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CDD Gives Initial Approval To Parks Design Plan

Culminating months of discussion about Westchase park renovations, Westchase CDD supervisors gave their unanimous approval to their park designer’s plans at their Oct. 6 meeting.

While not chiseling the plan in stone, the vote paved the way for bid acquisition for work that will reshape the appearance of Baybridge Park, Glencliff Park and the Montague Street green in West Park Village Town Center.

Opening the meeting, supervisors addressed a number of administrative decisions. Among them was a proposal by Office Manager Sonny Whyte to approve the purchase of a holiday menorah display for the district’s December decorations. Whyte stated the request was made on the behalf of Jewish residents.

The request saw no support from supervisors, however, who viewed the purchase as crossing a line directly into embracing the symbols of a particular religion. “I don’t think we should have anything that is Christian or Jewish,” stated Supervisor Brian Ross.

Ross argued that the district’s current December decorations, which consist of garland, lights and wreathes, were a secular nod at the winter holidays. When Supervisor Greg Chesney stated that some Jewish residents view wreathes as Christian decorations, Ross observed that his wife had hung a Halloween wreath on their front door. “I don’t think it has any Christian connotation,” he stated.

In other major discussion, supervisors again heard a request from Martin Frame, the land acquisition manager for David Weekley Homes. Frame addressed a parcel of land on which the company has a purchase contract. The land lies south of Fifth Third Bank and is bordered by Cavendish Drive and West Park Village Drive. Frame stated that because the property was included in the inactive Westchase Commercial Association (an entity distinct from the Westchase Community Association), he was seeking the votes of landowners belonging to that association to disband it. In September Frame indicated he needed 75 percent of the association’s votes to terminate the organization and he had approximately 60 percent.

According to CDD Attorney Erin McCormick, the district, as owner of a small amount of land within the commercial association, controls nine of its 160 votes.

Frame’s request to disband the organization did not win the support of supervisors. “I would never support dissolving an organization that we have an interest in,” stated Supervisor Ross.

Supervisor Jim Mills also stated that while he would support the idea if he had proof the CDD’s votes were the final ones Frame needed to terminate the defunct organization, he didn’t want to potentially go first and then have David Weekley use the CDD’s endorsement to win additional support.

Instead supervisors voted unanimously to endorse removing just the David Weekley parcel from the commercial association. While Frame made clear this action wouldn’t really help him, he did agree to let the supervisors know when he received the votes needed to terminate the commercial association.

The bulk of discussion at the meeting, however, focused on the district’s park design plan for their upcoming capital improvement project. Offering a formal presentation of his plan was Stantec’s Neale Stralow.

Stralow began by offering an apology to supervisors for a math error in the plan’s estimated costs, caught last month by Supervisor Jim Mills. While Stralow’s cost table correctly identified each item and its estimated price, an error in the spreadsheet left out all costs associated with the Montague Street green improvements from the project total. Thus, instead of the plan costing an estimated $1.1 million, the total (prior to supervisors’ Oct. 6 adjustments) was $1.5 million. The total, after supervisors’ changes to the plan, later came in at $1.56 million.

The correction prompted a disagreement, largely between Supervisor Greg Chesney and Chair Mark Ragusa, about what the original expected total for the project was, with Chesney recalling $2 million and Ragusa recalling a total of $1.2 million. Supervisors moved on, however, when Supervisor Ross, who praised Stralow for the plan, stated he preferred to focus on picking a plan that would best suit the community’s needs rather than picking a starting price and having it dictate the plan.

While he supported ideas that would expand spending in Baybridge and Glencliff Parks, Ragusa also offered initial pushback to Stralow’s proposal for the Montague Street green. Stralow’s plan called for approximately $435,000 in improvements there, including the repair and rehabilitation of the splash fountain, the construction of a small playground in an adjacent area, and the construction of a teen-focused ping-pong area, consisting of two concrete tables, in the green closest to the bell tower.

The only major adjustment to the Montague plan supported by a majority of supervisors, however, was the removal of a pet fountain, which they felt would simply worsen the current problem with residents leaving behind pet waste on the green. “I was going to vote to take the splash park out,” said Ragusa, “but I’ll settle for the pet fountain.”

Turning to Baybridge Park, supervisors also pulled the proposed pet fountain and requested Stralow’s design incorporate an internal fence completely around its children’s playground. Total costs for Baybridge Park improvements were estimated at $373,000.

Resolving debate on the future of Glencliff’s basketball courts, supervisors elected to keep two full basketball courts at the park but relocate them to an area adjacent to its south parking lot. Supervisors also endorsed Supervisor Ross’ proposal that they consider a small concrete playing surface appropriate for hopscotch and four-square. Stralow stated the area could be cut out of the existing basketball court pads, reducing construction costs. Stralow estimated total Glencliff Park costs at $720,000.

To view images from Stralow's presentation as well as cost tables, click here.

In other actions:

As part of their parks discussion, Chair Mark Ragusa recommended that at a future meeting board members discuss requiring the Westchase Soccer Association (WSA) to share soccer field maintenance costs for Glencliff Park, which are currently shouldered entirely by the district and its property owners. Ragusa stated the district was the only local entity that grants exclusive use rights to a sports league without asking the league to contribute funds to cover the wear and tear of their use. At past meetings, officials of the WSA have expressed some willingness to cover some maintenance costs, if required, for use of the fields.

Supervisors opened their meeting by voting unanimously to approve a three-year contract extension at this year’s price to the district’s auditor, Grau and Associates. (Arriving at 4:10 p.m. Supervisor Greg Chesney missed this vote.)

Supervisors unanimously re-authorized Chair Mark Ragusa to execute a paving contract for the streets of The Vineyards at a cost of $114,362. The performance bond, survey and other work will pose additional costs. Gated neighborhoods whose roads are owned by the districts are separately assessed for road maintenance.

Supervisors declined to take action on a West Park Village resident’s request that a small portion of CDD-owned land be fenced to prevent neighborhood kids from playing adjacent to the homeowner’s yard.

Supervisors voted unanimously, 5-0, to approve the Westchase Community Association’s (WCA) use of the Montague Street green for their fall and winter Movies in the Park.

Supervisors took no action to waive the district’s commercial sign ban on rights of way to permit the Sunday Morning Market organizer to display his banner. Thus, the banner for the for-profit market will not be permitted.

Supervisors voted 4-0, with Supervisor Chesney abstaining as the matter affected his neighbor, to approve a $40,000 contract with Bio Mass Tech for erosion repairs along 490 feet of the pond running behind Stockbridge Drive and Lightner Bridge Drive.

Supervisors addressed a parcel of land at the bottom of Montague Street in West Park Village that was offered for sale to the district for $1.2 million in September (the district passed). When WOW inquired why the parcel, which appeared to lie within the Westchase CDD, wasn’t paying CDD fees, CDD Attorney Erin McCormick investigated its status. McCormick stated the parcel was indeed part of the CDD and should be assessed an appropriate portion of the district’s Operations and Maintenance costs beginning with the October 2016 budget.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

Posted 9 October 2015


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