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CDD Extends Landscaper’s Contract Another Year; Approves New Greens Gatehouse Entry System

After postponing the decision in March due to their dissatisfaction with the new landscaping project at Westchase’s east entrance, Westchase CDD supervisors voted on April 4 to extend their landscaper’s contract an additional year.

Supervisors also voted to approve a new software entry system to handle visitors to The Greens gatehouse.

The district’s landscaper, Davey, had offered to extend its contract for an additional year at no increase. Westchase Community Development District (CDD) Supervisor Brian Ross, who had been most vocal in his opposition to the extension last month, initially made a motion to extend it for two years at no cost but was reminded by CDD Attorney Erin McCormick that the current contract only permitted one-year extensions after the initial three-year term. Ross withdrew the motion. When he made no further one, Supervisor Greg Chesney’s motion to extend the Davey contract an additional year won unanimous support. “I think the labor market as a whole has increased quite a bit,” said Chesney, explaining his motivation.

Citing the last six months of landscaping bids in other districts he oversees, District Manager Andy Mendenhall stated, “That’s been my experience.”

The April 5 meeting also saw supervisors return to a topic that had triggered some controversy after the March meeting – the approval of a new gatehouse entry software system for The Greens gatehouse. Following news that supervisors had discussed the matter in March, The Greens and Village Green’s Voting Members (VMs) and Greens Alternate had sent emails of protest to supervisors. Supervisor Jim Mills, however, stated he sat down with Greens VM Jerry Pappa, Village Green VM Bobbi Pitcher, Greens Alternate Joaquin Arrillaga, along with CDD Office Manager Sonny Whyte and Westchase Community Association (WCA) President Ruben Collazo later in March to review the new Securitas system. “My sense is that when we left that meeting, everyone was in agreement.” He added, “I’m not aware of any opposition at this point.”

Collazo, present at the CDD meeting with Director Rick Goldstein, concurred, “I came away from that meeting with the exact same impression.”

Detailing the benefits of the new system, which keeps the gatehouse manned but manages guest entries and visitor lists, Mills stated that a Greens neighborhood budget surplus would cover the system’s leasing costs – roughly $4,000 annually or $10 per home – for the first three years. In later years, because The Greens CDD debt service will be finished soon, homes would still see a decrease in overall CDD assessments.

A motion to approve the system ultimately passed 4-1 with only Supervisor Brian Ross opposed. Citing the March emails from The Greens and Village Greens VMs, which emphasized the importance of running the proposed system by Greens residents before its approval, Ross expressed concern that while neighborhood leaders had been briefed, he wanted assurances that the system was subsequently run by Greens residents as they had emphasized.

Supervisors also heard from CDD Engineer Tonja Stewart. Referring to a pond plan uploaded for supervisors’ review, Stewart stated that staff would currently focus on addressing the recurring issue of pond bank erosion prevention by planting aquatic plants and educating the CDD landscaping company and also homeowners to ensure that the grass on the pond banks is not sprayed with herbicide or cut too low with weed eaters. “I think we’re going to have to do an education program with residents not to mow outside their properties,” said Stewart.

Most Westchase homes’ property boundary do not include the banks of the retention ponds in their backyards. Those that do have a CDD maintenance easement over the pond bank.

Citing the Westchase Community Association’s deed restrictions, Supervisor Barbara Hessler Griffith stated she hoped the CDD would work in conjunction with the association by passing on documentation of homeowners who removed CDD-installed aquatic plants so the homeowners can be cited. CDD Attorney Erin McCormick, however, stated she would have to examine the legal ramifications of the district handling over materials to an association to enforce rules on land owned by the CDD.

Supervisor Matt Lewis, however, emphasized that he preferred to take what he called a more positive approach by instead relying on resident education rather than violation notices. He added, however, that despite the board repeatedly asking for a homeowner informational pond bank brochure over the last three months, one still had not been produced. He reminded Mendenhall that the board discussed the better tracking of old action items in March and asked that supervisors and staff be sent the action items list prior to each meeting.

Closing the meeting, Supervisor Griffith discussed two items. She asked that McCormick explore how the district could extend an easement or maintenance rights over land owned by CDD-assessed commercial property owners on Sheldon Road in order to repair the brick monuments and enhance the landscaping there. She also announced she would like to take the lead on improving and replacing the district’s website, for which funds have been budgeted in the last two years. Her announcement, however, triggered a cautionary note from Supervisor Brian Ross, who stated it was not the role of a supervisor to take on the district’s day-to-day activities. He warned it crossed a line and could cause problems. “It should be staff driven,” he stated.

“If we wait for that, it’s not going to happen,” responded Griffith.

“That’s a sad commentary on our staff,” Ross observed.

District Manager Mendenhall stated that some districts do ask an individual supervisor to head up or explore a project with staff but cautioned it was unwise to do so otherwise. Supervisors, however, offered no authorization to Griffith.

Griffith argued the site needed an update, including the ability to take park reservations without residents having to go to the CDD office to make them with Office Manager Sonny Whyte.

Field Supervisor Doug Mays, however, stated that placing the new system online could make it more difficult for residents less familiar with technology. “Right now the system seems to be working,” he said. “If Sonny thought it was a problem, she could handle it.”

“I’m sitting asking for us to take action,” Griffith said.

Supervisors ultimately asked staff to bring forward a proposal to improve the website after further input from board members.

In other actions:

CDD Engineer Tonja Stewart stated that Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission would not grant the district an easement for storm water flow maintenance over wetlands belonging to Flournoy Companies, which is building 200 apartments east of West Park Village. Flournoy agreed to the easement as a zoning condition to assuage district concerns over the development. Stewart stated she would continue working with the developer to find ways the district could protect itself from storm water backups that could affect West Park Village and The Vineyards. CDD Supervisor Lewis, an engineer, stated that development’s engineering drawings, which detail expected storm water flows, should give the district some recourse if the apartments’ storm water system does not operate as planned.

As part of preliminary fiscal year 2018 budget discussions, CDD Supervisor Greg Chesney reviewed the district’s financial position, announcing there was $2,476,000 in its fund balance and $600,000 in undesignated reserves for natural disasters. For the benefit of Griffith and Lewis, the board's newcomers, District Manager Andy Mendenhall reviewed the budget process and calendar and stated the preliminary draft budget, which the county relies upon to mail its TRIM notices, would be approved in May. Before the formal adoption of the budget in August, supervisors will then fine-tune the spending plan. Mendenhall reminded supervisors to have their recommended lists of improvements to him for incorporation into May’s draft budget.

Supervisors briefly heard from Jim Duncan of Hillsborough County Public Utilities and Tommy Rawls of Hillsborough County’s Department of Public Works about Linebaugh’s reclaimed waterline replacement project and the status of the Citrus Park Drive extension.

After supervisors briefly heard from CDD Attorney Erin McCormick about the easements the district owns for landscaping and wall construction along the commercial areas of West Park Village, Supervisor Brian Ross asked her to return within 60 days with a clear understanding of whether the district could construct a sidewalk along the southern lane of Linebaugh Avenue between Bentley Way and Sheldon Road.

Supervisors took no action on a request to reserve a pavilion from individuals wishing to film a Beef O’Brady’s commercial at Glencliff Park.

WCA President Ruben Collazo thanked supervisors for their communication and interaction regarding The Greens’ gatehouse entrance system. “It was exemplary,” he stated, “And I just want to encourage you to continue to do that.”

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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