Commissioners approve $6 million in tourist tax dollars for new Winter Park library

A new library and events center coming to the heart of Winter Park will receive a $6 million boost from Orange County tourist tax dollars.

The controversial Canopy Project in Winter Park was granted the money after a divided vote among Orange County commissioners at a meeting Tuesday.

“Is it able to bring return on investment and will tourists actually come and visit?” asked commissioner Victoria Siplin at the commission meeting.

Commissioners Siplin and Emily Bonilla voted against giving hotel tax dollars to the project because, as many Winter Park residents expressed, they didn’t feel like it was a venue that would promote tourism.

They feel it will only benefit locals.

Funding for building the new library and event center part of the project was approved by Winter Park residents, but some say that vote was too close.

Only 300 votes separated the group of 10,000 who cast their ballots.

“We do not want to be promoted as an international tourist destination. The residents want to continue to be a community of homes,” said Carol Rosenfelt, a Winter Park resident.

Twenty five people spoke at the commission meeting Tuesday, speaking both for and against the extra tourism dollars, which will pay for an auditorium and meeting space on the campus.

"Winter Park residents recently unseated a sitting commissioner by a margin of over 52%, not once but twice, primarily about this particular project,” said Rosenfelt.

The tourism dollars were approved when four commissioners and the mayor decided the county would get enough return on its investment.

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