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Crowd Funding a Future Music Teacher’s Dream

A young Kingsford resident who has defied the odds is now closer to fulfilling a dream – thanks to crowd funding and the power of social media.

Jonathan Sims, 17, a senior in Robinson High School’s IB program has a dream. Yet, at the age of four, the odds were starkly stacked against him.

His story begins with addiction and abuse, then takes a turn toward miraculous.

“I was born in Tennessee and lived with my mom there for three years,” he began.

The arrangement, however, was fraught with unpredictability “She got involved in drugs,” he explained.

With his mother’s addiction getting the better of her, Sims was shipped off to his father in Florida. “It was the same sort of deal,” he said.

There were more drugs and alcohol. What’s worse, the 4-year-old soon fell victim to physical abuse. “He would get angry and take that out on me.”

When Sims showed up at preschool with bruises one morning, his teacher inquired about their origin. “I told her the honest truth,” he said. “I then found myself in a police station with a bunch of police officers asking me questions.”

Removed from his father, Sims stayed briefly with his grandmother, but she had no place for him even to sleep. “It was either a family member takes me or I go into the foster care system,” he said of a moment on which his life pivoted.

His aunt, Amy Callaghan and her husband, Sean, worked a miracle in the young boy’s life. They stepped I, welcoming Jonathan into their lives and home.

While all thought it would be temporary, Jonathan remained with them for the next 13 years. Meanwhile Amy and Sean gave birth to four additional children.

While still technically part of the foster care system until he turns 18, Sims calls Amy and Sean mom and dad. He refers to their biological children as his brothers and sisters.

Fifth grade found him moving to Westchase with the Callaghans. Arriving at Davidsen Middle School, Jonathan joined the Davidsen band. “That’s where I found the passion for it.”

The “it” was music, which he aims to fashion into a lifelong career. The self-described hardcore band geek said, “I originally signed up to take the trumpet but there was a lack of tubas. One of my friends dared me to do it and I said, ‘OK.’”

He added, “And I’m still doing it.”

Sims is now a tubist with the award-winning Robinson High School band.  What’s more, he was recently named one of the eight best tubists in the nation with his acceptance by the Honor Band of America. After hearing about the opportunity from a friend in band camp, he sent in an audition tape toward the end of last year. He learned in January he had been accepted.

The honor offered the opportunity to travel to Indianapolis, Indiana in March, where he’d spend three days rehearsing under the Michigan State University band director along with some of the nation’s top high school musicians. Afterward, they’d offer a Saturday concert and would be feted at an awards banquet.

Sims had one problem: a shortage of money to make the dream trip happen.

Enter social media.

In an effort to raise the $650 he needed for the conference, Sims created a page on GoFundMe, a crowdfunding Web site. “I’ve heard from other people that it works and I’ve seen the power of social media and how it gets spread so quickly.”

He posted a link on his Facebook page, which Amy Callaghan then shared on hers. “It was getting all over the place before I knew it. Facebook is a very nice tool,” Sims said.

Thirteen angels stepped forward, with anonymous donations including $100 and $150. With the original goal of the conference paid for, Sims plans on using any further funds for his $300 plane ticket.

What else might he need?

When WOW asked, he laughed wistfully. “What would be great would be if I could actually buy a tuba,” he said.

Sims currently doesn’t own the instrument on which he’s grown so accomplished.

The enormous instruments don’t come cheap. The least expensive models start at a few thousand dollars. They rise from there, topping out at the cost of a compact car.

Sims has applied to FSU, DePauw, Auburn, University of Tampa, where he’ll pursue a degree that will allow him to become a music teacher. “I want to start in high school. Then, when I get some experience there, I want go back to college and get my Ph.D. so I can teach there. That’s my end goal.”

On his GoFundMe page, Sims wrote, “Music has always played an important role in my life, throughout my difficult childhood, music was always there. Because I found this passion early on in life, I knew from a young age what direction my life is going. I plan on going to college and majoring in music education so I can share my love of music with others.”

Where will he head next year?

“A big factor will be how much they’re willing to offer scholarship-wise,” he said of his four choices. 

To help make Jonathan’s dream come true, you can visit his GoFundMe page and also make a donation. Simply visit


By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Solar Energy: A Home and World Improvement Project

In just 90 minutes the sun bathes our planet with enough energy to power everything on earth for an entire year.


And it’s scheduled to continue providing this free energy for the next 4.5 billion years.

How much are we capturing?

Solar energy now represents only 1.4 percent of all energy produced in the U.S. The rest our of energy needs are largely covered by coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear. Another renewable source, hydroelectric, provides about seven percent.

With the sun sitting roughly 93 million miles away, the light and heat currently leaving its surface won’t reach us for about another eight minutes. Yet it still drives all life on our planet, providing on average, about 1.37 kilowatts of energy per square meter of earth.

The next decade promises a dramatic shift in the amount of that free energy we collect. The last decade has a brought a revolution to solar-energy products, whose costs have plummeted. Meanwhile concerns about global climate change and our contributing dependence on fossil fuels have skyrocketed.

According to Dave Click of the Florida Solar Energy Center, “Generally, efficiencies have increased by roughly 50 percent and system prices are 60-80 percent lower compared with what was being installed in 2005.”

The Solar Energy Center, associated with University of Central Florida, was created by the Florida legislature in 1975 to serve as the state’s energy research institute.
Due to the drop in price of solar energy systems, a kilowatt of solar energy is now cheaper to produce than a kilowatt generated by a nuclear power plant. Solar energy is now competitive with even oil and natural gas.

A number of Americans, particularly in states with generous clean energy incentives, have suddenly taken notice. Thousands are hiring solar companies to free them from the grasp of their utility companies. Housing developers are increasingly seeing a benefit to incorporating solar panels and other devices into their new communities.

The result?

New net-zero communities like Trilogy, a Shea Homes development 30 miles outside Orlando.

Each Trilogy home comes with an electric charging station for cars and solar power systems. Owners of the homes, priced between $173,000-$367,000, have monthly electric bills that run about $10.

As recently as the year 2000, installation costs for solar panels were so high, their utility savings wouldn’t pay for them over the course of their 20-25 year lifespans. Solar products of old were purchased largely by the well-to-do and eco-friendly businesses.

All that’s changed.

After recently reviewing 45,000 solar estimates, weather patterns, utility savings and state and federal incentives, solar provider One Block Off the Grid recently calculated the repayment time for investments in solar panels. The shortest solar payback periods were seen in Massachusetts (four years) and Hawaii (5.4 years), New Jersey (6.5 years), Louisiana (6.6 years), Maryland (6.9 years), New York (8.2 years), Ohio (8.7 years), and California (nine years).
The states with the longest payback periods were Virginia (19.1 years), Idaho (19.1 years), Nebraska (19.2 years), Kansas (19.3 years), and Arkansas (19.7 years).
Yet now even the longest repayment periods cover the costs of their installations.

Where does Florida fall?

“It depends a lot on local regulations and pricing variability,” said Click, “but generally it’s in the 15-year timeframe.”

Florida, which touts itself as the Sunshine State, now has fewer solar energy installations in the state than New Jersey. Georgia, with a much smaller state population, is expected to surpass Florida in 2015.


Solar has to fight an uphill battle in the state, partly due to state laws, partly due to the influence of Florida’s utilities over their own state regulatory agency. “In many states, a homeowner or business owner can enter into a special contract with a solar developer who owns and operates the system on the property. This contract, called a power purchase agreement, is set up such that the homeowner pays the developer only for the solar power produced by the system,” observed Click.

“Unfortunately, 30 years ago a regulatory decision by the Public Service Commission made power purchase agreements illegal, and some utilities enforce this by requiring a customer to submit their contracts for review by the utility legal team,” he added. “In more solar-friendly states like Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, well over 50 percent of homeowners opt for third-party ownership. It’s clearly a policy that could lead to many more rooftop solar power systems across our state.”

Current law also forbids private entities other than the utilities from selling power to consumers. It also limits the sizes of solar arrays. “Hawaii, which has much less land area than Florida, of course, doesn’t even have a limit,” stated Click. “You should be able to install a larger solar power system in Florida than in West Virginia, but that’s not how it is right now.”

Click concluded, “The solar industry doesn’t need a handout, but a market.”

Some consumer groups are readying a push for a 2016 state constitutional amendment. It would grant the right to other entities to sell power to consumers, opening the door for consumers who would prefer to have companies install the systems on their roofs and then sell them the power.

That, as Click pointed out, would put a lot of lazy Florida roofs to work.

In the meantime, the only option for Floridians is to install and own their own solar systems.
At first glance, the costs can be a little intimidating. A closer study, however, reveals benefits that may spark Westchasers to adopt solar as their next home improvement project.

“The average home uses about 14,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) a year and would need perhaps a 10,000 watt south-facing system (about 800 square feet) to produce all the energy the house would consume over a year,” Click said. “This size system goes for perhaps $30,000-$35,000 today with [the current] 30 percent federal tax credit. If the customer decided to install a smaller system, we’ve seen pricing for a 5,000 watt system under $15,000 (so around $10,000 after the federal tax credit).”

Steve Rutherford of Tampa Energy Solutions, which provides solar systems, scratches his head that more homeowners don’t take advantage of solar power in the Sunshine State. “East of the Mississippi,” Rutherford said, “Florida is number one in solar production capacity.”

“We compete on level just behind Arizona, California and others,” he added.

But what about all those summer rains?

“We have clouds here,” acknowledged Rutherford, “but they don’t affect us as much as people think. We get plenty of sun.”

Until December 2016 the U.S. federal government is offering a 30 percent tax credit on the installation of most solar panels. A credit rather than a deduction, the tax deal offers a dollar for dollar savings off your tax bill. Once you factor in the 30 percent tax credit, the average $22,000 system will cost you $15,400. Some states, counties and municipalities offer further tax incentives and some utilities offer rebates (TECO’s has currently reached its limit but funds do occasionally become available throughout the year; utility companies, however, recently lobbied the state legislature to end the requirement that they offer such credits). Currently Westchase homeowners will only benefit from the federal tax credit.

To calculate your repayment period, now you would have to factor in current utility rates and projected savings. Here Florida offers a wrinkle. Florida’s electricity rates, at about 13 or 14 cents per kilowatt hour, are some of the lowest rates charged for electricity in the nation. Electricity in Hawaii, for example costs three to four times more. Combined with their local government solar incentives, Hawaii’s utility savings will pay for a solar system in just over five years. The savings from the next 20 years of utility bills can then be banked or spent by the homeowner.

For a 2,100 square foot Westchase home, the annual electric bill, with a variable speed pool pump and a thermostat set to 78 degrees during the day and 73 degrees at night, will set you back roughly $1,700 per year, an average of $142 per month. If your $15,400 system cuts that by 65 percent, you’re looking at a 14 year payback. And you can bank thousands after that over the lifespan of the system.

For those wondering how they can avoid paying for the electricity they use each night after the sun goes down, the answer is “net metering.” Current law compels utilities to pay homeowners the going rate for solar power they don’t use during the day. Solar systems essentially cause homeowners electric meters to run backwards by sending unused solar power back to TECO. The surplus built up during sunny portions of days is used up at night and during cloudy days. If you’re on vacation for a half a month, the credit will roll over to the next month.
But with seven percent of Westchase homes selling on average every year, does it still make sense to make the investment?

When WOW posed that question to local Realtors, Doug Wood of Coldwell Banker’s the Wood Team, responded, “Wow. Good timing.”

Wood recently handled the sale of a Woodbay home with a solar system. While the home featured other amenities, Wood stated, “As far as pricing and recouping costs at sale of the home, I would say much of the cost (depending if the owner was able to get the incentives provided by the utility companies) can be recouped on sale and over time in savings.  The [Woodbay home] sold $203.86 per square foot, which was probably $5 to $10 greater than one could reasonably expect.  The reasons were first the home has a pool and was upgraded and immaculate, plus the solar panels I believe had an impact with the appraiser.”

Its former owner, Dave Naymick, lived in the home for nine years. Two years prior to selling, Naymick decided to put on the system. He hired a company called Solar Source to do the work. “The work they did was great,” he said.

Naymick went so far as to explore whether he could save money by purchasing the materials independently and installing them himself. He found, however, given available credits, he could save money by going through the company.

Click agreed that solar is not a do-it-yourself project. When asked if homeowners should ever attempt to install their own solar system, Click responded, “Absolutely not. Despite what some scam Web sites would tell you, you can’t unplug from the utility company after buying a $50 how-to guide and assembling a system in a box from China. Solar power systems are very complex and we’re still far removed from a true ‘plug and play’ product. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you are much more likely to get shocked or fall off your roof and die. Heights, electricity, and unfamiliar technology really aren’t a good mix for the untrained.”

Naymick paid $21,500 for a 4.855 kilowatt system. He saved about $1,500 by foregoing the company’s financing.

His motive?

Saving money on his utilities. “I love the environment but it’s not my driving force.”

“The deal was right,” Naymick explained. “There were financial tax credits from the government as well as a TECO-sponsored credit.”

Without the credits, Naymick said that utility savings would pay for the 25-year system in 28 years. The credits made the system make financial sense. “For me to do it again, I’d need both credits,” he acknowledged.

Naymick, who said he kept his thermostat set to 77, observed, “About five-eighths of my electric bill went away.”

Naymick also pointed out one reason why New Jersey is one of the leading solar producers in the country: its cool weather. Solar systems actually produce more energy when its components are cooler. Despite featuring the shortest days of the year, December’s cool and dryer days produced the most solar energy for him.

While he lived in the house only two years, Naymick said the presence of the system did help with his home’s sale. “I think I set the new high water mark for price per square foot [in Westchase]. I’m pretty sure it’s the only reason it appraised at that amount.”

Homeowners considering solar systems have a couple of options. Like Naymick they can opt for the traditional rack of photovoltaic panels, bolted to your rooftop. Prior to installation, owners should check whether the panel installation will impact their roof warranty. Homeowners who install them should also understand their wind code rating due to the area’s susceptibility to tropical storms.

Another option, growing in popularity but still rare in Florida, are solar shingles. Offered by both Dow Powerhouse of Michigan and CertainTeed of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, the devices are designed to look like mini-solar panels built right into shingles. Featuring a far smaller profile than traditional bulky panels, they lie flat on homes’ roofs and take the place of actual asphalt shingles. Their main disadvantage is cost.

While Westchase’s governing documents are currently silent on solar shingles, Florida statute 163.04 restricts a homeowners association’s ability to limit or ban solar collectors. All exterior modifications to Westchase homes, however, still require prior approval by the Westchase Community Association’s (WCA) Modifications Committee.

How do solar shingles differ from the more commonplace bolt-down panels?

“We’re seeing the total installed cost coming in at 15-20 percent higher than the standard rack model.” acknowledged Mark Stancroff with CertainTeed.

Josh Wimble of Dow’s Marketing and Business Communications Department, stated that, to achieve the same energy output, solar shingles require a bit more roof area than bolt-down panels. “However, typically it is not such a huge drawback because we can design them for unique roof shapes,” he stated.

In other words, the shingles, unlike the photovoltaic panels, don’t have to be rectangular.
Wimble argued there are great benefits to solar shingles. Rather than paying for both traditional asphalt shingles and then bolt-down panels, homeowners have to spring for just the solar shingles in one area of the roof and asphalt shingles elsewhere – and local, trained roofers install them at the same time. Dow will put you in contact with their installers while CertainTeed offers a page on their Web site that offers the names of certified installers, which must be used to ensure the company honors its product warranties.

Wimble noted that the solar shingles come with two 20-year warranties. The first, a performance warranty, will replace the solar shingles if they lose more than 10 percent of their energy output in the first decade or 20 percent over two decades.

All solar panels, according to our experts, generally see a decline in output of about one-half of one percent each year.

The second Dow warranty is a 20-year weatherization warranty. Dow’s solar shingles can be walked on and are wind-tested to 150 miles per hour.

CertainTeed is still working on approval for Florida’s tough wind codes. Their product is not Miami-Dade certified but does currently meets 110-mile per hour wind codes.

While offering a similar performance guarantee as Dow, CertainTeed’s weatherization and installation warranty is 15 years. Its price, according to Stancroff, however, is lower than Dow’s.
Wimble points out the solar shingles’ low profile give them a better chance of withstanding an intense hurricane than the bolt down racks. And their installation won’t void existing roof warranties. Further, solar shingles require ten times fewer roof surface penetrations than bolt-down panels.

Dow’s product, however, cannot be used with Spanish barrel-tile roofs. CertainTeed, however, does offer a flat solar shingle for incorporation into barrel-tile roofs.

According to Dow, for a 2,500-square-foot Florida home with a 3,000-square-foot roof, the installation of an asphalt-shingle roof will run about $13,500. Implementing solar shingles to offset 80 percent of electricity costs will run $38,360, or roughly $25,000 more. A 40 percent energy offset will increase the roof replacement cost by $15,000. 

Both companies, like most solar installers, offer financing opportunities to help pay costs off over a number of years. The product is also eligible for the 30 percent federal tax credit.

Solar power, however, is not possible everywhere. Generally it requires a roof with a southern exposure that is free from the shade of trees. Homes with existing solar pool heaters may find they lack adequate roof space for additional solar panels. In that case, according to Rutherford, you have to choose between a colder pool or cheaper electricity. Using online satellite photos, most installers, however, can call up images of your home to advise you on the possibilities before even scheduling a visit.

If your roof space is limited, there are other options. Smaller arrays can be used to power solar water heaters. Solar water heaters require only 40 square feet of roof space. Running roughly $4,000, Rutherford says that solar heaters heat water to higher temperatures than gas heaters, then mix heated and cooler water to achieve the desired temperatures. “They easily last 10 years,” he said, adding some owners have gotten 15 years out of them.

Homeowners need not worry about the hot water running out at night. Homeowners can install 100 gallon tanks. For cloudy days or days of heavy use, the solar water heaters also come with an electric backup.

Requiring only 60-80 square feet of roof space, solar pool pumps, which run from $4,000-10,000, will keep your pool water filtered and clean without adding an extra burden to your electric bill.

Requiring roughly the same area as a full-size solar array, a solar pool heater, however, doesn’t use photovoltaic cells. Running roughly $4,000, pool heaters use a series of black, rubber tubes that absorb solar heat from your roof and transfer it to your pool. They generally extend the swimming season by providing warmer water a month earlier and a month later than a pool with no heater. Used with a thermal cover, however, solar heaters can keep families swimming nearly year round. For those who simply prefer warm water, a solar pool heater will keep you toasty and warm without added natural gas costs.

Clearly, with the growing number of products as well as growing efficiencies and falling prices, solar energy in Florida has a bright, expansive future.

Now embracing solar power isn’t just a smart and sensible Westchase home improvement project.

It’s a world-improvement project.

Solar shingle photos courtesy of Dow Powerhouse.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

2015 Home Improvement Guide Summaries

WOW thanks the following home improvement specialists for helping to bring you the Home Improvement Special. The listings on these pages represent paid advertisements in conjunction with the Home Improvement Special. Paid advertising is not an endorsement by WOW, Inc. Interested residents should contact the businesses and ask all relevant questions prior to engaging their services.

A Superior Plumbing
(813) 852-1118
A Superior Plumbing Solution provides quality, on-time, 24-hour residential and commercial plumbing services. Westchase residents, we serve the greater Tampa area. Your satisfaction is guaranteed!

Advanced Cooling Systems, Inc.
(813) 855-6006
Focused on 100 percent customer satisfaction. Offering the best air conditioning warranty in the industry, 12 years parts and labor on qualifying systems. A+ rated on BBB and all A's on Angie's List.

Anderson Aluminum
(813) 961-1764
Make your dreams a reality with Anderson Aluminum. Specialists in shingled insulated roof systems. We offer screen room and pool enclosures.

C&C Painting
(813) 886-7100
The trusted interior and exterior painting professionals for over 15 years in Westchase. Call us for a prompt and professional quote.

Carlson Construction
(727) 744-8397
We are a painting and pressure washing contractor with over 2,000 projects completed in Westchase. Interior and exterior. Sherwin Williams approved.

Citrus Park Lawn Care
(813) 480-8216
Full service lawn care: mowing, fertilizer, pest control, weed/disease control, sod, mulch, plants, sprinkler service, tree trimming, indoor pest control. One call-one company!

Custer Cleaning
(727) 458-8763
We have been in business since 1993. Our business is built on integrity with attention to detail providing professional window cleaning and pressure cleaning.

Done Rite Roofing
(813) 530-8458
Serving the entire Tampa-St. Pete-Clearwater-Pasco areas for over 17 years. Done Rite Roofing is an approved applicator of Lifetime roofing products and workmanship warranties.

Ely Contracting
(813) 431-9412
Specializing in bathroom and kitchen remodels and all of your “honey do” needs! Owned and operated by Pat Ely, a Florida Certified Building Contractor.

Famous Tate
(813) 749-2320
Since 1954 we have been serving the Tampa Bay area with great deals on appliances and mattress sets. We will help find the right product for your budget!

Hanover Floors Carpet One Showroom
(813) 920-0706
From design ideas through installation, Hanover provides quality at affordable pricing. Our showroom has a wide selection of products, knowledgeable and friendly staff to help you.

Hybrid Construction
(813) 300-8019
Licensed and insured general contractor (CGC #1515916). Residential and commercial. We take pride in being responsive, professional and reliable. Free estimates.

Florida Forever Floors by Home Floors
(813) 854-5677
We look forward to serving you and assisting you through your next flooring project. Whether it is an exotic hardwood floor, carpet or tile, we go the extra distance to handle your project with care.

Motts Contracting
(813) 931-7596
Serving you since 2004, specializing in residential remodels and additions, interior and exterior painting, roofing and other specialty services including carpentry, flooring and pavers as well as handyman projects.

Orlicki Group Mortgage Services
(813) 235-0938
Robert DiGiore – your mortgage and real estate resource in Westchase. My team and I specialize in low cost refinancing programs and VA loans for veterans.

Sears Garage Door
(866) 344-4093
A new garage door will give your home a whole new look. Choose from our classic Carriage House Collection or our vast selection of traditional style garage doors.

Sears Entry Door
(866) 344-4093
A new front entry door, storm door, or patio door from Sears. All doors are handcrafted using the very best products, professional care and detail.

Sears Handyman Solutions
(866) 344-4093
Let us help maintain your home. We have knowledgeable, background checked, uniformed craftsmen that can help with all of your home project needs.

Screens ‘R’ Us
(813) 295-1217
Energize and enjoy your outdoor space. From single panels to full rescreens, we will help you rejuvenate your outdoor space to take full advantage of your screened patio.

(813) 885-6900
Stone-Mart is your source for premium travertine at the most competitive cost. We maintain an on-hand inventory of over 4 million square feet.

Summit Bay Construction
(813) 892-4203
Specializing in custom homes, remodeling and home additions. Licensed, insured and A+ rated from the BBB, customer satisfaction and project quality are our top priorities!

Tampa Bay Air Conditioning
(813) 949-2114
Let us help keep you warm all winter and cool all summer. Specializing in service, repair and installation for all makes.

Tampa Energy Solutions
(813) 398-3687
Stop leasing your power from the electric companies and own it with a new solar power system. Solar panels for your home, water heaters, pool pumps and pool heaters.

Westfall Roofing
(813) 264-5690
We would like to thank the Stonebridge Community. It has been our pleasure serving all of your roofing needs. From our family to yours.


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Stand Up and Squeak

The saying goes: the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

This month the Westchase Community Association (WCA) needs five minutes of your time to help build a stronger, safer community.

On a number of WOW’s pages this month you’ll read about Westchase leaders organizing an online petition drive to convince Hillborough County’s Board of County Commissioners to find adequate funding to pave Westchase’s crumbling roads.

A December WOW article revealed that Hillsborough County has dramatically underfunded road resurfacing for the last half decade. For fiscal year 2015, which runs through Sept. 30, 2015, the county has budgeted $5.2 million for repaving roads, which will pave roughly 21.5 miles of two-lane roads.

If you don’t factor in Linebaugh Avenue and Countryway Boulevard – and also pull out the roads in Westchase neighborhoods behind gates (which are owned and repaved by the Community Development District and paid for by their own residents) – the remaining Westchase roads total about 19 miles. Repaving these roads alone would eat up 88 percent of the county’s repaving budget this year.

In other words, Westchase is going to have to do a whole lot of squeaking to get the grease.

Some believe that the county is allowing roads to deteriorate to build support for a transit referendum tentatively scheduled for November 2016.

Imagine the state of Westchase roads by that point. Now imagine what will happen if the transit referendum fails.

Is this a responsible way for the county to maintain its largest, most important asset?

Are you ready to squeak yet?

If so, check out the WCA’s article on page 10. Take five minutes, pull up your laptop, sign the Westchase Road Repaving petition and then hand the laptop to the other adults of voting age in your home. Standing together as a community, we may just get this done.

This month’s WOW also features our annual Home Improvement Special, which may have you looking at solar energy in a whole new light.

WOW writers Karen Ring and Marcy Sanford also offer new looks at some of our community’s most overlooked prizes. February is one of the best months to get out and enjoy our state. Did you also know that Florida is enormously popular with ornithologists – bird watchers – because so many of our birds live nowhere else? Check out Karen’s article to learn more about our local feathered friends. Then enjoy Marcy’s article, which offers some great opportunities in nearby parks to help you make the most out of February.

As always, we welcome your shout outs and letters and ask that you let our valued advertisers know that you’ve seen them in WOW. Doing so will help keep WOW strong – and enable us to continue giving back to Westchase.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Perfect Park Pastimes for February Fun

February is the perfect time in Florida to explore the great outdoors.

With so many parks close to Westchase, it is easy to find one that you’ll enjoy. Lace up your tennis shoes, grab your bike or kayak (or, if you prefer a picnic, a basket and blanket) and enjoy our temperate weather before we’re all complaining it’s too hot again.

Closest to home, Lake Rogers Park in Odessa has a 2.5-mile dirt trail that circles around its namesake. The hike is well-shaded with frequent views of the lake and educational signs with information about local plants and animals.

For a shorter hike, John Chestnut Park in Palm Harbor has three different half-mile trails. The North Trail, which begins at Shelter 10, will take you through a cypress swamp. The Peggy Park Trail is a self-guided nature walk close to the front of the park. The Boardwalk Trail runs along Lake Tarpon and has an elevated lookout tower with stunning views of the lake. This trail begins at the boat ramp or you can access it at Shelter 2. (If you start here, turn left to get to the lookout tower.)

If you’re looking for a longer hike, both Lake Park in Lutz and Brooker Creek in Tarpon Springs are easy drives from Westchase. Lake Park has a two-mile scenic hiking trail as well as an exercise trail. Brooker Creek has five-miles of hiking trails through pine flatwoods and forested wetlands.

If you’re truly up for a challenge, the Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Preserve in New Port Richey has 27 miles of marked hiking trails and 6.7 miles of paved trails. The Preserve is one of the largest undeveloped tracts in Pasco County and is home to the solar system walk, a series of signs about our solar system starting with the sun and then spaced (no pun intended) accordingly. For example, Pluto is located a mile from the sun.

The Starkey Preserve is also an excellent choice if you’re interested in biking. The 6.7-mile paved multipurpose trail connects to the Suncoast Trail. If you’re interested in going off the paved trail, go to the multiuse Rudy’s Ramble Trail. Located at Parking Lot 10, this trail winds seven miles through sand pine, oak hammock, oak scrub, and pine/palmetto scrub. The trail is shaded and loops around a picturesque lily pond. You can ride the trail to the end and back for a total ride of about 15 miles or you can combine the trail ride with the paved trail for a 10-mile loop.

Kayaking and Canoeing
If you’d rather be on the water than land, you also have some excellent nearby options. At Upper Tampa Bay Park, located off Hillsborough Road, you can explore the Double Branch Creek and Old Tampa Bay. If you don’t have your own canoe or kayak, that’s not a problem since they offer rentals, as does Lake Park. They don’t have rentals at John Chestnut Park but they do have Lake Tarpon, which can also accommodate boats with engines and a canoe trail connected to an interior lake. A canoe and kayak launch is also available at Lake Rogers Park.

If you’re not interested in any of the above activities, but still want to get out and enjoy nature, almost all of these parks have unique amenities for you to enjoy. Lake Park, Upper Tampa Bay, Starkey Preserve, and John Chestnut all have plenty of shelters and pavilions where you can relax and enjoy the view, as well as playgrounds to keep children entertained. Lake Park is also home to an archery range and a radio-controlled car track. John Chestnut has a large, enclosed dog park and a lovely butterfly garden. And both Upper Tampa Bay and Brooker Creek have education centers.

All are within a short drive of Westchase. Upper Tampa Bay, Lake Park, and Lake Rogers Park all charge a $2 per car admission fee.

By Marcy Sanford


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Village Voices: Road Repaving Petition and Westchase Crime


February brings a couple of quick updates. The petition regarding the repaving of our roads is receiving its final tweaks and should be rolled out this month. Various avenues of communication will be used to notify everyone when the petition becomes available for signature. For starters, please see the article on page 10. The Westchase Community Association (WCA) board is backing this petition and will submit it on behalf of the entire Westchase community.

At the January Westchase Voting Members (VMs) meeting we were fortunate to have a presentation from the District III staff of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), which included the district’s newly appointed leader, Major Chad Chronister. They indicated that overall the Westchase community has a very low crime rate that is thanks, in part, to our residents. As I have mentioned before, please be diligent with our Neighborhood Watch and report anything that is suspicious.

Major Chronister indicated that a majority of the incidents in the area involve burglaries resulting from people leaving garage doors open and cars unlocked, making them easy targets. If you park your cars in the driveway, please be sure to lock them and remember to close your garage doors even during the day. The HCSO regularly patrols the neighborhoods and the CDD also pays for two deputies to patrol the neighborhoods daily. Major Chronister also indicated that the HCSO will soon be starting bike patrols.

A reminder to all: please check out the Bennington/Woodbay neighborhood page on If you have not already joined this social Web site, I encourage you to please do so for updated information throughout the month.

Have a good month!

By Jeanne Klimschot, Bennington VM

The Bridges

Some of our roads need repaving badly. The Westchase Community Association (WCA) is sponsoring a petition drive to let the Hillsborough County Commission know of our wishes for paving sooner rather than later. You can read details of the petition on page 10 of this month's WOW. Please go online and sign the petition. If you are unable to sign the electronic petition on the Web, contact me (926-3059) and I will bring you a paper copy to sign. We need every resident to participate!

The voting members had a visit from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) District III office last month. The very good news is that Westchase is a very low crime area. Of course, when your home or car is targeted, your crime rate is 100 percent. Most of the crimes are crimes of opportunity (or invitation). Don't invite criminals into our neighborhood by leaving garage doors open, vehicles unlocked or personal electronics, purses and keys in your vehicles.

Are you leaving your home for vacation? Did you know that the Community Development District (CDD) directs our Privacy Patrol to keep an extra watch out for residents who are going away and leaving their home empty for a period of time? All you need to do is call Sonny Whyte at the CDD office (920-4268) and let her know the dates you will be away. She will notify the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office Patrol to keep an eye on your home.

If you have any issues that need my attention, please contact me. I also have an e-mail list I use to send messages out pertaining to The Bridges from time to time. If you would like to be included on that list, send me your e-mail and home address.

The Greens

Happy Valentine’s Day!

As many of you may be aware, the Westchase Community Association (WCA) and your Westchase Voting Members have been hard at work drafting a petition to solicit support from the Hillsborough County Commissioners to repave Westchase roads. While this does not directly affect the residents of The Greens (our roads are maintained by our CDD assessments), we are definitely behind the cause of keeping all of Westchase’s roads updated and paved regularly. It is good for Westchase and good for our resale values. Sometime soon, no later than the beginning February, you will be receiving an e-mailed petition via The Greens or WCA e-mail lists. The location of the online petition is also detailed in the WOW article on page 10.

Once you receive that e-mail, click on the petition link, whereby you will be able to add your name, address, and comments to the commissioners as to why we need their support in repaving Westchase’s roads. Further, we ask that every member of your household that is voting age to click on that link and add their names to the petition. Folks, there is strength in numbers, so all hands on deck!

Are you aware that if you lease your Westchase property, you must notify the WCA manager and provide a copy of the executed lease or you may be subject to a violation notice and fine? Contact the WCA office for details.

The link to the Community Development District (CDD) and the gatehouse is There. you’ll find further information along with the resident form. Please update your resident file. When was the last time you did that?

On a final note, I am still putting together a committee of Greens residents to assess the feasibility of creating a new database of resident e-mails. Please let me know if you are interested in being part this committee. I still need volunteers for this committee. Please don’t be shy.

By Gerald (Jerry) Pappa, The Greens VM


Our annual neighborhood meeting was held on Dec. 15 at the Westchase Community Association (WCA) Office. Thank you for reelecting me as your voting member and selecting Ryan Benson and Mike Gorecki as our alternate VMs. Ron Boyington has stepped down as the alternate VM and we thank him for volunteering all those past years.

At the meeting the proxy cards were tallied and we did not reach the required number needed to change the mailboxes.

I want to thank each of you for keeping our 2014 courtesy notices in decline. As a neighborhood we do a great job of maintaining our homes and I look forward to keeping that up for 2015.

At the Westchase Voting Members Meeting we were introduced to the new leadership at the District III office of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. We learned that Westchase will receive some bike patrol officers once training is completed. Also, Westchase has one of the lowest crime rates in the county. Of the robberies in Westchase last quarter, most were due to open garage doors and unlocked doors. Major Chronister informed us that criminals look to take advantage of these types of opportunities.

I hope each of you is having a great start to 2015!

By Ed Siler, Stockbridge VM


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Bountiful Birds Winter in Westchase

Florida is a bird lover’s paradise.

And February is the perfect month to fly outside and enjoy our feathered friends. Not only is this a great time of year to appreciate the birds that live here year-round, it is also an ideal opportunity to catch a glimpse of the many birds visiting for winter.

The best place to begin is right here in Westchase, where a number of sought after species can be found. 

