An Orange County Circuit judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by residents to stop the City of Winter Park from building a new $30 million library and civic center.
“The city is pleased with the ruling,” said Winter Park City Manager Randy Knight. “We will wait for the appeals period to pass before moving forward with public meetings to provide input to the architects for building design.”
The battle has cost the city $246,113 in legal fees, according to Craig O’Neil, Winter Park spokesman.
Michael Poole, who chairs the political action committee that filed suit, said Thursday that he would have to talk to his attorney, Virginia Cassady, before making a decision on appealing the court’s decision.
Cassady did not return a reporter’s phone calls.
“We have a community that is deeply divided,” said Poole, who added that the measure to build a new library passed by only 200 votes during a 2016 citywide election. “The legal fees pale when you compare it to an outrageously large library that is not needed. They’re doubling the size of library – not the book collection. This is an absolute waste of money.”
The committee gathered 2,000 signatures in a petition to stop the city from building the library in Martin Luther King Jr. Park. City commissioners voted 3-2 last August invalidating the petition saying voters approved the new library in a referendum rather than an initiative.
Circuit Judge Jennifer Harris ruled Tuesday that Winter Park citizens approved the bond referendum for construction of the library and civic center in MLK Park, thus validating the city’s authority to issue bonds to finance the project.
The new 50,000-square-foot library will replace the 33,000-square-foot library on New England Avenue. The project also includes a new 8,500-square-foot civic center and a 200-vehicle parking garage on the site of the current civic center.