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CDD Gets Update at Golf Course Purchase Agreement

Westchase CDD Supervisors received an update on their potential purchase of the Westchase Golf Club at their March 6 meeting, which saw Field Supervisor Doug Mays explain challenges with Westchase’s recent street sweeping.

Opening the session, however, supervisors accepted their 2017 audit and heard from Woodbridge Villas representative Pat Kruse, who followed up with supervisors about the district’s willingness to take ownership of the Woodbridge HOA’s roads, sidewalks and gates, which would transfer maintenance responsibilities to the district. The district, rather than the Woodbridge HOA, would then assess Woodbridge homeowners for them. 

Supervisor Brian Ross, however, emphasized the importance of the Woodbridge HOA and its owners understanding they would be giving up their guarantee of privacy. Ross pointed out that by law, CDD-owned roads are public. While the community’s gates can restrict entry to most passersby, if the district owned the roads, folks could demand the right to gain access to the community. Further, Ross pointed out that a future CDD board could decide to remove the gates from the community.

District Manager Andy Mendenhall cited the fact that the transfer would relieve the HOA of its maintenance oversight responsibilities and the political burden of maintaining assessments on neighbors (in recent years Woodbridge HOA imposed a hefty special assessment on residents to undertake deferred maintenance). “There certainly is a benefit there.”

Stating he was an attorney who frequently handed HOA mediation issues, Ross, however, added, “It would be highly, highly unusual for an HOA to give up its privacy rights.”

CDD Chair Jim Mills asked Kruse to bring back to supervisors a clear understanding of the percentage of Woodbridge homeowners who supported the ownership transfer after residents were fully informed of Ross’ privacy concerns. Afterward, Mills stated, the board would make a decision. “We appreciate your confidence in this board,” he added.

CDD Attorney Erin McCormick then updated supervisors on negotiations over the potential purchase of the Westchase Golf Course. She stated that over the previous month, the district’s hired consultant, Greg Christovich, had visited the course, reviewed its financials and interviewed residents who wished to weigh in on the district’s potential purchase and management of the course – all as part of the district’s due diligence. “He will ultimately be preparing a report that will be presented to the board,” she said.

McCormick added she had also hired specialized attorneys from Johnson Pope to craft a letter of intent (LOI) outlining the purchase. Upon sending the LOI to course owner Nick Neubauer, however, Neubauer’s attorney countered with a simplified LOI that accepted the proposed $4 million purchase price and six months for due diligence. Once the LOI is signed by CDD Chair Jim Mills, Neubauer committed to having his lawyer put together a purchase contract for the district’s consideration.

McCormick also stated that Green Golf Partners does not have management agreement with Neubauer. “It’s a wholesale lease of the property,” she stated. Stating it was not assumable upon purchase, she added the district and Green Golf Partners would both have to agree to continue the lease.

When Supervisor Barbara Griffith asked if the due diligence had uncovered any red flags, McCormick began speaking about the golf course’s pump building when Supervisor Greg Chesney, who is overseeing Christovich’s work between meetings, interjected of his findings thus far, “It’s not materially different from my initial report.”

While Supervisor Ross stated that Griffith’s inquiry about potential issues was a legitimate question, Ross stated, “I would say it’s premature.” He added, “We’re better off waiting until we’re under [a purchase] contract.”

Griffith, however, expressed frustration with the suggestion she wait. She stated her support of moving forward with the purchase contract for the golf course purchase was contingent on the findings of the due diligence report and stated she thought they would quickly get the report.

Ross emphasized he was not diminishing Griffith’s concerns but added, “It is highly, highly unusual to have a commitment to do the due diligence before you sign the contract.” He added, “You are unintentionally airing issues you don’t want aired before you go under contract.”

“You don’t want to piecemeal it,” added Chesney. “I want a [full] report.”

Ross added that no one was attempting to sweep the discussion under the rug but simply wait for the signed purchase contract. “I fully intend a full public meeting and discussion of the due diligence.” He reemphasized, “I fully intend to lay it out on the table and we’ll talk about it.” 

Addressing what she referred to as the process, Griffith, however, stated, “It’s troubling to me.” She stated that she was aware that Ross was speaking to McCormick and Chesney was working with the consultant and McCormick, suggesting the other supervisors were at an informational disadvantage. She added, “I walked away [from February’s district meeting] with understanding we were going to exercise the letter of intent.” She added, “A month later we don’t have it.”

Stating he did have the LOI for his signature that evening, Mills stated, “I’d ask you to go back to the  minutes. That’s not what we landed on.”

McCormick also interjected that she had met with Griffith the previous week to discuss matters and stated the district had made significant progress in hiring the consultant, two attorneys with expertise and golf course purchases and negotiating the LOI.

“When will we have a report from the consultant?” Griffith pressed.

McCormick answered it was the goal to have the report complete as soon as possible but the consultant’s contract stipulated it would be produced within 45 days of the purchase contract.

Ross and other supervisors also emphasized that the purchase contract would allow the district to withdraw from the purchase without penalty if the due diligence period undercovers information that makes supervisors feel less comfortable with buying the course for the agreed price.

