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CDD Hires Designer for Park Renovation Master Plan

Westchase’s parks were the primary topic at the Nov. 5 meeting of the Westchase CDD.

At the session, supervisors tackled the hiring of a designer for a Park Renovation Master Plan and the best way to address offensive behavior by Glencliff Park visitors on weekends.

Opening the meeting, however, District Manager Andrew Mendenhall gave the oath of office to  Community Development District (CDD) Supervisors Greg Chesney and Mark Ragusa, who were reelected without opposition during the Nov. 4 General Election. The two will serve four-year terms.

Mendenhall and CDD Engineer Tonja Stewart of Stantec then informed supervisors that only one designer had submitted a formal response to the district’s Request for Qualifications to hire a designer for expected park renovations. A capital improvement project to renovate Baybridge and Glencliff Parks’ playground equipment was triggered by a recent report that the equipment, dating to at least 2004, was out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In October supervisors voted to advertise that they would hire a designer for the parks, whose plans will be later put out to bid.

While three design firms initially requested information, only one – an engineer that contracts with Stantec, the district’s current engineering firm – actually submitted a formal response. Supervisors, however, expressed contentment with the results. “I was pretty impressed with their body of work,” Chesney stated.

“My desire is we move forward to begin negotiations with Stantec,” stated CDD Supervisor Brian Ross.

Supervisors voted unanimously to instruct their attorney to hammer out a design contract with the firm. The board appeared to back the development of a Parks Master Plan cataloging possible uses and development of the district’s green spaces.

CDD Chair Mark Chesney, however, offered initial pushback to the broad scope of the design request. He instead expressed a desire to focus the capital improvements project simply on bringing the two parks into compliance with the ADA. “I see a tremendous project creep. It gives me great concern.”

While saying he wasn’t averse to undertaking other projects at some point, Ragusa added, “It seems we are throwing in everything we’ve ever discussed.”

His argument that the catalogue of parks wasn’t really necessary, however, won no support from other supervisors, who backed Ross’ suggestion that the district needed a formal Parks Master Plan for the sake of continuity and planning.

“You and I are in disagreement,” Ross politely stated to Ragusa. “What I’m advocating is to broaden the scope.” Reiterating his desire for a master parks plan, he said, “There may be things out there we haven’t thought of.”

Ross clarified that he wasn’t advocating the district fund all projects suggested by the designer. Stating he simply wanted the designer to present options and concepts that other master planned communities are currently embracing for their green spaces, he concluded, “We may decide we don’t have the dough.”

Ragusa offered a compromise that the project be broken into two parts. The first would entail the creation of a catalog of green spaces and parks as well as their potential uses – essentially a 20 to 25-year master plan for their development and use. Included would be the CDD’s recently acquired land between Stonebridge and The Vineyards as well as a potential rethinking of the use of the West Park Village green’s band shell and spray pad.

The second portion of the design plan would specifically tackle renovations to the playground areas of Glencliff and Baybridge Parks to bring them into compliance with the ADA.

“I have no objection,” responded Ross.

Turning to issues with park visitors, supervisors heard from Glencliff residents Judy Servidio and Bill Lehman who addressed an Oct. 26 gathering at Glencliff Park involving a large party of young men. The group, Servidio reported, played amplified music with offensive lyrics, behaved in an aggressive fashion, consumed alcohol and used a large grill – all in violation of district rules for the parks. When residents called the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), Servidio added, the responding deputy incorrectly insisted she had no enforcement abilities because it was an open county park.

Westchase’s parks are owned by the CDD. While they must be kept open to all county residents, the CDD can establish rules for their use, which are enforced through an agreement the district has with the HCSO.

Servidio detailed other issues with teens partying, lighting fires and leaving trash along the walking trails at the rear of the park.

Supervisors responded that the deputy did have enforcement rights under a district agreement. They directed CDD Attorney Erin McCormick to communicate with the HCSO to clarify that the district did want its park rules enforced and violators issued trespass warnings. To help matters, supervisors directed staff to post park rules within the parks.

Field Supervisor Doug Mays stated he would ask the district’s off-duty deputy patrol to step up visits to the park during weekend daylight hours and ask the district’s landscaping contractor to do a better job about checking the park’s trails for trash.

In other actions, Chair Ragusa questioned why a second speed hump was included outside The Greens exit gate. Stating the area had an issue with drivers speeding up to make the green light at the intersection of Gretna Green and Linebaugh, Field Supervisor Doug Mays stated it was installed to enhance safety for pedestrians and the guards stepping out of the guardhouse. CDD Office Administrator Sonny Whyte added the hump also slowed cars so that their tags could be captured by the exit gate cameras.

Supervisors approved an overage of $945 spent on the acquisition of a sidewalk grinder, which cost just under $5,000. Field Supervisor Doug Mays, however, also added that staff’s recent acquisition of a four by four vehicle, expected to cost $20,000, came in under $15,000.

Supervisors also distributed a plan for The Greens gatehouse that would potentially remove the eight-hour overnight shift and replace it with a remote access system. Designed to save Greens residents money during the overnight hours when visitors are minimal, the savings are meant to offset a possible increase in the gate contract due to federal insurance mandates under the Affordable Care Act. See related article here.

Closing the meeting, supervisors heard from Adolfo Salazar, who spoke on behalf of an informal group of soccer players that use Glencliff Park fields on Sunday mornings. Salazar inquired why the district had recently removed soccer goals used by the group. “We have a soccer field with no goals,” he said. “It’s like playing dolls with no heads.”

Ragusa explained that the goals had been removed because of potential liability from their tipping. “There was an accident involving a child,” Ragusa said. The district chair informed Salazar that the group could either bring their own goals to the field and remove them after play on Sundays or organize into a more formal group and acquire insurance coverage that would protect the group and the district from any claims resulting from accidents. They could then leave the goals locked at the fields – like the Westchase Soccer Association (WSA) does.

Salazar and his companions committed to discussing the idea with their fellow players and returning to a future meeting with a proposal.

Supervisors adjourned at 6:02 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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