This brown-and-white flecked bird with a long, pointy beak is often seen hanging out on the edge of Westchase ponds. Those who live near the water are probably familiar the Limpkin’s loud, mournful cries that have earned it the nickname "the wailing bird." Birders from across the U.S. flock to Florida in search of the Limpkin, as this is the only U.S. state in which they reside.

Roseate Spoonbill
This beautiful pink bird, named for its spoon-shaped bill, can often been seen searching for food in the pond at the far west end of West Park Village. The Gulf Coast is the only area of the U.S. where the Spoonbill can be found and approximately 15 percent of the population nests in Tampa Bay. This bird’s beauty almost led to its demise in the latter part of the 19th century, when its bright pink feathers were used to make fans for tourists. Thankfully, with legal intervention, this colorful bird has made a comeback.

These graceful, long-necked black birds often perch along the banks of Westchase ponds with their wings spread. Unlike most birds, Anhingas do not have oil glands to waterproof their feathers, so they must spread their wings to dry in the sun.

Westchasers may also see these birds darting through the water with only their heads and necks exposed, a behavior that led to the nickname “snake bird.” Florida is the only U.S. state where the Anhinga lives year-round. A very similar bird, the Double-breasted Cormorant, also makes a regular appearance in Westchase and can be distinguished by its sharply hooked bill. 

Wood Stork
The Wood Stork, with its wrinkled head and gangly legs, is certainly not going to win any beauty pageants. Yet when this bird soars through the skies, its massive black and white wings extended, it is quite a sight to behold. The Wood Stork is the only stork to breed in the U.S. and Florida is the only state it calls home year-round. The Wood Stork is currently on the endangered species list due to habitat loss. A flock regularly congregates on the banks of the pond in Bayboro Bridge.

Great Egret
This large, bright white bird, commonly seen skulking through the reeds of many community ponds, is fascinating to observe as it tiptoes through the water and then stands statue still before swooping in to catch its prey. Great Egrets can also be found slinking through Westchase yards in search of lizards. In the late nineteenth century, this beautiful bird was hunted nearly to extinction for its plumes, sparking conservation movements and some of the first laws to protect birds. Similar species in Westchase include the Cattle Egret, a short, stocky bird with yellow plumes on its head and neck, and the Snowy Egret, distinguished by its bright yellow feet, black bill and elegant tail feathers.

Great Blue Heron
These gorgeous, blue-gray birds are agile hunters that can be readily seen wading through the water in search of food. Unlike egrets, they are rarely seen foraging on dry ground. Overhead, look for their slow wing beats, tucked-in neck and extended legs. A smaller species, the Little Blue Heron, can also be seen throughout Westchase.

White Ibis
This white bird with a long, red, down-curved bill is often seen traveling in groups throughout Westchase. There is nothing remarkable about this bird, which spends its days searching for insects on the ground and then nests high in the treetops at night; however, Florida is one of just a handful of places throughout the world where the Ibis is found.

Often mistaken for Bald Eagles, these large, white-headed raptors are known for their ability to soar high overhead and then dive into the water to catch their prey. Look for Osprey perched high on the lampposts near Westchase ponds, often with a fish in tow. There is also a large nest near the teacher parking lot at Westchase Elementary. The Osprey Trail on Honeymoon Island is another great place to catch these magnificent birds in action.

Sandhill Crane
With a body length just over three feet and a wingspan of six feet, the Sandhill Crane is the largest bird to call Westchase home. Florida is one of the few places in the world where these massive birds can be found year-round. Look for these tall, gray birds with a red cap walking near the Westchase Golf Course, strolling down the median on Linebaugh Avenue or hanging out behind Davidsen Middle School. You may also hear their loud, trumpeting call as they fly overhead. 

A number of songbirds also live in Westchase and can be viewed with the aid of a backyard birdfeeder. Among Westchase’s regular backyard visitors are the Tufted Titmouse, the Blue Jay, the Brown Nuthatch and the Northern Cardinal. Bob Kee, manager of Wild Birds Unlimited in Carrollwood, said he has seen as many as 59 species visit his feeders in the winter months, including the elusive Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The secret to attracting a variety of birds, he said, is to know how to stock feeders properly to appeal to the varying diets of the different species. Providing a source of clean water for drinking and bathing can also attract birds that don’t visit feeders.

On the ponds this time of year, look for several species of visiting ducks. The male Mallard is easy to spot with its distinctive green head. Also look for the bright blue bill of the Ruddy Duck.

Many of the birds in Westchase are more readily heard than seen. Listen for the Red-shouldered Hawk’s rising whistle that sounds like “kee-ahh,” the “who who whoo whoo” of the Great Horned Owl and the rhythmic trill of the Red-bellied Woodpecker. Not sure which bird is making that sound? Visit to find out.

Birds Beyond Westchase
To view more elusive Florida regulars and winter visitors, such as the Black-crowned Night Heron, the Bald Eagle and the Greater White-fronted Goose, head to one of the nearby parks that are part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, a 2,000-mile, self-guided highway trail designed to conserve and enhance Florida's wildlife habitats. For a complete list of trail sites in our area, visit Many .of the parks listed offer guided bird-watching hikes.

There are 510 species listed on Florida’s bird checklist. Next time you are out enjoying the glorious winter weather, why not see how many you can spot?

You may be surprised just how many can be found right here in Westchase.

By Karen Ring


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From the President: WCA Calls on Residents to Sign Road Repaving Petition

Dear neighbors, please don’t treat this as a regular petition.

We need everyone to participate.

Every month we talk about important issues affecting our neighborhood. This month, however, I will limit this conversation to one very important issue – probably the most important one that we will face and the one that will most affect Westchase this year.

The issue has actually been affecting us for many years. It will not go away without your participation.

I am talking about the resurfacing of our streets. The need for the resurfacing and repairs of our streets is not merely an aesthetical issue anymore. It has become a safety issue in some areas. We need the involvement of all of you, including those living in gated neighborhoods with streets recently paved by the Community Development District (CDD). It affects the way our streets look, the safety of our kids riding their bikes, pedestrians and more.

I strongly encourage you to participate. Please tell your spouse or any other adult living with you to participate as well. Log into and look for the link to the petition drive. You can also read the article on page 10 for more information.

Once you log on, sign your name to the petition and make a comment if you wish. We will take your responses to our county commissioners and continue expressing the need to have money assigned to address this very important issue. With your help we will have a better chance of achieving our goal.

I thank you in advance for your participation.

By Joaquin Arrillaga, WCA President


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Tennis Courts Undergo Resurfacing

If you have not paid your annual 2015 assessment to Westchase in the amount of $319, a late fee of $25 must now be included in your payment.

In November 2014 the annual Westchase Community Association (WCA) homeowners’ assessment coupons were mailed to everyone. All assessments were due no later than Jan. 31. If you have misplaced your payment coupon, you can mail your check to Greenacre Properties at 4131 Gunn Hwy, Tampa, FL 33618, or you can drop off your check at our office on Parley Drive. Another option is to make your payment online via credit card. If you need instructions, please contact the association office at 926-6404 or by e-mail.

I am happy to say that the tennis courts at West Park Village have been resurfaced and repaired. We have many projects coming up this year at the facilities. Courts 1 and 2 at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center off Countryway Boulevard will be repaired and resurfaced and new Quick Start courts will be installed where the current volleyball area is. Our new tennis cabana building will be constructed there between Courts 3/4 and 5/6, along with new fencing and gates. Plus, the final installation of the palm scanners will be completed after all projects are done at the Countryway Boulevard facilities.

Many other projects are on our wish list to be done this year and we’re currently seeking bids for them. During this entire process of repairs and construction, we kindly ask for your patience and understanding. Our tennis courts will be busy, with the overflow of players going to the Village courts. Some parking spaces will be utilized by work crews and storage containers; therefore, we ask that you do not park at the fire station next to the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center.

Our last two movies in the park before the summer hiatus will be Feb. 13 and March 13. We hope that everyone has enjoyed the movie showings and look forward to them starting up again in October.

As always, we are here to serve Westchase residents. Please feel free to drop by our office or contact us at 926-6404 or via e-mail at

By Debbie Sainz, CAM, CMCA


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Everly Hopkins, Westchase’s Beloved Miracle Baby, Dies

A month shy of her first birthday, Everly Hopkins of The Shires died on Children’s Hospital in Atlanta on Monday, Jan. 26, following heart surgery.

Her parents, Crystal and Jimmy Hopkins, had traveled there in recent days for medical care and Crystal held Everly in her arms as she passed.

Over the year thousands of Westchase families and friends began following Everly’s story, both on her Facebook page, Love for Everly, and on CaringBridge at As Ev.erly's health worsened in recent days, hundreds of Westchasers joined in online prayer circles for her benefit.

The story of the little girl who was defying the odds inspired many. Six days after her birth, Everly was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, a life-limiting chromosomal condition. The Hopkins family was told their baby would likely live only a few weeks. Those weeks turned to miraculous months and Crystal and Jimmy Hopkins began ticking off bucket list adventures with Everly and her two brothers, Garren and Kendan, in tow. Well-wishers greeted them and inquired about Everly whenever the family ventured into public.

Information about memorial services will be published here when available. Friends of the Hopkins family have set up a trust fund at Wells Fargo to assist with funeral and other expenses. Those wishing to make a donation may visit any Wells Fargo location or set up an online transfer. The account is Everly M. Hopkins, and the account number is 7616853227. For more information, e-mail

The staff of WOW extends its condolences to the Hopkins, their relatives and friends. You have inspired us all.

By Christopher Barrett, Publisher


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Westchase Road Repair Petition Awaits Your Signature

Residents, visitors, neighborhood business owners (as well as their employees and patrons) and families attending our local public schools have all witnessed the erosion and degradation of public roads in Westchase. Numerous discussions have taken place with Hillsborough County Public Works and our county commissioners. The delay in re-surfacing and repairs was attributed to reduction of tax revenue during the recession. Only a few streets have received attention, but many more are in critical need of work.

The Westchase Community Association (WCA), with the support of our concerned residents, has subsequently prepared a petition calling for the repair and resurfacing of our Westchase public roads. It will be presented to County Commissioner Sandra L. Murman, with a copy to the other six commissioners. The petition is conveniently accessible online, and explains fully our concerns and offers a requested solution. (Your voting member will also have a petition in hard copy for signing by those who do not use Internet services.) Persons of voting age from any of the groups listed in the first line of this article may conveniently sign the petition electronically – signing only one time, of course.

Here is how:

Go online through by clicking on this link


• Study the background and petition.
• Enter your name and required information.
• Do add a brief comment as to why you are signing the petition, indicating your neighborhood. Both actions will help make the response even more impactful.
• Submit your signature.
• Plan to respond before Feb. 24, 2015. The petition will be presented immediately thereafter.

Hard copies of the petition are also available at both pools for residents without Internet access.

Please participate in this important effort.

By Joe Odda


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VMs Endorse WCA Petition for Westchase Road Repaving

While the main focus of the Jan. 13 Westchase Voting Members meeting was community roads, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) opened the session by introducing their new District III leadership team.

District III recently underwent a change of command, with Chad Chronister now serving as the district’s major. Westchase’s Community Resource Officer Deputy Phil Acaba began by describing his role as handling community issues and serving as a resource to assist residents.

Acaba introduced the rest of the District III leadership team – Corporal Kris Gundersen, Sergeant Chad Frisco, Lt. Darrin Barlow and Major Chronister. Chronister spoke of the importance of having residents lock their garage and car doors. “Let’s not make it easy for anybody. There are people who will check every door to see if it’s locked and every car door. They will try 30 cars and find one unlocked,” he said.

Chronister explained that the HCSO is helping residents by moving traffic boards into our community that will remind people to lock their doors. We will also see some bicycle units in our neighborhood.  Chronister said that the bikes are much better for sneaking up on people since the patrol cars can be seen at a distance.

Chronister spoke of some of the challenges of body cameras, which may cause privacy concerns because the films will become public records which others can request. He said they also have a large staff shortage right now that they are trying to fill without lowering their rigorous standards. He concluded, “If you see something or someone who doesn’t belong, say something. We are encouraging you to call.”

Chronister opened the floor for questions. Referring to the major’s suggestion to call, VM Eric Holt (Radcliffe) asked if residents should call the non-emergency number. Chronister replied “Yes, that is the best way. If it is an emergency, call 911.”

VM Don Costello (Stamford) suggested that the HCSO group meet with the Community Development District (CDD). Chronister said they are happy to meet with any interested groups. VM Leslie McCluskie (Keswick Forest) raised a concern about signs instructing vehicles to yield to pedestrians and added, “There isn’t much yielding going on.”

Deputy Acaba said he would follow up on the concern.

Thanking the sheriff’s office, WCA Board President Joaquin Arrillaga remarked,“Officer Gundersen has been great. Everyone is very friendly. Every time we call, somebody is there. We appreciate all of that."

Gundersen supervises the CDD's off-duty deputy patrol.

After the HCSO representatives departed, VMs quickly and unanimously gave their initial approval to the new exterior color palette guidelines for the Classic Townhomes, Traditional Townhomes and Townhomes of West Park Village. The changes will need VMs second approval in February to ensure their official adoption.

VMs then reviewed the printed version of the Owner Brochure created by the Rental Committee led by VM Cynde Mercer (The Bridges). Arrillaga said, “The idea with the brochure is to have them put it in the welcome packet and the Voting Member or the Welcoming Committee can hand them out. They will also be in the office and we will put a PDF copy on the WCA Web site.”

VMs unanimously approved the brochure and thanked Mercer for the time she invested in helping create it.

The final item around the Revised Road Paving Petition generated the most discussion. Arrillaga explained that at their last meeting, the WCA Board had voted to have the association promote the petition. VM Carlos Quiros (Villas of West Park Village) said that the petition looked good but suggested having the board sign off on their support for road repaving and communicate that to the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) immediately.

Describing the history of the petition, Director Joe Odda stated, “Eric and I both attended a meeting with (County Commissioner) Sandy Murman back in September. Eric made an eloquent speech about the issues with his street. We posted the question to her if it would be useful and effective for us to develop a petition and she said that it was always good to come forward with that level of participation and interest in the problem.”

Mercer (Bridges) asked, “Have we decided how we will collect signatures?”

Arrillaga responded that we will collect electronic signatures and use Mailchimp for e-mail notifications. He added that the WCA already has 1,000 residents signed up to receive mailings. An article in World of Westchase will include electronic links to the petition. The petition will also be available in hard copy at both pools and at the WCA office.

Arrillaga noted that Commissioner Murman was to meet with some residents in Radcliffe on Jan. 26 so that she can see the problem herself. VM Ralph Caputo (Abbotsford) asked, “Why are we doing it this way instead of the way Carlos (Quiros) suggests, where the board signs the petition to represent Westchase? There is a lot of labor involved (in getting signatures) and we might only get one half the amount of residents’ signatures. As Carlos suggests, if we have the board sign off, it could be done tomorrow.”

Arrillaga agreed, saying they could do this if the VMs request but the signatures are the “icing on the cake.”

VMs ultimately voted unanimously to approve the motion to have the board sign off initially on the petition and send it to the BOCC as a precursor to the actual petitions with signatures from the community.

Director Kathy Carlsen added, “The biggest thing to understand is that these commissioners are looking for votes. Seven board member signatures don’t represent 3,600 voter signatures. They will look at the individual signatures and want to have those votes. The signatures mean that the individual voters are saying, ‘This is an issue in our community.’”

Referring to the board’s decision to support the petition, VM Patrick O’Brien (Glenfield) remarked, “I am new to Glenfield. Being here five years and just speaking with people, they don’t see a lot of good things coming from the WCA office as far as violations go, so this will be good to show them in terms of getting some support.”

Arrillaga closed the discussion by saying that Holt is helping decide the petition deadline but they hope to conclude the signature drive by the end of February.

VMs adjourned at 8:15 p.m.

By Brenda Bennett


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WCA Board Debates Road Repaving Petition

The bulk of the Jan. 8 meeting of the Westchase Community Association (WCA) Board of Directors was dedicated to discussing the Government Affairs Committee’s road paving petition – and the extent of the WCA’s involvement in it.

Several voting members (VMs) attended to express their views about the petition.

Board members had previously discussed the proposed petition at length during their November meeting, when Government Affairs Committee (GAC) Chair Joe Odda’s motion, requesting that the association to ask residents to sign a WCA petition concerning the condition of Westchase roads and then send the petition to County Commissioner Sandy Murman, failed to pass. Board members ultimately voted 5-2 in favor of Director Brian Ross’ motion that the petition language be changed so that the petition was not from the WCA but included everyone who uses and has concerns about the public roads in Westchase. Further, Ross’ motion stipulated that association resources not be used to administer the petition.

WCA President Joaquin Arrillaga said the discussion was being revisited at a VM’s request. When the VM recently requested assistance with the petition from WCA management staff, he was told that the request did not comply with the approved motion.

Radcliffe VM Eric Holt said that it was his understanding that the board was not willing to advocate for the county repaving nor formally put their stamp on the project.

However, WCA Vice President Ken Blair responded, “The board is 100 percent behind the resurfacing. We did not want the petition to be just from the WCA Board but wanted to include businesses, commuters, and residents.”

Blair added, “Part of our issue with the administration was the issue of paid staff spending their time administering the petition because we had questions about how much time they would have to spend and too many questions about how the process was going to work and be administered.”

Holt then volunteered to administer the petition but said he wanted reassurance that the board would present it to Commissioner Murman and communicate with homeowners to request their participation in the petition.

Pithers echoed Blair’s concerns that the reason they did not want association employees to administer the petition was that there were too many questions about how much time it would take and directors did not want to spend the association’s money on it. She said, “The WCA has always supported the petition. We just can’t financially support it.”

Holt responded that road repaving was a huge, community-wide issue that should be pushed by the association. He said he felt that if the WCA was behind the petition, they should be willing to administer it. He added that the WCA’s support meant nothing if they weren’t willing to supply resources. “I think a lot of people will draw the same conclusion if you say you support it but you aren’t willing to allocate any resources.”

Weighing in, Director Ross said all present wished to move forward with the petition and have the county to fix the roads in Westchase. He added, “We expanded the language of the petition presented to us to include everyone who travels the roads in Westchase because we want to expand it to include other people.”

Pithers reiterated Ross’ comments, “I think something has been lost in the semantics but there was never no support for the petition. We thought it was best for the community to include more signatures.”

Glenfield VM Patrick O’Brien said he believed it was important for the WCA Board to support the petition. He said he felt house prices were depreciating because of the condition of the roads. O’Brien suggested that the association should partner with the county and invite them to come talk.

Ross observed that County Administrator Mike Merrill had come to Westchase to talk to residents in December and only 15 people showed up.

Odda made a motion that the WCA support and sponsor the road-paving petition with the stipulations that it be undertaken by the WCA on behalf of homeowners, businesses and all who use Westchase roads; that it be administered online by Greenacre Properties (GPI) staff (the WCA management team) or a volunteer; that the petition be expedited through the use of WCA/Westchase Community resources and information outlets; and that the petition language could be modified.

Blair immediately amended Odda’s motion that administration of the petition not be the responsibility of GPI staff because they had no idea how many hours that would involve. Holt said that he estimated it would take four to six hours to set up and maybe an hour a week after that. He added, “I will put the Web site up if the association owns it and if all communications come from the association.”

Director Kathy Carlsen volunteered to help.

VM O’Brien added, “Here’s an opportunity for you (the WCA) to show the community you are for them and are doing something for them instead of just giving notices. I think this will generate goodwill.”

Ross said that he stood by his original comments and thought they might need to check with the WCA attorney to make sure they could undertake the petition as a not-for-profit organization. He added that at least three times in the past year, the board had said that GPI was not doing its job, which focuses mainly on deed restriction enforcement. He asked if anyone had even checked with GPI to see if they would allow it.

Arrillaga said he understood that association employees would simply be forwarding e-mails and sending out communication, which should not require a lot of time.

Odda amended his motion so that the administration of the petition be by a volunteer but that the association would publicize the petition and forward e-mails. Director Keith Heinemann then asked that the motion be revised to strike language widening petition participation to “others that travel and use the public roads of Westchase.”  Odda accepted his amendment.

Odda’s revised motion passed 4-3 with Carlsen, Ross and Pithers casting the dissenting votes. Pithers stated her vote was not because she doesn’t support the petition but because she thought “what happened tonight was a semantic battle that was unnecessary.” She added that the petition should have been started 60 days ago.

All voted in favor of Blair’s motion to allow the WCA president to advocate on behalf of the petition in any way, including going to county meetings.

In other actions:

All directors voted in favor of re-appointing Dale Sells to another two-year term on the Modifications Committee, which reviews requested changes to home exteriors and yards.

Community Association Manager Debbie Sainz reported that the tennis courts in West Park Village were being resurfaced and should be complete by mid-January. She said they would begin work on Courts 1 and 2 at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center next. She also reported that there were 313 house closings in Westchase in 2014.

Although a few board members thought the language might be a bit too harsh and the font too big on the new program waivers developed by the association’s legal counsel, directors voted unanimously to approve them. Ross asked staff to tell directors of any resident feedback and to ensure that a responsible person be in charge of the waivers so that the correct waiver is given to participants since the waivers are program-specific.

Directors asked association staff to look into developing an online survey to send to residents to get input about Westchase programs and facilities.

Directors suspended the fines for two homeowners for unresolved deed restriction violations with the understanding that the violations not reoccur within 24 months. The Woodbay residents who came to the meeting to appeal their fine had weeded and added mulch to their flowerbeds, which they said had gotten out of hand because their landscaper quit on them unexpectedly and they traveled frequently. The homeowners assured directors that it would not get out of hand again.

The yard of a homeowner in The Vineyards was still in need of new grass but she said by phone that she did not think that she should be responsible for the condition of her grass since the Vineyards Association handled lawn care. Directors told her that, according to The Vineyards, its lawn service only mows and edges yards and residents are responsible for any bare spots in their yard. Directors agreed to suspend her violation as long as the yard was re-sodded in 14 days.

All directors voted in favor of WCA Treasurer Dyan Pithers' motion to open a Wells Fargo simple business account to be used for vending machine funds.

The WCA Board meetings are open to the public. The next one is scheduled for Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. at the WCA offices at 10049 Parley Dr.

By Marcy Sanford


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Newcomers Luncheon Feb. 19

The Newcomers of Northwest Hillsborough will gather for lunch this month on Feb. 19.

They’ll meet at 11 a.m. at the Floridan Palace, 905 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, 33602.

Guest speakers from Tampa Preservation Inc. will give Newcomers information on their work preserving local history, especially historic structures and neighborhoods in Tampa Bay and Hillsborough County.

Reservations should be made by Thursday, Feb. 12, by calling Norma Puglisi at (813) 746-5575.

The Newcomers of Northwest Hillsborough invites women who would like to form new friendships and get to know the area better to join them.  For more information, visit


By Rose Ann Lorenzo


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The Wolf Pack Names a Rooster

Darcy shifts in the minivan seat. “Does it hurt?”

Elf thinks on this. “Well, I went to a birthday party, shot the boy whose party it was in the head and he cried.”

“Hmm,” Darcy says. “But was the pain worth the fun?”

Elf nods enthusiastically. “Oh, yeah!”

Having exhausted paintball as a topic, the Wolf Pack Carpool turns to more pressing matters:

Deciding which of The Wiggles’ songs represents the group’s most brilliant work.

Because while retro takes at least three decades for adults, it’s merely six years for middle schoolers.

We’re shooting across Race Track Road – my daughter Elf, 9, occupying the second row with fellow nerd-athlete Darcy. The third holds fellow sixth grader, Astrid, Reigning Queen of Carpool Non-Sequiturs, and The Eighth Grader, who’s in a committed, long-term relationship with her Sols.

What are Sols?

Retro music headphones the size of Rhode Island.

Then there’s me, their eavesdropping driver, drowning in the middle school Stream of Consciousness.

The Sixth Graders are singing along to a YouTube video of Fruit Salad. Astrid pipes up. “My mom once told my sister that she’d hold a pillow over her head until she stopped struggling.”

It just kind of hangs out there a moment.

“You know, until you really listen to The Wiggles, you don’t realize just how gooda singers they are.” Elf says.

“PUNCH BUGGY PURPLE!” Astrid plugs Elf.



“It wasn’t a purple! It was white. The light just made it look purple.”

Astrid [vulgarity] her fist. “Is that a do-over?”

“No way!” says Darcy.

“OK,” agrees Astrid. “Plus, that’s the same punch buggy that comes out of that same neighborhood every morning at the exact same time.”

“You mean you can’t punch buggy the same punch buggy even on different days?” I ask.

“NO!” they cry.

“I once saw a Tesla,” says Darcy. “Did you know Teslas have seats in the trunk? What kind of parents would put their kids in the trunk?!”

“All of them,” the driver says.

Nervous, polite laughter.

We stop beside a utility box with a red blinking light.

“It’s gonna blow!” cries Darcy.


“My house alarm beeps faster and faster until you finally turn it off,” observes Astrid. “Once our house alarm went off and my neighbor showed up at our front door with a shotgun.”

Elf, battling a cold, snorts. “I sound like Darth Vader.”

The trio trades effective mouth-breathing strategies.

Astrid: “You know Helena?”

“Perfect Hair Girl?” says Elf. “I can’t figure out if she’s nice or a snoot.”

Darcy sides with snoot: “She always ditches me!”

Astrid sides with Nice Girl: “But you always move back to talk to Quinten!”

Near the school entrance a rooster crows.

“We should name him!” cries Elf. I like Rafael.”

“No,” says Darcy. “Gus.”

“Guster,” Astrid counters.

“How ‘bout Dinner?” Elf offers.


We pull up to school and the door slides open.

“Do you know what Ms. Jensen said yesterday when Ethan had the hiccups?” Astrid says.  “Hold your breath for 10,000 seconds and see if it helps.”

They tumble out laughing hysterically. The Eighth Grader turns to close the door.

“Thank you,” she says.

---Two Weeks Later---

“This is how my morning went.” Darcy heaves her Zombie Apocalypse Backpack into the minivan. “I went down the stairs and stepped into something icky and gooey.”

Collective groan.

“I didn’t want to tell my mother because she was already all riled up.” Darcy continues. “My dog is really stupid,” “Once we threw him a stick. He went to pick it up but he dropped it coming back. Then, when he got back, he opened his mouth but couldn’t figure out where it was.”

Astrid: “Maybe you confused him by naming him Bambi.”

“Sixth grade boys are the worst!” announces Elf. “Yesterday they just kept laughing at the Kingdom of Kush and Napoleon Bonaparte.”


“Because they sound like the Kingdom of Tush and Napoleon Bonafart.”

Darcy giggles.

Elf giggles. “Napoleon Bonafart,” she repeats. “Hey, have you noticed how Kiera trips kids during track practice and then blames other runners?”

“At basketball practice,” Darcy says, “Kiera once threw a really hard passed to me and missed it!”

Darcy shivers with laughter. “And the ball crashed right into the back of the head of a little girl standing in line behind me! Then Kiera just turned and pretended she didn’t throw it!”

“What happened to the girl in line?” asks Astrid.



Elf: “Did you know Kiera is Hawaiian?”

Darcy guffaws. “She’s not Hawaiian. She’s Chinese! But she told everyone you actually believe she’s Hawaiian and we shouldn’t tell you.”

Elf cries in protest. In 10 seconds she dramatically sways from outrage to pure admiration.

I chime in. “Maybe you should call Kiera, um, what’s that Hawaiian girl’s name from Lilo and Stitch?”

The sixth graders’ eyes collectively roll. “Lilo,” they cry.

“I suppose that makes sense.”

Astrid: “Anyone ever watch Curious George?”

“That was my childhood!” cries Elf.

“How creepy was the Man in the Yellow Hat?” Darcy says. “Who dresses like that?”

Astrid: “He’s supposed to look like a banana.”

Elf whirls in her chair.  “OH MY GAHD! I just realized…!”

The rooster crows.

“There’s Rafael!” she cries.

“We did NOT name him Rafael,” insists Darcy. “I like Gus.”

Astrid: “What about Rufus?”

“Let’s compromise!” Elf throws open the door. “We’ll call him Grafeus!”

They tumble out laughing.

The Eighth Grader turns to close the door.

“Thank you,” she says.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Wizards Take Chess Trophy

Four Westchase Elementary students won second place at the 2014 Mary Bryant Fall Gran Prix, a countywide chess tournament, this past October.

Fourth grader Carter Casey and fifth graders Harrison Colangelo, Liam Pivnichny, and Aiden Shaw all take lessons from their chess coach, Michael Young.

“We are really proud of their hard work,” said Nikki Pivnichny. “They were competing against schools that have formal chess programs. They have taken lessons together and all work very well together. The boys really wanted to win a team trophy for their school.”

According to Coach Young, children who learn how to play chess receive many benefits. “It helps you learn how to plan and as you begin to understand the game, your confidence grows. Playing chess teaches you patience and discipline. It also allows you to use your imagination and creativity.”

Aiden Shaw, who has been playing chess since he was in first grade, commented, “Chess is a really fun sport.  I like it because it is a strategy game and you really have to think about your opponent’s next move and how you will react, sometimes thinking several moves ahead. Chess has helped me learn to focus, which has also helped me in my classes at school."

This spring Carter, Harrison, Liam, and Aiden will put their strategic skills to the test again as they try for another trophy at the 2015 Mary Bryant Spring Gran Prix.

By Marcy Sanford


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Alonso Ravens Welcome New Principal

Kenneth Hart, the new principal at Alonso High School, will celebrate his 68th birthday in February. Retirement? He tried it once.

It wasn’t for him.

He’s a former wrestling coach who works out, almost daily, a voracious reader who maintains an ambitious intellectual pace. He’s perceived as a hard-nosed taskmaster, a reputation that he doesn’t seek to cultivate. “But I don’t try to uncultivate it, either,’’ he said.

If his presence keeps people on task, he’s fine with that. He wants to represent a culture of nonstop accountability. But he said there’s another side to him.

“I try to smile once a day,’’ he said, laughing.

Actually, Hart loves his weekly date-night with his wife, Hulia, an assistant principal at Lennard High School in Ruskin. He enjoys a good joke and a glass of white wine. He grew up a fan of the Yankees and Giants, but has traded in all his gear and now avidly follows the Rays and Bucs. He believes in having a life outside of his job. But he’s also driven to excellence – one of his favorite books: “Good Is The Enemy of Great’’ – and celebrating the successes of his students. 

Hart, the former Monroe Middle School principal who was approved for the Alonso position by the Hillsborough County School Board on Dec. 9, said he’s as passionate for his career as ever. He’s excited to help the Ravens reach new heights.

“I never have a time when I get discouraged or say, ‘You know, I just want to go sit on my dock and not do this anymore,’ ‘’ said Hart, replacing the retiring Louis Diaz at Alonso. “There’s always something to bring you back the next day. Just being around the kids, seeing the smiles on their faces, seeing them learn, seeing them mature into the best people they can be, that’s the reward.’’

When Hart arrives at Alonso on Jan. 5, he said his first task will be to listen. He will meet with administrators and department heads, collectively and individually. He will hold all-day coffee and tea socials, so faculty members can express their opinions. He will seek feedback from students and parents. He doesn’t expect drastic changes.

“I don’t have a monopoly on right answers or good ideas,’’ Hart said. “It’s not my school. It’s our school. It’s not my goal. It’s our goal. We’re all in this together.

“Alonso is an A-rated school. They did well before I got here. They will do well after I’m gone. My goal is to be part of making things even better.’’

It’s much different than the task he inherited at Monroe, a middle school near the Port Tampa section of South Tampa, in 2012. Monroe was languishing, sinking to D-rated status. It had a poor reputation.

From the moment he arrived, Hart told everyone that Monroe was chasing an A rating. He put in place a series of initiatives – from emphasis on discipline and a student uniform policy to teacher training and student mentoring. Monroe is now a B-rated school, just missing A-rated status.

“Mr. Hart is awesome, just awesome,’’ said Cookie Floyd, Hart’s former secretary, who has worked at Monroe for 29 years (with five principals). “Alonso is so lucky to have him. He’s a leader. He cares. He knows how to build a great team, but he’s the one in charge. He does that very well.’’

Hart attributes his leadership skills to participation in athletes. He grew up in New Jersey, where he became a standout wrestler, his varsity sport for four years at Milligan College in the mountains of Northeastern Tennessee.

He returned to New Jersey, where he became a teacher and wrestling coach, then an assistant principal, an assistant superintendent and a high-school principal. When his responsibilities increased, he switched from wrestling coach to wrestling official, never losing his passion for the sport. Following a 30-year career in education and a two-year stint working for a company that recruited international teachers to the United States, Hart retired to Apollo Beach.

He was bored stiff.

For a time he volunteered as a mathematics teacher in the prison system, working at a juvenile detention center in Wimauma under the direction of the Hillsborough County School District. He made some contacts, got the itch and soon accepted a teaching position at Eisenhower Middle School. After two years, that was parlayed into an assistant-principal opportunity at South Tampa’s Madison Middle School before he was hired at Monroe.

Now it’s back to high school, which was his exclusive educational domain in New Jersey.

“I’ll be sad to leave Monroe because we accomplished some great things, but excited to go to Alonso and get back into the diversity of a high-school setting,’’ said Hart, who has two children and four grandchildren. “I believe very strongly in solid fundamental instruction, behavior and expectations. That’s how things should run.

“I also believe in the value of the extra-curricular activities, the athletics, the music, the drama, the ROTC, all of it. We are there to teach them, help build their character and get them ready for the next chapter of their lives.’’

Hart’s style can be viewed in two manners.

He’s old-school.

Or he’s just plain old.

He won’t argue with either.

But to him, age is just a number.

“That’s what the calendar says,’’ Hart said. “I don’t feel that way. Nobody guesses that’s my age. I have endurance, vigor, tenacity, determination, more than I’ve ever had, and I attribute it to keeping in good shape. I’d stack myself up against a 40-year-old any day.

“I think I have a lot still to contribute. I think we can make it the best Alonso High School it can be. But it’s not just me. It’s all of us. And that concept is why I keep coming back, why I love this. I can’t wait to get started.’’

By Joey Johnston


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Resolving to Avoid Dietary Confusion

With a new year upon us, we have a chance to start fresh once again. 