Addressing the board, Greens resident Sebastian de Alemanara, stated, “Something has to be done. There is a ton of misinformation out there.”

De Alemanara added, “People talking about turning the course into a park are growing, growing and growing.” De Alemanara said it was rooted in reports that the golf course was currently losing money. He repeated what Supervisor Chesney stated in January that the district’s initial, quick exploration of multiple options made clear that conversion to a park would require landscaping that would be very expensive while eliminating income from the course. “That’s probably not an option and people need to know that,” he said.

Chesney responded by referencing the consultant’s work toward determining the course’s true financial state. “You’re going to have a report about what we think the golf course is going to cost residents.”

Chesney added that converting the course to a park would require planting hundreds of thousands of trees at a cost of one to two dollars each. “It does not make sense to me…to do it,” he stated. Chesney stated that it was silly to talk about it as a park when the district didn’t even own the course yet. “It was a mistake on my part to entertain turning it into a park,” he emphasized.

Ross also cautioned de Alemanara that while he might personally support keeping it as a course, he had an obligation to listen to all residents regarding their views for the land, when acquired.

De Alemanara pressed again about the park rumors, “It also needs to be communicated that that is not what you’re going to do with it.”

Citing recent social media posts about the disaster that would befall the community if the West Park Village Starbucks closed, Mills responded, “This board cannot respond to every social media post.” He added of the course, “We don’t even own it yet.”

Making his report, Field Supervisor Doug Mays addressed some residents’ dissatisfaction, aired on social media, about the district’s street sweeping vendor. Mays stated the recent warm weather and the wet winter caused trees to dump old foliage more quickly this spring. Adding to the leaves in the road, Mays stated that when residents read on WOW Online and Westchase Neighborhood News Facebook page that the street sweeper would be working over two upcoming days, multiple residents raked or blew their yard leaves into the road rather than properly bagging them and setting them out for landscape debris collection. Combined, the volume of leaves overwhelmed and delayed the street sweeper.

Mays stated the road cleaning usually causes the sweeper to fill one and a half bins over two days. “They filled up four bins within the community." He added, "They spent seven to eight days.”

Mays also dismissed accusations that the service was not being provided some neighborhoods. “I followed the truck many times.” He emphasized, “They were out here in the community.”

Mays concluded, “Just so you know, they didn’t charge one additional dime. You got more than paid for.”

Continuing his report, Mays added that $2,300 in repairs and improvements were made to Glencliff Park’s playground surface around its merry-go-round to allow it to better weather wear and tear. The park equipment manufacture committed to applying repair costs to the cost of a new small slide that will be installed in the near future at the park.

Mays added that staff was also exploring costs for the addition of larger shade structures at the West Park Village tot playground to keep the playground surface cooler and one for over the spring-loaded riding structures at Baybridge Park.

Citing clarification of their landscaping contract, Supervisor Ross asked staff to explore with district landscaper Davey if it was willing to extend its landscaping contract in the community for an additional year at no increase with some tweaking of the district’s grading and performance payment system. Ross stated he didn’t necessarily support extension but that the district should explore its possibility.

Prefacing the board’s 6:23 p.m. adjournment, Chair Jim Mills stated, “We’ve got a lot going on…I thank everyone for everyone’s efforts.” He added, “I think we are doing a stellar job of keeping the interest of residents and the best interest of the community in front of us.”

In other actions:

Supervisors accepted their audit after Supervisor Brian Ross requested information about the audit’s finding that the district’s bank account had been compromised. Supervisor Greg Chesney stated the district ended the year with a surplus of $167,778, which was added to the district’s fund balance.

West Park Townhomes resident Karen Thomas inquired whether the back of the newly replaced LED streetlight in front of her townhome could be shaded so that the light didn’t spill into her home. CDD Office Manager Sonny Whyte was asked to explore whether TECO or the district owned the light. Supervisor Matt Lewis also asked that TECO be asked to come out to measure the intensity of nearby LED lights to determine if the light in front of Thomas’ home was necessary.

Supervisors unanimously approved appointing CDD Chair Jim Mills to work with Attorney Erin McCormick to accept the transfer of ownership of a large lake between M/I Homes development and Sturbridge and Stonebridge after addressing a few concerns with M/I Homes about the lake’s environmental permits.

Supervisors unanimously approved Field Manager Doug Mays’ request that the district spend $15,000 to upgrade their 13 Toro satellite irrigation controllers.

Supervisors directed staff to work with Stantec’s Neale Stralow to develop more specific landscaping plans for Westchase’s entrance and the butterfly garden along Linebaugh Avenue. They also asked staff to acquire a bid for sinking a well and installing a pump on land between Stonebridge and The Vineyards (for possible use as a district plant nursery) and bids for bringing electricity to unlit neighborhood monument signs.

Supervisor Barbara Griffith announced that her exploration of a dog park on the TECO easement in the West Park commercial area made clear that no permanent structures could be erected there and other rules forbade animals from the land. “I think we can put that idea to rest,” she said.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

Posted March 8, 2018


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