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CDD Embraces New Landscaping Project for Westchase’s Eastern Entrance

At their Jan. 3 meeting, Westchase CDD supervisors reviewed and approved a proposal to replace or enhance landscaping at three different community locations.

In part the project aims to remake the appearance of Westchase’s eastern entrance in time for Costco’s grand opening Feb. 9.

Supervisors opened the meeting by hearing from Community Development District (CDD) Attorney Erin McCormick, who stated she had updated the district’s pending contract with its aquatics company, which maintains Westchase ponds. A&B Aquatics requested the district increase its contracted rate due to increased chemical costs. McCormick stated the contract included supervisors’ previously approved increase from $90,000 annually to $100,000 annually, starting Oct. 1, 2016. The increase is the first since A&B Aquatics original 2009 contract with the district.

McCormick then informed supervisors that the Westchase Soccer Association (WSA) had requested its contract for the use of Glencliff Park fields be approved. While previously renewed on a seasonal basis, the WSA requested the district approve it for a full year. McCormick, however, stated that WSA officials had not yet had a chance to respond to her request for a review of the association’s financials. Supervisor Greg Chesney had asked for a review of the WSA’s finances to determine if its organizers were profiting directly or indirectly from the association. McCormick added, “I think they may already be filing that with Hillsborough County.”

Stating that he was not faulting WSA for the delay on providing financials but was reluctant to approve a full-year contract without them, Supervisor Brian Ross made a motion to approve a contract solely for the WSA’s spring season.

“I will vote for it,” stated Chesney,” But I would like to see evidence of their non-profit status.”

Chesney reiterated that he would not approve a subsequent contract unless the WSA agreed to a review by McCormick, designed to keep the information out of the public record. He added, “They need to provide the information to our attorney.”

The one season contract extension was approved 4-0.

CDD Field Manager Doug Mays brought supervisors up to date on work related to Westchase pond and creek bank erosion. He stated staff had recently examined and cleaned out Double Branch Creek, which flows south behind Keswick Forest and Glencliff. Staff removed debris and cut out small trees. Mays stated they had also rebuilt and protected a bend in the creek bed with crushed concrete retained from other projects. Erosion of that bend was threatening a Springrose Drive homeowner’s property. All the work, originally bid at $100,000, was completed by in-house staff at a cost of $20,000, Mays reported.

Mays also requested supervisors approve a $22,500 contract with Biomass to undertake pond bank erosion repairs behind four Greensprings homes, whose backyards are slowly collapsing into a large CDD-owned pond. Supervisors approved the contract unanimously.

Addressing repairs and the review of Westchase ponds, Supervisors Matt Lewis and Brian Ross reiterated the need for staff to photograph and document the status of current pond banks and all repairs. That historical record, Ross pointed out, would help future boards determine what erosion fixes were needed and which past repair approaches worked or failed.

Mays committed that staff would complete the pond review documentation in 60 days.

Supervisors Jim Mills and Ross also observed that the new West Park Village tot lot was in need of benches for parents. Mays stated he would explore options outside the tot lot fence.

Supervisors then heard a presentation from Edward Nieves of Davey, the district’s landscape contractor. Nieves pitched landscaping projects for Westchase’s eastern entrance, the small seating area on Linebaugh Avenue near the creek just east of Radcliffe and the Westchase western entrance monument on Linebaugh.

Nieves’ plan pitched markedly enhanced landscaping, new fountain features and a dry river bed of rocks at the eastern entrance. In addition, it called for the removal of the knee-high brick circular features, located in front of the monuments, whose interior spaces hold annuals. Supervisors passed on the fountain features and tweaked the proposal. They elected to pull the brick circle as suggested and install the enhanced landscaping. Also rejecting the suggested dry creek bed of stones, they used its savings to purchase some more mature plants. Prompting the greatest debate as well as repeated concerns from Supervisor Greg Chesney was whether the enhanced landscaping, aimed at reproducing the look at the Citrus Park mall and Citrus Park Plaza entrances, was worth the nearly $9,000 increase in annual maintenance costs for its increased fertilization and hand-pruning.

During discussion, Supervisor Mills, who initially pitched the landscape revitalization project, argued the additional costs were necessary to ensure Westchase’s appearance doesn’t age. “Think about the money we just spent on parks,” he said. “This is the next reasonable upgrade.”

Mills also argued the projects represented the first step in reworking other areas of the community’s landscaping. Coinciding with Costco’s opening, the first project, he stated, would impress many of its shoppers, which he called potential homebuyers.

Supervisors, however,  did retain Nieves’ suggested dry creek bed, along with flowering plants, to create a butterfly garden in the seating area near the creek between The Fords and Radcliffe

More challenging is the area by the now barren monument wall at Westchase’s western entrance, where lack of irrigation limits what plants can survive there. Nieves pitched a pared-back landscaping plan consisting of drought tolerant plants common to deserts. While Supervisor Brian Ross expressed concerns that its look might not match Westchase landscaping elsewhere, supervisors ultimately endorsed the approach given the lack of available water.

Supervisors unanimously approved the contract for the three projects at a cost of roughly $36,500, with the bulk of it ($24,500) expended at the eastern entrance. They also approved an addendum to Davey’s landscaping contract for the enhanced maintenance. Davey, in turn, committed to bringing additional employees with specific training in pruning on site instead of merely redirecting existing staff. Nieves said work on the eastern entrance would commence in roughly two weeks so that it is installed when Costco opens on Feb 9.

Speaking to WOW after the meeting, CDD Office Manager Sonny Whyte stated staff was still hoping Westchase residents would step forward to volunteer for the 25th anniversary party at Glencliff Park on Saturday, Jan. 21. Whyte can be reached at 920-4268 or via email at cdd@westchasecdd.com.

Residents interested in serving on the CDD, in an open seat created by former Supervisor Mark Ragusa’s December resignation, are reminded 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 5 January 2017

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