What to eat or what diet to begin pose dilemmas for many.

With the ever-expanding Internet, dietary confusion is becoming a significant source of frustration for many of my clients, friends and family. 

Let’s lift the veil of confusion on a few universal and proven dietary truths to focus on what really matters.

Our western diet increases the risk for many serious diseases. The western diet is characterized as being high in sugar, meats, fat, and processed grains while at the same time low in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods. Those who adopt a typical western diet have much higher rates of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, the top three killers in the U.S.

Focus on significantly reducing your intake of western foods that cause disease. Instead, follow the timeless wisdom of Michael Pollan from his classic book, Food Rules: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Eat a lot of plant-based foods, especially whole fruits and vegetables. You can greatly reduce your risk for a multitude of diseases when you choose a diet rich in plant foods. Select a variety of different colors of fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables. Eat as much as you can of the vegetables, salads, and greens. When possible, choose organic, local and seasonal. Don’t forget other plant-based foods such as nuts, seeds, beans, peas, lentils, sweet potatoes, winter squash and whole grains such as brown and wild rice or quinoa.

Eat unprocessed foods. Many foods are so altered that people have lost touch with what an unprocessed food actually is. Unprocessed food is made by nature, not by a factory. Think of apples, almonds, fish, or whole stalks of oats waving in the wind. Even these stellar foods can be factory transformed into apple juice, an almond cookie, fried fish sticks, or a pack of sugar-laden instant oats. Food manufacturers tinker with the salt, sugar and fat content of foods to create what is known in the industry as a “bliss point.” These foods often cause us to over consume – great for the manufacturer’s bottom line, but bad for ours.

Embrace these truths and find 2015 full of joy and health!

By Christine Miller, RD, LD/N

A Registered Dietitian and a Certified Diabetes Educator, Christine Miller owns Advanced Nutrition Concepts at<./p>


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County Administrator Merrill Talks Transport and Taxes in Westchase

County Administrator Mike Merrill spoke to nearly two dozen Westchase-area residents on Dec. 4 and presented a three-fold message:

First, Hillsborough County is about as small and efficient as it can get. Second, new tax revenue is badly needed to cover the county’s woefully underfunded transportation system. Third, he wants to know which of your transportation priorities to include to get you to vote “Yes” on a sales tax referendum in 2016.

Merrill talked transport and taxes at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center to a receptive crowd of Westchase Community Association (WCA) Board members, Westchase Voting Members, and residents of Westchase and nearby communities like The Eagles.

He was introduced by WCA Vice President Ken Blair, who stated the association had invited Merrill to address Westchasers’ pressing transportation issues. Citing the expansion of apartment and housing complexes impacting traffic through the community, Blair observed, “The whole area around here has gotten so congested.”

Merrill opened by detailing the hour and a half he spent commuting to the session by car. He cited the county’s transportation shortcoming and missed opportunities and Tampa’s national reputation as being one of the most dangerous cities for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Of an EMS vehicle delayed by rush hour traffic on Kennedy Boulevard, Merrill observed, “If I was the one waiting for that EMS wagon for my family, I would not be very happy.”

He even cited underutilized railroad tracks that could have quickly gotten him into West Park Village. “I could lie on those tracks all day and never get hit by a train.”
Merrill then made a sobering presentation of the county’s budget.

Merrill, who took over as county administrator at the height of the Great Recession in 2010, had to eliminate 1,900 county positions and make tough calls about changing after-school programs at the county’s recreation centers. Faced with plummeting tax revenues, Merrill stated he cut waste, sought efficiencies and shrank the size of county government by 26 percent. “We made the tough choices,” he said.

Merrill pointed out that administrative overhead, essentially county staff salaries, is a competitive 12 percent of the county’s budget. “We have pared down the government as much as we can without reducing services to people,” he said.

In other words, no sizable chunk of fat remains that he can lop off to fund the county’s pressing transportation needs.

According to Merrill, Hillsborough County’s geographic area and population size make it bigger than a couple of U.S. states, yet its spending is smaller than those states’ budgets. Presenting a series of PowerPoint graphs, Merrill pointed out that two-thirds of Hillsborough County’s nearly $2 billion budget covers essential services associated with safety and well-being such as the sheriff’s office and courts, fire and rescue and water and sewer services.

The other third funds a myriad of social needs such as senior services, indigent healthcare, and parks and recreation. From this total, Merrill also has to find funds to repair and expand the county’s biggest physical asset – its road network.

It’s not as simple as robbing Peter to pay Paul, however. Certain tax proceeds, like the Community Investment Tax (CIT) and the Indigent Care Tax, are dedicated to funding particular programs by law. “I can’t take the indigent care tax and pave roads,” he stated.

As for the CIT, a 30-year, half-cent sales tax passed in 1996 to fund firehouses, sidewalks, libraries, Raymond James Stadium and some transportation projects, Merrill observed, “It was never intended to be a solution to transportation problems.” He added, “The CIT has been committed from now to when it expires.”

According to Merrill, the county’s cuts since 2010 have profoundly impacted transportation funding. Over 20 years, the growing county has spent $1.3 billion on transportation. “Despite the $1.3 billion and the $316 million, we can’t keep up.”

The reason, he said, is transportation funds have contracted by almost one-third to $316 million annually. Merrill observed, “There are over $750 million of backlogged repaving projects in the county.”

County staff also included a large poster featuring a map of Westchase area roads, all colored red. According to county engineers, this indicated all of the roads had surfaces that had failed or were near failing.

For Merrill, finding a way to expand transportation funding – and create a modern transportation system in the county – is key to expanding residents’ quality of life, ensuring the safety of the county’s kids, keeping USF and University of Tampa graduates from relocating to more attractive urban areas and building an infrastructure that will convince the country’s top 1,000 corporations that Hillsborough County is worth relocating to.

Merrill referred to a recent survey of 750 of the 1,000 biggest U.S. corporations about their feelings about relocating to Hillsborough County. “We got glowing reviews in everything but transportation.”

Limited by an outdated transportation network, county residents, according to Merrill, have to answer some basic questions: Do you want kids and bicyclists safer on streets? Do you want to enhance the economic well-being of the county by expanding jobs? And do you want to spend more time with your family or in your car?

While stating he wasn’t committed to any particular sized sales tax or even the inclusion of rail into the referendum, Merrill stated a one cent sales tax increase, which would cover a bevy of items on Tampa Bay’s wish list, would run residents roughly 50 cents per day.

He emphasized that prior to adopting a rail system, the county had to first build a more extensive, more flexible bus network that would build ridership. That would then translate into rail ridership. If rail becomes part of the discussion, he emphasized the network had to be designed with enough comfort and convenience to convince residents to leave their cars at home.

Merrill’s talk, like 35 other similar ones he’s given recently, was meant to educate residents about the county’s pressing needs and ask for input about projects residents are willing to pay for. Each area, from the City of Tampa to Sun City Center, has its own particular needs and wish lists.

For Westchase area residents in attendance on Dec. 4, including WCA officials who spoke, the biggest priority was the Citrus Park Drive extension, which would connect Sheldon Road near the Citrus Park mall to Countryway Boulevard. The $50 million dollar project, which Merrill described as a high priority, would hinge on the passage of the sales tax referendum. It’s been the focus of Government Affairs Committee (GAC) Chair Joe Odda, who is working to build a Citrus Park Drive Extension Advocacy Group among Northwest Hillsborough’s neighborhoods.

The extension would provide another east-west corridor between Linebaugh Avenue and South Mobley Road, providing a straight shot to the mall area from Pinellas County and neighborhoods north of Westchase while alleviating the growing traffic burden on Linebaugh Avenue.

Observed one resident of The Eagles in attendance, “It would be good for business.”

Bridges resident Dave Horwitz, however, pressed Merrill on whether the county had actually done any cost-benefit analysis for the road. “Have we done any of that before sinking money into engineering schematics?”

Merrill answered that a study by engineering firm Parsons Brinkerhoff had ranked roads on their return on investment. They identified the Citrus Park Drive extension as a high priority.

Concluding, Merrill reminded residents that the county will kick off the process that will produce its two-year budget in June. Budget discussions will then run through September. With Merrill keeping his fingers crossed that residents will support the county’s upcoming transportation plan and its bid for a successful sales tax referendum, he stated, “At that point, you’ll want to make your feelings known.”

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Westchase Shout Outs

On Dec. 11 Westchase Elementary held its first ever National Geographic Bee, which was organized by Brendan Barrett and hosted by Mrs. Vicki Bollinger.  The contestants included: (back row, l to r) Liam Pivnichny, Carter Casey, Graham Holt, Rohan Kumbkarni; (Front row, l to r)  Lila Barrett, Harrison Colangelo, Sophia Lopez and Ryan Winslow.  Congratulations to Liam Pivnichny, who was the school GeoBee winner!

Kudos and our huge thanks to the organizers of Dec. 13's Santa’s Pre-Flight Parade, Ralph Caputo, Dan O’Brien and Steve Darr as well as to all the other paraders who put together such fun floats. Westchase is grateful!

WOW thanks Westchase Elementary Principal Eric Holley for graciously allowing the community to use the school’s front parking lots for the Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive. The arrangement helped make the whole drive so much safer for all who participated!

WOW wants your Shout Outs, short messages saying congratulations, well-done, thank you or “hey, we have some good news.” Shout Outs should be no longer than 75 words and can include a high resolution photo (JPEG attachments please). Send by e-mail by the fifteenth of the month to


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Catch Twenty-Three Fake Ad Contest Continues, January 2015

“Ah, serenity through pharmacy,” began Frozen Pizza Eater Marty Hamilton.

“Thanks to Sedate and Style Me (page 54 of December’s WOW), I can finally say goodbye to those do-it-yourself Brazilian wax kits,” Marty added. “Ditto for the home ear hair removal laser. Now it's as easy as counting backwards from 100 to 93 and awakening with nary an unruly follicle.”

Among other things, Marty added, “With Sedate and Style Me's ‘Dr. Conrad Murray Turn Your Head and Coif’ package, you'll receive a sublime pampering and eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.”

Dr. Conrad Murray, as you may recall, was The Thriller’s sleep specialist.

Marty therefore threw in a helpful asterisk. “*Requires signed liability waiver. Sedate and Style Me not responsible for sleep periods lasting for eternity.”

While Marty didn’t win, we congratulate wide-awake Bridges resident Joshua Willeke, 9, upon whom the fake ad gods smiled in December. As the result, Joshua will be taking the salon aficionado most in need of sedating to Catch Twenty-Three, courtesy of its proprietor Rob Wickner. Thanks, Rob!

Get your New Year’s fake ad guesses in today!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Westchase MOMS Club: Offering Fun, Friendship and Outreach

Looking for a play date?

The Westchase MOMS Club is a chapter of the International MOMS Club, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Boasting a membership of over 100 dynamic moms, the Westchase MOMS Club is committed to connecting local moms, participating in a variety of engaging activities for our children, and – most important – having fun.
Our members include both full-time at-home moms and moms who work outside of the home, full-time or part-time.     

If you visit any of the playgrounds around Westchase regularly, chances are that you’ve run into a MOMS Club playgroup or two. Our club offers weekly playgroups based on school age, so members connect with other moms who have children the same age. We also host open plays monthly, which are open to the entire membership regardless of the age of your children – a great opportunity to connect with all of the moms in the club.

We plan child-focused activities that support local businesses, including lunches at local restaurants, tours of the fire station and others. We support other moms through a variety of channels, including our Sunshine Committee, which arranges meals for other members who have recently had a new baby or may be going through a difficult time. And because moms need a break once in a while, we hold monthly Mom’s Night Out events.

Our club is also committed to supporting the community and charities important to our members. In November we held a canned food drive to help support the Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive for Metropolitan Ministries. In December we held a toy drive to support Toys for Tots and raise donations for underprivileged families. This month we will hold a clothing drive in support of a Catholic Charities USA program, which provides relief to families in extreme need. 

The Westchase MOMS Club is a wonderful way to get involved in our community and meet new friends. We will have an open house and Valentine’s Day event on Feb. 13 at 10 a.m. for local moms who may be interested in joining the group. In addition to the open house, any moms considering membership are welcome to try out two events prior to joining. For more information, please visit


By Erin Kosoy


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On a Roll in 2015

If you’re searching for an excellent activity to begin in 2015 or to take fitness to the next level, it’s time to put your foot to the pedal!

Biking is an amazing sport that helps keep you lean and fit and offers the exhilaration athletes enjoy. Florida residents can enjoy both indoor and outdoor riding year round.

Biking is also non-impact so it can provide cardiovascular exercise without the strain on your knees and ankles.
Bridges resident and competitive cyclist Monika Cassidy offered some helpful advice. “If you have an existing bike in the garage, dust off the old bike and begin using it.”

She suggested you acquire the appropriate gear, including proper shoes and a helmet. For the next step, consider your goals and select the appropriate bike. “A mountain bike, for example, may not be the best choice if your goal is to road train and race,” Cassidy said.

If you are just starting out and are not sure if you will stick with it, consider investing in a second-hand bike. “Brand new bikes can be quite expensive” said the cyclist.

Bike enthusiast John Harrison suggested finding a friend who rides and is willing to teach you the basics. Bike specialty shops can be very helpful in selecting the proper bike. They are also good resources for local trails and events. Some biking clubs offer services for beginners too.

For novice riders trails are far safer than streets. The nearby Upper Tampa Bay Trail and the Suncoast Trail are two options.

Experienced riders can stay motivated by either setting goals for time, speed and distance or entering races. They can develop a regular schedule for consistency and join riding clubs and races to stay motivated.

While you can somewhat simulate outdoor cycling riding indoors, for Cassidy, who started indoor spinning classes before advancing to competitive outdoor cycling, indoor spinning is a totally different experience.

Whether you are considering purchasing a bike (like I am) with a cute basket and bell, or your goal is to do a half ironman like Cassidy (56 miles of biking along with 13.1 miles of running and a 1.2 mile swim!), go for it!

As Harrison said, “Most of all, enjoy the sport!”

By Shannon Thigpen

Shannon is a Certified Personal Trainer and Weight Loss Specialist who teaches at the YMCA and trains privately. Visit<./p>


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Suzi France Named Tampa Bay Woman of the Year

On Nov. 22 the Westchase Charitable Foundation (WCF) crowned the Tampa Bay Woman of the Year, recognizing an amazing fundraiser.

The WCF’s annual Tampa Bay Woman of the Year (TBWOY) event is a premier event that culminates a nine-week fundraising competition for families in need. During the competition, candidates raise funds from individuals and businesses that go directly to grant recipients throughout Tampa Bay. The candidate who raises the most money at the end of the event is crowned Tampa Bay Woman of the Year. 

Nineteen women, each nominated by WCF board members, competed in this year’s event. Suzi France took home the crown. The runners-up included Yngrid Garcia, Hollie Christmas and Beth Cupari. “We are thankful for the amazing candidates who rose to the challenge to help families in need,” said WCF board member and chair of the TBWOY event, Trey Corish.

The event, which was held at the Tampa Jet Center, took on a Havana Nights theme featuring cultural performers, VIP cabana-style lounging, and a fashion show presented by Tampa boutiques Lending Luxury and Urban Body for Men. Over 400 guests attended this year’s event. Best in the bay restaurants provided endless hors d’oeuvres and an open bar. Guests were also entertained with live music, massages, a 50/50 raffle, and both a live and silent auction.

Also in attendance at the event were two families with 10-year-old children, both suffering from serious illnesses. These families received a special gift from one of the candidates, Ms. Hollie Christmas, who provided each family with a mini-Disney Vacation. The children were recipients of grant checks at the event, showcasing the purpose of the competition. Todd Marks, WCF board member, said, “Seeing lives changed for the better as a result of this annual event is the most rewarding aspect of serving on the WCF Board.”

The WCF Board was proud to call this year’s event another success. Ahmed Bhutta, WCF’s Treasurer, noted that the event grossed over $80,000. WCF President Sean O’Donnell said that he was proud of all the candidates this year, the support shown from the greater Tampa area, and the overall growth of the event. “Thanks to all of the candidates and participating businesses for their hard work and tremendous dedication to give back to our community,” said Mr. O’Donnell.

The Westchase Charitable Foundation (WCF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, managed solely by volunteers, to support families facing a personal tragedy and families with children battling serious illnesses. The WCF will be hosting its next event, the Twelfth Annual Westchase Cup Golf Outing, in May 2015.

For more information about the WCF, visit http://www.westchase

By Todd Marks


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Everly Hopkins, The Little Girl Who is Beating the Odds

In August WOW brought you the story of Everly Hopkins, the little girl defying the odds given her at birth.

Everly was born on Feb. 20, 2014. Six days later, she was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, a life-limiting chromosomal condition. Her parents, Shires residents Crystal and Jimmy Hopkins, were told that Everly would likely only live a matter of weeks and the best thing would be to take her home and love her until the end. Ten months later, Everly continues to prove that she will not be defined by her prognosis.

Shortly after we last heard from the Hopkins family, Everly turned six months old. Crystal admits that milestone was a turning point for the family. The days are now filled with more hope than fear. “The doctors were preparing us for the fact that Everly was going to die, but not for the possibility that she might live,” Crystal said.

While the veil of fear has lifted to an extent, the Hopkins family understands that Everly’s diagnosis will never change. Every day is treated as a gift and Everly continues to check items off her bucket list. Most recently, she took a trip to Georgia to see the fall colors, enjoyed a trek on the Appalachian Trail and took a ride on a pontoon boat. Everly also made her first appearance in the family’s Christmas card and, most important, she has now celebrated the birthdays of all of her family members – her parents and big brothers, Garren and Kendan.

Crystal is amazed by how many people have heard Everly’s story and reached out to the family – friends, neighbors, mothers who have lost children…even complete strangers who simply want to let the family know that Everly is in their prayers. Members of the Westchase Swap & Shop Facebook group are constantly on the lookout for cute outfits and size one diapers (at 10 months, Everly weighs just 12 pounds) for Everly. And it never ceases to amaze Crystal when people stop her and her daughter during their regular walks and say, “Oh, this must be Everly!” 

“The outpouring of love and support has made this journey so much easier,” Crystal said.

That support was especially appreciated when Everly spent several weeks in the ICU in November recovering from pneumonia. Everly is now home and looking forward to that next big milestone – her first birthday. For now, the Hopkins family is taking their lead from Everly. “I am so uplifted that she is writing her own story,” Crystal said. 

To learn more about Everly, visit her Caring Bridge page at and her Facebook page at


By Karen Ring


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Sparkles for the New Year

Can you believe it’s 2015?

Where did 2014 go? I had so much fun last year and I can’t wait to see what the New Year has in store! Who’s with me?

I have an idea! Let’s sparkle this year! We have 12 months left to do some amazing things. I, for one, always feel more inspired when I feel fabulous in what I’m wearing. Not much else makes me giddy like sparkles do.

Now you may think that sparkles should be reserved for the holidays only. Yet they don’t have to be limited to holiday wear alone. In fact, I’m a big fan of rockin’ sparkles all year long…and pretty much any time of day. It’s no surprise that Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of my all-time favorite flicks, right? Holly definitely favored daytime sparkles and I think of her anytime I put on a statement necklace before breakfast, but I digress…

How can we wear sparkles this winter? Let me count the ways...Wait, I can’t! There are countless ways you can insert a little glitz into your winter looks! Although I couldn’t possible lay out all your sparkle options, I’m going to share a few of my favorite ways to rock them.

I’m all about the statement necklace, the glitzier the better. I love their versatility! Sure, you can wear them with a [vulgarity] dress, but you can just as easily rock one with a casual look. Hello, sweatshirt chic! It’s so much fun to take a plain old sweatshirt from [vulgarity] hum to hot with a sparkle-filled necklace.  As much as I heart my statement necklaces, I’m an equal opportunity sparkle lover. To be honest, I’m all about any kind of candy and that includes ear candy.

Let’s not forget about statement earrings. Wear your hair up in one of this season’s trendy pony tails and really let those statement earrings shine. They can dress up your outfit just as well as a statement necklace does. I particularly love them with bare shoulders, so if you have a sleeveless or strapless evening look, let those statement earrings fly!

I’m also a big fan of adding some glitz and glamour with belts as well. Try dressing up your simplest little black dress with a glittering belt. I’ve found some amazing belts at my favorite vintage haunts. So, if you aren’t able to find one that’s up your alley at your go-to brick and mortars, try going the vintage route. Stop by Misred Outfitters in St. Pete and tell them Kristin sent you. You’ll love their offerings!

Finally, if you’re feeling bold, just throw caution to the wind and go for full on sequins. I have a sequin bedecked frock that has been waiting to come out and play and I think 2015 is the year it’s going to make an appearance.

Happy New Year, lovelies!

By Kristin Swenson


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Swim and Tennis Staff Greet New Year

We start into a new year and look forward to the new additions and improvements to our tennis courts.

Our tennis program is going strong with adults and the junior teams playing at high levels. If you would like to get involved, please drop by the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center courts or sign up online.

Our swim team continues to grow but we still have a few spots still open. If your child is interested in swimming in a team environment, please drop by the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center pool for a swim test and speak with our coaches. Both pools will remain heated throughout the winter months at a toasty 84 degrees.

For additional program information log onto or call 855-0662.

By Kelly Shires, Operations Manager

Shires is the WCA’s Operations Manager and can be reached at

The Benefits of Competition

Sunday, Dec. 6, was a good day for Westchase tennis. We were named the best junior tennis team in Hillsborough County. It was a benefit of competition.

In my opinion, the three important parts of competition are:

Leadership: Leadership forces players to be prepared and take responsibility. It shows them not to blame anyone, and teaches them to be their own coach on the court.

Tennis Becomes Your Vehicle: Competition will take you many places. It can take you towards a healthier lifestyle, further your education, and better your social skills. Competition will not only take you places in tennis, it will also take you where you need to go in life.

The Process: Competition is not about coming in first or second place. It is about the steps and process you must take to achieve your goals and make it to the finish line. As a coach I have to work with my players to help find their best styles of play: baseliner, aggressive, offensive, etc. In this process you build the technical, mental, and physical player that you are. During this process, you make daily changes and choices while building skills. Players show their commitment by finding time when there is none. You are incomplete if you don't compete.

By Roberto Calla, Westchase’s Tennis Pro

Calla, Westchase’s tennis pro, can be reached at


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Go Ahead. Rub It In.

We’re getting close to national Hate Florida Day when people in the rest of the country start posting the state’s weather forecasts on Facebook.

It must be really frustrating to be stuck inside your house for days on end and see a bright yellow sun posted over Florida. If you want to make sure your friends and relatives up north really dislike you, brag about how January is a great time to visit one of the many local parks and commune with nature – no humidity, fewer bugs than normal, and plenty of sunshine.  

Phillipe Park in Safety Harbor will give you a lot to brag about: a beautiful view of Old Tampa Bay, a one-mile paved trail for biking or hiking, and two cool playgrounds for the kids – or adults who really enjoy mini climbing walls and a bouncy, tot-sized T-Rex. In addition to all this, Phillipe Park is also a park with historical interest. 

Phillipe Park is the oldest park in Pinellas County. The 122-acre park is named after Count Odet Phillipe, the first permanent, non-native settler on the Pinellas County peninsula. Count Phillipe was a successful businessman who introduced cigar making and citrus to the region in the 1800s. Phillipe Park is located on land that was part of his original citrus plantation.

Before Count Phillipe, the Tocobaga Indians made the area their home. The Tocobaga Indian mound found inside Phillipe Park is registered as a National Historic Landmark. You’ll find plaques and signs with more information about both Count Phillipe and the Tocobaga Indians inside the park.

Almost as soon as you enter Phillipe Park, you’re greeted with a lovely view of Tampa Bay. There is an embankment next to the water with enough room to sit and enjoy the view. Spread out a blanket and have a picnic, or roll out your yoga mat and do some sun salutations. As you walk around the park, you’ll find lots of lovely views of both the water and huge, curving, twisting oak trees. Not just eye candy, the trees also provide plenty of shade for you to appreciate while you are exercising, playing or just hanging out.

Phillipe Park has other amenities including a boat ramp, fishing areas, eight picnic shelters, and restrooms.

So this January make it your New Year’s Resolution to explore a state or county park you’ve never before visited.

Don’t worry if the rest of the country hates you. Enjoy our winter weather while it lasts.

By Marcy Sanford


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A Little Snorkeling With Dinner

Escaping from giant roast turkeys over Thanksgiving, my family stayed at the Guy Harvey Outpost, a hotel that’s part of the Tradewinds megaplex on St. Pete Beach.

I had the “opportunity” to watch Tanked, the Animal Planet show about two Las Vegas goofballs who design and manufacture immense fish tanks. It was running on a continuous loop on the hotel television. The reason for the promo, of course, was that they built a 33,500 gallon salt water aquarium across one end of the Guy Harvey Rumfish Grill restaurant and it features a variety of native Gulf species. It’s so big that guests can pay to take a dip in the tank while diners ogle them through the glass.

Once we get in vacation mode, my normally active family all turn into a bunch of slugs. My interest to see the tank was piqued, but it was located all the way across the parking lot.

In the end, we were too lazy to go anywhere else for dinner, and I really wanted to see the aquarium. Alas, the ubiquitous pictures and T-shirts featuring groups of dolphin and grouper in Disneyesque proportions did not heighten my expectations. I’ll admit it. I can be a bit of a food snob.

To my surprise, however, the food was really good. We started out with the Baked Oysters, expertly flavored with spinach, leeks, Tasso ham, and cheese. They were a nice rendition of Oysters Rockefeller.

After eating a giant hunk of delicious smoked mackerel for lunch at Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish, I was kind of fished out for the evening. The Pan Roasted Natural Chicken Breast I ordered was crispy and perfectly seared underneath a brick. It did the trick. The crunchy black bean risotto cake and sautéed spinach proved great companions. The Seafood Brochette was a giant skewer of Mahi Mahi, scallops and gulf shrimp hanging from a hook, which were all nicely grilled. It came accompanied by squash and gingered faro salad, which was serviceable, but not a standout. A third meal sampled was the Pecan Crusted Mahi Mahi with creole corn succotash and pan-fried greens. It was almost as if I got in my Thanksgiving fix, but with some prime seafood as a surrogate for turkey.

The yummy dinner did not stop us from roaring through the desserts, holiday style. I rarely make my husband’s favorite, Coconut Cake, so he was delighted to try their version. The kids were smitten with the Molten Chocolate Lava Cake topped with sea salt caramel ice cream. They practically licked their plates clean. The Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding with toasted hazelnuts was decadent and delightful and came with a sticky caramel glaze. We didn’t miss Grandma’s pumpkin pie at all!

The atmosphere in the restaurant, apart from the ginormous aquarium on one end and two smaller ones on the sides, was attractive and showed more restraint than anticipated. Clientele included mostly extended families and a few romantic couples. They probably had just gotten married at the resort, so overall it’s a pretty familial kind of place.
The wine list is fairly extensive and reasonably priced. It’s kind of a metaphor for the whole resort: fun, inexpensive and not pretentious.

It’s awesome to live less than an hour away from a Caribbean style beach resort. Where else can you go snorkeling in a restaurant?

Guy Harvey Rumfish Grill
6000 Gulf Boulevard
St. Petersburg Beach, FL 33706
(727) 329-1428
Hours: Mon- Sat, open breakfast lunch and dinner; Sun, open breakfast and brunch

By Jill Chesney


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Westchase, 2014: The Year in Review

The year brought significant changes to Westchase’s governing documents, the rezoning of 32 acres at Westchase’s eastern entrance, and preparations for a major capital improvement program for Westchase playgrounds.

And it wouldn’t be Westchase without a touch of drama.

The first WCA Board meeting of the year saw Stockbridge Voting Member Joe Odda’s appointment to the Westchase Community Association’s (WCA) Board after former Director Edward Santiago relocated to North Carolina. January also had WCA Directors discussing the proposed Costco development at Westchase’s eastern entrance while the WCA’s Documents Committee, led by Harbor Links resident Dale Sells, geared up for changes to the association’s rules.

In January directors also heard that the United States Tennis Association (USTA) was still reviewing the association’s grant application, aimed at landing $40,000 to defray expenses related to constructing a Tennis Cabana and a handful of new kids-sized courts at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center. When the USTA pointed to drainage problems with the plan, directors hired a contractor to install a French drain. The board also presented Greens resident Ernie Sylvester with the 2013 Nathan Lafer Good Neighbor Award, recognizing Sylvester’s service to the community.

At their January meeting Westchase Voting Members (VMs) amended rules governing their Variance Committee, which hears appeals of Modification Committee denials. VMs also took WCA Board to task for failing to invoke self-help and undertake basic maintenance of a long-neglected Greens home in foreclosure. VMs also heard from WCA Director and Costco Committee Chair Joaquin Arrillaga, who described his committee’s efforts to get M&M Realty, the Costco parcel developer, to accept WCA preferences for traffic signal locations, building aesthetics and parking lot street lights. While they were scheduled to make a January presentation about the project to residents, M&M Realty, however, postponed it after WCA directors, at a Jan. 9 special meeting, declined to endorse M&M’s submitted memorandum of agreement. Directors cited the fact that the agreement contained language describing it as non-binding.

January’s CDD meeting saw supervisors wading into a neighbor dispute and voting to install a fence along a Castleford pond to block a shortcut people were using to cut through homeowners’ yards. They also approved a contract to undertake drainage work and road repaving in Saville Rowe. Supervisor Brian Ross closed the session by raising concerns about the appearance of a vacant parcel of land beside Fifth Third Bank on Linebaugh Avenue, rented out by its owner, Real Property Specialists, to holiday tent vendors selling pumpkins, Christmas trees and fireworks.

February’s WCA Board meeting saw more discussion about Costco negotiations and the WCA’s self-help policy. Directors also criticized WOW Publisher Chris Barrett, who had e-mailed them and Westchase Voting Members to express concerns about both declining home maintenance in his neighborhood, particularly among rental homes there, and the growing number of rentals. Directors criticized some of the early data Barrett had shared with them about rentals in Westchase and declared that WOW’s March real estate edition, which had not yet been published, would not be an accurate reflection of Westchase. That month, WOW President Jonathan Stein and Barrett met with WCA President Nancy Sells and Director Ken Blair to hear their concerns. The magazine, however, declined the WCA president’s request to review the article prior to publication in an effort to preserve WOW’s editorial independence.

February’s CDD meeting brought an announcement that roads within the gated communities of The Greens and Stonebridge would see repaving in the coming year.
March saw the WCA dramatically step up deed restriction enforcement, shuffling management staff and increasing hours. The result was thousands of deed restriction violation notices going out to homeowners over the spring months. During the drive, management staff reported encountering aggressive homeowners, triggering the board to grant staff the discretion of not using the WCA magnet identifying them as doing deed restriction inspections.

At their April meeting VMs debated proposed amendments to Westchase governing documents but postponed their approval for a month to seek resident input on proposed rules for retractable awnings on the rear of homes.

At March’s CDD meeting the district engineer reviewed an audit of Westchase’s two biggest parks and reported that their play areas and equipment were not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This triggered supervisors’ decision, later in the year, to undertake a Capital Improvement Project that would bring the parks into compliance and create a 20-year master plan for Westchase parks and green spaces.

Addressing supervisors’ requests that they explore possible uses for newly acquired property with no public road access between Stonebridge and The Vineyards, CDD staff reported that pedestrian access might be provided by a $125,000 boardwalk along the large lake beside Westchase Elementary School. Ultimately further discussion of its possible uses would wait until completion of the master parks plan in 2015.

March 6 brought the long-awaited rezoning filing by M&M Realty for the 32-acre parcel at Westchase’s entrance, slated for a Costco, a gas station, a pharmacy, a bank, a sit-down restaurant and a drive-thru restaurant. Plans filed with the county illustrated that the developer had incorporated a significant number of the WCA’s requested aesthetic changes to make it compatible with the community, including preservation of a pond on its northwest corner, the use of brick or brick-like materials in the Costco facade, the incorporation of West Park Village style streetlights and raised berms on the edges of the parking lot and improved landscaping. Plans also committed the developer to not incorporating a bar or nightclub. Sticking points that remained between M&M Realty and the WCA included opening hours, which could impact rush hour traffic; the percentage of alcohol sales permitted in restaurants; and an agreement to maintain adjacent street medians to Westchase standards, an issue pressed by Shires VM Ruben Collazo. The issues would continue to be negotiated until the days prior to the June rezoning hearing.

April brought news to the Westchase CDD that its landscape contractor, Mainscapes, was not interested in renewing itscontract at the same price, triggering a bid process that supervisors expected would bring a significant increase in maintenance costs.

At their April meeting WCA Directors heard from Director Joe Odda of the Dog Park Task Force. Odda announced that plans to put a park on vacant land adjacent to the UTB Regional Library hit a snag when the county determined the land was owned by the library. He stated he would explore alternate locations. Meanwhile Director Dyan Pithers called for staff to speak with Westchase USTA team captains who were not abiding by Westchase rules and playing non-residents ahead of residents. 

April also saw VMs approve the Document Committee’s proposed amendments to the Westchase Bylaws and Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CCRs). Among others, the amendments aimed to strengthen the association’s ability to place liens against homes for unpaid fines for deed restriction violations and change VMs’ terms to two-years. They also sought to alter rules for portable storage containers, retractable awnings on the rear of homes and tree removal. The proposed amendments went out to homeowners for polling.

April’s VM meeting also saw discussion of rental properties and some VM criticism of a WCA Board letter that had criticized WOW Publisher Chris Barrett for his e-mails to them on the subject. After significant discussion, VMs named a Rental Committee, chaired by Cynde Mercer of The Bridges, to study the matter further and make recommendations.
The end of May brought the ribbon cutting for the year-long expansion of the UTB Regional Library. The month also brought news that Costco and the county would not agree to the WCA’s request for an agreement banning the proposed store from opening prior to 9:30 a.m. WCA Board members, with two directors opposed, thus threw their support toward a second solution. They endorsed a proposal to use the WCA attorney to set up meetings with Hillsborough County Commissioners to lobby for construction of the Citrus Park Drive extension between Sheldon Road and Countryway Boulevard. The use of the WCA attorney for political lobbying – and its associated costs – would later become an issue during the association’s fall budget workshop and subsequent board elections. In May the board also raised the pool party deposit to $250 (with $100 non-refundable). Directors cited issues with parties that left messes behind, invited too many guests and failed to supervise young children.

