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CDD Addresses Hurricane Matters and Golf Course

The Oct. 4 meeting of the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) saw supervisors address Hurricane Irma storm clean up, express concern with the construction on Linebaugh Avenue and express interest in potentially purchasing the Westchase Golf Course to preserve the community’s appearance.

The Oct. 4 meeting of the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) opened with CDD Chair Jim Mills praising district staff. Mills thanked them for “the fabulous job they did both pre- and post-Irma.”

“I particularly thank Doug and Sonny.” He added, “It was truly above and beyond.”

Westchase Community Association (WCA) President Ruben Collazo, present in the audience, agreed. “The staff did a terrific job. We are very grateful.”

The meeting saw Field Supervisor Doug Mays detail storm preparations and clean up, which involved removing numerous fallen or leaning trees and picking up homeowners’ storm debris, given county pickup delays in Westchase.

Later in the meeting when setting annual year-end staff bonuses, supervisors elected to add an additional storm bonus of $500 per staff member to be paid in the coming month to recognize their superior effort.

Supervisors opened the meeting’s business by shifting audience comments so they began the session. They heard from Stonebridge HOA President Dianne Lehmann and resident Kathi Bergerson, who asked for the CDD’s help in addressing trespassing by men fishing behind their homes at night. The men, they stated, were accessing the area through the new M/I Homes townhome development on the other side of the large lake behind Stonebridge.

The district is currently in the process of accepting ownership of the lake from M/I Homes but does not currently own it. Field Manager Doug Mays stated the men were gaining access through a TECO power line easement that had previously been fenced and gated. M/I Homes, however, removed the gates to use the area as a staging spot for construction equipment. Pending transfer of the lake and its bank, which would allow the district to take more formal action, Mays committed to posting No Trespassing signs on the district easement on the lake bank and requesting that M/I Homes reinstall the removed fence.

Supervisors then turned to discussions about hiring a landscape architect to put together a master plan of improvements for the community. Kicking off the effort, Supervisor Brian Ross asked Mays to compile a list of suggested areas and ideas for improvements in preparation for district workshops about the project, to which residents will be invited to offer input. That motion passed unanimously.

Supervisors then unanimously approved staff compensation for the coming year with a motion granting two percent raises for Mays, Office Manager Sonny Whyte and Cristian Guaba, one of two members of the district’s field staff. Field staff member Livon Soto, however, will see a higher percentage raise to $16 per hour. District Manager Andy Mendenhall touted Soto, a staff member for five years, as an exceptional employee. The new salary, he said, would reflect the going market rate for someone with his experience and commitment.

Supervisors also approved annual holiday bonuses of $1,250 for Whyte and Mays and $500 for the two field staff.

Supervisors also approved annual performance bonuses of six percent for Soto and three percent for other staff members. [Note: The original article posted here incorrectly stated that these bonuses were based on years of service.]

Mays then detailed the district’s cleanup and preparations for Hurricane Irma. He stated he had ordered Davey, the district’s landscaper, to not cut the grass the week before and after the storm. Instead, he directed them to trim back trees and landscaping in preparation and focus on storm cleanup afterward.

Mays also praised Troy Griff and his company Griff’s Mulch Service, which works for the district. Mays stated that Griff made a crew and two trucks available for hire for storm clean up when equipment and extra help were difficult to find in the days after the storm. The company picked up and hauled homeowners’ storm debris for two-weeks to make up for delays in the county’s collection efforts. The material was stored at the CDD maintenance facility, where the county was expected to collect it on Oct. 5.

After the meeting, Office Manager Sonny Whyte stated that staff had ordered 27 trees for purchase to replace some that fell. While dozens more fell or were removed due to leaning, the district elected not to replace some trees and perhaps create future problems with sidewalk buckling.

Supervisor Brian Ross then raised concerns with the construction materials and barricades that were left along Linebaugh Avenue during Hurricane Irma and stated that it had undermined his confidence that Westra Construction would return the medians to their original condition. Westra is currently replacing a reclaimed water line between Radcliffe Drive and Westchase Elementary School.

While Ross pitched a proposal that would have requested money from Westra for the district to do the restoration work itself, other supervisors felt the district would be better protected by carefully documenting impacted areas and then meeting with county staff, including a member of County Commissioner Sandy Murman’s office, to express and formally document the CDD’s expectations and concerns.  Ross changed his motion to instruct staff to document restoration issues and then notify the county of the district’s desire for a meeting. That motion passed unanimously.

WCA President Collazo added that Government Affairs Committee Chair Rick Goldstein and he would soon be sitting down with county staff to also express the WCA’s concerns about construction materials and barricades left along Linebaugh before the storm.

As part of his report, Field Supervisor Mays stated he was discussing with Dynamo, the company that installed the Glencliff Park playground, about the delamination of the pour and play surface in a path around its spinning structure. “He’s going to reinforce it,” Mays said.

Supervisor Barbara Griffin inquired about work to replace and enhance landscaping fronting the commercial strip between Applebee’s and Burger King. Mays stated it was complete and Chair Jim Mills praised its appearance, suggesting that the work had convinced the property owners to step up their own maintenance. “For the first time I have lived here there was a landscaper doing work on the Burger King property,” he said. “I haven’t seen that in 19 years.”

Closing matters, supervisors made a handful of requests.

Supervisor Brian Ross offered a motion directing staff to develop a large print and digital map showing the Westchase community with district owned parcels and maintenance easements delineated. He stated it would help supervisors during discussions of projects. That motion passed 5-0.

Ross also stated he had heard a rumor that the Westchase Golf Course is for sale and offered a motion directing the board to form a committee of district staff and led by CDD Supervisor Greg Chesney to explore the feasibility of the district purchasing the course. That motion carried 4-1, with Supervisor Barbara Hessler Griffith opposed.

In recent years the district has repeatedly expressed its concerns to the golf course owner about the worsening appearance of the course, including maintenance of the ponds. Supervisors have expressed frustration that course’s appearance, which runs along Linebaugh and Countryway Boulevard, was undermining the appearance of the community.

Commenting on the matter after the meeting, WCA President Ruben Collazo stated the association would support the purchase, provided that the district could turn it into parks or trails that could be for the private, exclusive use of Westchase residents.

Supervisor Griffith expressed her thanks and praise for WOW Publisher Chris Barrett and WOW’s Facebook group, Westchase Neighborhood News, which she said helped keep residents informed and connected through Hurricane Irma.

Griffith added that the West Park Village Town Center statue of the dog named Duncan placed in the top three in a recent arts competition to raise money for Southeastern Guide Dogs. She said she would attend to represent Westchase at the awards ceremony. She added that the WCA had requested the opportunity to offer a permanent home for the sculpture outside the WCA facilities. Supervisor Chesney added Griffith praise for bringing Duncan to Westchase. “I think it was a great project, by the way,” he said.

Supervisors adjourned at 5:47 p.m. after approving a final motion to allow Chair Jim Mills to sign an affidavit allowing WOW to serve alcohol in the West Park Village town square as part of the Great West Chase.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

Posted Oct. 5, 2017

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