Should Orange County add two commissioners? Panel to vote Tuesday

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — A panel of Orange County citizens will vote Tuesday evening to add two more seats to the county’s commission, increasing the number of representatives from six to eight.

If passed, the expansion proposal will appear on the November ballot for voters to weigh.


The Charter Review Commission has pondered whether expansion was appropriate over the years but issued a report last month in favor of it.

The report cited the fact that the current number of commissioners was set in 1988 and each district’s population has increased from 104,000 to 250,000 residents since then and was expected to further increase to 300,000 by 2030.

“The representativeness and responsiveness adopted by the voters in their prior expansion of the County Commission has been eroded by this explosive population growth,” the report said.

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Chuck O’Neal, a member of the commission, said the panel paid particular attention to Pine Hills residents’ clamors for more localized representation and the fact that Winter Park is located in the same district as Bithlo.

Expansion would cost the county $2.4 million in one-time expenses, including the redrawing of the lines, adding office space and holding an election.

Annual expenses were projected at $1.2 million, or slightly less than two ten thousandths of the county’s overall budget.

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The expenses have been noted by conservative groups that oppose the plan. The groups are also requesting that the citizen board members amend the proposal to prohibit themselves from immediately running for the newly created seats.

WFTV contacted four commissioners to get their thoughts Tuesday. Mayra Uribe remained noncommittal. Emily Bonilla – the commissioner for Winter Park and Bithlo – said she agreed her district was too big.

Nicole Wilson sympathized with others’ comments about Bonilla’s district but said she didn’t believe now was the right time to add commissioners, even as she herself oversees a district that includes Horizon West, Winter Garden and Dr. Phillips.

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“It doesn’t resolve the issue,” she said, of commissioners being outvoted by the rest of the board. “I think representing the population we have now will be a challenge because it is growing fast, but it’s one that we can meet potentially, with the right organizational structure.”

Commissioner Mike Scott similarly said he didn’t believe the county needed to expand now, but he said it was time to have the conversation.

“It takes a while to get things up -- by the time that we do get to a point population-wise where we need two commissioners, the mechanism will be in place,” he said. “We definitely will need more commissioners; the question is when.”

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