May saw VMs reject a Berkeley Square exterior paint guideline that would have violated what some VMs’ argued was a long-held WCA practice that forbid neighborhood-specific guidelines from being more permissive than master, Westchase-wide rules. VMs, along with some residents, also expressed reservations about some proposed changes to the community’s governing documents. The proposed rule granting the association emergency powers to enter properties to address maintenance issues and subsequently bill the homeowner for them received strong pushback.

May’s CDD Meeting found supervisors wrestling with teen trespassing issues at Baybridge Park, resolved when the district targeted the park with their off-duty deputy patrol. That meeting also saw supervisors address the initial draft of their budget, which featured a significant assessment increase to bring Baybridge and Glencliff Parks into compliance with the ADA and an expected rise in costs associated with a new landscaping contract.

June 2 marked the county’s public hearing regarding the rezoning of 32 acres at Westchase’s entrance to permit a Costco and five other outparcels. Leading up to the meeting, the WCA board gathered in a special meeting. Announcing that they had reached agreement with M&M Realty on the three outstanding issues – restrictions on opening hours and alcohol sales and an agreement that the developer would maintain the adjacent road medians to Westchase standards – the WCA voted to take a position to “not oppose” the rezoning request.

Subsequently, when WOW requested the legal agreement signed by M&M Realty and the WCA, it found that the document, while committing the Costco building to not opening during morning rush hour, did not address alcohol sales and median maintenance. When WCA President Nancy Sells stated she had a separate agreement regarding median maintenance, WOW requested it three times but it was never turned over by the association.

With minimal opposition at its rezoning hearing, M&M successfully won rezoning of the parcel on July 22. Work was expected to commence in roughly 18 months.

In June Westchase VMs also tackled amendments to Westchase Single Family Home guidelines, another set of rules for yards and homes. New rules were passed permitting backyard bench swings; backyard outdoor kitchens and firepits; and solar tubes and skylights on the rears of homes. They established guidelines for screening Westchase’s newer garbage cans and placed tighter restrictions on colors for driveways, sidewalks, patio pavers and mulch. Other rules expanded permission for tree removals and backyard retaining walls and updated rules for materials and construction of fences and screen enclosures. VMs, however, did reject a handful of proposed rules, including one that would grant the WCA emergency powers to go onto residents’ properties, complete work and bill them for it. They also rejected rules that would have permitted backyard, retractable awnings; expanded the Variance Committee’s ability to overturn Modification Committee rejections; and redefined the scope of guidelines applying to less than all of Westchase.

June saw WCA directors approve a bid for their $86,000 Tennis Cabana, but further delays in winning a USTA grant to cover 20 percent of the tennis project’s costs resulted in the bid winner informing the association later in the year it was no longer interested in the work. With their work on the Costco project complete, directors named Director Joe Odda to head up an advocacy group to encourage nearby neighborhoods to join a lobbying campaign for the Citrus Park Drive extension. They also moved forward with a plan to establish a community-wide e-mail communication portal to disseminate news and information about the association’s programs.

June also saw the automatic reelection of CDD Supervisors Greg Chesney and Mark Ragusa when no other district resident filed to run and the CDD discussing the best ways to prequalify companies interested in bidding on the district’s landscaping contract.

After resident complaints about fireworks, July’s meeting of the CDD saw supervisors talk of erecting a wall or landscape barrier along a vacant lot adjacent to Fifth Third Bank – the parcel frequently rented out to tents selling pumpkins, Christmas trees and fireworks. The following month the parcel’s owner, Alan Charron of Real Property Specialists, attended the district meeting, where he expressed concerns about the issue and heard supervisors state their preference that the tents go away. Through year’s end, the parcel held no more pumpkin patches or Christmas tree tents and Charron lowered its utility stub outs so they were less visible from Linebaugh Avenue.
The fall saw the WCA gearing up for a significant project remaking Westchase tennis, with the construction of the proposed Tennis Cabana, the addition of two new QuickStart courts for kids and the resurfacing of existing courts – a project first proposed by the Two Year Master Plan Committee in June 2012. In July the board even debated the name of the proposed tennis structure, with Director Dyan Pithers requesting it be called the Tennis Clubhouse; directors, however, stuck with the Tennis Cabana. The year, however, concluded without a groundbreaking when a USTA grant, expected to pay up to $40,000 for the project, came in at $10,000. The WCA board then sought a new bid to construct the 616-foot Tennis Cabana (the second bid came in a bit lower) and sought VMs’ informal approval to instead pay for it with surplus funds.

Late August found the WCA hammering out its 2015 budget. It occurred on the eve of board elections in which four incumbents, WCA President Nancy Sells and Directors Keith Heinemann, Joe Odda and Darrick Sams, sought reelection from Westchase VMs. Arising from budget discussions, however, were two issues that appeared to impact the elections. A handful of VMs were unhappy to hear that the board had spent an estimated $20,000 in legal fees during negotiations with M&M Realty over the Costco development, with some VMs citing the fact that the resulting legal document simply forbid Costco from opening at time earlier than its current nationwide opening hours.

Further, some VMs expressed concerns about the association’s spiking budgeted legal costs. This was due in part to funds budgeted for political lobbying for the Citrus Park Drive extension, which the board supported unanimously at the WCA’s Budget Workshop despite opposition from a majority of VMs present, and legal firm Shumaker, Loop and Kendrick’s 12 percent increase in hourly fees. Continued opposition to budgeting funds for lobbying led the board to remove some funds from the legal line and redirect the money toward pool shade covers. The 2015 budget assessment for homeowners thus came in three dollars lower than in 2014. Directors subsequently insisted no funds were budgeted for paid political lobbying.

The matter, however, still percolated through the VMs’ board election questions. Further, the candidates’ answers illustrated differences of opinion between many of the incumbent board members and their challengers, Brian Ross of West Park Village and Glencliff VM Kathy Carlsen. Ultimately, Ross and Carlsen placed at the top of VM balloting. VMs also returned to the board incumbents Odda and Heinemann. In their subsequent organizational meeting, board veteran Joaquin Arrillaga was returned to his former position of WCA President.

August also found the CDD fine-tuning its budget, lowering projected assessment increases when the landscaping bids, expected to rise by as much as 15 percent, actually decreased slightly. The winning bidder was Davey Tree at $726,159. (Davey Tree commenced work Nov. 1.) The $400,000 budgeted for major park work, however, still ensured supervisors eventually passed a budget with an increase in operations and maintenance assessments of roughly $100, or 25.5 percent.

The remaining fall months found CDD supervisors preparing for $35,000 in pond bank erosion repairs on a handful of Westhchase ponds and debating the best approach to undertaking needed park work. Ultimately supervisors unanimously agreed to hire a designer to compile a Master Parks Plan and design specific, ADA-compliant improvements to playgrounds at Baybridge and Glencliff Parks. In December supervisors ultimately awarded the contract for the design work to Stantec, the district’s current engineering firm, for an amount not to exceed $19,500.

The year ended with some drama for Greens residents. When their gatehouse company, Securitas, approached the CDD with an 87 cents per hour increase to cover employee health insurance, Securitas also pitched another money-saving option – using a remote, tele-access system for overnight shifts Sunday through Thursday nights. CDD supervisors thus sought Greens residents’ preferences. After Greens VM Jerry Pappa took a homeowner poll showing overwhelming support for keeping the gatehouse manned around the clock, however, he subsequently e-mailed Greens residents that the CDD had rejected the poll results and residents had to appear at the December meeting to have their voices heard. While supervisors unanimously insisted they had done no such thing, they were deluged with e-mails from angry Greens residents. Their December meeting was packed with more residents than anyone could remember at a community meeting in at least a decade. Ultimately, supervisors voted to accept the 87 cent hourly increase and keep the gatehouse manned.

Year’s end also found the VMs Rental Committee reporting that it did not find an excessive number of rentals in Westchase. The committee, however, recommended the publication of a resident orientation manual to familiarize newcomers with Westchase maintenance and rules.

The last months of 2014 also saw the WCA board accepting a new bid for the Tennis Cabana, defeating a motion calling for bidding out the WCA’s 6-year-old contract for legal work, and accepting a bid for installing new shade structures at both Westchase pools. Directors also closed the year by preparing a community-wide petition calling on the county to repave Westchase’s aging roads and jointly awarding the Nathan Lafer Good Neighbor Award to Nancy and Dale Sells of Harbor Links.

As the holidays approached, GAC Chair Joe Odda also welcomed County Administrator Mike Merrill, who made a presentation on county budgeting, its transportation plan and its hopes on hearing about Westchase priorities for possible inclusion in a 2016 transit sales tax referendum. 

With one of its busiest years in recent memory under its belt, Westchase stood poised and confident on the cusp of 2015.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Inspiration for a New Year

If getting healthy is at the top of your resolution list for 2015, Keswick Forest resident Larry Smart might be a healthy source of inspiration.

In October Smart ran his way to victory and nabbed first place in both the 5K and 10K races in the 2014 Great West Chase, which raised $22,000 for math and literacy programs at Bellamy Elementary School. The races hosted nearly 1,000 runners.

Originally from Virginia, Smart graduated from George Mason University, where he received his degree in math. “Math was easier for me than the other courses,” he said.

Smart parlayed those math skills into a career as an actuary, forecasting risk for WellCare Health Plans, Inc. That career, he said, is difficult to get into as the pass rate for the exam is quite low. “All I had time for was work, kids and study,” he said of his life before passing the exams.

Once he passed, his interests broadened. Although he was mentally fit, he found himself to be physically out of shape. “I started lifting weights and then I played flag football with a group of guys until people started getting hurt,” he recalled.

At age 36, he turned to running.

He admits to taking the challenge lightly at first. “I thought, ‘How hard can it be?’”

At his first attempt, he took off running. His sprint lasted about a quarter of a mile before he realized it wasn’t quite as easy as he had imagined. He then adopted a run/walk routine as he built up his running distance. Once he took running seriously, Smart started entering 5K races.
He explained that once he had distance built up, a college friend taught him the things he needed to do to get faster.

Running successfully, he said, is very technical. “What I love about it is that you cannot cheat and you have to work hard to do it well,” he shared.

According to Smart, the key to a successful start in running is to build a base. This, he said, can take up to a year and a half to develop. Once his base was set, Smart began to work with a running coach. “It’s easier to have someone do your schedule for you,” he said of his workout routine. For beginners, his advice is simple and straightforward: build a base, set a goal, be consistent and stick with it.

That routine consists of several different types of workouts he does every week. A “Tempo Run,” includes two easy-paced miles, then six or seven at a 10K pace, then two more easy-paced miles. This, he said, helps build strength.

For speed training, he does an “Interval Run,” which consists of alternating fast-paced running and recovery periods.

For distance training, he does a long run, which totals 12 to 14 miles or 18 to 20 as he nears the date for a longer distance race.

Smart enjoys the friends he has made and the motivation he receives as a member of two local runners’ clubs. That fellowship, along with a running coach, help keep him striving for personal goals.

Running is also therapeutic for Smart. “I couldn’t do my job without it,” he explained.

Smart is quick to reveal how he overcomes the temptation not to work out. “I don’t let my mind go there and it is very rare that I will miss it,” he said.

Temptation also comes in the form of food occasionally. “If I come home to Publix fried chicken, I just go straight to my room,” he said with a chuckle.

He explained his diet consists of lots of oatmeal with fruit in the mornings, kale salads for lunch and tuna and broccoli for dinner. He will treat himself to pizza or a burger after a marathon.

The results of hard work and dedication have paid off for Smart. He has competed in more than 150 races, finishing more than 1,400 race miles, including 5Ks, half marathons and marathons. His goal for 2015 is to improve on his Boston Marathon time of 2:36:26. “I’m truly lazy at heart,” he revealed. “I don’t do this naturally. It’s punishing but there is a reward to it.”

When he isn’t training, Smart enjoys time with wife Lori and daughters Kailey and Jordan. They enjoy Tampa Bay’s pro football, baseball and hockey games. He also occasionally likes to take his chances on a different type of race when he watches the horses at the track.

While his dedication to running brings Smart the healthy benefits we all strive for in a New Year, the return on his investment makes it all worthwhile.

By Lisa Stephens

Stephens, a resident of West Park Village, is always looking for interesting Westchase residents to profile. She can be contacted at


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Westchase Holiday Market a Success

With Santa, live music, face painting, raffles and shopping galore, both vendors and shoppers had a wonderful day.

On Dec. 7 members of the Westchase Artists Society welcomed holiday shoppers to the Westchase Golf Club for their Fifth Annual Westchase Holiday Market. The indoor/outdoor event featured artwork and unique gifts for enthusiastic shoppers.

Santa stopped by to visit and posed for pictures with area children. Deirdre Rivera, a mixed-media artist, was awarded Best of Show by Chris Barrett of WOW. In the afternoon, live music was provided by students and instructors from Rockatar Music Academy. Face painting and gift basket raffles rounded out the day, which helped raise over $1,000 for Autism Speaks.

“To me, the market has always been about two things: allowing local artists the opportunity to showcase their artwork and raising money for a great cause,” commented Jennifer Joyner, event chair for the Holiday Market. “The customers I spoke with really enjoyed the variety of vendors present and thought it was great that the market was so close to home. I am really looking forward to seeing everyone again next year.”

For more photos of the event, please see the hardcopy WOW.

By Teresa Trubilla


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Westchase Artists Wrap Up The Year

Members of the Westchase Artists Society ended 2014 with their fifth annual Westchase Holiday Market and the opening of their group show, “Expressions.”

The Holiday Market was held on Sunday, Dec. 7 at the Westchase Golf Club and helped raise over $1,000 for Autism Speaks. (See page 88.)

Expressions, their first group show in over a year, opened on Thursday, Dec. 11, at the Upper Tampa Bay Library. This show was the first exhibit to use the new art hanging system and gallery space donated by World of Westchase. The exhibit will be on display during regular library hours through the end of January.
“It was a very exciting experience for me to see people’s positive reaction to my paintings since this is the first time I have shown my work,” commented Jeanne LaPensee. “Being part of the Westchase Artists Society has been so enriching and inspirational to me.”

The Westchase Artists Society is open to all types of visual artists from Upper Tampa Bay. Those interested in learning more about the group are invited to drop by a monthly meeting at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every month at the Upper Tampa Bay Library on Countryway Boulevard. Please bring your creativity and a sample of your artwork to share.

The next group meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m. at the Upper Tampa Bay Library. The evening’s agenda will include election of new officers and annual registration and dues. Please see for more information. You can also friend the group on Facebook to stay updated on group activities.

By Teresa Trubilla


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Westchase Junior Tennis Teams Named Best in County

The fall tennis season saw two Westchase junior tennis teams win Best in County awards in their age groups.

After winning five team matches and 30 mini-matches for a total of 263 points, thus placing second by a single point, The Westchase Instinct entered the 16A playoffs with two teams from Tampa Palms, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Rolling Stones. The Westchase Impact, however, edged both teams in the championship round to take first place.  The Impact, named Best in County, consisted of Matthew Thomas, Aryan Tomar, Sofia Arevalo, Victoria Ramakrishan, Talia Semaan, Cason Joyner and Elizabeth Ray.

Playing in the Intermediate Yellow Ball group, the Westchase Impact consisted of Aiden Bai, Andreas Wang, Fernando Bauermeister, Max Al-Ali, Nate Prabahakaran and Santiago Cardenas. On its way to victory in the 12A Yellow Ball Division, the team won six matches and 36 mini-matches to score 278 points, 75 more than the second place team from Hunters Green.

Congratulations to the Impact and the Instinct. You’ve put Westchase Junior Tennis on the map!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Westfield Citrus Park Greets New Tenants

Westchase’s mall has recently made some big changes.

It’s welcomed new retailers, added new seating areas and refurbished its fountains.

Two of the biggest newcomers are A’GACI and H&M. Texas based A’GACI opened a 12,000 square foot store in November. The retailer caters to women with trendy clothes, shoes, and accessories. H&M, a Swedish multinational retail-clothing company, is planning opens a 19,000 square foot store later this month with clothes and accessories for women, men and children.

“Shopper demands and requests are always evolving and Westfield Citrus Park periodically surveys shoppers to better understand these demands,” said Dawn Arvidson, Westfield Tampa Bay Marketing Director. “In recent surveys, shoppers have requested a wider selection of food, women’s fashions, and a toy store. Over the past few years we have used these findings to better align the center with these requests by adding new restaurants, fashion choices such as A’GACI and H&M, and the toy store, Learning Express.” 

According to Arvidson, Pandora, ST Menswear, Pholicious, Sleep Number, Hallmark, Justice & Brothers, Le Macaron French Pastries, and Little Greek are among the other stores and eating establishments that have opened over the past year at the Citrus Park mall.

In addition to the new stores and restaurants, Paul Mitchell, The School opened this past fall. A full service salon and school, Paul Mitchell, The School teaches cosmetology. Its customers can get a wide variety of hair salon services performed by supervised students.

“Westfield Citrus Park caters to the families living in the neighborhoods surrounding the center,” said Arvidson. “A’GACI and H&M both recognize the value of having a store at the center that caters to their core shopper. Once both of these stores are open, Citrus Park mall will have an almost 100 percent occupancy rate.”

Arvidson added, “The mall has been open since 1999 but we are constantly updating and renovating. We recently refurbished the fountains inside the mall and added new seating and lounge areas. We also have many seating areas where people can relax and hang out and have added a new teen dwell space. We are committed to being a family friendly mall.”

By Marcy Sanford


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Scouts Enjoy Camping Trip

Over the last month, Troop 46 has been working to achieve merit badges and rank advancements.

In November, our camping trip was no ordinary one. The main goal for that campout was to roast a whole hog on a spit for the Troop to enjoy as Saturday’s dinner. In the meantime, Scouts played assorted sports such as football, capture the flag, and Frisbee chop chop (dodgeball with Frisbees).

Before Thanksgiving we attended the Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive for Metropolitan Ministries. Scouts helped unload cars and sort food such as turkey, pudding, and crackers. We were impressed with all of the donations, and, in particular, Cornerstone Insurance, which donated 100 turkeys.

By Drew Hatch


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TBAY Enjoys Holiday Potluck

The TBAY Westchase swim team took a dive into the New Year after having made a big splash to close out 2014.

The club celebrated its success over the past year and toasted its upcoming 2015 goals (with soft drinks and water, of course) at the annual Holiday Potluck at Baybridge Park. “The team had a great fall season in every age group,” said head coach, Alex Richardson, who recently celebrated his two-year anniversary at the helm. “We are looking forward to refocusing throughout the holidays and then gearing up for a great meet schedule this spring!”

It certainly felt a lot like the holidays as the TBAY Westchase swimmers braved chilly temperatures in the 40s during their morning practice that preceded the bash. The potluck included a gift exchange and a donation drive that benefited a terrific cause – the Tampa Bay Humane Society.

The 2014 calendar year ended with some huge successes for the team. At the year-ending YCF Almost Turkey Meet in Orlando, 8-year-olds Paige Easton and Liam Malony earned high-point championships in their age group. Paige placed first in every event except 25 back, where she was third, while Liam took first or second in every event in which he logged a time. London Palmer placed third for 6-and-unders.

In addition to those fantastic finishes, a dozen swimmers placed in the top eight in at least one event. Those athletes were Richie Bui, Danny Harris, Richard Harris, Aly Johnston, Nico Libreros, Alina Lytvynenko, Gwenyth Martin, Isabel Minnis, Gavin Nolan, Margaret Parker, Sam Prabhakaran and Jake Key, who broke his elbow at a baseball tournament the next day!

Impressive time drops were posted by Francesca Bonanomi, who cut 45 seconds in 4 events; Danny Harris, who dropped in all seven events he swam (29.04 seconds total); and Libreros, who dropped 47.44 seconds over six events.

Easton also won high points for 8-and-unders at the LOLL meet the weekend before, where Tito Borromeo captured high points among the boys in the same age group. Tito’s brother, Rafael, dropped 45.5 seconds in the 500 free, Danny Harris dropped 44.52 in the 1,000 and Sam Williams dropped a-minute-and-a-half in his 1,000 free. Top-three finishers were Tito, Paige, Richie Bui, Daniel Harris, Tyler Henry, Nico Libreros, Dylan Nolan, Margaret Parker, Summer Senior, Gregory Tilzer, Nicole Tilzer and Sam Williams.

“Our last few meets of the season were a great success across the board for our team,” Richardson said. “Many of our swimmers had outstanding finishes in their age group and others showed huge improvements individually.”

High school season also wrapped up on Nov. 7, with Robinson junior Maddie Strasen qualifying for finals in the Class 2A state swim championships. The Knights captain finished 14th in the 100 breaststroke.

Coming up Jan. 17-18 TBAY Westchase is co-hosting a meet with SPA in St. Petersburg.

Be sure to like TBAY Westchase on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @tbaywestchase!

By Jean Strasen and Alex Richardson


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Wizards Slate Jan. 30 Kindergarten Round Up

If your child is ready for Kindergarten next year, the Westchase Wizards invite you to join them Jan. 30.

All parents with children starting Kindergarten in the fall are encouraged to attend the annual Kindergarten Round Up on Friday, Jan. 30, at 8:30 a.m. in the multipurpose room. All incoming Kindergartners and their parents are invited to join us for an information session and tour of the school.

In the coming months Westchase Elementary will once again offer its After School Enrichment (ASE) program. Get ready for more fun, interactive and skill-building classes. It’s all done for you – great instructors, popular topics, and the convenience of having it right at school! Plus all profits from After School Enrichment go to the school. Kids have fun and learn something new. Parents enjoy the convenience of enrichment directly after school. And the programs help Westchase Elementary.

Classes are nine weeks and include topics like Chess, Hands-On Science, Lego Building and Theater. Look for more information to be coming home with your student the end of January. Classes will begin in February and are held Wednesdays and Thursdays, 2:20-3:30 p.m.  except during spring break. If you have ideas for a future class or if you are an instructor interested in participating, please contact Lynne Katzman at

There will be no school Jan. 19-20!

By Jennifer Arnold


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A Passionate Reimagining

Some novels are difficult to classify. Lily King’s Euphoria is one.

King is a virtuoso at combining history, character analysis, romance and adventure to blur fiction genres and create a tightly written, witty, intensely smart tale.

Euphoria is a historical novel based on Margaret Mead’s 1933 anthropological research in New Guinea. Initially, the author closely follows recorded details of the collaborative field experience of Mead and both her current and future husbands. But King moves beyond the facts to devise a riveting story with a strikingly different ending.

Nell is a best-selling, controversial American ethnographer. She is married to Fen, a less productive fellow researcher, jealous of Nell’s success. In a chance encounter Nell and Fen meet English anthropologist Bankson, who has become isolated and frustrated by his solitary work. When Bankson persuades Nell and Fen to study an interesting new tribe several hours upriver from him on the Sepik River, the emotional and professional divide between Nell and Fen widens, putting in motion actions that have disastrous consequences.

Yet, this book is also an insightful character study. The use of Bankson’s retrospective narration interleaved with excerpts from Nell’s journals keenly portrays Nell, Fen and Bankson as both scientists and very human beings. The author contrasts the philosophies of Nell and Fen that typify their interactions with the remote tribe they are studying. She also focuses the tangled love story on the professional aspirations and personal passions that both link Nell, Fen and Bankson and end up endangering their careers and lives.

The novel’s storyline generates relentless suspense. I was riveted from the opening paragraphs. King’s masterful foreshadowing ensures the reader knows something bad will happen – just not what. I found the immersive sense of place fascinating. Vivid depictions of both the backwater living conditions of Nell, Fen and Bankson and of the customs and rituals of the indigenous people of New Guinea transform the ordinary into peculiar and make the strange seem reasonable.

This is the best sort of book – a novel of ideas whose plot, characters and setting absorb and transport the reader. At times, you may wonder, “Could this part really happen?”

But you will always want to keep reading.

By Carol Collins


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Davidsen Celebrates Math Bowl Teams and Reflections Winner

Recent months saw Dragons notching some impressive successes in both math and art.

We congratulate all of our talented Math Bowl teams! In the Hillsborough County Regional Math Bowl, the Seventh Grade Math Bowl took third and the Eighth Grade Team took second place.

Meanwhile seventh grader Hailey Marquez was awarded an honorable mention in the Reflections Art Program by Hillsborough County PTA/PTSA. They recognized her music composition, "When the sun is up." The county saw 62 schools and over 900 students participate. Congratulations to Hailey and to all of the Davidsen students who submitted a Reflections entry this year. For those who want to get a jump start on next year’s Reflections, the theme will be: "Let your imagination fly."

Before winter break, the Davidsen PTSA worked with area businesses to ensure that the teachers and administrators were treated to a bit of holiday cheer.

On Dec. 17 the PTSA hosted a holiday buffet for teachers, staff, custodians and bus drivers – 120 people in all. They enjoyed an assortment of special holiday treats. The PTSA also held a 12 Days of Holiday Giveaway, where gift cards for area stores and restaurants were given away to teachers and staff members every day for 12 days. PTSA members donated many of the gift cards. In addition, McDonald’s generously donated 120 free food vouchers, Olive Tree gave four $5 gift cards and Bakery Melange donated two free treats.

Another area supporter, Westchase Pizza & Pasta, offered a generous discount on the food for the PTSA’s annual holiday dinner, held on Dec. 11.

These are just a few examples of the ways in which area businesses support our school, for which we are extremely grateful. We would also like to take a moment to thank our business partners whose contributions are greatly appreciated: World of Westchase, Orangetheory Fitness Westchase, Kitchell Group, Westchase McDonald’s, Biven’s Orthodontics, Real Athletic and Wellness (RAW) Health Club, Dr. Goodnight, Orthodontics, Power Learning and Miche Fashion Purses

On Jan. 21, another loyal supporter, Burger 21, will be donating a portion of the proceeds from sales that day to Davidsen’s Eighth Grade Class. Be sure to stop by and support our school.

During Feb. 2-27, Davidsen will hold another Box Top Drive. Students can turn their Box Tops in to their homeroom teachers. Gift cards will be awarded to one student and one teacher for participation.

It is also time to start thinking about the event every Dragon looks forward to each year: The Medieval Fair!  The Medieval Fair is a parent/teacher run festival for students only. It will take place on Friday, March 6. Volunteers are needed to help make this event a success. Contact Elaine Ragan at to find out how you can help.

Please note that the PTSA will hold a meeting on Jan. 6. There is no school Jan. 19-20.

By Karen Ring


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New Ravens Hurler a Special Delivery

The Alonso High School baseball program, known for its consistent success and a long line of quality pitchers, received a special delivery this season.

He’s Nick Kennedy, a 6-foot, 200-pound left-hander whose fastball has topped out at 91 miles per hour. Kennedy moved this school year from College Station, Texas, where his father, Dave, was the strength and conditioning coach for Texas A&M.

When his father accepted a similar position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kennedy was offered the chance to stay with friends in Texas to compete his career at Station High School. But he preferred to live with his family and finish his high-school career in a new town.

Kennedy is delighted to be here.

“I love the city, I love all the things you can do here, I love Alonso and I think it’s a great place to be for baseball,’’ said Kennedy, whose family had been living in an apartment, but moved into a Radcliffe home in December.

Kennedy, who begins practicing with his Alonso teammates this month in preparation for the spring season, missed last year after undergoing surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome, a genetic condition that caused compression and pain because his top rib was positioned too close to his collarbone. Kennedy said he’s now 100 percent after pitching in some fall games for Alonso.

Alonso coach Landy Faedo said he’s happy with his team’s new addition.

“Quality left-hander, throws 91 (mph), great kid, nice family … yeah, I was pleased when I heard he was moving to our area,’’ Faedo deadpanned.

Since the school was established in 2001, Alonso baseball has always been known for pitching. The most visible performer was Jose Fernandez, a first-round pick who became the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year with the Miami Marlins. But several Ravens enjoyed success and earned college scholarships, including Alex Faedo, Alex Panteliodis, Tommy Toledo, Thomas Dorminey, Ray Delphey and Michael Harley.

Before throwing his first pitch for the Ravens, Kennedy already joined that club. In November, during a signing-day ceremony at Alonso, Kennedy inked a scholarship with the University of Texas, a perennial powerhouse in college baseball. With his Ravens teammates gathered around, everyone flashed that patented Texas “hook-em’’ hand signal.

“The fact that Nick signed with Texas tells you what kind of pitcher he is,’’ Faedo said.

Interestingly, Kennedy liked the Longhorns, even though he lived in the town of Texas A&M, the hated rival. But he had acquired the Texas taste much earlier. While living in Nebraska, another of his father’s career stops, Kennedy often attended the College World Series in Omaha, a regular stop for the Longhorns. He remembers buying Texas caps and that preference remained when he moved to the state.

“I got a lot of heat (in College Station) for that choice because I actually (orally) committed there when I was a sophomore,’’ Kennedy said. “You can’t get away from the rivalry thing. But Texas has such an incredible combination of academics and athletics. I just couldn’t pass it up.’’

For now, though, Kennedy is concentrating on becoming a dominant pitcher for the Ravens. His future with the Longhorns – or perhaps an opportunity at professional baseball – is somewhere in the distance.
Although it has been awkward leaving friends just before his senior year, Kennedy said he already has made lots of new friends at Alonso and feels right at home. His baseball reputation may have preceded him, but he expected that.

“The guys on my team are cool and I think I’ve been able to fit in,’’ Kennedy said. “Moving, at least for me, maybe wasn’t as big of a deal as it could’ve been for somebody else. Because of my father’s career, this is the fifth state I’ve lived in (his father also worked at Pittsburgh and Ohio State), so getting used to a new place has kind of been my way of life.

“I’m sure people will look at me and wonder (how I’m going to pitch). That’s just part of it. I’ve been on other teams where we’re looking at the other guy, saying, ‘We heard all about him. He’s getting all the hype. When you commit somewhere, you’ve got to be able to handle all of that. At the end of the day, I just have to do what I have to do to get outs. It doesn’t really matter what they have to think about it.’’

Kennedy, who has a younger brother (Eric) playing as a freshman at Calvary Christian and an older brother (Ben) already playing at Texas, said he’s accustomed to expectations. For now, though, he’s enjoying his new surroundings. He calls Westchase “a very beautiful, very relaxing community’’ and is relishing his year in Tampa.

“I love being here,’’ Kennedy said.

Faedo and the Ravens certainly love having him.

By Joey Johnston


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Exciting Year in Store for Westchase GirlTalk Group

Last month’s holiday party was a festive evening filled with food, wine and friendship for members of GirlTalk.

The Dec. 19 gathering was hosted by GirlTalk founder Lori Shaw.

Bakery Melange was on hand to lead the group through a demonstration on how they make their amazing holiday shortbread sugar cookies! The ladies had a wonderful time decorating their individual cookies to create the perfect holiday treat. Thanks so much to Bakery Melange for taking the time to join the party!

Looking ahead into 2015, GirlTalk has some exciting events that will get the New Year off to a great start. On Jan. 14, Shaw will host a fun, informative evening led by Holistic Health Coach, Pam Velez. Velez will lead an interactive discussion on sleeping better, increasing energy, improving digestion and decreasing brain-fog.

On Feb. 11 Glow Beauty & Skincare will treat the group to a Night of Beauty. Located right here in Westchase, Glow Beauty & Skincare offers quality professional skincare, massage and beauty services performed by licensed and certified professionals. This is the perfect opportunity to get great skincare tips from the experts.

In the coming months, the GirlTalk group will enjoy an evening with Fidelity Financial Planners who will lead the group through some helpful financial planning and budgeting tips. Coldwell Banker will offer a talk on real estate and how to prepare your home when it is time to sell.

These are just of a few of the fun and informative events for the coming year. “It’s going to be an exciting year!” Shaw said.

For more information on upcoming events or to find out more about the group, contact Lori Shaw at Also, be sure to follow them on Facebook: The g.roup is free to join and is open to anyone interested in fun, friendship and a fresh perspective.

By Karen Ring


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UTB Gallery Welcomes Art Gallery Space

The Westchase Artist Society celebrated the opening of their exhibit, “Expressions,” at the Upper Tampa Bay Library’s new art gallery space Thursday, Dec. 11.

The exhibit, running through January, features artwork from members of the Westchase Artists Society. The gallery renovation was made possible due to a grant from WOW.

“I am grateful to World of Westchase magazine for their generous donation that made this gallery space and hanging system possible,” said Westchase Artists Society President Teresa Trubilla. “It provides a wonderful venue for local artists to showcase their work.”

According to Trubilla, it’s been more than a year since the group’s last exhibit. This one features artwork from most of the members including watercolors, acrylics, mixed media, photography, pencil, and pottery. “The Westchase Artists Society is open to any artist in the area,” said Trubilla. “This exhibit features artwork in various mediums that represent our members’ varied interests.”

“Before the library’s renovations, the only hanging space was in the front conference room, which did not provide security,” said Westchase Artists Society member Judy Freeman. “The new space is wonderful. As long as the room is not in use, it is open to the public and even when it is in use, you can still see the artwork through the windows.”

The exhibits inside the gallery space will change monthly. “We want to support local artists,” said Regional Library Manager Suzy George. “There is an ongoing call for artist applications. We have a committee that will review the applications and set up the schedule. We’ve already had a lot of interest from artists who want to show their work in the space. We want to bring shows that will appeal to the community and give them another reason to visit the library.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity to show our work,” said Westchase Artists Society member Marilyn Chaulk. “I’m thrilled to be part of the show and have my artwork displayed in such a beautiful building.

If you are an artist who is interested in displaying your artwork at the Upper Tampa Bay Library, application are available at the information desk.

By Marcy Sanford


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WOW in the United Kingdom

This past summer WOW found itself traveling with the Hough Family to Stamford.

Not THAT Stamford, silly. The original one!

