen Trovillion, who was mayor when the Winter Park Towers was originally built in 1965, said the Commission didn't used to involve itself in decisions such as the building expansion.

"When they went out and built the original building, they didn't even come to us," Trovillion said. "They have done a fantastic job. Let me ask you. I beg you, please let them do this."

As of January, representatives from the Winter Park Towers said they were at 98 percent capacity with a waiting list of more than 200 would-be residents.

The Commission agreed on a 110-foot setback from Lake Virginia and a four-story height limit. Now they await full plans for the Towers.