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CDD Makes Advances on Landscaping Improvements and Potential Golf Course Purchase

The April 3 CDD Workshop and April 4 Westchase CDD meeting saw supervisors return to two topics that have dominated recent meetings: landscaping plans and the district’s potential purchase of the Westchase Golf Course.

“The Letter of Intent [to purchase the Westchase Golf Course] was executed and the seller provided a sale and purchase agreement,” Westchase Community Development District (CDD) Attorney Erin McCormick announced at the April 4 meeting.

The letter of intent locked down the $4 million proposed price and a commitment to provide six months for due diligence research, beginning with the signed sales agreement.

McCormick added that two lawyers who specialize in golf course purchases met with her on Monday, April 3, to review the sales agreement on behalf of the district. McCormick stated that she would be responding to the owner with requested sales contract changes in a few days and expected a finalized agreement to be ready for Chair Jim Mills’ signature the second week of April.

At the previous day’s workshop, CDD Supervisor Greg Chesney, who is overseeing staff work on the sale between meetings, stated that he had identified three potential hurdles to the sale. The first was the seller’s preference for selling the corporation that owns the course to the district for tax reasons. McCormick previously stated that under state law, however, the district could not own a corporation. At the April 4 meeting, McCormick stated the issue had been resolved and the seller was simply going to sell the course outside of its corporate entity.

Chesney, however, also stated that the district faced statutory limits on the length of time it could borrow to pay for the course. Stating they would limited to a five-year note rather than the far longer planned note, Chesney stated the district could perhaps get around the limit by structuring the loan as a five-year note with a balloon payment that could be restructured at the loan’s end.

The third issue Chesney identified was the fact that the golf course currently lies outside of the Westchase district. As part of the purchase agreement, the CDD would have to annex the property, a process that could cost in the neighborhood of $30,000 and which would involve approval by the Florida Land and Water Adjudicatory Commission, consisting of the Florida governor and his cabinet.

Supervisors then turned to approving three other motions detailing enhancements at Glencliff and Baybridge Parks and the West Park Village tot playground. Totaling roughly $68,000, the enhancements will be detailed in a separate article in May’s WOW.

Mays also stated he was meeting with the contractor to review some wear and tear and rusted equipment bolts on Baybridge Park’s equipment, which are still covered by warranty.

Mays then turned to his discussions with Davey, Westchase’s contracted landscaping company. At the workshop, supervisors had requested Mays speak with Davey’s representative to gauge his willingness to extend the existing contract an additional year at no additional charge. Mays stated he also discussed with the representative Davey’s willingness to give up tree trimming and mulching responsibilities to enable the district to award them to other vendors. Mays said he also discussed changing the way the company’s independent grading system and performance payment is done in an effort to improve performance. (Currently Davey’s overall performance is graded and they receive 20 percent of their contracted amount based on a passage score in the high eighties.)

Mays said Davey’s representative was interested in maintaining the contract but less enthused about losing the more lucrative mulching contract. Mays stated he might be able to work out a compromise and agreed to have Davey’s representative attend the April 30 workshop to provide suggestions on how the contractor can meet the higher performance standards some supervisors are seeking.

When Supervisor Brian Ross pressed Mays for assurances the Davey representative clearly understood that supervisors felt some things were falling between the cracks, Mays responded, “I felt comfortable with the conversation.”

Supervisors then turned to the large pond, a former borrow pit, between M/I Homes’ townhomes development and Stonebridge and Sturbridge. For several months staff have been working with the developer to transfer the lake and its surrounding property to district ownership. The deal has been complicated by the fact that a wetlands permit, overseen by SWFTMD, runs over both the lake property and the townhomes. Sharing her discussions with M/I’s representative, CDD Attorney Erin McCormick stated M/I wanted to be indemnified by the district for any damages arising from the district’s inadequate maintenance of the lake, if transferred. On the district side, however, supervisors expressed concerns with McCormick’s discovery that the lake fell within the boundaries of the HOA and it could not be removed, according to M/I, before control of the association passes over the townhomes’ owners. That would subject the lake and its banks to potential rules by the HOA.

The district has expressed an interest in taking ownership of the lake to enable it to address any potential flooding risk it poses to Westchase villages and also to control townhome residents’ activities on the water and the pond’s banks.

Supervisor Ross asked McCormick to go back to M/I’s representatives and make clear they would have to offer an agreement to prohibit the HOA from enforcing any existing or new deed restrictions on the lake as part of any agreement. Since the agreement will have to be signed before May’s CDD meeting, supervisors passed a motion authorizing CDD Chair Jim Mills to use his judgement regarding whether to sign it and have the district accept ownership of the lake.

Field Manager Mays then briefed supervisors on plans for landscaping improvements at Westchase neighborhood entrances. Based on Stantec designer Neal Stralow’s standards, detailed in March’s WOW, Mays asked a local landscaper to develop more detailed designs and prices for all the neighborhood entrances on Countryway Boulevard (except at the intersection of Countryway and Linebaugh). Mays said the estimated cost was $89,000. He added, however, that the next step in the process would be for Stralow to review the plans from the nursery for consistency.

Closing major discussion, CDD Chair Jim Mills inquired with Mays about the Linebaugh contractor’s restoration of the median. Mays said he was thus far happy with the work, citing the contractor’s repair of broken irrigation wires, the replacement of sod and the reconstruction of curbs. Mays said the only aspect of the job he found wanting was the quality of the repaving done in the area. “There are a lot of uneven edges to it,” he said.

Mays committed to following up with the contractor on that issue and to ask whether they planned to repaint the yellow lines adjacent to the replaced curbs.

In other news:

Attorney Erin McCormick briefly touched on a county notice she received about a zoning change for a group of commercial offices. Located just north of The Shires, that complex has requested the change to enable it to add additional parking.

District Manager Andy Mendenhall informed supervisors that he would have the preliminary district budget at May’s meeting. That budget sets the high water mark for assessments for the county property appraiser’s Truth in Millage notices sent each fall to homeowners.

Supervisors discussed a request by Greens Voting Member Gerald Pappa to be given administrative access to the Greens gatehouse security system. The VM had been left with the impression he could use the system for neighborhood-wide communication. Chair Jim Mills, a Greens resident, stated that staff and he recently realized that any message would simply be delivered within the app the entrance system uses rather than email. This would require residents to open the app to find any messages. Under Mills’ recommendation, the board instead approved providing Pappa all of the neighborhood emails collected through the system but did not grant him administrative rights, which would grant far more access to resident information, such as guest and contractor lists.

After staff brought up the issue of cypress root encroachment from district lands onto residential properties and offered different opinions on whether the district should address them, Supervisor Ross asked Field Manager Mays, Engineer Tonja Stewart and CDD Attorney McCormick to discuss the matter and return to the board with a clear staff recommendation.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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