Paul and Karen Hough, who live in Westchase’s Stamford, brought their daughter, Paula, back to the United Kingdom, where she was born as an American citizen. “We left before she was 1-year-old,” explained Paul Hough. “This was her first trip back. We took in all the typical London attractions before renting a car and touring the country.”

Paul continued, “Karen and I had actually been to Stamford before and stopped by again after visiting the nearby Burghley Estate. The attached photo is taken on the road into Stamford and shows why the town is famous as a well-preserved stone market town. So here is Stamford, Westchase-resident Paula Hough standing in Stamford, UK, the land of her birth.”

The second photo is of Paula, standing in front of a home most famous for the children’s nursery rhyme written there – a poem set to a French folk song whose tune later inspired Mozart to pen several variations.

“We took Paula to see the Abbey ruins in Bury St Edmunds because her birth certificate is recorded there and it is the site where the Magna Carta was signed 800 years ago,” wrote Paul. “Not too far south from Bury is Lavenham, an ancient wool town famous for its well preserved homes many over 500 years old. This photo is of the home known as Shilling Grange which was built in 1425 and is famous because Jane Taylor wrote “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” in 1792 while living there with her family.”

The third photo, the London Eye, may be recognizable to most readers. “Karen and I were most interested in the London Eye and the Millennium Bridge as neither of these existed in the two years we lived in England,” Paul explained of his visit there. “We took this photo across the river from the London Eye after we had been on the ride. I would say it's a must do for any visit to London.”

As someone who’s spent a good deal of time both in and outside of London in the U.K., Paul offered some helpful cultural advice. “We did try to impress upon Paula that visiting London only and thinking you understand England would be like visiting New York City and thinking you had a good understanding of America. Both are just too cosmopolitan to get a grasp of the national culture.”

Paul concluded, “We were fortunate to have experience with driving on the left-hand side and spent most of our time visiting attractions outside of London as well as seeing old friends.”

We thank the Houghs for sharing their adventures with WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Westchase Swimmer Notches Top State Time

Keswick Forest’s Austin Sellers recently made quite a splash at the Florida State Swimming Championships on Nov. 14.

Competing on his 18th birthday, Sellers earned one of the best presents around: the best time for the 100 Yard Breaststroke in all of Florida and a gold medal.

He competed at the state championships in Stuart, Florida, as his parents, Trae and Rachel Sellers, and his sister, Lauren watched.

“My time in the 100-yard breast stroke was 54.90,” remarked Austin. “That would have been the state champ among all state classifications.”

Sellers was describing the fact that the state divides schools among different classifications so students compete against others from comparably sized schools.

Sellers, who began swimming at age 8 in Westchase’s swim program, currently swims as a senior at Jesuit High School. Jesuit competes in Class IIA.

Sellers came away from state championships with a chestful of medals, specifically a gold and three silvers. “I also did the 200 Yard IM, which I got second in,” he said.

Sellers also grabbed silver in the 200 medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay.

His fellow swimmers on the relay teams were Jesuit students Sam Sands, a freshman, and juniors Byrne Litschgi and Tommy Shaffer.

“I’m just happy that our team did well,” he remarked.

Sellers was quick to credit Coach Bill Shaffer and his parents for his success. He swims 20 hours a week during swim season. “When it’s not high school season, I swim with my club team,” he said.

His current club is Academy Aquatic Club at Academy of Holy Names.

As for the future?

“I’m just taking it one step at a time,” he remarked. “I’m being recruited by some schools and will make a decision after that.”

Among them are University of Florida, University of North Carolina, University of Indiana, Virginia Tech and Auburn. Sellers plans to major in Business.

Congratulations to Austin on an impressive accomplishment!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

Photo provided courtesy of Jesuit High School.


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Westchase Seniors Keep The Good Memories Rolling

The Westchase Seniors Group will have a party at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center on Jan. 10 at 6 p.m. to celebrate the first 14 years of the third millennium.

Our kickoff party this new year will celebrate our good times and memories of years 2000 through 2014.  In January 2010 Bette Vance, Anita Steinfeld, and Phyllis Kanik hosted a party for the Westchase Seniors Group to celebrate the 1950s.  Everyone had such a good time remembering and sharing fond memories and stories from that decade that Betty, Anita and Phyllis have been compelled to host a decade celebration party each year ever since.  Bette will start the discussion this year by taking our minds back to some memorable events in the first 14 years of this millennium.  This "time travel" always spurs thoughts we enjoy sharing of our own personal experiences during the time.  Please R.S.V.P. to Bette (792-2999), Anita (926-6211), or Phyllis (920-4245) by Jan. 9 so they will know much pizza to order, and please bring $7 to cover the cost of food, drinks, and paper goods. 

The holiday party in December was the one of the best attended holiday parties the Westchase Seniors Group have had.  The food was great, the time spent with friends was delightful, and gift exchange was enjoyable.  The photographs with this article show only a few of the Westchase seniors who were able to enjoy the 2014 holiday party.  We extend a big thank you to Anita Steinfeld, Phyllis Kanik, and Lillian Unger for planning and coordinating this past year’s Westchase Seniors Group holiday party at Catch 23.  Thank you, ladies!  

Tuesday Morning Coffee Each Tuesday morning from 9-10 a.m. Westchase seniors are invited to meet at the Westchase McDonald’s Restaurant for coffee, breakfast and friendly conversation. The coffee is free with a food purchase and the conversations are always enjoyable. Grab your coffee and join us. You can’t miss us. We are the “older” but “young at heart” people laughing and having a great time.

Join The Fun If you are a Westchase resident over 55-years-old and looking to enjoy life, join over 200 of your neighbors who make up the Westchase Seniors Group and add more life to your years. It only costs a smile to join and the dues are just as cheap. Members participate in only what they are interested in and pay their own way. To receive e-mails about Westchase Seniors events, send your name, address, and phone number to or call Lewis and Rama Patterson (926-5473).

By Lewis and Rama Patterson

The Pattersons are residents of Kingsford and can be reached at or 926-5473.


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CDD to Install Fountain in Countryway Boulevard Lake

Supervisors of the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) saw their first meeting of 2015 adjourn in less than an hour – but not before making a splash.

The abbreviated session addressed three items, including the purchase of a fountain for a lake near Westchase’s fire station.

Supervisor Bob Argus was absent.

The remaining four supervisors present, however, gave their final blessing for the installation of a pond fountain in the lake beside the fire station and Westchase Swim and Tennis Center on Countryway Boulevard. The fountain itself will cost $11,500 while an additional $2,800 was approved to extend electrical utilities to the pond. Quarterly maintenance is expected to run $127.50. Staff stated their only estimated cost was the annual electric bill for running the fountain. Staff stated that the fountain in the lake across from Westchase Elementary School costs $6,000 per year. The smaller fountain for Countryway Boulevard, they estimated, would cost half that. Supervisors ultimately voted 4-0 to install the fountain, expected to occur in the next two months.

While supervisors waited for CDD Attorney Erin McCormick to arrive, they heard from Kathy Carlsen, who sits on the Westchase Community Association (WCA) Board. Carlsen encouraged CDD staff to explore the greater use of Florida Friendly and native Florida plantings in the community’s beds. Citing the entrances to the Citrus Park mall as featuring beautiful, yet less common options, she stated, “They are eye-catchers.”

With McCormick’s arrival, supervisors turned to the remaining item of business, the contract for a Parks Master Plan design with Stantec, their engineering firm. CDD Chair Mark Ragusa stated that his signature on the contract had been held up by a couple of issues. McCormick stated that as of 1:30 p.m. that afternoon, Stantec and she had come to an agreement on contract language related to liability and indemnification.

In their final action, Supervisors voted 4-0 to authorize the finalization and the chair’s signature on a contract with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department over the district’s hiring of their off-duty deputies for the CDD’s privacy patrol.

Supervisors adjourned at 4:51 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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WCA’s Jan. 9 Movie in The Park is The Nut Job

On Friday, Jan. 9, Westchase’s free family movies in the park return! Bring chairs, blankets and snacks to the West Park Village Town Center Green on Montague Street. The movie begins at 7 p.m. (Depending on the temperature, don't forget your insect repellant!). January’s movie is The Nut Job (PG).


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Costco Developer Requests Sign Variance

In late December, Hillsborough County posted a sign near Westchase’s eastern entrance announcing the owner of land slated for a Costco had requested a code variance for the property.

The Jan. 20 meeting concerns the recently rezoned 32.25 acres at the southeast corner of Sheldon Road and Linebaugh Avenue. M&M Tampa Citrus Park has announced plans for a multi-use commercial project at the corner, including a 155,000 square foot Costco big box store, and five additional outparcels, including a Costco-related gas station, a pharmacy, a bank, a sit-down restaurant and a fast-food restaurant.

According to Kim King, a Hillsborough County Project Manager for Development Services, the variance, if granted, would permit both the big box parcel, slated for a Costco, and its associated gas station canopy, to display commercial signs larger than those currently allowed by county sign codes.

Under current rules, a building the size of the proposed Costco would be allowed 200 square feet of signage on each side or elevation. M&M’s variance requests 506 square feet on the northern elevation, which would face toward Linebaugh Avenue. The main Costco sign would be 382 square feet and would be 10 feet, 3 inches high by 37 feet, 3 inches long. The entrance to the Costco would be in the northwest corner of the big box parcel. Any sign there, however, would also be credited to the northern elevation’s sign limits. M&M is requesting an additional 124-square foot sign for that entrance, running 5 feet, 10 inches high by 21 feet, 4 inches long.

No signs are requested for the Costco’s eastern elevation. M&M is also requesting a similar 382 square foot Costco sign for the southern elevation, facing Old Linebaugh Avenue, and its western elevation, facing Sheldon Road. In addition, M&M is requesting that the Sheldon side also feature a 31-square foot “Tire Center” sign measuring 1 foot, 9 inches by 17 feet, 4 inches.

Signage related to the adjacent gas station canopy is dictated by the size of the smaller gas station building. Under code, each side of the canopy would typically be permitted eight square feet of signage. While the eastern and western elevations won’t exceed this limit, M&M is also requesting a variance allowing 20 square feet of signage on the northern and southern elevations of the gas station canopy, consisting of signs running 2 feet, 4 inches high by 8 feet, 5 inches long.

According to King such variance requests for signage are not unusual. “For large, what they would call big box stores,” she stated, “they can be common.”

King added the county’s current sign codes date to 1985. “The codes have never changed since then.”

Residents wishing to convey their opinions to the county regarding the variance can do so by e-mailing and noting VAR 15-0174 in their communication at least two business days prior to the hearing.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Westchase Crime: November 2014

Thanksgiving celebrations along Magnolia Blossom Drive were interrupted on Nov. 27 as the result of a five-hour armed standoff that culminated in the death of resident Matthew Cormier.

Alerted by a member of Cormier’s family, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputies appeared at 9641 Magnolia Blossom Drive in the rear of West Park Village to check on Cormier’s well-being. Cormier responded, however, by threatening to kill the deputies and insisting they would have to kill him. Cormier also fired shots from a window, striking a police cruiser.

Nearby condominiums were evacuated for safety.

After five hours of negotiations, a SWAT team fired on Cormier, who had appeared in a window with a gun. Cormier died at the scene.

Burglary Residence/Forced


12400 Berkeley Square Dr.

Battery – Simple


12400 Berkeley Square Dr.

Theft From A Building


9800 Montague St.

Burglary Residence/Forced


9800 Gingerwood Dr.



10400 Countryway Blvd.

Criminal Mischief Misdemeanor


12000 Royce Waterford Cr.

Theft From a Vehicle


9400 Cavendish Dr.



W. Linebaugh Ave./Sheldon Rd.

Theft From a Vehicle


10200 Millport Dr.



Sheldon Rd./W. Linebaugh Ave.

Other Weapon Violations


10500 Montague St.


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WOW Gives Back –  On Your Behalf

Each year I share with you some of the other work WOW does on your behalf.

As we begin 2015, I’m proud to share with you WOW’s 2014 charitable giving, much of which recently occurred.

It may sound like I’m just tooting our own horn. I hope, however, my real intent becomes clear. You, dear reader, played an integral role in making this happen. And we need your continued support to do the same in 2015.

WOW is quite unusual among homeowners’ association publications. The cost of most HOA publications is usually borne, in some way, by the association’s homeowners through their annual HOA assessments. WOW, however, is different. The Westchase Community Association (WCA) and Westchase homeowners don’t provide any funding at all for the magazine. Instead WOW is entirely supported by its advertising revenue.

Each time you pick up and read WOW – each time you call its valued advertisers and let them know you’ve seen them in WOW – you help keep WOW strong in a very challenging marketplace for print media.

And it is a very challenging marketplace.

WOW is a non-profit corporation whose mission states, “The Westchase community as a whole will profit from the magazine as revenues beyond expenses and reserves will be distributed to deserving community beneficiaries and projects.”

In December WOW marked another year in which it made significant donations to support schools that teach Westchase children – and poorer schools that feed into Davidsen Middle School, for which all of Westchase is zoned.

After requesting wish-lists from our schools, WOW made nearly $50,000 in technology grants, with $1,900 going to Robinson IB, $1,900 to Alonso, $9,800 to Davidsen, $6,200 to Walker IB Middle and $10,000 to Davis Elementary. Westchase Elementary received $7,000, Lowry received $6,500 and Lavoy Exceptional Center, serving special-needs children, received $5,000.

In addition, we were able to give Bellamy Elementary, a Title I school, $22,000 in proceeds from The Great West Chase.

WOW made an additional $35,000 in contributions. We invested $12,000 in our WOW Scholarship program, recognizing students for commitment to academics and community service. WOW also made a number of other contributions to worthwhile organizations such as Kaye Prox Food Bank ($2,000), the JCC Food Bank ($2,000), the Children’s Home ($2,500), the Hillsborough Education Foundation ($2,500 for school supplies for poor children) and The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation ($920).

WIW donated $2,500 to the Gulf Ridge Council to support disadvantaged Scout Troops and $500 to our local Boy Scout Troop 46. WOW also gave $500 contributions to homeless veterans, Jacob’s Touch, the American Cancer Society and Meals on Wheels. WOW’s $5,000 donation to the Westchase Charitable Foundation even helped cover costs associated with last month’s Santa parade through Westchase.

It is because of you, our dedicated readers, that we were able to assist these schools and organizations. And the donations were made in Westchase’s name.

Help us remain strong. Keep reading and keep telling our advertisers you’ve seen them on these pages.

Happy New Year!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher 


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Have You Mailed Your WCA Assessment?

Happy New Year!

We hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and a safe New Year celebration.

In November 2014 the annual payment notice for the 2015 assessment was mailed to all Westchase owners for payment due on Jan. 1 in the amount of $319. As a reminder, failure to pay the assessment by Jan. 31 will result in a late fee of $25. Please remember to include the payment notice containing your account number along with your payment in the return envelope provided to you. While you can drop off your payment at the association office, that will delay posting of the payment to your account. You also have the option of making an online credit card payment. For information on credit card processing, please contact the association management office. If you are a new owner and did not receive your coupon, please contact our office immediately.

For neighborhoods holding their annual neighborhood meeting this month to elect their voting members and alternates: please be sure to return your proxy cards to our office immediately upon receipt. It is imperative that each neighborhood be represented at the monthly Westchase Voting Members meetings.

If you have gotten your palm scan done for pool and tennis court access, please visit the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center’s pool office or the association management office. Be sure to have your photo ID available. If you are a new owner or a renter, you will need official documentation verifying residency, such as a warranty deed (new owner) or a lease agreement and utility bill (renter). Within the next few months, the additional palm scanners will be installed at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center.

As always, we are here to serve Westchase residents.  Please feel free to drop by our office or contact us at 926-6404 or via e-mail at

By Debbie Sainz, CAM, CMCA


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Fitness and Nutrition: Separating Fact From Fiction

Ah, January – the month when millions of Americans resolve to establish healthier lifestyles.

Whether the intention is to exercise more, eat less or both, a little planning and research will go a long way in making changes that have lasting results. To help get our readers off on the right foot and avoid confusion when it comes to establishing a healthy routine, we’ve taken a closer look at some of the common fitness and nutrition misconceptions.

A regular detox is necessary to cleanse toxins from your body. After weeks of holiday indulgence, a detoxification diet or “detox” can seem like an enticing option to give your body a fresh start for the New Year. Detox methods vary, ranging from the colon cleanse to the two-day juice fast, but the goal is typically the same – to rid the body of excess toxins. The fact is, the body comes equipped with its very own detox system: the liver, the kidneys and the spleen.

Those turning to detox diets for weight loss may be pleased with the initial results, but disappointed with the long-term effects. Initial weight loss is primarily due to water loss. Weight loss is about much more than a number on a scale; it is about maintaining an ideal body fat/muscle ratio by burning more fat than muscle. This can be difficult to achieve on restrictive diets, like a juice fast, that can leave dieters feeling dizzy, lightheaded and fatigued and, therefore, unable to perform the physical activity necessary to strengthen muscles. In addition, if severe calorie restriction is sustained for more than a few days, the body may sense impending starvation and release stress hormones that cause fat stores to break down rapidly – a response that, paradoxically, may increase circulating toxins.

A better approach is to focus on "clean" eating that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein – in other words, whole foods with minimal processing. This approach boosts the body’s natural detox system and offers more lasting weight loss results, especially when coupled with a regular exercise regimen.

A gluten-free diet can benefit anyone. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, has been getting its fair share of publicity in recent years. With the growing number of gluten-free products hitting the store shelves, it is easy to understand why consumers may think they are beneficial for everyone. In fact, they are truly intended for those who suffer from celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which the body can’t digest gluten and is marked by damage to the small intestine that leads to deficiencies when nutrients aren’t absorbed properly. A blood test is used to diagnose celiac disease. NCGS, on the other hand, may be diagnosed when abdominal distress, and sometimes fatigue, regularly occurs after consuming gluten – and when celiac disease has been ruled out.

“Just switching from cookies to gluten-free cookies, or going to processed gluten-free bread, waffles and rice pasta does not offer benefits unless someone has true celiac disease or NCGS,” stated Christine Miller, registered dietician and owner of Advanced Nutrition Concepts. “Technically, [a gluten-free diet] is fine for anyone who chooses to try it, but only if they eat REAL food, not processed, gluten-free substitutes,” she added.

Those who suspect they may have a problem with gluten should consult their physician before going gluten-free on their own. It is much more difficult to get a definitive medical diagnosis of celiac disease once a person has stopped eating gluten.

Organic is always better. No definitive ev¬idence exists that organic foods have any significant nutritional benefits over conventional foods. On the other hand, foods certified as organic must be produced without antibiotics, growth hormones and synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, which means less exposure to potentially toxic substances. And because organics are grown and produced using sustainable, regenerative farming methods, many are good for the soil and the planet…for the most part.

The environmental benefit of organic foods decreases significantly when they accumulate “food miles,” the distance food has to travel from the farm to the store. The higher number of food miles traveled, the greater amount of energy consumed and pollution released – both of which contribute to global warming. The best way to avoid food miles is to choose locally grown foods. Choosing seasonal produce and shopping at area farmers’ markets are great ways to find local options.

Organic can also equal expensive. When it comes to produce, Miller refers her clients to the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists. The Dirty Dozen highlights 12 additives like as nitrates and artificial colors that represent some of the greatest failures of our regulatory system. For a complete list, visit The C.lean 15 highlights the cleanest conventionally raised fruits and vegetables based on pesticide use. For a comprehensive list, visit on organics for the more pesticide-laden produce and looking for traditional offerings with fewer additives can help pinch pennies. In the end, it is important to remember that the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.

Eating after 8 p.m. will make you gain weight. At some point in time, the notion caught on that eating in the evening results in weight gain. The truth is: calories are not any more or less powerful based on the time of day. All foods are made up of calories, which provide the fuel the body needs to function optimally. When the food consumed contains more calories than the body needs to function, the excess is converted into fat, which is stored for later use. For every 3,500 extra calories consumed, the body produces one pound of fat. This process does not change once the clock strikes 8 p.m.

The problem that arises with late night snacking is simple: when a person is relaxing at the end of a long, exhausting day, he is more likely to overeat. To compensate for fatigue, the brain tells the body to eat more, which can lead to unhealthy, calorie-dense snacking. It’s not that the body gains more weight in the evening; it’s that people may be eating the wrong foods. When hunger strikes late at night, opt for healthy, high-fiber foods that will satisfy hunger without packing lots of calories.

Vegetarians are healthier than meat eaters. For some, following a vegetarian diet is a personal choice based on deeply rooted beliefs. For others, it is simply viewed as a healthier way to eat. According to Miller, this is not necessarily the case. Vegetarian or non-vegetarian, the key to healthy eating is maintaining a balanced diet. Both vegetarians and meat eaters need to eat a well-rounded diet that limits the consumption of added sugars, sodium, saturated and trans fats and refined grains. Furthermore, it is crucial that vegetarians incorporate adequate protein into their diet. Soy products, lentils, beans, peas, nuts and whole grains are great sources of protein for vegetarians.

That being said, meeting the body’s protein needs by eating plant-based foods can be healthier than consuming animal products, which are typically high in saturated fat. This is where a vegan approach has an advantage over both vegetarian and meat-inclusive diets. Saturated fat raises levels of cholesterol in the blood and can increase the risk for heart disease. Full-fat cheese and other dairy products, chicken, beef and fatty meats are among the top sources of saturated fat in the typical American diet.

“For those with cardiovascular disease, a properly balanced vegan diet with exercise and meditation is proven to be most effective,” Miller added.

The other thing to think about when it comes to eating meat is the impact it has on the environment. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of the total release of greenhouse gases worldwide (more than the entire transportation sector) and cattle breeding is a major contributor to these greenhouse gas emissions. A cow releases between 70 and 120 kilograms (kg) of methane per year. Methane is a greenhouse gas that has a negative effect on the climate that is 23 times higher than the effect of carbon dioxide. Therefore, the release of about 100 kg of methane per year for each cow is equivalent to about 2,300 kg of carbon dioxide per year.

Overall, the choice to eat meat or not eat meat is a personal one. Those who opt to go vegetarian still need to follow a well-rounded diet rich in protein and those who choose to eat meat would do well to limit their consumption of red meat for the sake of their health and the environment.

Where there is no pain, there is no gain. It is the age-old mantra chanted in gyms and sports complexes across the nation: No pain, no gain! But is it really wise to work through pain? “The truth is: there is beneficial pain and there is detrimental pain while working out,” stated Carrie Bell, a personal trainer with the YMCA. “Beneficial pain comes when you feel your muscles burning towards the end of a set. You begin to fatigue and your body shakes while holding a plank position, or the exercise you are performing becomes uncomfortable because it's difficult,” Bell explained. Under these circumstances, it can be beneficial to push through the pain in order to see progress.

“Joint pain, severe burning or shooting, sharp pains are detrimental pain and are a signal from your body that something is wrong,” Bell added. Continuing a workout under these circumstances can end up doing more harm than good. “Most people come into the Y with some sort of issue or injury in their body. Learning how to workout with it and knowing when to stop or modify can be tricky. This is what I help my clients with everyday!” Bell said.

The more you work out, the better. “This can be true and false,” Bell said. “Being active five to six days a week is a clear benefit to overall health. When a person begins a new workout routine to reach a specific goal, such as weight loss, the more you workout for the first six to 12 months or so will yield results and can be better. However, once you reach those goals, a level of maintenance activity will need to take over,” she added. The key is finding the right balance. “A person can definitely over do their level of activity. I stress to my clients that their rest days are equally as important to their overall health as their active days,” Bell added.

You should always stretch before you work out. In order to understand the basics of stretching and how they apply to a workout, it is important to note that there are two main types of stretching: dynamic and static. “Dynamic stretching is the type of stretching that should be done before you work out. This is where you do a toned down version of the workout you are about to perform. If you are going for a run, then do some brisk walking, walking lunges or soldier marches,” Bell said.

Dynamic stretching allows the muscles to get warm and loosen up without fatiguing them.

Static stretching is a method of stretching a muscle beyond its normal limits, then holding the stretch anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Contrary to popular belief, this type of stretching should be saved for the end of a workout. “This is when your muscles are tired, yet warm. Static stretching is a very important component to maintaining flexibility, which can ward off injuries. Static stretching, when done properly, will further fatigue the muscle, which is why it is best performed at the end of your workout,” Bell explained.

Bell also noted that there is a third type of stretching known as facilitated stretching, which involves flexing or engaging a muscle group at the same time it is being stretched. “I perform this with some of my clients at the Y at the end of their workouts. Facilitated stretching helps give a deeper stretch and better hold than can be done alone,” Bell stated.

Lifting heavy weights will bulk you up. A common misconception, especially among women, is that lifting heavy weights will result in a bulky, body builder–esque physique. The truth is, bodybuilders spend hours and hours in the gym lifting extremely heavy weights. They also eat a very strict diet that promotes muscle gain. The average person's workout and diet will not yield the same results.

“Lifting weights (heavy weights) benefits women just as much as men. A lot of women that come into the gym are looking for ‘definition.’ In order to achieve definition, you need to lift heavy weights. Lifting heavy weights not only will produce a long, lean, defined look for women, but will boost metabolism, allowing your body to burn more calories while completely resting,” Bell explained.

Lifting weights not only promotes long, lean muscles; it can also dramatically increase weight loss results over cardio alone.

Crunches are the best way to achieve flat abs. Six-pack abs are the holy grail of the workout world and the abdominal crunch is the exercise most relied upon in the quest for abs of steel. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite that simple. “Achieving flat abs requires more than crunches. Diet is a huge contributor!” Bell said.

In addition to a balanced diet, there are many other exercises that produce a much higher calorie burn than the crunch. According to Bell, among these are the woodchopper, the plank, stability ball pikes and cable torso twists. “Burning more calories will facilitate the loss of overall body fat, which will help produce flatter abs. When someone joins the Y, they get two free appointments with a trainer, which is a great time to learn how to properly perform these result-driven ab exercises!” she added.

The New Year is a great time to make a commitment to a healthier lifestyle. The first step is separating fact from fiction in order to set fitness and nutrition goals that will last.

By Karen Ring; Photo by James Broome Photography


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From the President, January 2015: Resolutions, Assessments and Violations

Resolutions, resolutions, resolutions.

OK, this year I will lose all those extra pounds and will exercise (My doctor is a resident of Westchase and will say, “Yeah, right.”). I’ll eat right and be a better father, husband and person, etc.

Listen to yourself when you know you are saying the right things.

I sadly need to listen better to the little voice on my shoulder, the one with the guy dressed in white, not the one in red and black.

Our community offers incredible facilities and activities. For swimming we have two half-size Olympic pools and 10 tennis courts. We offer free use of all of them and very affordable quality programs and lessons. All of this costs only $319 a year. What a bargain!

Still we have residents who decide not to pay this little amount. At the end of the first year of non-payment, you could be on the hook for over $1,000. If you have any problems paying this amount or if you have not received the bill, contact our management office and we will help you. Please don’t ignore it. 

Many Westchase Voting Members and Westchase Community Association (WCA) Directors have been asking for more strict inspections within our community. During the past year we have been increasing violations and some months we have issued between 400 and 600. Among them are dirty driveways and sidewalks, discolored mailboxes, discolored homes, dirty and/or discolored roofs, weeds, other landscape issues, and more. 

Our community is over 20-years-old and it looks incredible because we keep up our properties. If you receive a violation, it is not personal. Our management team is doing their job. If you need to talk with them and ask extra time or to tell them you already took care of it, please call the office. They are friendly and eager to help. There is no need to let it get to the Covenants Committee process to act.

Trust me. Our management team is friendly and loves to help our residents.

Have a great year!

By Joaquin Arrillaga


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Westchase Soccer Association Announces Spring Registration

Grab your cleats! Registration for Westchase Soccer Association’s Spring 2015 season will be held in January. 

Please visit for registration information and program offerings.

WSA also offers volunteer opportunities for students who need to complete community service hours.

We anticipate Under 5, Under 6, Under 7, Under 8, Under 10 and Under 12 age groups.  Age divisions are determined by the Florida Youth Soccer Association’s (FYSA) cutoff date of July 31, 2014 (not the date programs begin).  Please refer to the Age Divisions chart on our Web site for participant eligibility. 

New and some returning participants in the U7, U8, U10 and U12 age groups must participate in a mandatory 15-minute skills assessment in February in order to complete the registration process. 

A MiniWee program will be offered to children who are 3½ to 4½ by the FYSA cutoff date of July 31, 2014 (not the date the program begins). 

An original legal birth certificate is required for all new participants and returning participants who last played prior to 2013. The participant’s original legal birth certificate must be presented during one of the open registration opportunities (and a legible photocopy must be retained on file with WSA). Parents may make arrangements for a friend or relative to register their child(ren) on their behalf; however, please refer to the instructions on our Web site to ensure the required information and waiver are provided to the individual who will be registering the child(ren).

Information regarding WSA programs is subject to change without notice; please visit our website, for t,he most current information.


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Village Voices, January 2015: Decorations and VM Elections

The Bridges

Happy New Year! I hope that your holidays were very happy and that the new year brings you happiness, health and hope for an even better year.

Don't get a nastygram from the Westchase Community Association (WCA) for having your holiday decorations up past Jan. 15. Take them down at your first opportunity.

All homeowners should have received a yellow postcard from the WCA with your ballot for the Bridges Voting Member election by now. The return postcard/ballot is return-addressed and stamped. Please take a few minutes to sign it and drop it in the mail. If you are prepared to vote or have a write-in nomination, do it at that time, but please, please, just sign and return the ballot. If we do not have a quorum returned by mail, then we will be walking around the neighborhood asking you to sign and turn in a ballot prior to our annual meeting. You are not required to attend our annual meeting, but it is an opportunity to meet and greet your voting members and WCA staff. Usually the WCA president also attends.

Speaking of annual meeting, go ahead and mark your calendar for The Bridges Annual Meeting on Thursday, Jan. 22, at 6 p.m. at the WCA Office at 10049 Parley Dr.

Please send an e-mail to and include your home address if you would like to receive updates by e-mail or if you have any items that need my attention.

By Cynde Mercer, The Bridges VM

The Greens

Happy New Year! Here we are into another new year, 2015. Wow, the years seem to be flying by!

Have you completed and returned your 2015 voting member proxy ballot to the Westchase Community Association (WCA) office? If not, please do so today. We must have a quorum to have a completed election for the voting member of The Greens.

Are you all aware that if you lease your Westchase property out to tenants, you must advise the WCA manager, and provide a copy of the executed lease, or you may be subject to a violation and a fine? Contact the WCA manager for details.

On a final note, I propose putting together a committee of Greens residents to assess the feasibility of creating a new database of resident e-mails. Please let me know if you are interested in being part this committee.

By Gerald (Jerry) Pappa, The Greens VM


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UTB Library Programs, January 2015


Toddler Time (Ages 2-3 with caregiver): Mon, Jan 5, 12 and 26, at 10:15 a.m.; Tue, Jan 6, 13, 20 and 27, at 10:15 a.m.; Wed, Jan 7, 14, 21 and 28, at 11 a.m.

Story Time (Ages 3-5): Tue, Jan 6, 13, 20 and 27, at 11 a.m.

Baby Time (Ages 0-18 months): Tue, Jan 6, 13, 20 and 27, at 1:15 p.m.; Wed, Jan 7, 14, 21 and 28, 1:15 p.m.

Wee Artists: Thu, Jan 8, 15, 22 and 29, at 1:15 p.m.

LEGO Block Party: Mon, Jan 12, at 3:30 p.m.

Tale Spinners Storytelling Club: Tue, Jan 13 and 27, at 4 p.m.

  • Learn about storytelling and how to choose a good story.


Teen Advisory Board: Tue, Jan 6 and 20, at 4:30 p.m.

Tokyo-a-go-go: Mon, Jan 26, at 4:30 p.m.

  • Fold origami, learn to write in kanji, participate in chopstick races, try trivia, watch anime and more.


Job Support Group: Wed, Jan 14, at 10 a.m.

Book Discussion: Thu, Jan 8, at 6:30 p.m.

  • Join us to discuss Tip and the Gipper by Chris Matthews.

Sahaja Meditation: Sat, Jan 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31, at 10:30 a.m..

Book Discussion: Mon, Jan 12, at 11 a.m.

  • Join us to discuss A Constellation of Vital Phenomena  by Marra Anthony.

Master Gardener Series: Daylilies: Wed, Jan 14, at 6:30 p.m.

  • Learn about the many varieties and how to propagate them in your garden.

Family Center on Deafness Telephone Distribution: Fri, Jan 9, at 10 a.m.

Computer Classes:   

Tech Boulevard: Tue, Jan 6, 13, 20 and 27, at 2:30 p.m.

  • Ongoing training in computer and software basics.

Microsoft Word–Tables: Tue, Jan 6, at 6:30 p.m.

Adobe Photoshop Elements–Getting Started: Tue, Jan 13, at 6:30 p.m.

Adobe Photoshop Elements–Organizing Photos: Tue, Jan 20, at 6:30 p.m.

Online Photo Editing: Tue, Jan 27, at 6:30 p.m.


Sun, 12:30-5 p.m.; Mon-Wed, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Thu, noon-8 p.m.; Fri & Sat, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Holiday Hours: The library is closed on Mon, Jan 19, in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.


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Rotarians Annual Bike Drive Jan. 10

If Santa brought you some new wheels, why not donate your old ones to a great cause this month?

On Jan. 11 the Westchase Rotary Club will be holding their Sixth Annual Charity Bike Drive benefitting God’s Pedal Power Ministry. Rotarians will be on the corner of Race Track Road and Countryway Boulevard in the Flying Fish Bikes parking lot from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. that day.

They will be collecting all used men’s, women’s and children’s bikes. God’s Pedal Power Ministry will then refurbish the bikes and give them to local children’s homes and needy adults at a local homeless ministry. Westchase Pizza will be donating a $25 gift card to everyone who donates an old bike.

Thanks to a dynamic group of local individuals, the Westchase Rotarians are helping change the lives of people globally and locally. In 2015 they will focus on growing their membership and encouraging new applicants to join their group in order to make a difference in the community. They welcome visitors every Wednesday morning at their 7:30 a.m. breakfast meeting at the Westchase Golf Club.

