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CDD Calls for Greater Homeowner Education on Pond Bank Maintenance

The Sept. 9 meeting of the Westchase CDD saw supervisors tackle pond bank erosion, park renovations and The Greens' controversial, new speed bumps.

While approving a handful of pond bank repairs, supervisors called for better erosion prevention education of homeowners – and potential penalties for those who undermine district efforts to protect pond banks.

Opening the session was Westchase Community Development District (CDD) Engineer Tonja Stewart, who briefed supervisors on her company’s recent examination of all district pond banks to gauge erosion issues. “The bottom line: Generally your ponds are in good shape,” she stated.

Stewart, however, pitched a handful of bank repairs to ponds in The Greens off Greenlinks Drive, Chelmsford between Tavistock Lane and Gretna Green Drive and the canal separating West Park Village from Village Green.  The work, totaling an estimated $35,000, would take different approaches to repairs, installing rock along crumbling slopes in some areas and incorporating more extensive bank restoration using an approach called GeoWeb elsewhere.

Reviewing the erosion report, supervisors expressed concern about multiple areas that the inspector flagged as problematic but which Stewart stated were not significant. She argued most of the areas could be addressed with aquatic plant installation to stabilize the pond banks. Supervisors also encouraged Stewart and district staff to put together information delineating the proper care of pond banks for distribution to homes on the water. Staff has pointed out that homeowners and even past pond maintenance companies have removed or sprayed aquatic plants and sod at the waterline, leading to erosion. “I want to take a much more aggressive stance to homeowners,” observed CDD Chair Mark Ragusa. “We’re spending $35,000 on five houses.”

Ragusa added, “We need to be more aggressive about advising the residents about what affects their lake.”

CDD Supervisor Greg Chesney added that, in his opinion, homeowners who fail to comply with the district recommendations or who remove aquatic plants on the pond edge should receive no assistance from the district when their yards begin eroding into the water. Chesney called for a registry of pond homes to delineate work and detail cooperation from homeowners.

In an effort to better educate homeowners, Stewart committed to submitting educational information to WOW for publication.

Supervisors then turned discussion to the best way to undertake renovations to Baybridge and Glencliff Parks, whose playground equipment will have to be replaced to bring it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Supervisors debated whether to hire a designer and then bid out the resulting plan to multiple construction firms or hire a design-build firm to tackle the entire project.

Supervisor Greg Chesney favored hiring a specialist to oversee the design specifications and then ensure the hired contractor observes them. “I just think it’s the most prudent approach for the project.”

Ragusa offered the counterargument, stating that a design-build firm would eliminate the district from dealing with disagreements between the design and its actual construction. He also argued that design-build firms, more familiar with construction costs, will design within the district’s budget. In contrast, he argued, a designer could develop a plan supervisors love and, upon bidding it, they’ll discover its costs run well beyond what’s tolerable.

Supervisors Brian Ross and Brian Zeigler also weighed in, with Ross calling for a complete inventory of the district’s parks and green space and the creation of a long-term master plan for its development and use. Ross stated that the plan could be implemented over a number of years, with the park equipment work tackled first. Supervisor Bob Argus echoed Ross’ suggestion. Zeigler suggested having a number of different design firms appear before the board to make their pitches so supervisors could cobble together the best ideas for the project.

Ultimately supervisors requested that Stewart use her engineering firm to pull together specifications for the entire project. CDD Attorney Erin McCormick will then publish a formal notice soliciting design professionals to submit proposals.

Briefing supervisors, McCormick stated she ran into a hiccup with Davey Tree in negotiating the new landscaping contract, effective Nov. 1. She stated she had gone to Davey with some proposed changes to the contract, which, among other things, would enable to the district to recoup potential losses from the contractor's work; proposed changes also clarified the district’s sovereign immunity. Describing Davey Tree’s response, McCormick stated, “I was a little surprised.”

She added, “They then came back with other changes to the services of the contract.”

Among them, McCormick stated, was a request to lift the district’s stipulation that Davey could not use employees with criminal records for the district’s work.

Supervisors made clear Davey’s requests were not acceptable. While Supervisor Ragusa stated they should consider approaching the second lowest bidder with a contract offer if Davey persisted, the board unanimously endorsed Supervisor Chesney’s suggestion that McCormick press the district’s requests with no concessions to Davey. Should that not succeed, McCormick will simply implement the original contract distributed with the bid specifications.

Supervisors also agreed to extend their auditor’s contract for an additional year at no increase for $7,500. The contract with Grau and Associates is now in its fifth or sixth year, according to District Manager Andy Mendenhall, who stated the costs were in line with auditing firms’ prices for his other districts. Supervisors asked that Mendenhall note that the audit contract should be put out to bid in the coming year.

After voting to accept their meeting schedule for the next 12 months, supervisors heard input from a few Greens residents about the new speed bumps installed near the Greens guardhouse as part of the recent repaving project. While the speed bumps have already been lowered once, all residents present appeared to agree with the observation made by Village Green’s David Pitcher, who stated, “It’s not so much the height. It’s the slope. They’re very abrupt.”

VM Jerry Pappa observed that not since the CDD undertook a traffic study in The Greens had he received as many phone calls and e-mails about an issue.

Greens resident Bobbie Muir added, “It’s like driving over a tree stump or someone’s leg.” She added, “The design of them is not workable.”

Field Supervisor Doug Mays responded that the paving company was coming out a second time to address the speed bumps in order to resolve the issues.

Mays also announced he had met with Pappa regarding the location of mounted flag on The Greens guardhouse as well as its replacement and lighting costs. Supervisors approved its installation unanimously.

Mays also offered an explanation for the yellow flags appearing by the medical center midway down Linebaugh Avenue. He stated the county was surveying the community’s reclaimed water pipes for possible future replacement. “They’re having a lot of pressure issues and getting complaints.” He added that the replacement supply pipe, when and if it’s installed, will likely be larger.

Supervisors concluded the meeting by hearing from Alan Charron, one of the owners of the Westchase Town Center. Charron appeared in response to an August WOW article announcing that the district was considering a landscaping barrier or wall to reduce visibility of the empty parcel. The property, adjacent to Fifth-Third Bank, features prominent utility stub outs and is often leased to various holiday vendors. In the days before Independence and New Year’s Day it holds a fireworks tent long opposed by the Westchase Community Association (WCA). Charron committed to lowering the stub outs and stated the parcel was the now attracting interested tenants, including a restaurant. He added, however, that leasing the parcel to holiday vendors helped offset the parcel’s great costs. He added he was open to partnering with various community organizations for use of the town center’s areas.

Supervisors adjourned at 5:55 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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