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CDD Board Addresses Ponds and Landscaping; Honors Two Former Board Members

At their March 7 meeting, supervisors on the Westchase CDD dealt with some recurring themes – pond bank erosion repairs and the performance of the district’s landscaping company – before honoring two board members for their recent service.

Opening the meeting, Westchase Community Developmen District (CDD) Engineer Tonja Stewart, participating by phone, asked supervisors to approve a contract with Cross Creek Environmental to address pond bank erosion on ponds in Bennington and Wycliff. Stewart stated it was the cheapest of three bids and while not a permanent erosion fix, she argued the use of a plastic mesh, backfilling and planting the banks would give the plants time to take root and protect the banks from further erosion. While Stewart emphasized quick action was key to getting the work on the company’s calendar during the dry season, supervisors initially balked because the bid, which had arrived last minute, had not been included in the board packet with the other two. Supervisor Jim Mills stated it was board policy to get material with ample time before the meeting for review. “This is not how we do business.”

Supervisors, however, ultimately voted 5-0 to approve the $20,500 bid after Stewart emailed the bid to them for review at the meeting.

Supervisor Ross, however, said he still had concerns about the district’s pond bank repairs. While staff had uploaded his requested pond bank inventory to document and track erosion issues and repairs, Ross stated, “In my perception, we don’t have our arms around it.”

He stated the board still had no grasp of the real scale of the problem or the best fixes for them. Stewart, however, countered, “I think I have a very good idea of what’s going on and I think I have just done a very poor job of communicating it.”

Revisiting a request made by supervisors that Stewart work to develop a list of best practices for homeowners on pond banks, Supervisor Matt Lewis asked where staff was with the educational material. While Stewart had hung up by that time, District Manager Andrew Mendenhall stated he would follow up with her on the matter.

Addressing pond bank repairs, Supervisor Barbara Griffith asked, “Since we’re taking a piecemeal approach, how many pieces are there?”

CDD Field Supervisor Doug Mays stated the pond inventory he distributed via Dropbox detailed remaining work, which he stated involved approximately five ponds, whose erosion issues staff believes can be stabilized by planting 3,000 plants.

Alan Baldwin of Severn Trent, the district’s management company, then broadly reviewed a draft of the proposed budget for fiscal year 2018. Office Manager Sonny Whyte and Baldwin asked supervisors to submit their wish-list items for inclusion in a later draft that will be submitted to Hillsborough County for the fall’s property tax TRIM notices. Baldwin stated that just over $400,000 in funds currently budgeted for the parks could be reallocated or cut now that the park work is complete, although Supervisor Greg Chesney stated supervisors need to be clear on how much was borrowed from the district’s fund balance and remains to be repaid.

Among other things, Baldwin stated that staff had budgeted additional funds for Radcliffe because the solar panels used to light the neighborhood’s entrance monuments had recently been stolen and needed replacement.

District Manager Mendenhall then stated that Davey, the district’s current landscape company, is nearing the end of its three year contract and offered to extend it for an additional year at no increase. Citing his unhappiness with the landscape work Davey recently completed at the eastern entrance, Ross stated, “I think it’s premature to extend Davey.” He asked staff, “Does Davey perceive that they dropped the ball or [do they believe that] the board is unreasonable in its expectations?”

Mays responded, “I’d say a little bit of both.”

Ross clarified his February meeting criticism that he felt misled. He stated that once Davey realized the size of plants they had intended to install were not available, they should have returned to the board instead of simply going ahead with their installation, creating a discrepancy in expectations. Ross observed of the area’s current appearance. “It looks worse than it did before,” and added, “The overall situation does not sit well with me.”

While supervisors have the option to put the entire landscaping contract out to bid, Supervisor Chesney stated it would likely cause Davey to pull the current extension offer. Chesney, along with former CDD Supervisor Mark Ragusa, who spoke from the floor, cautioned that the current landscaping market was seeing significant increases and the district would benefit by locking in current costs for another year.

CDD Office Manager Sonny Whyte stated that due to a resident’s complaints about traffic on Linebaugh Avenue, Hillsborough County staff has resurrected a previously abandoned plan to extend the Linebaugh turn lane for cars turning north on Sheldon by as much as 300 feet. “We may lose some trees in the process,” she stated.

Field Supervisor Doug Mays said the project could impact as many as a dozen trees.