To find out more about their club, please visit


By Christy Young


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Public Notice of Classic Townhomes, Traditional Townhomes and Townhomes of West Park Village Guideli

The Westchase Voting Members (VMs) will consider a request to adopt a neighborhood-specific exterior paint palette for Classic Townhomes, Traditional Townhomes and the Townhomes of West Park Village (WPV) at their Jan. 13, 2015 meeting.

As required for neighborhood-specific guideline changes in neighborhoods with sub-associations, the HOA boards of the Classics, Traditionals and Townhomes of WPV have indicated their support for the adoption of the new palette, which is based upon the Westchase community-wide master palette. The Classics, Traditionals and Townhomes of WPV neighborhood guideline must also win approval of two-thirds of the West Park Village VMs in addition to two-thirds of the VMs present in person or by written consent at two distinct VM meetings called to consider the changes. 

For a complete list of individual unit/building colors specified for body; trim; and doors and shutters, please contact the WCA manager at or see the WCA Web site,


By Debbie Sainz


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Nancy and Dale Sells Win WCA Good Neighbor Award

A familiar Westchase couple has been named recipients of the 2014 Nathan Lafer Award.

“I can only think of one couple that has been as generous in giving of their time and support to all things Westchase,” said Westchase Community Association (WCA) Director Kathy Carlsen, who nominated the Nancy and Dale Sells for the award, chosen at the November WCA Board meeting. “They have represented their neighborhood, served on numerous committees, and supported many events held for the benefit of not only Westchase residents, but Hillsborough County residents as well.”

The Sellses were the first residents on their Harbor Links street 19 years ago. Nancy originally began volunteering for the Westchase community as a voting member. Since then she has also served on the WCA Board as president, secretary, treasurer and the board liaison to WOW. Dale has been a member of the Modifications Committee and chair of the Documents Review Committee.  “We find it very fulfilling to volunteer,” said Nancy. “We have met many people we wouldn’t know otherwise and have formed great friendships. I would encourage all Westchase residents to become involved with our community whether it is attending a meeting or volunteering for a committee.”

“They are super people, who have given much to Westchase over the years,” said WCA Director Keith Heinemann, who also nominated the couple. “It seems especially appropriate to recognize them after this past year, with Nancy having served as Westchase's first female HOA president.” He added,  “Dale has done yeoman work on the Modifications Committee for a number of years, and chaired a vital and extensive project on our Documents Review Committee.”

“I grew up in a small town in Nebraska where you were always looking for ways to be involved,” said Dale. “It is very fulfilling to be able to volunteer. You are always learning and meeting new people.”

The Nathan Lafer Award was established in 2006 to recognize Westchase residents who are good neighbors whose volunteerism improves the Westchase community.

For more information about the award, visit the WCA Web site


By Marcy Sanford


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Alonso Welcomes Principal Hart

On Jan. 5, Alonso Ravens will welcome a new school leader!

Alonso High School’s Principal Louis Diaz retired in November and we thank him for his tireless commitment to the school and its students and wish him the best of luck in his retirement! Ken Hart will take the position of principal when the students return from Winter Break. We welcome him to Alonso High School and look forward to a continued relationship with Alonso High School and Mr. Hart. For more on Mr. Hart, please see page 16.

Alonso’s programming season for the 2015-2016 school year has begun. This is the time when students have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with their guidance counselor to discuss their plans for future courses of study. It is imperative that you look over the programming sheet that your student brings home and double check the electives your student has chosen to ensure that you approve of his or her choices. There will be no schedule changes due to the Florida Class Size Amendment and the school’s inability to adjust teacher units.

Please keep in mind that, though a student may mark an elective as his or her tenth choice, the student may very well end up in that class. Furthermore, please engage in a conversation with your student regarding Advanced Placement courses, their rigorous course content, and their required time commitment beyond the normal school day. Too often students bite off more than they can chew with Advanced Placement classes. Alonso wants your student to be successful in every course in which they enroll. Remind them that signing up for Advanced Placement courses is about quality not quantity.

Should you have any questions regarding programming or courses offered in the 2015-2016 school year, please visit the school’s Web site at and look under the Forms and Docs section to download the Curriculum Guide.

The next Booster Club/PTSA/SAC meeting will be held on Jan. 14 at 5:30 p.m. in the Media Center.

Go, Ravens!


6 G/B Basketball @ Freedom
7 G/B Basketball vs. Bloomingdale
9 Wrestling @ Manatee
9 G/B Basketball vs. Wharton
9 Cheer @ RHS
9 G/B Soccer @ Middleton
10 Saturday Success Academy, 11 a.m.
12-16  Girls Soccer Districts @ Steinbrenner
13-16 Exams
16 End of Second Quarter
16 G/B Basketball vs. Riverview
16 Boys Soccer vs. Leto
19 No School
20-23 Boys Soccer Districts @ East Lake
21 G/B Basketball @ Jefferson
22 Orchestra All County Rehearsal
23 Reg Cheer @ Plant City
23 G/B Basketball vs. Sickles
23-24  All County Orchestra
24 Wrestling Divisionals
26 Boys Basketball vs. Blake
27 Boys Basketball @ HHS
27-30  Girls District Basketball Tournament
29-31  State Cheer @ Kissimmee
31 Wrestling @ Steinbrenner
31 Saturday Success Academy, 9 a.m.

Visit the school’s website ( for more information. For a complete Alonso events calendar, visit


By Belinda Krauss


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Westchase Food Truck Rally Jan 30

Westchase, loosen your belts!

The community’s next Food Truck Rally is Friday, Jan. 30, from 5-8 P.M. in the front parking lot of Westchase Elementary School.

Westchase resident and Robinson High School student Brett Steinfeld has organized the rally to raise money for his school's debate club. Many Westchase high schoolers attend Robinson’s International Baccalaureate Program. A variety of trucks are scheduled to attend, including trucks serving Mexican and Japanese food, cheesesteaks, barbecue and cupcakes. There will be something for everyone in the family! Please come out with the whole family and enjoy great food while helping local high school students attend their state debate conference this spring!

By Debbie Steinfeld


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Meet Copper!

Copper is a 5-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback and resident of The Bridges. Copper belongs to the Pydeski family. He loves to be chased, play with other dogs, and sunbathe.


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Holiday Decorating Contest Winners Glow

Westchase was certainly all aglow as competition for the 2014 Holiday Decorating Contest took place in December.

Topping the list are two newcomers to the winners’ circle, although their displays looked like veteran contest competitors. According to one judge, the top winners were all within a few points of one another. Scoring was based on four criteria: theme and design, creativity, effort and overall appeal.

West Park Village resident Debbie Chiaramonte took first place honors with her home at 10105 Parley Dr. The gingerbread and candy-themed décor is something she always wanted to do. “This year, we made it happen,” she said. Daughter Marissa Wilkins helped create the delectable display featuring giant lollipops, gumdrops, multicolored candies and gingerbread men.

Second place went to Bridges resident David Rojas, Jr., of 9946 Stockbridge Dr. His patriotic theme captured the eyes and hearts of this year’s judges. The Rojas display featured American flags, a camouflage clad Santa and a wish list for the patriots serving our country. With relatives serving in the military, Rojas said the sacrifices they made inspired him to honor current and past military personnel. “It’s a tribute to the troops,” he stated of his elaborate display.

Third place winners, Philip and Maria DeCampos of The Fords, are no strangers to the victory circle. With too many previous top three wins to count, Philip continues to take to the roof with lights and decorations that certainly set his house apart from any on his street. The newest addition to the multitude of inflatables at 10740 Tavistock Drive is a 15-foot Santa on a sleigh. “He is really, really tall,” DeCampos chuckled.

The DeCampos display also features a mailbox exclusively designated for letters to Santa, which are quick to receive a timely response.

Best Neighborhood award went to Bennington’s Talbot Place. “Believe in the magic of Christmas,” was the theme for this year’s winning assortment of holiday displays, appearing in each lawn along the street. The main orchestrator of the decorating effort is Charlotte Birck. “We call her Number One Elf,” said neighbor Amy McDermott.

Another neighbor, Mike Ingraham, is referred to as Number Two Elf as he had a big part in pulling it all together as well. “It has been a wonderful tradition that gives us much joy and sore muscles,” McDermott said. She added that her neighbors plan to donate the prize money awarded for a block party to the Wounded Warriors Foundation.

Congratulations to all our 2014 Holiday Decorating Contest winners! Thank you for making Westchase merry and bright!

Honorable Mentions

12102 Marblehead Dr.
12014 Wandsworth Dr.
10451 Green Links Dr.
11926 Derbyshire Dr. (Star Wars Theme)
10719 Ayrshire Dr.
10205 Talbot Pl.
12213 Glencliff Cir.
10448 Greendale Dr.

Other Notable Neighborhoods

The Estates
The Shires
Seymour Way in West Park Village

By Lisa Stephens


By William Burroughs on Thursday, December 18, 2014 @ 10:33am

The 9946 address does not exist in the Shires.  I believe this was our house since we are the only ones with a Star Wars Theme?  11926 Derbyshire Dr.

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From the President, January 2015: Resolutions, Assessments and Violations

Resolutions, resolutions, resolutions.

OK, this year I will lose all those extra pounds and will exercise (My doctor is a resident of Westchase and will say, “Yeah, right.”). I’ll eat right and be a better father, husband and person, etc.

Listen to yourself when you know you are saying the right things.

I sadly need to listen better to the little voice on my shoulder, the one with the guy dressed in white, not the one in red and black.

Our community offers incredible facilities and activities. For swimming we have two half-size Olympic pools and 10 tennis courts. We offer free use of all of them and very affordable quality programs and lessons. All of this costs only $319 a year. What a bargain!

Still we have residents who decide not to pay this little amount. At the end of the first year of non-payment, you could be on the hook for over $1,000. If you have any problems paying this amount or if you have not received the bill, contact our management office and we will help you. Please don’t ignore it. 

Many Westchase Voting Members and Westchase Community Association (WCA) Directors have been asking for more strict inspections within our community. During the past year we have been increasing violations and some months we have issued between 400 and 600. Among them are dirty driveways and sidewalks, discolored mailboxes, discolored homes, dirty and/or discolored roofs, weeds, other landscape issues, and more. 

Our community is over 20-years-old and it looks incredible because we keep up our properties. If you receive a violation, it is not personal. Our management team is doing their job. If you need to talk with them and ask extra time or to tell them you already took care of it, please call the office. They are friendly and eager to help. There is no need to let it get to the Covenants Committee process to act.

Trust me. Our management team is friendly and loves to help our residents.

Have a great year!

By Joaquin Arrillaga


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WCA’s Dec. 12 Movie in The Park is Prancer

On Friday, Dec. 12, Westchase’s free family movies in the park return! Bring chairs, blankets and snacks to the West Park Village Town Center Green on Montague Street. The movies begin at dusk (Don’t forget your insect repellant!). December’s movie is Prancer (G).


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Who Wants to Track Santa on Saturday?

This Saturday, Dec. 13, Santa returns to Westchase in Santa’s Pre-Flight Parade. Details of the parade and Santa’s route are contained in this month’s WOW. This year residents who wish to track Santa throughout the day can do so quite easily…

While the hardcopy WOW encourages residents to send a text with their phone numbers to parade organizers to receive a link, organizers subsequently developed an easier way to track your favorite elf. Simply save the following link to your phone or your computer and click on it at noon on Saturday, Dec. 13:!westchasesanta

Residents are encouraged to share the link with their neighbors. While you are encouraged to click on the link at noon, the cursor marking Santa’s whereabouts won’t become active until roughly 2 p.m., the parade’s official start time.

The parade is annually organized by the Westchase Charitable Foundation, a volunteer organization of Westchase residents who work to improve the quality of life in the community by raising funds to assist families with seriously ill children and families faced with tragedies. WOW is the parade’s presenting sponsor and underwrites the major costs for the event.

Residents who come out to greet Santa’s parade are asked to bring at least one unwrapped gift. They will be given to Michelle’s Kids, which helps less fortunate children to have a wonderful Christmas.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Greens Residents Flock to CDD Meeting to Keep Manned Gatehouse

The Dec. 2 meeting of the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) saw dozens of Greens residents in attendance to express support for keeping their gatehouse manned around the clock.

More than 40 squeezed into the foyer and meeting room of the Westchase Community Association’s Parley Drive offices, where the meeting was held. More stood outside the door.

All appeared after a call to action from Greens VM Jerry Pappa, who informed Greens residents that the CDD rejected his poll results on the gatehouse and had required residents to attend the meeting to weigh in. [See related story below.]

CDD Mark Ragusa began the meeting by addressing some misconceptions.

Faced with an increase of 87 cents an hour to provide health insurance coverage to gatehouse employees from Securitas, The Greens security company, CDD supervisors decided in November to weigh if Greens homeowners preferred paying the increase in order to maintain existing coverage by current employees. An additional option, pitched by Securitas, would have lowered costs by trimming 32 hours of manned coverage. That approach would have eliminated the eight-hour overnight shifts Sundays through Wednesdays and added a tele-entry system to remotely handle visitors. The CDD Board asked WOW to run an article in November announcing the options and requesting Greens residents communicate their preferences to supervisors.

Pappa subsequently polled his residents in an e-mail that offered the two options. He later reported to CDD supervisors that poll results showed overwhelming Greens support for maintaining a fully manned gatehouse.

“I have received probably 60 e-mails and received five or six phone calls on the issue,” said Ragusa.

The chair began by discussing his inability, under the Florida Sunshine Law, to communicate about the issue with other supervisors outside of publicly noticed meetings. “This is not a homeowners association.”

Ragusa, echoed by Supervisor Bob Argus, also emphasized that the remote coverage option was not a plan hatched by supervisors but an option presented by Securitas.

“It is my suggestion, based on resident input…that there is no interest in going forward with the Securitas unmanned proposal,” Ragusa said. He added, “What we needed to improve upon is the way we communicated with the community.”

Ragusa noted that in recent years the district had passed a number of different budgets and made some significant purchases. “This was the one issue that drew the most notice and input.” He said of the gatehouse issue. “You guys responded in droves. You were really passionate.”

Ragusa also stated the increase, according to Securitas, was needed to insure they kept full-time guards at the gate rather than rely on part-timers with higher turnover. “I’ve been extremely impressed with the people in that guard gate,” he stated, “that’s what I heard from people.”

The increase, Severn Trent’s Alan Baldwin stated, would likely be about $14-15 annually per Greens home. It comes with a two year price guarantee. Severn Trent is the CDD’s management company.

Ragusa added, however, that coverage of the matter had prompted a Westchase resident who is working for GS4, another security company, to offer a cheaper proposal to man the Greens gatehouse around the clock. “That proposal is roughly $1,135 less than our current budget.”

When a Greens resident inquired how the service of the new company would differ from the current one, Ragusa responded, “I don’t know.”

Speaking, Pappa stated while he thought the district’s decision to keep the gatehouse manned overnight was great, he offered a caveat and encouraged consideration of the GS4 proposal. “I believe the competition is good.” Pappa also took issue with Ragusa’s calculated savings. “There is an annual savings of $9,000.”

CDD Supervisor Greg Chesney stated he only recently received the proposal while he was on vacation and Baldwin had not yet had the chance to run a financial analysis to determine cost differences accurately.

Ragusa added, “I’m hearing people are willing to pay 87 cents more to keep the current vendor.”

Chesney suggested the board accept Securitas’ proposed increase and then consider the alternate bid once it had been properly reviewed.

Stating there was obviously a lot of miscommunication on the matter, Village Green Michael Turnbull stated, “It is worth a cup of coffee or two to be safe.” He added, “We know our guards. They know us.”

Turnbull concluded, “We want to see the savings. But absolutely – safety first.”

The Greens crowd broke into applause.

After other comments, supervisors voted unanimously to accept the Securitas increase and keep the gatehouse manned overnight. Ragusa concluded the matter with a commitment about future gatehouse security business. “The residents will be given the opportunity to weigh in on whether it should be bid out.”

Closing major action, supervisors voted unanimously to finalize a contract with Stantec Senior Project Manager Neale Stralow to compile a parks master plan and a proposal for bringing Baybridge and Glencliff Parks’ playgrounds into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The design work, to be completed within 90 days, was set not to exceed $19,500.

In other matters:

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy Kris Gundersen, who supervises the district’s off-duty deputy patrol, spoke briefly with supervisors about a deputy who recently told Glencliff residents that she did not have the power to enforce park rules when a group of park visitors became noisy and played amplified, offensive music. Under the the district agreement with the HCSO, however, deputies do have enforcement powers. “I apologize for that,” said Gundersen. “That shouldn’t have happened.”

Gundersen said he would communicate with deputies about the matter and CDD Attorney Erin Larrinaga committed to continuing her discussions with the HCSO’s legal team.

Supervisors heard from a Greenpointe resident about damage a broken street sewer was doing to his driveway apron. In The Greens, a gated community, the CDD owns the right of way and storm-water system. The right of way includes the sidewalks in front of residents’ homes and their driveway aprons. The Greenpointe resident, however, expressed concern that the district’s repair of the storm sewer and driveway apron would cause the newer concrete not to match the rest of the driveway. He asked for the district’s cooperation in ensuring aesthetic continuity. Supervisors requested he return in January with a formal proposal.

Following November’s general election, supervisors reconstituted their officers, again unanimously naming Ragusa the district chair and Chesney the vice chair.

Supervisors voted 4-1 to award their annual year-end holiday staff bonuses, set by a formula determined by the length of their employment. Chesney was the sole vote against, stating he felt the field maintenance staff should receive a larger bonus than proposed and Field Manager Doug Mays and Office Administrator Sonny Whyte a lower one.

Supervisors took no action on a staff proposal to pay a holiday decorating company to light the four large palm trees adjacent to the West Park Village bell tower. After Greens resident Mary Young suggested supervisors explore recognizing other holidays in their decorating, Ragusa requested that staff discuss the idea with the company they hire to erect the district’s current decorations.

Field Supervisor Doug Mays committed to following up with the Westchase Golf Course regarding damage to an entrance monument and stop sign, which went missing following a recent accident at the course’s entrance.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

Misunderstanding or Miscommunication?

It was the largest showing of agitated residents at a community meeting in recent memory.

And it left Westchase Community Development District Supervisors (CDD) scratching their heads.

The Dec. 2 meeting of the Westchase CDD, held in the small community meeting room in the Westchase Community Association’s (WCA) offices on Parley Drive, filled to overflowing by 4 p.m. While at least 40 Greens residents could be seen and counted in the meeting room and building entrance, more stood outside the door. Many had left work early to attend, some even bringing children along.

They were rallied by Greens Voting Member Gerald (Jerry) Pappa, who sent a number of e-mails to Greens homeowners describing a proposal to possibly change security coverage at the Greens gatehouse. Faced with an increase of 87 cents an hour to provide health insurance coverage to gatehouse employees from Securitas, CDD supervisors wished to weigh if Greens homeowners preferred paying the increase in order to maintain existing coverage by current employees. An additional option, pitched by Securitas, would have lowered costs by trimming 32 hours of manned coverage. That approach would have eliminated the eight-hour overnight shifts Sundays through Wednesdays and added a tele-entry system to remotely handle visitors. The CDD Board asked WOW to run an article announcing the options and requesting Greens residents communicate their preferences to supervisors.

Pappa subsequently polled his residents in an e-mail that offered two options. One option: “Do you want to keep the Greens Gatehouse manned 24/7 [at] a proposed  increased cost that will be assessed in your 2015 tax assessments by roughly $18.10 per year per household?” (Pappa’s estimate of $18.10 was taken from WOW’s article; the CDD clarified at the Dec. 2 meeting that the actual cost would probably be just under $15 per home annually.)

Pappa’s second option was, “Or do you want to eliminate having the Greens Gatehouse manned 24/7, i.e., Sunday through Wednesdays, thus reducing the cost by roughly $40.80 per year per household.”

Pappa later reported to CDD supervisors that of the 182 residents responding to his e-mail poll, all but three voted to keep the gatehouse fully manned around the clock.

When Pappa shared the poll with CDD Chair Ragusa, Ragusa offered his thanks via e-mail and added about the poll questions, “What I did not see is a detailed explanation for what hours would not be covered by a manned guardhouse.  As you know, the proposal is to eliminate the third shift on Sunday through Wednesday evenings.  These eight (8) hour shifts run from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.  Your second question is not clear and I wonder if the exact hours would make a difference.” 

Pappa responded, “The residents want the gatehouse manned 24/7 at the proposed added cost, period…no ands or ifs about it…WE have the heartbeat of this community, and they want no disruption to 24/7 manned service.” He concluded, “If you intend on doing anything but maintaining 24/7 manned service in the Greens Gatehouse, I want to know ASAP.”

“Again, thank you for your input,” Ragusa responded. “I do not know what the supervisors are going to do at the December meeting.  I am sure they will hear lots of input from residents.  You are welcome and encouraged to attend and participate in the resident input portion of the discussion.”

The Westchase CDD is an independent, quasi-governmental agency that is not part of the Westchase Community Association (WCA). Under Florida Sunshine Law, supervisors may not discuss any matters under consideration among themselves outside of a publicly noticed meeting. Thus, the earliest CDD supervisors could discuss or collectively consider Greens’ residents input was at the Dec. 2 meeting.

Five hours after Ragusa’s e-mail, Pappa sent an e-mail to his Greens e-mail distribution list. “I have some very disturbing news to report to each and every homeowner living in both The Greens and Village Green. After the Voting Member of The Village Green and I conducted a very extensive survey with regards to whether our residents want to maintain staffing The Greens Gatehouse 24/7 with security guards, and subsequently reported the results of the survey to The CDD today, I was told by The CDD that they will not accept our survey as the direction that the residents of The Village Green and The Greens want to take.”

Pappa continued, “While they requested the survey for direction, and we complied, they now feel it necessary to inconvenience and insult homeowners of both the Greens and Village Green by requesting attendance at their Tuesday December 2, 2014 meeting.”

Pappa closed by encouraging all residents to attend the meeting.

CDD supervisors were taken by surprise by the subsequent deluge of e-mails from Greens residents asking why they had to take time off from work to attend the meeting, beginning at 4 p.m., rather than letting them weigh in via poll or e-mail.

At the Dec. 2 session, CDD supervisors voted unanimously to keep the Greens gatehouse manned around the clock.

When contacted by WOW, all five supervisors stated they had not told anyone they would not respect the Greens’ poll results. They also stated they had never insisted residents had to attend the meeting to be heard. Supervisors Bob Argus, Brian Ross and Brian Zeigler stated Pappa had not discussed the matter with them at all by e-mail or phone.

Providing the string of e-mail messages he had exchanged with Pappa, Ragusa stated via e-mail, “This Supervisor never told the VM that the poll results were unacceptable to the CDD. This Supervisor merely asked what information was conveyed and what question(s) was asked to gauge the results.  I wanted to make sure the results were based on accurate information. I also wanted to see if both issues were presented to the residents.”

When WOW asked Pappa what exchange led him to draw the conclusions that CDD supervisors had rejected his poll and were instead insisting residents attend the meeting to  weigh in, he responded, “This is all water under the bridge, and it stems from Mark not keeping in touch with [Village Green VM Bobbi Pitcher] and I….We believe the residents of both the Village Green and the Greens have made their intentions known clearly.”

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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County Administrator Visits Westchase Dec. 4 to Talk Transportation

Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill will appear at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center on Thursday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. to discuss the county’s new approach to addressing its long-term transportation needs. Merrill will address the topic “Transportation for Economic Development Comprehensive Mobility Proposal Initiative.” All residents are invited to attend to share their questions and comments. For further information contact Government Affairs Committee Chair Joe Odda at or 391-5706.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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“Virtual Library” a Fantastic Alternative to Google for Research

If your children resemble mine, when given a research assignment, their first response is to type their subjects into Google’s search bar.

Then they begin aimlessly scrolling through hundreds of Web sites and randomly clicking on them to obtain the facts needed for their research paper. Not every Web site is the best source of information for our K-12 students, however, and some sites are even laden with harmful malware.

Hillsborough County Public Schools offers a much better alternative to the Google search – the Virtual Library! The Virtual Library is free for every student in Hillsborough County. You can access several Gale Databases, and World Book Online, where you will discover thousands of reliable, credible, and current academic journal articles, videos, news reports, and numerous age-appropriate Web site links on unlimited subjects. This is a safe place for students to search for research topic information on the Web and it is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In addition to the Gale databases and World Book, you also have access to two online libraries, which include MyOn and Axis 360. Many students used MyOn in elementary school, but there are hundreds of eBooks on the middle school level as well. Axis 360 is truly a “virtual library,” where students can check out their favorite titles to read on their own personal mobile devices any time of day for free! EBooks can be checked out for two weeks at a time, and they will automatically be removed from their device at the end of their checkout period. Please click on the Axis 360 directions button on any virtual library page for setup directions. To access one of the virtual library collections go to: or access the Davidsen Middle School homepage and click on the Media Center tab to locate the Virtual Library link.

Give the Virtual Library a try. Remember that it is always free, safe and available. For information on usernames and passwords, please contact Mrs. Supple at Davidsen Middle School’s Media Center.

By Merle Supple, Media Specialist, Davidsen Middle School


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Programs at the UTB Library, December 2014


Toddler Time (Ages 2-3 with caregiver): Mon, Dec 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29, at 10:15 a.m.; Tue, Dec 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30, at 10:15 a.m.; Wed, Dec 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31, at 11 a.m.

Story Time (Ages 3-5): Tue, Dec 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30, at 11 a.m.

Baby Time (Ages 0-18 months): Tue, Dec 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30, at 1:15 p.m.; Wed, Dec 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31at 1:15 p.m.

Wee Artists: Thu, Dec 4, 11 and 18, at 1:15 p.m.

Silly Sam the Music Man: Sat, Dec 6, at 2:30 p.m.

  • Dance, sing and play to holiday songs.

LEGO Block Party: Mon, Dec 15, at 3:30 p.m.

Winter Tales: Wed, Dec 17, at 3:30 p.m.

  • Join us for a puppet show telling three stories.

CoderDojo: Teaching Kids to Code: Sat, Dec 27, at 11:30 a.m.


Teen Advisory Board: Tue, Dec 2 and 16, at 4:30 p.m.


Job Support Group: Tue, Dec 2, at 10:30 a.m.

Book Discussion: Thu, Dec 4, at 6:30 p.m.

  • Join us to discuss A Curious Man by Neal Thompson.

Tai Chi with Bonnie Birdsall: Thu, Dec 4 and 11, at 1:30 p.m.

Sahaja Meditation: Sat, Dec 6, 13, 20 and 27, at 10:30 a.m.

UTB Library Art Gallery Opening: Thu, Dec 11, at 6 p.m.

  • Join us for the opening of the library’s new art gallery, featuring work of local artists. Funding for the gallery was provided by WOW.

Book Discussion: Mon, Dec 15, at 11 a.m.

  • Join us to discuss The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

Family Center on Deafness Telephone Distribution: Fri, Dec 12, at 10 a.m.

Computer Classes:   

Tech Boulevard: Tue, Dec 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30, at 2:30 p.m.

  • Ongoing training in computer and software basics.

Microsoft Excel–Introduction: Tue, Dec 2, at 6:30 p.m.

Microsoft Excel–Basic Calculations: Tue, Dec 9, at 6:30 p.m.

Facebook: Tue, Dec 16, at 6:30 p.m.

Computer Tutor: Tue, Dec 30, at 6:30 p.m.


Sun, 12:30-5 p.m.; Mon-Wed, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Thu, noon-8 p.m.; Fri & Sat, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Holiday Hours: The library is closed on Thu and Fri, Dec. 25-26, in observance of Christmas and Jan. 1 in observance of New Year’s Day. The library will close at 6 p.m. on Mon-Wed, Dec. 22-24, and Wed, Dec. 31.


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WOW Events Calendar, December 2014

Check out these free (or nearly free) events for December.

Date: Daily through Jan. 4
Time: see Web site for rink hours
Price: $10 per person (includes skates)
Location: Curtis Hixon Park, Tampa
For more information:
Ages: All

Who says Floridians can’t enjoy a little winter fun, too? Head to Curtis Hixon Park and enjoy outdoor skating in the park! Admission cost covers a 90-minute skating session and skate rental.

Date: Wednesdays through Sundays, through Jan. 4
Time: Wednesdays to Saturdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sunday, 1-4 p.m.
Location: Heritage Village, Largo
Price: Free
For more information:
Ages: All

Share the holiday season at Pinellas County’s Heritage Village, enchanting visitors to this 21-acre living history museum. Historical houses will be decorated true to their time period, locality and lifestyle, from an elaborately decorated Victorian home to a simply adorned 1852 log cabin.  

Date: Friday through Sunday, through Dec. 28
Time: See Web site for show times
Location: Tampa Theatre, Downtown Tampa
Price: $10, $8 members/children
For more information:
Ages: All

During the month of December, enjoy select holiday classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street” with special pre-show festivities.

Date: Sat, Dec. 6 and Sun, Dec. 7
Time: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (until 4 p.m. Sun.)
Location: Florida Ave., Downtown Palm Harbor
Price: $3 per person or 2 for $5; Children 12 and under Free
For more information:
Ages: All

There is something for everyone at this Fine Art Festival. Enjoy a food from local vendors and musical performances while taking in the Juried Art Show. There will also be activities to keep the little ones entertained.

Date: Saturday, Dec. 6
Time: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Location: 6001 Webb Rd., Tampa
Price: Free
Ages: All ages

Bring the family and “chill out” at this winter wonderland festival hosted by Tampa Community Hospital. The festival will feature ice sculptures, snow and sledding, animated characters, food, music, fun and games. The public is invited to come and meet the staff, which plans to offer a warm welcome at this chilly event.

Date: Sundays, Dec. 7-28
Time: 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Price: Free admission
Location: Westchase Town Center
Ages: All

Stock up on all of your favorite organic produce, cheese and baked goods at this weekly market. The road will be blocked off between Tijuana Flats and Burger 21 to make way for up to 40 vendors. In addition to food, there will also be handmade soaps, all natural pet snacks and allergen-free cosmetics.

Date: Fri, Dec. 12
Time: Dusk
Price: Free
Location: West Park Village Town Center Green on Montague Street
For more information:
Ages: All

Westchase’s free family movies in the park continue. Movies start at sundown. Bring chairs and blankets and settle in for a great movie night. December’s movie will be Prancer.

Date: Sat, Dec. 20
Time: 11 a.m.
Location: Honeymoon Island State Park, Dunedin
Price: Free (walk); $8 per carload up to 8 people, $4 one person in car, $2 walking (park entry).
For more information: (727) 469-5942
Ages: All

Explore all of the beauty of Honeymoon Island’s trails and beach areas while being led by a park ranger.

Date: Fri, Dec. 26
Time: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Location: Museum of Science and Industry, Tampa
Price: Free children’s admission with Teddy Bear donation
For more information:
Ages: All

Bring a new Teddy Bear to MOSI to donate to the Rough Riders and get one free children's admission free.


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Lowry Elementary to present Holiday Heroes

This year Lowry Leopards are working on being heroes in their school and community. 

Lowry’s Winter Concert, Holiday Heroes, was written by Michael and Jill Gallina and explores how children can make a difference in other’s lives. Encouraged by “real” cartoon superheroes, the children discover that music is the way to share joy, embrace differences and give to those who need it most. In addition to the 175-member chorus, Lowry’s winter concert showcases Lowry Orff Ensemble, Lowry Drum Corps and the newly created Lowry World Drumming Group. Join us for the concert on Wednesday, Dec. 3, at Sickles High School, where there are sure to be some heartwarming surprises.  The show starts at 7 p.m.

If you are not familiar with the music programs at Lowry Elementary School, take a look at what we offer! Spotlight Singers and Little Leopards chorus for Grades 2-5 provide students opportunities for singing and dancing, acting, small groups and solos. Our choral students have been chosen for the prestigious All State Chorus every year for the past eleven years. Students at All State are conducted by world-renowned composer/directors and perform before thousands at the Tampa Convention Center during the Florida Music Educators Conference each January.

We participate in the Hillsborough County Fine Arts Festival for chorus and Orff,  held each spring at the Straz Center’s Morsani Hall. Lowry boasts one of the few elementary drum lines in Hillsborough County elementary schools.  Our music teachers, Jia Leikensohn and Lorri Naylor, are both Little Kids Rock or LKR-trained teachers and offer the hugely popular rock and roll and modern band groups.  Students do not have to be in an ensemble to take advantage of these great musical opportunities because drums, Orff instruments (xylophones and metallophones), guitars, bass guitars, singing, dancing  and acting are all part of what we do each day in the Lowry music program.

Don’t miss the fun in the snow when we perform at Chick-fil-A, located at Waters Avenue and the Veterans Expressway, on Dec. 11 at 6:30 p.m.

By Lorri Naylor


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Ready… Set… Shop!

Are YOU coming to the Westchase Holiday Market?

The fifth annual Westchase Holiday Market will be held on Sunday, Dec. 7, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Westchase Golf Club. All net proceeds from the event, along with ticket sales from special raffles, will be donated directly to Autism Speaks.

Last year’s market raised over $2,000 for this great charity.  Raffles this year will include incredible prizes from members of the Westchase Artists Society, as well as generous donations from Catch 23, RocketFizz, Ybor City Food Tours, Publix, and the Westchase Golf Club, to name a few!  We offer our special thanks to our Gold Sponsor, Anne Hart and Toni Cason of Florida Executive Realty.

This year’s event promises to be exciting for all ages!  Santa will arrive to hear wish lists and pose for pictures from noon until 3 p.m.  A “Best of Show” juried prize will be judged and awarded.  Artist demonstrations will take place and you can grab a tasty bite from the grill at the beautiful Westchase Golf Club while listening to fabulous holiday music! Face painters will also be on hand from 1-4 p.m.

Let’s not forget the shopping!  You’re sure to find the perfect gift to complete your holiday list. Original paintings, photography, ceramics, jewelry and sculpture, along with handmade craft items such as cork work, crochet, glassware and woodworking are among the many types of artwork that you can expect to find.  

