Parking remains biggest problem for Enzian Theater's expansion project

On-site parking remains the main sticking point for the Enzian Theater’s expansion plan, according to members of the Maitland Planning and Zoning Commission, who held a public meeting on the revised proposal last night.

Although Enzian Theater first submitted their preliminary proposal for expansion in November 2012, Thursday’s meeting marked the unveiling of the revised proposal, which would boost the theater from one to three screens. Though mostly identical to the previous one, the revised plan includes details such as “dark sky” outdoor lighting and 30-foot landscaping buffers to shield neighbors from the sights and sounds of the theater. It also provides a more detailed analysis of Enzian’s 113 on-site parking spaces while making clear that the Enzian has a written agreement with Park Maitland School to use their 90 spaces. That would bring the total spaces to 203.

But that wasn’t enough for Commissioner Barry Kalmanson and the nine members of the public who spoke out against the proposal.

“I don’t know how parking is much better than two years ago,” said Kalmanson, referring to the previous proposal. “Parking is just huge for this. If you solve that, you’ve got a wonderful project.”

Kalmanson suggested that a parking garage might be the only solution, one which the Enzian has rejected for aesthetic reasons. Others were less open to solutions, arguing that an expansion would only increase parking, noise and security issues in the neighborhood east of the Enzian’s three-acre property. And while most admitted that no-parking zones on Magnolia Street were now well enforced, one neighborhood resident claimed – with photographic evidence – that some Enzian patrons were venturing deeper into the neighborhood to find parking on crowded nights. (Parking at First Watch, across US 17-92, has been rejected as a solution because of the inconvenience of crossing that busy road, though the recent addition of crosswalks has made it safer.)

Ten members of the public, including at least two who live within a couple of blocks of the Enzian, spoke in favor of the proposal, calling the Enzian a treasure and thanking the Tiedtke family for their contributions to Maitland culture. Speaking for the Enzian were attorney Hal Kantor, Executive Director David Schillhammer and President Henry Maldonado.

“Above all we are good neighbors,” Maldonado said. “Now we need some help from our neighbors.”

That statement drew a negative reaction from some members of the public, including Erin Miner, whose Magnolia Road property is adjacent to the Enzian. She said the Enzian had only become a good neighbor in the last two years while they were seeking approval for their expansion.

“Arts organizations cannot remain stagnant,” Schillhammer argued while announcing that $5 million of the project’s estimated cost of $6.5 million had already been raised.

Kantor stressed that the current code regulating permitted uses already allows for this expansion while adding that the Enzian had, upon the urging of neighborhood residents, permanently discontinued their “Outdoor Pitcher Shows.” Those free events sometimes drew close to 200 attendees, far less than the combined capacities of the proposed additional theaters, which would seat 80 and 50.

Several members of the public suggested they might support an Enzian expansion if the theater guaranteed that buffers on the north and east of the property would shield them from unwanted noise and lighting. “We just want to be able to sleep at night,” said one resident of Lake Maitland Terrace Condominiums.

Commissioner Jamie Kay Sokos also sounded cautiously optimistic, saying she and her fellow commissioners would like to “work to make sure there is a solution for everyone.”

Thursday’s meeting was characterized as a “fact-finding” hearing, and the commissioners voted unanimously to forward the Enzian’s planned development (PD) amendment to the Development Review Committee (DRC) with the request that the DRC work with the Enzian to resolve the problematic issues and report back to the Planning and Zoning Commission. No timetable exists for that, though a city staffer suggested it “could be a few months” and stressed, “It’s very early in the process.”

The expansion, first reported in Orlando Weekly in 2013, would include not just two new screens but also a new entrance, kitchen, lobby, restrooms and employee offices on the northeast side of the existing building, while preserving most of the existing landscaping and “old Florida” ambience. Based on initial estimates that construction would take about a year, the expansion, if approved, would likely open sometime after the 2019 Florida Film Festival.


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