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CDD Board’s Faces Change

The Dec. 6 meeting of the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) saw the board welcome a new supervisor and bid farewell to a veteran of almost two decades.

Following his election to the board on Nov. 8, Wycliff resident Matt Lewis, a civil engineer, was sworn in just prior to the Dec. 6 meeting. At its conclusion, supervisors then hailed CDD Chair Mark Ragusa, whose resignation they accepted on Dec. 16, when his home in Harbor Links/The Estates sells.

“I got some very bad news yesterday,” stated CDD Supervisor Greg Chesney, referencing Ragusa’s announcement of his departure.

Following praise for his work and commitment to the district since his appointment to the board by Westchase’s developer in the late 1990s, Ragusa stated, “It was a great run.”

Ragusa joked, “It bothers me that we’re leaving but sometimes I don’t have a majority say.”

Ragusa announced his wife and he were relocating closer to their work.

Supervisors began the meeting with a request from the Westchase Soccer Association that the district renew the league’s exclusive use agreement for Glencliff Park fields for the spring season. Citing the need to put it on the meeting agenda with proper notice, CDD Attorney Erin McCormick suggested the matter be tabled until Jan. 3’s meeting. Supervisor Chesney, however, reminded McCormick that he had previously asked her to review the WSA’s financials to ensure none of its leaders were profiting directly or indirectly from the league and that it was operating as a not-for-profit entity. Chesney stated he would again forward his requested review after the meeting.

Woodbay resident Greg Levy inquired whether staff would add more equipment to Glencliff Park to appeal to younger kids, such as a slide. Field Supervisor Doug Mays stated no further equipment would fit due to required drop zones. Mays added the park was designed in conjunction with the three other renovated parks to appeal to different age groups.

Mays later detailed remaining work at Glencliff Park. While its playground is open, Mays stated final work on installing benches and picnic tables, painting the Four Square and hopscotch courts, striping the basketball courts and installing its hoops would be completed by mid-December.

Supervisors, however, spent their greatest stretch of time discussing pond bank erosion. CDD Engineer Tonja Stewart stated she had returned from investigating several pond banks with Mays and suggested an aggressive program of aquatic plantings to fortify the eroding banks. Mays added they had pinpointed nine ponds for the installation of 3,000 plants.

Supervisor Ross, however, pressed a suggestion he raised two months ago after Stewart announced the district was looking at a multi-year erosion repair bill of as much as $5 million – in a year in which the district had budgeted only $60,000 for work. Ross stated, given the sudden financial liability the district appeared to be facing, that it seemed prudent for supervisors to get a second opinion that specifically pinpointed problems and produced a detailed plan of erosion work. He preferred this, he stated, to the anecdotal case-by-case approach he felt was occurring.

Stewart, however, countered that she had cited a high-end cost for the erosion repairs in order to get supervisors’ attention that they had to pull together an aggressive plan and fund it. She stated that the low end of the cost range for fixes was likely in the area of $750,000 and that staff and she were documenting issues and formalizing planned work. Further, she added staff felt optimistic that newly identified aquatic plants would work when previous plantings had not survived, causing the district’s past repairs to fail. The key, she said, was educating residents, who often oppose the plantings because they prefer to see just the pond water. Some residents, Mays stated, even wade into the ponds to pull plants out, an action, Supervisors Chesney pointed out, that would simply cause the homeowners’ yards to crumble into the ponds. “We’re going to have to take the time to educate them,” Stewart reiterated. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You have to embrace the swamp.”

Ross pulled his motion for a second opinion after District Manager Andy Mendenhall stated that a professional review and plan would likely prove quite costly. He added supervisors would still be left doing what they are currently doing: addressing identified areas and selecting repair approaches that range significantly in approach and cost.

In other actions:

Supervisors reviewed a request by the owner of the Sheldon Road Burger King property that the district take over the conservation portion of her parcel in return for a reduction in the land’s commercial assessment. When CDD Engineer Tonja Stewart pointed out that the district did not own the adjacent land, supervisors elected to inform the owner they would take no action as there was no benefit to the district’s taking ownership.

Supervisors voted to award its annual holiday bonuses to its four staff, with $1,200 presented to Field Manager Doug Mays and Sonny Whyte and $500 each to their two field support staff.

Following a request from Bridgeton Drive resident Barbara Griffith that supervisors address overflow parking and birthday parties’ bringing in large farm animals to Baybridge Park’s pavilions (the animal owners park large trailers in the parking lot, reducing its capacity), supervisors voted 4-1 to ban animals other than pet cats and dogs from Westchase parks.

Supervisors unanimously approved a $75 weekly maintenance agreement for the newly refurbished West Park Village splash fountain, whose chemistry must be maintained like that of a public pool. Supervisors also approved a $6,000 expenditure for a six-foot fence and signage to keep kids from climbing atop the splash fountain’s new covered pool pumps. 

Supervisors asked CDD Attorney Erin McCormick and Supervisor Brian Ross to sit down with a former owner of the land lying between Stonebridge and The Vineyards to discuss a potential requirement that the district erect a boundary wall along Promise Lane on the property, which the CDD now owns. McCormick stated that while the requirement was recorded with the deed, the document formalizing it does not explicitly say it binds future owners such as the district (The original owner made the agreement with a developer who later lost the property through foreclosure.) The deadline for the wall’s construction is February 2016, thus triggering Ross to volunteer to speak with the individual.

Citing requirements for its timely inclusion on the meeting agenda, supervisors tabled until their January meeting a requested increase in A&B Aquatics’ pond maintenance contract with the district. Citing no contract increase in almost a decade, A&B Aquatics’ owner appeared before supervisors over the summer stating he could no longer afford the increased costs of chemicals to control invasive plants. They requested he return with a new bid. The bid, if accepted, would increase A&B’s contract with the district from $7,500 to $8,333 monthly.

Do You Want to Serve on the Westchase CDD?

The Westchase Community Development District’s (CDD) Board of Supervisors is looking for residents interested in filling the seat of CDD Supervisor Mark Ragusa.

Ragusa will sell his Westchase home in the district on Dec. 16. The Westchase CDD Board oversees Westchase parks and the common areas outside of the WCA’s pool and tennis facilities. Among other things, they also maintain the district’s lakes and waterways as well as roads and rights of way within gated neighborhoods.

Interested Westchase residents are asked to email a statement of interest as well as a CV or resume to District Manager Andy Mendenhall at amendenhall@severntrentms.com by Jan. 10. Those interested should be prepared to attend the Feb. 7 meeting at the WCA Office Building on Parley Drive beginning at 4 p.m. Mendenhall can be reached with further questions at 991-1117.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

Posted 7 December 2016

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