Join us as we ring in the holiday season!

By Teresa Trubilla


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A Westchase Icon Sees Renaissance at Open House

The former Westchase Welcome Center – now the Ross Building – saw an Oct. 17 Open House that revealed its extensive renovations.

Ten months ago, in Oct. 2013, the proud building, featuring an impressive portico and Georgian architecture, had reached its nadir. Abandoned, badly neglected and rattling through foreclosure, the building was stained from leaks, crumbling from wood rot, and overgrown with invasive Brazilian pepper trees. 

The building, located at 10311 Radcliffe Drive, formerly served as the Westchase Welcome Center. In the 1990s it was often the first stop for buyers that became Westchase’s original homeowners. When the WCA balked at the purchase price asked for it by Westchase’s developer more than a decade ago, the building was purchased by a Realtor.

After tracking the 2,250 square foot building through bank repossession for two years, West Park Village residents Brian and Wendy Ross snapped up the former Welcome Center in foreclosure on Dec. 20, 2013. Brian Ross, a lawyer who serves on the Westchase Community Association (WCA) Board of Directors and the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) and Wendy Ross, a Realtor with Florida Executive Realty, have called Westchase home since 2001. They immediately began to rehabilitate the property, cutting back the overgrowth, cleaning up the lot, replacing its leaking tile roof, shattered by errant golf balls, with less susceptible asphalt shingles.  The interior also saw major work and the impressive but badly damaged windows overlooking the Westchase golf course were replaced.

“We definitely spent six figures repairing the building,” observed Wendy Ross. “I think it turned out great. We’re pleased with the outcome, that’s for sure.”

The West Park couple soon announced that the structure, renamed the Ross Building, would serve as the fifth branch of Florida Executive Realty brokerage and Wendy Ross’ real estate office.

“The overall concept for the building was not just to have a business there but to be part of the community,” explained Ross. “I am most excited about restoring a piece of Westchase history. And making it into a thriving business in the community.”

On Oct. 17, Ross and Florida Executive Realty owner Doug Loyd, threw open the doors for an Open House. Visitors were impressed with the extensive work, which restored the former Westchase Welcome Center to its previous beauty.

“The Westchase opportunity reminded me of where we started in 1992 in Tampa Palms, where we occupied the original welcome center,” commented Loyd on his newest brokerage. “We played an integral role in Tampa Palms and we hope to do the same in Westchase.”

Ross is a full-time agent and shareholder in the new Westchase office.

Loyd added, “Like Tampa Palms, Westchase is a great place to live work and play and we’re very happy to be a permanent part of the community.”

“The building was integral to the start of Westchase,” said Loyd. “I think it’s been restored to its full function and beauty and we invite the local Westchase community to stop by and visit.”

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Ulele: Delicious Hometown Pride

Enter a magical world of Ulele, the true American Indian princess behind the Pocahontas story.

The Gonzmart family, Tampa restaurant royalty, has used their funds, political clout and unabashed love for the city to create an innovative restaurant that celebrates our roots.

During our recent visit to Ule, Tampa’s most heralded new restaurant, our eager beaver servers were completely knowledgeable about the building’s renovation and Ulele’s menu. So happy were they to share information they seemed like Disney cast members. Inside, the restaurant’s brick, loft-like space was scattered with interesting iron sculptures from local artists. It’s a little loud and chattery, but the energy of the diners comes from finally have scored a reservation – a hot commodity.

Due to some unforeseen but fortunate circumstances, we arrived 45 minutes early for our reservation. Sliding up to an earlier time slot was an impossibility, so we were ushered to the outside beer garden on the restaurant’s far side. We witnessed a spectacular Tampa sunset, complete with wedding party photos along the river. The adjacent natural spring, which flows into the Hillsborough River, has been lovingly restored. The place gives off a positive urban vibe, with a small water splash park and amphitheater next door. A bike tour of twenty-somethings pulled up, sampled the craft beers brewed on site, and enjoyed the mellow atmosphere. The beer garden also includes chic roof seating, but no food service is yet available.

Our dinner was a celebration of our native Florida bounty, and we tried as many of Ulele’s interesting sides as we could. We started with a small appetizer, the Oyster Cabbage Boats, citrus-glazed oysters from the Gulf of Mexico. Next, we moved on to Florida Jumpers, crispy fried frog legs in sherry garlic aioli, which brought me back to past trips to the Seminole reservation. The Okra Fries, tossed in lime juice, were very tart, and might appeal more to okra lovers like myself. Match up the Native Florida Chili with alligator, wild boar, venison, duck and ground chuck with a Jalapeño Cheddar Grit Cake for a hearty winter meal. Last but not least, the decadent Mac and Cheese came topped with generous amounts of lump crab meat.

The center of the open kitchen is a giant ten-foot barbacoa grill on which most of the meats are prepared. Watching the giant, 2.2 pound kilo Porterhouse being grilled was like watching a meat inferno. The shrimp, scallops, crab and lobster in my Seafood Special had a lovely smoky taste from the grill, which paired well with its tomato saffron bed.

Growing up on guava pastries, I had to try Fortune Taylor’s Guava Pie for dessert. With its shortbread cookie crust, whipped cream and guava reduction, it did not disappoint. Next time I am definitely trying the Candied Duck Bacon Maple Fried Ice Cream, which sounds decadent.

Five different beers are brewed on premises. The Magbees Honey Lager, produced with locally sourced Florida honey, was smooth and featured a malty base. Three others, Ulele Light, Water Works Pale, and Rusty’s Red, will please any hop-head. There is also a Wedding Beer, a cold-brewed fruit lager. A wide variety of wines and craft [vulgarity] are also available.

With our day-to-day prepackaged lives, it’s easy to overlook the sheer variety of native culinary items Tampa Bay has to offer. Visiting Ulele, I felt the same level of pride about my hometown as when I visited the Tampa Bay History Center.

Come out and experience the local foods our local Native Americans and settlers experienced. It’s magical.

1810 North Highland Ave.
Tampa, FL 33602
Hours: Sun-Thu, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri-Sat, 11a.m.-11 p.m.

By Jill Chesney


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Westchase’s Popular Helper Elf

As the holiday season rolls into December, Brentford resident Steve Darr anxiously awaits two events Westchase residents have come to love.

The events are the Westchase Charitable Foundation’s Santa’s PreFlight Parade and WOW’s Holiday Lighting contest. At the ripe old age of 10, Darr took on the honor of being responsible for his family’s holiday lights. And while Darr isn’t always easily recognized among the crowd of volunteers upon the fire truck, the Westchase Santa parade wouldn’t be the same without him.

Originally from St. Louis, Darr enjoyed an active childhood. As a wrestler, he maneuvered his way to state level competition twice. His involvement with BMX racing was the result of building and jumping his own bike ramps with his brothers. Between wrestling matches and bike races, Darr met future wife, Michelle, while they were in junior high school. “We dated for eleven years with a few sabbaticals. So I guess it would equal to about eight,” he chuckled.

Accepting a job with a communications company in Oldsmar brought him to Florida. It was during one of their “sabbaticals” that Darr received a call from Michelle. “She told me, ‘Break up with your girlfriend, I’m moving to Florida,’” he explained.

He did so, and of course, the rest is history. Darr turned his experience with sports into opportunities to spend time with kids Brittany, Jacob and Adria. Over the years, he coached their soccer, baseball, softball, football and wrestling teams. “I do it to be closer to my kids,” he explained.

Son Jacob inherited his dad’s love of wrestling. Dad proudly explained Jacob has earned first through sixth place positions at state level championship competitions. Darr works with the wrestling team at Sickles and especially enjoys working with beginners. “I like introducing the sport,” he shared.

Daughter Adria dared to venture into one sport Darr isn’t much help with – competitive cheer. “I’m not much help with that, but when I’m able to attend her events, I’m blown away at what they can do,” he said.

When he isn’t on a playing field or wrestling mat, Darr enjoys a few rounds of poker. He developed his poker face while working the night shift at a gas station as a teenager. “We would lower the lift in the garage and put a piece of plywood on top of it and play,” he explained.

Those late night poker games turned into a profitable hobby. He now enjoys playing locally at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino and the Tampa Bay Downs. When asked how much he might have won or lost over the years, Darr remains ever the optimist. “Let’s focus on what I’ve won,” he slyly grinned.

He recalls 2008 as his best year ever with winnings around $40,000! The most he ever won in one sitting was $5,800. His card playing skills have also won him trips to Aruba and Las Vegas with paid flights, hotels and buy-in fees.

For the holiday, the Darr family will stick to tradition as they open gifts on Christmas morning. Once the wrapping paper stops flying, they hop into the car for a quick trip to Marco Island to visit family. We have a great meal that evening with filet mignon and a good glass of wine,” he explained.

His favorite childhood memory is the responsibility he had for the family’s lights. “I started doing it myself when I was about 10, and I just couldn’t stop. I did it until I moved out,” he recalled.

Hosted by the Westchase Community Foundation, Santa’s PreFlight Parade is a favorite among many Westchase residents. Darr accepted the request to become a major player in carrying off this event. During the parade hundreds of gifts each year are collected from residents and donated to a local charity. He explained special stops are also made to children with special needs and the elderly. Over the years, the route has been revised from the original 80 street-trek down to 40 because of the challenges of navigating the large truck through tight spots along the streets.

The last stop Santa makes is in West Park Village, where the streets are lined with folks awaiting their arrival to the Christmas tree at the center of the village. Once the last gift is collected and the final photo snapped, Darr revealed Santa sometimes makes his way to a local eatery for a cheeseburger and cold beverage.

It’s a long day for Santa and the other volunteers on the truck but it’s one Darr couldn’t miss. The PreFlight Parade this year will be held on Dec. 13. He encourages everyone – both naughty and nice – to be watching for Santa.

By Lisa Stephens

Stephens, a resident of West Park Village, is always looking for interesting Westchase residents to profile. She can be contacted at


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Westchase Seniors Holiday Party Dec. 14

The Westchase Seniors Group will celebrate the holiday season this year on Dec. 14 at 5 p.m.

Catch 23 in West Park Village is the place to be for good food, good friends and good times. Anita Steinfeld, Phyllis Kanik, and Lillian Unger will be hosting this year’s celebration and dinner at Catch 23 Restaurant on Montague Street in West Part Village. The restaurant's famous Sunset Special and other tasty menu options will be available for your choosing.

This party is always a big hit and space is limited, so make your reservations by Dec. 12 by contacting Phyllis at or 920-4245, Anita at or 926-6211, or Lillian at or 926-7706. If you would like to participate in the gift exchange, please bring one wrapped item per person, with a suggested value of about $5. It may be a useful gift or a white elephant gift that will bring a smile or chuckle to the recipient.

Miracle on South Division Street We thank Jose or Nevenka Rios for planning and coordinating another enjoyable outing to the Early Bird Dinner Theater in November. We enjoyed good food and reserved seats right up next to the stage. Jose and Nevenka couldn't have planned it any better!

Tuesday Morning Coffee Each Tuesday morning from 9-10 a.m. Westchase seniors are invited to meet at the Westchase McDonald’s Restaurant for coffee, breakfast and friendly conversation. The coffee is free with a food purchase and the conversations are always enjoyable. Grab your coffee and join us. You can’t miss us. We are the “older” but “young at heart” people laughing and having a great time.

Join The Fun If you are a Westchase resident over 55-years-old and looking to enjoy life, join over 200 of your neighbors who make up the Westchase Seniors Group and add more life to your years. It only costs a smile to join and the dues are just as cheap. Members participate in only what they are interested in and pay their own way. To receive e-mails about Westchase Seniors events, send your name, address, and phone number to or call Lewis and Rama Patterson (926-5473).

By Lewis and Rama Patterson

The Pattersons are residents of Kingsford and can be reached at or 926-5473.


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Nope. You Can’t Use Fireworks in Westchase

Each New Year’s Eve the explosive celebrations prompt Westchase complaints.

Since it’s “legal” to buy fireworks in Hillsborough County, it must be all right to use them in the community, right?

Think again.

Under state law, it’s illegal to buy, sell or explode fireworks in parks, beaches or even on your own property except under very specific circumstances. What are they? In unincorporated Hillsborough County you need to be using them to scare birds from your farm or fish hatchery or to light or clear a path for your train.

They don’t mean the one beneath your Christmas tree.

When you buy fireworks in the state, you even sign a waiver promising you’re buying them to do those things. If you violate the waiver, you’ve broken the law.
More specific restrictions exist closer to home. When all Westchase homeowners buy houses, they sign a legally binding agreement that they will abide by all Westchase Community Association (WCA) deed restrictions. Article XII, Section 11 of the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions specifically states, "Fireworks that explode, move or make noise are prohibited anywhere within the Properties."

Homeowners who use fireworks – or whose children or renters do so – can face significant fines from the Westchase Community Association (WCA). When neighbors bring complaints, the association enforces the rule.

In a 2012 WOW survey about homeowner habits that annoy neighbors, a resident’s use of fireworks ranked highly as an action sure to earn their neighbors’ disdain. While 28 percent stated they didn’t care, 39 percent reported that a neighbor’s use of fireworks bothered them somewhat and 43 percent stated it bothered them a great deal.

Over the years, residents have attended meetings of the Westchase Community Association to complain about fireworks waking children or frightening pets. Others have brought complaints of holes burned in lanai screens and even damage to cars.

While you might be tempted to become the neighborhood entertainment committee, it’s safer and smarter to leave the fireworks to the professionals.

Your neighbors – and wallet – will thank you for it.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Snow and Sparkle in Tampa This Month

While there is zero percent chance of real snow in Tampa, the fake stuff can thrill kids at several of the holiday festivals this month.

If fake snow and sliding down huge ice slides don’t appeal to you, you can still enjoy a land or sea parade or admire one of the light displays that will make December sparkle and shine.


Florida Botanic Garden Holiday Lights
12520 Ulmerton Rd., Largo
Date: Nightly through Dec. 31, 5:30-9:30 p.m.
Cost: $4 donation (13 and older)

Laser lights, decorated trees, a 7-foot gingerbread house with more than 600 lights, a 3-foot tall white swan, and a 5-foot tropical parrot light up the Florida Botanic Gardens. There will also be holiday entertainment and visits from Santa Claus.

Nights of Shimmering Lights
215 Sydney Washer Rd., Dover
Date: Nightly through Dec. 30, 6-9 p.m.
Cost: $15 per car weekdays, $20 per car weekends

Includes 2,000 beautiful light displays spread over two miles of illuminated tunnels, dancing LED lights, and more than a dozen themed areas. There is also a Christmas Village where families can drink hot chocolate, watch holiday movies, ride a toy train, or take a picture with Santa.

Symphony in Lights at the Shops at Wiregrass
28211 Paseo Dr., Wesley Chapel
Date: Nightly through Dec. 31, 6-9 p.m.
Cost: Free

Enjoy a holiday light show choreographed to holiday music on the hour. The 55-foot tree is trimmed with more than 250,000 lights and 10 tons of holiday decorations. After the show the Center Court transforms into a winter wonderland of snow flurries.

Lowry Park Zoo’s Wild Wonderland
1101 W. Sligh Ave., Tampa
Date: Dec. 6, 12-14, 18-23, and 26-30, 6:30-10 p.m.
Cost: $15 (12 and older); $13 (ages 3-11); free (2 and under)

The zoo is transformed into a whimsical world of holiday magic. Meet Santa and his reindeer and jump for joy in the Reindeer Games area. There are a million twinkling lights, a charismatic colony of African penguins, charming animated displays, Florida “flurries,” free zoo rides, and traditional holiday treats.


City of Tampa’s Tree Lighting Ceremony and Santa Fest Parade
Curtis Hixon Park, 600 North Ashley Dr., Tampa
Date: Dec. 5, 6 p.m.: Tree Lighting; Dec. 6, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.: Rough Riders Holiday Parade and Santa Fest
Cost: Free

Celebrate the holiday season at the City of Tampa's annual holiday festival and parade. The festival features kids' activities, make and take crafts, entertainment and Santa.

Safety Harbor Snow Fest
Safety Harbor City Park
Date: Dec. 6, 4-9 p.m.
Cost: $1 (all ages); $5 (unlimited rides)

Slide down the giant 20' snow hill or make a snow angel while helping a good cause. The annual Elena Tresh Foundation's Snow Fest has live entertainment, carnival games, food, arts and crafts, and snow activities for all ages.

Westchase Santa Parade
Streets of Westchase
Date: Dec. 13, 2-7:30 p.m.
Cost: Free

Say hello to Santa as he travels through Westchase and then lights the tree in West Park Village. He’ll be collecting unwrapped gifts along the way for needy Tampa Bay area kids. 

Old Fashioned Christmas and Holiday Parade
Downtown Dunedin
Date: Dec. 13, 4-9 p.m.
Cost: Free

Watch Santa Claus arrive in style during the Holiday Street Parade. After the parade, enjoy carriage rides, a snow slide, train rides, kids’ holiday crafts, old-fashioned games, live music, and snow flurries.


Dunedin Lighted Boat Parade and Tree Lighting Ceremony
Dunedin Marina
Date: Dec. 6, 6 p.m.

Get in the holiday spirit by watching boats parade through Dunedin Marina. There is also a festival with food, drink, and holiday entertainment.

28th Annual Illuminated Boat Parade
Vinoy Basin Waterfront, Saint Petersburg
Date: December 13, 6:00 p.m.

The boat parade travels from Bayboro to the front of the pier and near the shoreline in and around the Vinoy Basin. A holiday festival begins at 3 p.m. with live entertainment, food, drinks, and a variety of children’s activities.

Twinkle in Tampa Bay: A Holiday Lighted Parade
Channelside District
Date: Dec. 20, 6:30 p.m.

Parade route goes along the water by Davis Island, Harbor Island, and the Channelside District.

By Marcy Sanford


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First UTB Library Art Gallery Exhibit Features Westchase Artists Society

Join us for an opening reception on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014 at 6 p.m.

The Upper Tampa Bay Regional Library is opening its new art gallery space and its initial exhibit, “Expressions,” will feature artwork from members of the Westchase Artists Society. The work will be on display through January 2015.  The opening reception will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 11. Light refreshments will be served courtesy of the Westchase Artists Society and the Friends of the Upper Tampa Bay Regional Library. There will be an opportunity to meet the exhibiting artists and discuss their work.
Funding for the beautiful new art gallery was made possible by a grant from the World of Westchase community newsmagazine.

“Our group members are really looking forward to sharing some of their new artwork with the local community at this, our first group show, in over a year,” commented Teresa Trubilla, president of the Westchase Artists Society. “The exhibit will feature artwork in various mediums including oils, acrylics and pastels as well as photography, pottery and jewelry.”

“The Upper Tampa Bay Regional Library is excited about the new gallery and that our first show is in partnership with the Westchase Artists Society. We were honored to have been the recipient of the generous contribution from the World of Westchase, Inc. that enabled us to create this unique space,” said Regional Library Manager, Suzy George.

The Westchase Artists Society is open to all types of visual artists from Upper Tampa Bay. Those interested in learning more about the group are invited to drop by a monthly meeting at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every month at the Upper Tampa Bay Library on Countryway Boulevard. Please bring your creativity and a sample of your artwork to share.

No group meeting of the Westchase Artists Society will occur in December, but there will be a group holiday party in early January. Please visit for more information. The next group meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m. at the Upper Tampa Bay Library. The evening’s agenda will include annual registration and election of new officers. You can also friend the group on Facebook to stay updated on group activities.

By Teresa Trubilla, President


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New Westchasers, December 2014

David and Carolyn Hardy of Harbor Links welcomed John Austin "Jack" Hardy on August 16 at 5:39 p.m. Jack weighed 9 pound, 3 ounces and measured 21 inches. He was welcomed home by big sister, Samantha, 2, and furry sister, Lucky, 9.

Residents who have not received or who have misplaced a Stork Club form to fill out to ensure publication of a birth announcement in WOW should e-mail their announcements to High resolution photos may be e-mailed to that same address for possible publication here.


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Santa Preparing for Dec. 13 Parade through Westchase

Westchase’s favorite annual visitor returns this month! He’s got news about his Westchase naughty and nice list – and how to track him!

To track Santa on Saturday, Dec. 13, simply click on the following link at noon on Sat., Dec. 13 and you will be able to track Santa's progress when the parade begins at 2 p.m.:!westchasesanta

Santa Claus recently dropped by to discuss his upcoming parade on Saturday, Dec. 13, with WOW Editor Chris Barrett, who pitched him questions submitted by residents, both young and old.

Each year Santa travels through Westchase to greet all the children in a parade organized by Dan O’Brien, Ralph Caputo, Santa and other volunteers with the Westchase Charitable Foundation (WCF), a volunteer organization of Westchase residents who work to improve the quality of life in the community by raising funds to assist families with seriously ill children and families faced with tragedies.

Along the route Santa will collect unwrapped gifts for Michelle’s Kids, a charity that helps needy children and families throughout Hillsborough County.

The parade will culminate in the PreTree Lighting ceremony in West Park Village. The event, attended by hundreds of Westchasers and happy children, is a sight to see. The West Park Village festivities are expected to begin at approximately 6 p.m. and will include holiday music and activities.

The estimated times for Santa’s visit in each village are:

2-3 p.m.: The Vineyards, The Shires and The Enclave
3-4 p.m.: Villages along Countryway Boulevard
4-6 p.m.: Harbor Links, Radcliffe and The Greens
6-7 p.m.: The Fords, Tree Tops, The Bridges and West Park Village Center

Click here to view the parade map.

This year residents who wish to track Old Saint Nick through Westchase simply have to send an e-mail with their cell phone number to Please write “Track Santa” in the subject line. E-mails should be sent by the evening of Friday, Dec. 12 (Why not send it now so you don’t forget?). On parade day you will receive a link on your phone. Simply click on it to follow the parade’s progress.

While the parade costs are primarily underwritten by a $4,000 contribution to the WCF by World of Westchase, other donations and sponsorships are still needed and welcomed.

What did Old St. Nick have to say to WOW?

“It’s wonderful to be back!” Santa remarked. “I am so very much looking forward to seeing all of Westchase’s smiling children and adults!”

Santa brought along letters Westchase children have handed him over the years during the parade. Some belonged to children now likely in middle or even high school. They all had one thing in common: each earnestly communicated he or she had been a good boy or girl this year.

Writing his letter on bright green paper, one youngster named Steven, began, “I have been so good this year!”

Steven requested an Optimus Prime Helmet and a Transformer movie.

His brother Ty took a different approach. “I want some robots and big cars,” he began.

As for behavior?

“I will be good,” Ty cagily promised.

Meanwhile their sister Madison requested “lots of baby princess stuff.”

For Santa, some things, like the excited children with their whispered and written wishes, remain the same with each parade. Other aspects have changed over the years. “Seven years ago no one had cell phones out. Now everyone is filming it!” Santa observed with a hearty chuckle.

Santa said he gets a kick out of the unscripted moments – when residents, upon hearing his fire truck’s siren, rush into the street. While his favorite parade participants are the kids, he has a second group he’s particularly fond of.

“I love the enthusiasm of Westchase’s elders,” Santa said. “They’re really fun! They run out of their house! They’re in their robes and pajama pants!”

Much like Christmas Eve, Santa’s PreFlight Parade through Westchase is a long, demanding haul. He feels some aches the next day from waving for hours. Even his legs are sore from repeatedly climbing up and down his fire truck. The biggest challenge, however?

Florida’s heat. The North Pole resident, whose clothes and beard are meant to keep him warm, just isn’t accustomed to it. “I hope for cold weather every year,” he said of the parade. “One year I really thought I was going to pass out.”

When asked to submit questions for WOW to ask Santa, one Westchase child asked, “Do you have a fan up there?”

The short answer?


Yet despite the physical challenges, Santa keeps returning – likely because of the parade’s touching moments.

The children who, while whispering wishes into his ear, hand him a coupon they’ve clipped to help Santa keep costs down.

The kids who fervently offer important details about their homes, with cries like, “My house has the red door!”

“They want to make sure I know specifically where they live,” Santa said.

Santa heaped praise on the parade’s organizers, honorary Christmas elves Dan O’Brien, Ralph Caputo and WCF President Sean O’Donnell. “Every year I’m impressed with their organization,” Santa said. “Each year at its end everyone is happy with how it’s gone.”

He’s also grateful for the special hand certain generous Westchasers lend every year. He cited Terry and Geoffrey Wright of Radcliffe, who allow Santa to use their home to cool off, have a drink, eat some lunch and recharge for the second half of his trip. “They let me blast into their house. They’re a completely cool couple,” Santa observed.

Santa simply offered a happy smile when he was asked if the Wrights supply him with a little Christmas cheer for the road.

Santa particularly enjoys the fact that so many visitors show up in West Park Village to greet him for the tree lighting. He knows many of the children and parents there come in from outside of Westchase.

Santa is thrilled the parade lets the community see the WCF for the great, charitable organization it is. He hopes it has an affect outside of Westchase. “I hope it inspires other communities to hold similar events for the kids.”

In addition to his favorite groups, Santa has some favorite moments. Each year, he makes an extra effort to spend a few minutes visiting with neighborhoods that host block parties. He also makes special stops at the homes of kids with special needs.

One stop in The Greens, however, is personally important. For Santa, the Westchase parade is an opportunity for him to collect gifts from generous Westchase families to present to needy kids. There is, however, a single Westchase child for which he brings a present each year during the PreFlight Parade.

Several years ago, after a hard fought battle, a young Greens resident lost his father to cancer. That year, Santa made a special stop at the boy’s home. The boy ran into his mother’s lap.

The second year? “He ran inside,” said Santa with a laugh.

The third year?

“He turned his head.”

“We’re coming up on this year,” Santa said of Dec. 13. He looks forward to seeing what reaction he’ll get now that his young friend is in first grade.

WOW’s interview with Santa included a number of questions submitted by Westchase adults and kids. The jolly give and take follows:

WOW: Welcome back to Westchase!

Santa: It’s wonderful to be back. I love the palm trees down here. Perfect for Christmas lights!

WOW: OK, then, here’s the first question one child asked: How can he participate in the actual parade?

Santa: I welcome everyone! All interested paraders can join my journey through Westchase by building their neighborhood float. Just call my honorary Christmas elves, Dan O’Brien at 679-2364 or Ralph Caputo 503-9943, for more information about how to build your float.

WOW: Here’s another: “I loved how everyone used to throw beads from the fire truck, Santa. Why did you stop?”

Santa: A great question! A year or so ago, my fire truck driver and I were getting very worried about how some very excited children would dart in front of the truck to catch the beads we were throwing. I was starting to worry so much, I realized I wasn’t having as much fun. We decided we had to put the children’s safety first. So, when we see big groups, we try to stop, get down and hand out beads. Now we’re all able to enjoy the parade a whole lot more.

WOW: Does Santa have a Christmas wish?

Santa: My parade is held every year so every Westchaser can be Santa for a less fortunate child. I’d ask everyone who comes out to greet the parade to bring at least one unwrapped gift. They will be given to Michelle’s Kids, which helps less fortunate children to have a wonderful Christmas. That’s Santa’s first Christmas wish – that everyone in Westchase bring a smile to another child’s face this Christmas. My second wish is for cold weather.

WOW: If someone is out of town for the parade, is there another option to still contribute toys?

Santa: There is! Starting Dec. 1 a drop-off location for unwrapped toys for Michelle's Kids will exist at Jason and Dyan Pithers' Coldwell Banker office at 10108 Montague St. in the West Park Village Town Center.

WOW: Here’s another question: My Elf on a Shelf seems a little psychotic. Is he dangerous and should I be worried?

Santa: Oh my! I know exactly which one he means. That particular elf spooks me too – always seems to be staring at everyone all the time. [Santa whispers.] Between you and me, that’s why I sent him away from the North Pole. But I’m sure he’ll be fine if they just keep feeding him candy canes.

WOW: How do you seem to be everywhere at once – the mall, block parties and the parade?

Santa: A good question with two answers. On the one hand, there are particularly busy times when Santa relies on helpers. These are highly accomplished elves who have earned the honor of being Santa by being the kindest, most generous elves at the North Pole. I wouldn’t be Santa without them so they very much are Santa as well. On the other hand, Santa has a number of crack elf scientists who have discovered ways to bend the rules of time, space and gravity that everyone else on earth finds so limiting.

WOW: Any hints how that works?

Santa: Hmm. How can I put this in a simple way? If you take the number of time zones on all the solar system’s planets, multiplied by the rotation of the sun, divided by the square of the number of dimensions inherent in quantum mechanics, you’ll have the Primary Prime, a digit as powerful as pi but as simple as cake. Because the name pi was already taken, my crack elf scientists have named it Cookie. In short, the Cookie is key to unlocking the constraints of time and space. So Santa can now be nearly everywhere at once, even without taking a nap. But I can see I’m causing your eyes to glaze over.

WOW: Another middle school child asks, “How do all the world’s presents fit into one bag? And don’t tell me magic. I want hard science!”

Santa: Hmm, another skeptic who needs a cookie. A lot of holiday shows and movies have gotten this one wrong. My toy bag isn’t big at all. Again, the Cookie is key. Is the Cookie science or magic? While your grandmother finds her cell phone’s high technology a bit confusing, wouldn’t George Washington find a cell phone magical? That’s because science is magical. But because your eyes are glazing again, here’s my short and sweet answer about my toy bag: It’s bigger on the inside.

WOW: What’s your favorite cookie?

Santa: While I love all cookies, my favorites are snickerdoodles. I even wear Snickerdoodle cologne. Very important to remaining fresh smelling during hot and steamy Florida parades. Did you know they have Snickerdoodle cologne at Bed, Bath and Beyond?

WOW: I think that’s room spray.

Santa: Not anymore.

WOW: How do you keep track of all the homes you visit on Christmas Eve?

Santa: For many years that was a real challenge. I once left two different mixers at the home of Mary Strudel, who lives in the Michigan peninsula, and two flatscreens at Thomas Penobscott’s home up in Maine. Voila, eBay was born! Fortunately, now my friends at NORAD help out. You should check out their Santa tracker on Christmas Eve. But you need to know something: I’m far better looking than their satellite cameras make me appear.

WOW: Do you feel jetlag the day after Christmas?

Santa: While I’m a bit tired, there’s no jetlag involved because I start and return to the exact same spot in 24 hours and am quite busy in between. I do, however, power nap while crossing the oceans.

WOW: Is there a particular native Florida plant your reindeer like eating?

Santa: Here’s a secret: Deer eat anything. They love all the carrots kids leave out, but they particularly love sprinkles. Oh, and glitter. But glitter makes them jumpy. I’ve got to cut them off by Malaysia or things get entirely out of hand.

WOW: How long did it take you to grow your beard?

Santa: Ahh! I’ve had it so long, I don’t recall. Mrs. Claus helps me keep it properly trimmed. I’d be lost without her.

WOW: OK, a bit embarrassing, but an adult asked this question: Boxers or briefs?

Santa: Clearly someone from my naughty list. Hmm, how can I answer honestly? By the time I reach the Sahara, briefs begin riding up higher than Rudolph on glitter. So I’m a boxers man.

WOW: Which brings us to our last question, which is from a concerned child: “How big is Westchase’s naughty list this year?”

Santa: [Takes out his spectacles and an iPad to check the list.] Hmm, with the exception of a few Moms’ Night Out groups, you Westchasers appear to be doing pretty well. [taps his iPad] Here’s the truth about Santa’s Naughty list. It’s the act of trying to be good that counts. But Santa does like to see both adults and children make an effort. If you really want to be on Santa’s nice list, bring an unwrapped toy to the Dec. 13 parade. Together, you and I can bring a smile to a child’s face on Christmas morning!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Catch Twenty-Three Fake Ad Contest Continues, Dec 2014

It’s grosser than having to wrestle away a partially consumed Tootsie Roll your dog scams from the sidewalk the day after Halloween.

In Florida little is scarier than picking up your carved jack o’ lantern when the festivities are done.

That’s why November’s fabulous fakery offered an alternative. Rumpkin’s biohazard removal experts (page 76) promised to pick up your pestilential pumpkin and repurpose it in time for Thanksgiving.

Frozen Pizza Eater Teresa Keefer of The Greens captured the process in poetic prose.
“Yes, it’s true that a pumpkin carved too soon down South,/Will start to look a bit down in the mouth./Humidity is not a gourd’s best friend,/In fact is spells a rather premature end./But have no fear as you wave goodbye,/That dear sweet decoration is now your pie!”

Pass the Spray-o-Whip, baby!

While we thank Teresa for the most meaningful sentences to appear in WOW in months, we also congratulate Lydia Mauritson of The Greens, upon whom the fake ad gods smiled in November. As the result, Lydia will be taking her favorite pumpkin remediator to Catch Twenty-Three, courtesy of its proprietor Rob Wickner. Thanks, Rob!

Get your December fake ad guesses in today!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Westchase Shout Outs, December 2014

Lucas and Joseph Trim of Bennington competed against each other for the first time in their college careers at the Lehigh Invitational Golf Tournament. Joseph, a freshman, along with his Fordham University team, bested Lucas, a sophomore, and his Villanova University team for fourth place out of 13 teams by four strokes.

Kudos to the Wizards of Westchase Elementary! Goodwill’s Bookworks recently placed a donation bin at the school. The students, teachers and staff did a wonderful job filling the bin with over 1,100 books! The books went directly to children in Head Start West Central Florida. Thank you, Wizards!

WOW wants your Shout Outs, short messages saying congratulations, well-done, thank you or “hey, we have some good news.” Shout Outs should be no longer than 75 words and can include a high resolution photo (JPEG attachments please). Send by e-mail by the fifteenth of the month to


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Alonso Wins Five Star School Award

The Florida Department of Education has once again awarded Alonso High School the Five Star School Award.

The Five Star School Award was created by the Commissioner's Community Involvement Council and is presented annually to schools that have shown evidence of exemplary community involvement. In order to earn recognition, a school must document that it has achieved 100 percent of the established criteria in the categories of: Business Partnerships, Family Involvement, Volunteerism, Student Community Service, and School Advisory Councils.