Supervisor Jim Mills, however, asked if anyone had pointed out to the county that traffic turning left onto Sheldon would likely be dramatically reduced once the Citrus Park Drive extension is complete. “I would hate to see all that median ripped out.”

“Do we have a voice here?” asked Supervisor Griffith, stating that protecting the median from road expansion was “sacred to our community.”

Supervisor Ross suggested it could be a matter the district could work on in conjunction with the Westchase Community Association’s Government Affairs Committee (GAC).

Following the meeting, WOW reached out to the county for more information. James Hudock, Divisions Director of the Technical Services Division of the Public Works Department stated, "Staff is in the process of evaluating potential operational improvements at this intersection. Staff reached out to the Westchase CDD manager to have a preliminary concept level conversation about any potential impacts to the median landscaping near the intersection. We are still continuing to analyze potential improvements for this intersection and also looking at the potential for congestion relief and reduced delays for the left turn movement due to the construction of the Citrus Park extension project.”

In other actions at the meeting, Office Manager Whyte announced that the district had contracted to have Westchase streets swept on March 23-24.

Supervisor Jim Mills asked that the board consider updating the Greens gatehouse with a new entry system with updated software, scanning and printing capabilities that would allow Greens residents to use an app to make changes to their visitor lists and even receive automatic texts regarding upcoming arrivals. The system would allow the rapid printing of bar-coded visitor passes that could have end dates to allow multiple entries. The new system would cost roughly $5,000 annually to rent and, he stated, there are adequate funds in the Greens account to pay for it.

Office Manager Sonny Whyte said she had discussed the matter with the Greens VMs and Alternates and other residents and there was more support for it from residents than the neighborhood representatives. While Mills, a Greens resident, made a motion to adopt the program, supervisors tabled the proposal until April’s agenda so that it is properly noticed on the agenda first.

Supervisors closed by honoring former CDD Chair Mark Ragusa and Supervisor Bob Argus for their service to the board. Ragusa moved out of the community in December and Argus lost his seat in November’s election to Supervisor Matt Lewis. “I would like to take the time to make a few presentations for your service to the community,” said Chair Mills, jokingly adding, “Which, between the two of you, is probably 100 years.”

Mills presented a plaque to Argus and a gavel to Ragusa denoting the dates of their service. Delineating their contributions, he stated, “Westchase is a better place because of your service.”

In other actions:

Field Supervisor Doug Mays assured supervisors that contractors who are working with the county and installing a new reclaimed water main down the Linebaugh median were doing cut outs in the sod that are limited but necessary to bore a channel for the pipe’s installation. Crews have temporarily rerouted the current district water supply through the blue pipes currently visible above ground and will restore the sod when work is complete.

After asking for pond education materials for residents for a few months and not receiving them, supervisors asked District Manager Andrew Mendenhall, who is now running the meetings, to develop a better system for staff to track old action items so they are not overlooked by staff or supervisors at subsequent meetings.

CDD Attorney Erin McCormick stated that Flournoy Companies was in the process of completing their plan for their development of 218 apartments on Thomas Ranch Lane across from Costco. As part of rezoning for the parcel, Flournoy agreed to grant the district a drainage easement to ensure the CDD could address drainage issues affecting West Park Village and The Vineyards. McCormick stated that the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) did not want to grant the easement because it would potentially impact wetlands. CDD Engineer Tonja Stewart stated she would work to address the district’s concerns with the EPC and developer.

Supervisors approved a revised bid for the monthly chemical maintenance of the West Park Village splash pad to incorporate maintenance at two other West Park Village fountains. Supervisors unanimously accepted the proposed bid from Triangle Pool Service for $500 monthly for the work.

Supervisors reviewed the commercial assessment methodology with commercial property owner Jane Carter. District Manager Andy Mendenhall committed to working with her to explain how the district assesses her commercial property.

Supervisor Barbara Griffin requested staff inventory the condition of the community neighborhoods’ entrance monuments.

At the encouragement of Bridges resident Cynde Mercer, who stated she planned to lobby Hillsborough County for a sidewalk on Linebaugh from West Park Village to the Costco intersection, supervisors agreed to explore county requirements that the owner of the Westchase Town Center keep its sidewalk accessible. Mercer pointed out that the sidewalks have been converted to outdoor seating areas that also hold refuse containers. Supervisors voted 5-0 to have CDD Attorney Erin McCormick explore the matter.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

Posted 10 March 2017

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