Orlando church files petition opposing planned high-rise near Lake Eola

Orlando church files petition opposing planned high-rise near Lake Eola
Photo provided by City of Orlando

The drama surrounding a planned 28-story tower near Lake Eola Park continues as the Cathedral Church of St. Luke filed a petition Monday opposing the Orlando Municipal Planning Board’s decision to allow the project.

In July, the board approved partial plans for the City Centre project, a 215 residential unit high-rise near Lake Eola Park, despite protests from residents who opposed the encroachment on the park. The board did not dismiss or approve plans the city had to lease a part of Lake Eola Park to developers, who proposed outdoor seating for their cafe, water walls and landscape improvements to the area. 

Which is all fine and dandy, but no one notified the Cathedral Church of St. Luke, who deeded that particular piece of property to the city in 1914 on the condition that it would be used as a public park only and that the public view of Lake Eola would be protected, according to the church's legal adviser and chancellor Hernan Castro. 

Castro filed the petition against the city and Jennifer Tobin, who is the chair of the Municipal Planning Board and also, the applicant for the project. The petition alleges that neither Tobin nor the city notified St. Luke’s of the board’s meeting in July and the church found out about it through an anonymous source.

"We were surprised," Castro says. "You would have thought the city and the developer would have looked and found the deed, which was there...We didn't know anything about this even though our interests are quite clearly affected." 

Castro, who appeared at the July meeting, says he completed a request to speak to the board publicly, but in spite of this, he was not called by the board to provide input along with members of the Rosalind Club. During a break in the board's meeting, Castro spoke to the recording secretary and the board, who told him to get in line with a group of people who wanted to speak. 

"Petitioner was not afforded a meaningful opportunity to present evidence, call or cross examine witnesses or any of the remaining panoply of rights guaranteed by...the Orlando City Code," the petition says. "Petitioner was denied substantive and procedural due process."

A spokeswoman for the mayor's office told the Orlando Sentinel Monday that a "quasi-judicial" hearing would be set to hear the church's arguments. 

"What this boils down to is that 100 years ago, our grandfathers donated this land with a purpose," Castro says. "That purpose was that it would be preserved for the public use only, and we owe it to our grandchildren to do that." 

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