With the Five Star School Award in mind, the Alonso PTSA is still open to new members; please consider joining the Booster Club, the PTSA and the School Advisory Council to continue the tradition of exemplary community involvement. Visit for more information. Thank you for your support!

The Alonso golf tournament fundraiser at the Westchase Golf Club on Saturday, Jan. 3, at 1 p.m. is still seeking golfers and sponsors as well as donations of food, drink, and door/raffle prizes. All donations are tax deductible and checks should be made payable to the AHS Booster Club. The price for an individual golfer is $100, which includes greens/cart fees, dinner banquet, golf awards, and door prizes. Non-golfers can purchase dinner-only tickets. There will be additional contests and raffles that golfer can buy on the day of the event. Several levels of sponsorships are also available, ranging from $100 to $2,500, including hole sponsorships, Alonso baseball field corporate banners, and others.  For more information, registration and sponsorship applications, or to make any type of donation, please contact Cathy Fahrman at (813) 508-6242. Thanks in advance for your support of these great baseball players and Alonso High School Ravens Baseball program.

Congratulations to two Alonso swim team members, who went on to Regional competitions; Chase Psinakis for the 200 IM and 100 freestyle; and Paige Carter for the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke. Paige also went on to States for the 50 yard freestyle. Congratulations to Chase and Paige for their achievements!

Go, Ravens!

Important Dates


4 B/G Basketball @ Bloomingdale, 6 p.m.
5 Wrestling @ Chamberlain; B/G Basketball vs. TBT, 6 p.m.; G/B Soccer @ Gaither, 6 p.m.
6 JROTC Raiders @ USF
8 G/B Soccer vs. Freedom, 6 p.m.
9 G/B Basketball @ Wharton, 6 p.m.; AP Parent Night, 6:30
10 G/B Basketball vs. Gaither, 6 p.m.; Cheer @ Leto, 6 p.m.
11 Orchestra Concert, 7 p.m.
12 G/B Basketball @ Riverview, 6 p.m.
13 Wrestling @ HHS, 9 a.m.
15 Band Concert, 7 p.m.
16 G/B Soccer vs. Steinbrenner, 6 p.m.
18 Cheer @ Leonard, 6 p.m.; G/B Soccer @ Sickles, 6 p.m.
19 Girls Basketball @ Plant, 7 p.m.; Wrestling @ Chamberlain
20 Wrestling @ Chamberlain
22  No School: Winter Break Begins


2 Girls Soccer Tournament
3 Girls Soccer Tournament
5 Schools Resume: Winter Break Ends

For a complete Alonso events calendar, visit

By Belinda Krauss


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Meet Joey and Khalessie!

Joey, a 7-year-old Dachshund, and his sister, Khalessie, a 2-year-old Australian Kelpie, live at the Baugh residence in The Bridges. Joey loves sunbathing in the backyard while Khalessie loves to play fetch. After moving to Westchase earlier in the year, Joey, Khaleesie and their owners are settling in nicely and enjoying all that Westchase has to offer.


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Holiday Shopping for Little Ladies

If you have a little girl to shop for this holiday season, this column is definitely for you!

I don’t mean to leave out the fellas. I just so happen to have finished the majority of my shopping for my daughter, so I have lots of gift ideas for girls right now – and they all can be found at local Tampa area shops! I didn’t set out to stick with a certain theme, but I found myself gravitating to classic pieces versus what’s hot right now.

If you read last December’s article, you might remember that Pottery Barn Kids was one of my go-to holiday shopping stops. That didn’t change this year. There I picked up the most darling Madeline book and doll set. Madeline was the first book that my baby girl really gravitated to and I figured it was time to trade in her baby board book for a big girl version. This hardback beauty is sure to please any little girl for years to come.

I also found a faux fur, doll-sized version of the Pottery Barn Kids fan-favorite Anywhere Chair. My daughter lives in her Anywhere Chair, so I know she will love having one for her favorite dolls and stuffies. She has a large and in charge Jellycat stuffed animal collection and they always have to have a seat next to her! Now they’ll have an über plush seat. Lucky ducks.

The doll shopping didn’t end with Pottery Barn Kids. That same day, I visited one of my favorite kids’ boutiques, Little Peeps, and found a Rosalina Baby doll complete with her own smocked dress. If you know me in real life, you know I’m somewhat obsessed with smocked dresses. My lil’ lady bean has more than her fair share and now her dolly will have them too! Did I mention I also picked up an extra dress for said doll? A girl has to have options! Ha ha!

And finally we come to my favorite pick...Christmas jammies. Every year on Christmas Eve my sister and I opened up one present and it was always pajamas. I’ve continued that tradition with my own kiddos and I found the sweetest little nightgown during that same Little Peeps shopping trip. Though I may cheat and let her open one toy too. She happens to be obsessed with a set of Russian nesting dolls that my mom has and I found a beautiful set at another beloved Tampa area boutique, Smarty Pants. As you can see, I’m off to a great start with my holiday shopping!

So, if you’re looking for gifts for the little ladies in your life this holiday season, I highly suggest Pottery Barn Kids, Little Peeps and Smarty Pants in South Tampa. I daresay you’ll find more than you need!

Happy holidays, everyone!

By Kristin Swenson

Kristin Swenson loves fashion and is one half of the BonBon Rose Girls, Tampa’s hottest fashion, shopping and lifestyle blog at<./p>


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Ditching the Big Ask

Grab the marmalade. Homecoming season is toast.

Shelve the sequined dresses, the purple dress shirts, the manicures and the dinner parties.

That tremendous whoosh at the beginning of November?

It was all the high school guys heaving a sigh of relief.

HoCo is done. You can now safely enter the cafeteria.

I feel sorry for high school guys today.

In addition to all that strange peer pressure to wear Chubbies, it’s not good enough for a guy to have his palms get clammy and his heart nearly explode as he screws up the courage to furtively beg a young woman to spend a mere four hours with him.

Nope. He must stage an elaborate production requiring more creativity, more effort and more anxiety than applying to 18 highly competitive colleges and FSU as his safety school.

It may also require the renting out of a dirigible or exotic animal petting zoo. Or, if funds are tight, bungee jumping off the high school gym into a vat of 6,000 cafeteria tater tots all individually hand-painted in sparkly nail polish with The Question:


Furthermore, the guy must do all this in front of hundreds of other students to prove he will risk even suicidal mortification to win the right to have the love of his life stand radiantly beside him in the HoCo Grind Line.

At least judging from all their mamas’ pictures on Facebook.

You know it’s all true. You’ve gotten carpel tunnel from clicking Like so quickly.

In recent years I’ve seen a guy who convinced 30 of his best friends to stage a Flashmob at the mall food court. The production culminated in the guy falling to his knees and popping the big question.

Right before it culminated again with mall security slapping plastic cuffs on him. (It was more mob and less flash.)

Another guy painted an entire wall in the girl’s bedroom with the question “Homecoming?” Then he filled the room with an ocean of balloons and hid beneath them to surprise her.

Because totally cool parents are apparently totally OK with a guy totally hiding in their daughter’s bedroom.

Another guy cut out 72,000 black footprints. He put Hershey’s kisses on each one of them in a trail leading to the girl’s room, where he placed a big poster that said: Now that you know I kiss the ground that you walk on, will you go to Homecoming with me?

Now that you’ve finished gagging, answer me this: Is anyone else concerned this always ends up in the girl’s bedroom?
If your Facebook friends don’t offer enough ideas to steal, hundreds of Web sites offer tips to make your son’s Homecoming invitation preparations simple and easy.

One suggests he spend several hours before daybreak – on five consecutive days – sketching anonymous chalk drawings and messages on the girl’s driveway, culminating in drawing himself and her touching fingers like God and Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Another suggestion?

He can write, illustrate, self-publish, print and mail his hoped-for date an entire book titled Reasons You Should Go to Homecoming With Me.
If he selfishly needs to keep his Homecoming preparations to something less than a full-time job, he can ask the local pizza delivery franchise to deliver a pizza with the big question, “Homecoming?” spelled out in pepperoni.

Then, when she winds up at HoCo with the Papa Johns’ driver, he can have another sent to his own house topped with the word “Idiot.”

What’s The Big Ask standard? If his HoCo video fails to go viral on YouTube, the photos still must get at least 100 Likes on his mama’s Facebook page.

Does something strike you as suspicious?

No adult male is this romantic let alone high school guys who wear the same unwashed clothes to sports practice all semester long without realizing that they started smelling dead back in October.

These Big Asks require preparation, careful thought and creative planning.

Having taught high school for a dozen years, I assure you that the only thing high school boys carefully plan in advance is their farts.

There’s only one explanation. The Big Ask is just another production brought to you by Moms With Too Much Time on Their Hands, Inc.

Women who use HoCo Season to get warmed up for this month’s Elf on a Shelf Facebook competition.

There are dramatic social consequences to courting on steroids, ladies. The average American guy is getting married far later. Or he’s simply skipping that walk down the aisle altogether.

Likely because he’s yet to figure out a bigger and better way to ask his HoCo date to marry him.

The Times Square newsfeed and the First Lady are booked through 2016.

Even if the newer and hipper Pope tweets his marriage invitation, there’s still the silver wedding anniversary to worry about.

You see where this is going.

We’re creating monsters.

So, moms, back off. And, sons, if your mother won’t back off, just hide her smartphone until she completes FB detox and wanders off to Trader Joe’s.

Then, in an unexpected romantic twist, be yourself. Buy a bouquet of flowers from Publix for $4. Jam it into your sports bag and lie to your buddies that it’s just your basketball stuff. Nearly ask her in Chem class but chicken out at the last minute. Screw up the courage and approach her one last time before the school bus arrives. Turn red and thrust the crushed flowers at her, stuttering she’ll make your day by going to Homecoming.

She’ll still think you’re awesome.

And her father will love you for not hiding in her bedroom.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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A Seagoing Safari

Wow! What a difference two movies and a lot of P.R. can make.

When we moved here almost seven years ago, we visited the Clearwater Aquarium. After our first visit we thought it was a cute place doing very admirable work but saw no need to return anytime soon.

Cue the moving soundtrack to Dolphin Tale.

We are now proud season pass holders, we could probably guide tours of the aquarium, and at least one of my family members has tried to pet every stingray at the aquarium. We’ve watched Winter and Hope swim around and around and around, touched Winter’s prosthetic tail, departed impressed by how high Nicholas can jump, and examined every anemone in the touch tank. Every time we visit, we find new areas to discover and learn new facts about the amazing aquatic life.

On a recent visit, we climbed aboard Clearwater Aquarium’s Sea Life Safari to explore Clearwater’s intra-coastal waters. During the 90-minute boat ride, expert staff and volunteers tell you about the sea birds and marine life living in our area. I have a newfound respect for the cormorant after learning that it does not just stand around holding up its wings like they are broken. It can, in fact, dive up to 40 feet underwater. Also if you’re not an only child or first born, be glad you are not a snail. Newly born ones eat their siblings.

In addition to being able to entertain their guests with interesting facts, the aquarium staff uses the boat trip to collect data. About half way through, they throw out a net out to see what marine life they will collect. On our trip they were all very excited about the lizardfish they netted. After showing everyone the catch of the day and telling you a little bit about them, the staff returns the fish to the bay.  

The Sea Life Safari also takes you to a tiny shell island where you can get off the boat and search for seashells. On top of all this, if you’re lucky (and we were!), you’ll see dolphins. 

December should have plenty of days that are perfect for a boat ride. If you or someone in your family is interested in marine life, this is a great one. All of the staff and volunteers on board were knowledgeable and interesting. One young lady professed to be a geek about snails; another young man said sharks were his thing. Their enthusiasm was contagious.

The Sea Life Safari is a separate charge from the aquarium admission but you do not have to purchase aquarium admission to go on the boat.

Clearwater Aquarium Sea Life Safari Tour
249 Windward Passage
Clearwater, FL
(727) 441-1790
Hours: 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m.

By Marcy Sanford


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Check Out Westchase’s Programs This Winter

Winter is here and we are enjoying the cooler months from a hot summer.

Don't hesitate to swim your laps in our heated pools or play a round of tennis. If your child is seeking an activity in which to get involved, please check out our tennis and swim team programming. We are fortunate to have great coaches that are producing and building local champions.

Sign up online at or contact the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center for an appointment with the coach by calling 885-0662. You can also contact Tennis Head Pro Roberto Calla at or TBAY Swim Coach Alex Richardson at

By Kelly Shires, Operations Manager

Shires is the WCA’s Operations Manager and can be reached at

Tennis Lessons: Effective Doubles Poaching

There are five fundamentals behind effective poaching while playing doubles in tennis. In doubles, poaching represents an aggressive move where the player at the net moves to volley a shot intended for his/her partner. To be effective, you should show the fake poach first. Consider the following when poaching:

1.) When does the returner makes contact?
2.) Where is the returner when they make contact?
3.) Are they playing an outside stroke or an inside stroke?
4.) What are their tendencies?
5.) What have you shown them?

In my opinion the most important fundamental is the last: what have you shown them? It will make the difference between what I call a dancer and a statue. Being a dancer or showing them a fake poach helps you find out a few things, specifically their tendencies. By applying pressure with a fake poach, you can learn how they handle an outside shot. If the only time you move is when you’re going to poach, they’re going to see it and it’s not going to work.

To poach you have to move before your opponent makes contact. The way you do that is by establishing the fake poach beforehand. Don't forget that playing doubles effectively creates a guessing game. One of the biggest mistakes in doubles is poaching at a high ball, then, rather than hitting towards the outside T, close to the net player, you hit it towards the baseline player. Doing that will miss a lot of opportunities to finish the point.

There are many reasons why you need to hit towards the outside T or to the net player. The most important reason is that the net player has less time to react. Going towards the baseline player will only make it easier for them. At the net you should be a killer.

By Roberto Calla, Westchase’s Tennis Pro

Calla, Westchase’s tennis pro, can be reached at

USTA Tennis Team Registration Online

All USTA Tennis league players are to sign up on the WCA Web site at prefe,rably before Dec. 1.

The remaining deadlines follow:

USTA 40 and over (Deadline: Feb. 15) – Season April-June
USTA Combo Teams (Deadline: July 1) – Season Aug.-Dec.

This online list will be used to determine interested players and establish USTA teams before each season starts. Anyone who signs up after the deadline listed may not get on a team. It is left to the USTA captain’s or co-captain's discretion based on the current situation and needs of the team.

Can't play in the daytime? Westchase is looking to start a ladies USTA 3.0 night team. Sign up if interested. Match play is Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m.

By Kyle Roberts


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Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Holiday Tips

With the onset of the holiday season, Sheriff Gee offers some holiday crime prevention tips.

The District III Holiday Initiative commences on Nov. 28 and concludes Dec. 26. During this time, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies will be conducting enhanced operations around the Citrus Park mall to deter criminal activity and ensure public safety. Throughout the holiday season deputies will educate the public on their personal safety and the safety of their property.

While out during this holiday season:

• Lock your car doors and roll up your windows.
• Limit the amount of cash/jewelry you carry.
• Use debit/credit cards.
• Place all packages in your trunk.
• Don’t leave items in your parked car where they can be seen.

During this time, the sheriff's office urges everyone in Westchase to remain vigilant and remember these residential security practices:

• Keep your garage door closed when the garage is not in use. If the garage is in use, never leave your garage unattended.
• Be sure to lock any garage interior doors.
• Lock your car doors and secure your garage door openers.
• Secure any valuable items that you keep in your garage.
• Be neighborly and spread the word!
• If you see any suspicious activity, call the sheriff's dispatch, (813) 247-8200. In the event of an emergency, dial 911.

Last, in preparation for the pending District III change of command, Major Chad Chronister is excited to attend the Jan. 13 meeting of the Westchase Voting Members. That meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center on Countryway Bouelvard. It represents a great opportunity for Westchase residents to meet the new district major for a question and answer session regarding Westchase community concerns. We hope to see you all there!

On behalf of Major Chronister and Sheriff Gee, we look forward to seeing you all Jan. 13.

Westchase’s Community Resource Officer
Master Deputy Phil Acaba
District III Community Resource Deputy
7202 Gunn Hwy. Tampa, FL 33625
(813) 247-0330

By Deputy Phil Acaba


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From the President, December 2014: WCA Posts Westchase Repaving Petition Online

Holidays are a great time for reflection and family time.

This year – and the upcoming holidays – should be no exception. I for one am grateful for my family, my lovely and beautiful wife, daughters who are growing to be very special young ladies (impartial party here getting extra points), my aunt, and my nephew, who moved in with us from Puerto Rico to attend USF. He is doing a magnificent job both as a role model for my kids and as a student in school.

Last year was one full of challenges and victories. With our extended family living with us, we had a great year and a better one to come. And all this occurred while living in what I believe is the best community in the world.

Let me mention a few reasons why I feel this way. When we say “it takes a village,” I believe we in Westchase all care about every child living here. We make sure we drive carefully around them. We ensure they are not getting in trouble and we strive to keep them safe on their adventures. We bring them holiday spirit when we decorate our homes and take pride in showing them to others. We donate greatly to deserving causes like The Westchase Santa parade and the Thanksgiving Food Drive. We are part of our community magazine, World of Westchase, which gives scholarships to community students, donates freely to schools and other organizations around the area while reporting our news. I ask that you patronize businesses advertising in the WOW as the money you spend will come back to our community.

We are all part of making these great things happen in Westchase. I am convinced we have one great, charitable community spirit. I challenge all of you to donate one moment of extra time, one extra dollar, one extra toy and participate in activities that engage in charitable work. If you are like many with no time to spare, then make sure you bring a gift to the Santa parade. Let’s make this holiday as special for others as we do for ourselves.

A bit of community news: a group of residents with the help of the Government Action Committee (GAC), the Westchase Voting Members, and residents alike started an online petition to all Hillsborough County Commissioners and decision makers to repave our streets, which are in dare need of repair. Look for it at our and participate. As in any other petition like this, numbers are important and this is one of the most important issues we are facing and have no control over. Residents, businesses, and renters are welcome to participate.

On a separate note, I want to thank and recognize here Nancy and Dale Sells, recipients of the Nathan Lafer Good Neighbor Award. They have been volunteering for many years, giving their best to our community. We are lucky about all the leadership we received from both and because of them our community is better. It is an honor to call Nancy and Dale my friends.

It is time to go and enjoy a great holiday. Please give and volunteer!

By Joaquin Arrillaga, WCA President


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Wizards’ Gift Giving Tree Needs Generous Holiday Angels

The Westchase Elementary Holiday Gift Giving tree is up and filled with ornaments in the front office.

This is wonderful opportunity to help children and their families that attend our school. Each ornament contains the age, gender, size, and suggested gift for a child. If you would like to help a family in need during this holiday season, please stop by the office and select an ornament. Sign the log for your selected ornament. Then returned the wrapped gift under the tree by Monday, Dec. 8. With your help, this will be a magical holiday season for many families in our community.

The annual Jingle Bell Jog will be held Wednesday Dec. 17-19. Family members are encouraged to participate in this school wide activity. Join your student during their PE class to help us walk/jog our way to healthier bodies and improved cardio-respiratory endurance. This is a fantastic opportunity to be a physically active role model for our children!

The PTA would like to thank all of the students, parents, teachers and staff who helped make our 2014 Boosterthon Fun Run a huge success! Boosterthon is a healthy alternative to traditional product sales and it provided much needed funds for classroom technology. The nine-day program promoted the values of physical fitness, leadership and character in a very fun and meaningful way. This year’s theme was Rockin’ Town Live, which emphasized the character lessons of service, amplifying others, listening for feedback, playing hard and thanking your crowd.

We hope everyone has a safe and happy winter break! There will be no school Dec. 22-Jan. 2.

By Jennifer Arnold


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Kingsford Residents Honor the Memory of Gary Davidson

In recent weeks, yellow ribbons have fluttered in the breeze on Kingsbridge Avenue, a tribute to beloved neighbor Gary Davidson.

“The ribbons are a sign of honor and friendship as we lost a dear friend to cancer,” stated fellow Kingsbridge resident, Lisa Noel.

Gary and his wife, Terry, built their Kingsford home 16 years ago. There they raised three sons: Gage, Sam, who is a senior at Alonso, and Charlie, who is in the eighth grade at Davidsen.

Gary loved baseball, especially watching his sons play. Sam plays on several teams, as well as for Alonso High School. Gary also loved golf and could be seen at TPC many afternoons playing with Terry or challenging a neighbor.  Fine wine, cars and watches were also passions for Gary. But most important, he was extremely generous to organizations and teams – anyone who needed assistance.

“Gary was so loved by this community. I sent out a meal sign up and within 24 hours, all the spots had been taken.  I got e-mails requesting we add dates and I had to add additional spots two more times,” Noel said.

“He was a wonderful guy and will be missed by so many,” added Kristin O’Donnell, who also lives in Kingsbridge.

Our condolences go out to Gary’s family, friends and neighbors.

By Karen Ring and Lisa Noel


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GirlTalk Group Takes Time to Give Back

The GirlTalk group’s November meeting proved a family affair.

On Nov. 20 members teamed up with their children and spent the afternoon donating their time to Feeding America Tampa Bay, whose primary mission is to end hunger and nourish hope across the ten counties it serves. According to GirlTalk founder, Lori Shaw, GirlTalk volunteers inspected and assorted close to 5,000 pounds of perishable and non-perishable food donations, which equaled nearly 4,000 meals for families around Tampa Bay. It was a rewarding experience for all.

Now the group is gearing up for its Third Annual Holiday Party, which will take place on Friday, Dec. 19, at Shaw’s house in West Park Village. It will be an evening filled with food and drink and activities that will get everyone in the holiday spirit. The event is always the highlight of the year and the perfect opportunity to catch up with friends old and new.

Shaw is working on more exciting activities for the coming year. For more information on upcoming events, contact Shaw at or find them on Facebook at The g.roup is free to join and is open to anyone interested in fun, friendship and a fresh perspective.

By Karen Ring


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Proxies, Assessments and the Dec 12 Movie in the Park

I wish all of Westchase a very happy holiday season and healthy new year!

The next two months are going to be some busy ones for us. Annual neighborhood meetings to vote for your neighborhood representative will take place between December and January. Please do not forget to mail us back your proxy card – or drop it off at the association’s management office. It is imperative that each neighborhood has representation at the voting member (VM) meetings. Your VM is your voice at these monthly meetings.

Included in your assessment envelope that arrived mid-November was an owner contact form. Submitting the form to management is voluntary. By completing and signing the form you agree to receive e-mails from our office for Westchase-related business. The e-mails will not be used to provide notice of violations or assessments that are due. It is only to provide Westchase residents with important e-mail blasts for anything related to Westchase as a whole. Be sure to note if you only want Westchase Community Association (WCA) business e-mails or if you want information on our programs as they come up.

By now you should have received your 2015 annual assessment notice of $319 due Jan. 1, 2014.  Be sure to mail your payment with the coupon to the address noted on the coupon no later than Jan. 31 in order to avoid additional fees. If you have not received your notice, please contact our office immediately.

Our Movie in The Park on Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. is Prancer. Now that we’re in December it might be a chilly night. Don’t forget those snuggies and that cup of hot chocolate when you join us on the Montague Street green in West Park Village.

As always, management staff is here to help Westchase residents with any questions or concerns. Please feel free to drop by our office, located next to West Park Village pool (10049 Parley Dr.), or contact us at 926-6404 or via e-mail at

By Debbie Sainz, CAM, CMCA


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A Gift of Health

If you are still searching for holiday gift ideas, consider my top ten items promoting fitness and health.

Great for all ages, they range in price from under $20 to over $1,000.

10. Yoga or Pilates mat or gift set: For those that practice, investing in a durable mat like Manduka can be a wonderful gift. Carrying bags, straps and blocks are also wonderful options.

9. Bike: Whether you choose a road bike, a cruiser, or a hybrid, bikes are fun. They are easier on the knees, get you outdoors, and can be great for burning calories. (Indoor stationary bikes are another option.)

8. Resistance Bands: I love these for people on the go! Resistance bands are lightweight and take up very little room in a suitcase. Carry resistance bands and eliminate excuses for not working out because you are on the road.

7. NutriBullet: Here’s a quick and easy way to get fresh fruits and vegetable blends. Infusing all the nutrients including pulps and seeds, it lets nothing go to waste, and cleanup is easy.

6. Fitness Trackers and Watches: Some of the most popular items this year, these handy tools can remind you to exercise, help track eating habits, monitor steps and sleep, and more! Since there is way of knowing the long term effects of the EMFs (electromagnetic fields), they are not higher on my list.

5. Gym or Studio Package: Explore many disciplines and facilities! Some offer full service facilities while others offer specialized training like yoga or Pilates.

4. Water bottles: Many creatively designed water bottles are BPA free. Some come with their own filters. They help you stay hydrated and help you track how much water you are consuming throughout the day.

3. Wii Fit: Wii Fit combines fun and fitness for the entire family. Its programs challenge agility, strengthen and tone, work your core, and improve your balance, cardiovascular strength and endurance.

2. Standing workstation or treadmill desk: This is an excellent way to avoid sitting for hours at a time while working!

1. Fitness shoes: This continues to be my number one gift! Footwear is very important for walking and most exercise. Proper support can help protect hips, knees, and ankles.

Shannon is a Certified Personal Trainer and Weight Loss Specialist who teaches at the YMCA and trains privately. Visit<./p>

By Shannon Thigpen


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Village Voices, December 2014: Neighborhood Watch, Home Maintenance and VM Elections


I would like to make everyone aware that there has been a rash of break-ins in nearby Waterchase. It’s a good opportunity to remind everyone to please be diligent with our Neighborhood Watch.  If you see anything suspicious, someone going door to door through the neighborhood or a car that is parked randomly on the street with someone sitting inside, please contact the police and report your concerns.  The non-emergency number is 247-8200 (I’ve added this number in my cell phone for convenience). They will take down the information and send an officer to investigate.  Let’s make our neighborhood as uninviting as possible to potential criminals.

Please check out the Bennington/Woodbay neighborhood page on  If you have not already joined this social Web site, I encourage you to please do so for updated information throughout the month.

Have a happy and safe holiday season!

By Jeanne Klimschot, Bennington VM

The Greens

Happy holidays! As we enter this most joyous time of the year, please remember to keep The Greens gatehouse apprised of all your holiday parties before they occur. Please provide them a guest list, so they welcome your guests, instead of backing up the entry by calling you with each arrival. Be considerate of your fellow residents.

If you lease your Westchase property out to tenants, you must provide a copy of the executed lease to the Westchase Community Association (WCA) manager, or you may be subject to not only a violation, but a fine. Contact the WCA office for details!

At the monthly Westchase Voting Members (VMs) meeting, each VM receives a list of violations from his/her neighborhood. This month again, The Greens’ top violation was discolored houses/roofs/driveways/sidewalks. If you received a violation letter, please act upon it at your earliest convenience; let’s work together on minimizing this list down.

The link to the Community Development District (CDD) and the gatehouse is There. you’ll find further information along with the resident form. Please update your resident file.

On a final note, I propose putting together a committee of Greens residents to assess the feasibility of creating a new database of resident e-mails. Please let me know if you are interested in being part this committee.

By Gerald (Jerry) Pappa, The Greens VM


The Stockbridge Voting Member (VM) proxies have been sent. I am hopeful each of you completed the completed the voting process, including the mailbox question. Ryan Benson contacted me about becoming the Alternate VM and an e-mail was sent to the Stockbridge distribution list. My hope is that you took the time to write in his name for this position. Our annual neighborhood meeting will be held on Dec. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Westchase Community Association (WCA) office. While attendance is not mandatory, it would be nice to see some representation from Stockbridge.

I e-mailed the neighborhood about the fall block party and the lacking of time for planning. We will look toward spring for the next block party. Jen and I will host again unless we have a volunteer looking to do so.

I am sure most of you have noticed the influx of moving vans in Stockbridge. As we say goodbye to some of our neighbors, let’s also be sure to welcome our new ones.

Have a great holiday!

By Ed Siler, Stockbridge VM

Townhomes of West Park Village

Our association recently held its annual meeting on Oct. 30. Thank you to all who attended or submitted their proxy vote. I welcome two new board members, Ken Millman and Kent Bell, both long-time residents on New Parke Road. They were joined by Karen Harte and Mary McQuinn. I am quite excited that we have a full complement of board members. Thanks to all who agreed to serve! 

We had some very positive outcomes at the association business meeting following our annual meeting. Two new items will benefit our Townhome owners: (1) the board approved twice yearly mulching and (2) twice yearly pressure washing for our sidewalks. We voted to cancel our pest control contract with Orkin, as we felt it duplicated services to our homeowners. The savings offset the new services, which will begin in 2015.

If you have received a notice regarding your sidewalk, please take the appropriate action to address it, as we will announce our pressure washing schedule in the first quarter of 2015. The additional good news is our association dues will remain the same with no increase! 

By Debbie Dawson, Townhoms of WPV President

Villas of West Park Village

The year 2014 has been very good to our association and our finances are not only in order, but we have been able to accomplish every goal we set for this year within the approved budget. Recently we completed the second pressure washing of our sidewalks and curbs, front and back. We all can feel proud with the curb appeal of our units. It’s also good to announce that the monthly assessment during 2015 will remain the same as it was this year.

On Feb. 2 the Villas will hold our annual meeting, when two seats, each with two- year terms, will be up for election. The intent notices will be mailed Dec. 19 and members wishing to be candidates should return it by close of business Jan. 5.  The meeting notice will be mailed on Jan. 12.

Finally, on behalf of your board, I wish everyone the very best during Christmas. I hope 2015 brings health and happiness to all of you.

By Carlos Quiros, Villas of WPV President


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Alonso Baseball Hosts 11th Annual Golf Tournament

The Alonso High School Ravens Baseball, Division 6A State Champions in 2009 and 2011, will host a golf tournament fundraiser on Saturday, Jan. 3.

Held at the Westchase Golf Club, the tournament will begin at 1 p.m. The format is a four-person team, best ball scramble. Tournament awards will be given for the winning team, closest to the pin, longest drive and putting contest.

This is a great opportunity to support an award-winning baseball program in our local community. All proceeds will go towards building a new batting cage facility for the baseball program.

“We appreciate the community support of Alonso’s baseball over the years. However, we need to continue to raise funds to improve our program. Participating in our golf tournament fundraiser means you’re investing in both our program and more importantly our baseball players,” said Head Coach Landy Faedo.

The Alonso golf tournament is seeking golfers and sponsors as well as donations of food, drink, silent auction items and raffle prizes. Several levels of sponsorships are also available, ranging from $100 to $2,500, including hole sponsorships, GPS signage, Alonso baseball field corporate banners and others.

The price for an individual golfer is $100, which includes greens/cart fees, awards banquet and dinner. For those of you who don’t want to miss out on the great food, non-golfers can purchase dinner-only tickets for $15. It’s well worth the price as this tournament has become famous for providing a hearty and home-cooked, authentic meal.

Don’t delay, sign up today! Contact Team Mom Cathy Fahrman at (813) 508-6242 to register or get more information on sponsorships. Thanks in advance for your support of these great baseball players and Alonso High School Ravens Baseball.

By Ronda Woble


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Former TBAY Coach Allen Remembered

Two years after the tragic death of former TBAY Westchase Swim Coach Kelley Allen, all seven TBAY branches gathered at their respective pools to honor their beloved mentor with a moment of silence. “I remember seeing Kelley when I was a young swimmer and thinking he looked like a pirate,” said TBAY Westchase coach Alex Richardson. “Then he came over to TBAY and it was just fitting, because now he really was a pirate [the club mascot]. To get a chance to work with him – to know him as a friend and mentor – he had a great impact on all of us.”

Swimmer Maddie Strasen recalled how Coach Kelley used to race up and down the pool deck, trying to see everything at once. “If everything happens for a reason, and if he had to be taken from us so soon,” Strasen said, “it was so that he could be somewhere where he can see everyone at once.”

Even Coach Kelley might have had trouble keeping up with a frenetic TBAY Westchase schedule over the last month. The team raced at the WFLA Halloween Invitational in Largo, an annual stop on the calendar, and the SPA Penny Per Yard meet in St. Petersburg. In addition, several high schoolers competed at district and regional meets, with two qualifying for the state championships.

At the Oct. 17-19 Halloween meet, Rafael Borromeo, Sam Prabhakaran and Sydney Senior posted 10-second drops in their respective events while Paige Easton and Aly Johnston recorded top-five finishes. Prabhakaran and Savannah Trezza cut 10 seconds in the Nov. 2 SPA meet, while a long list of top-five finishers included Easton, Prabhakaran, Johnston, Armando Destrade, Noah Hall, Tyler Henry, Nicolas Libreros, Liam Maloney, Elizabeth McDonough, Gavin Nolan and Gregory Tilzer.

The club’s high school athletes had been training for peak performances at the district and regional meets that lead to the state championships, and the hard work paid off for several of them. Abby Rose of Sickles made the Class 3A state meet in three events – 50 free, 100 free and the 200 free relay. Strasen, Robinson High School’s captain, made the Class 2A state meet for the second consecutive year in 100 breaststroke while also qualifying for senior championships with her regional 200 free time.

In addition to that pair, Richie Bui, Danny Harris, Isabel Minnis, Tiffany Quach, Ben Brown, Johnny Dang and sixth-grader Summer Senior all qualified for high school regionals, while Erykah Farrant and Katelyn Rosenblum competed at districts.

“Our high school swimmers did a great job this season,” said Richardson proudly. “It’s hard work to represent your school and continue to train with our program. I am very proud of the two ladies who made it to the state competition. They had big goals this season and they really stepped up to the challenge.”

Before taking a week off at Thanksgiving and getting back at it in December, TBAY Westchase was looking forward to the LOLL/TBAY Fall Challenge in mid-November, when the club’s younger swimmers were slated to compete in distance events for the first time. About 40 club swimmers were also scheduled to participate in the YCF Almost Turkey Invitational in Orlando Nov. 21-23. Also coming up is our annual holiday party and lots of holiday training!

Be sure to like TBAY Westchase on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @tbaywestchase!

By Jean Strasen and Alex Richardson


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