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CDD Meeting Notes, Sept. 2011: Westchase CDDs Merge on Sept. 20

Passing a handful of final motions at their final meeting on Sept. 13, the CDD East agreed to be absorbed by the CDD on Sept. 20, eleven days earlier than anticipated.

Supervisors of the two Westchase Community Development Districts (CDDs), which oversee maintenance of Westchase’s common areas, parks, rights of way and retention ponds, culminated more than two years of work with the passage of three final motions finalizing their merger. Since Westchase’s founding in 1991, the community has had two different special taxing districts, whose boundary runs roughly through the golf course and St. Joseph’s Health Clinic on Linebaugh Avenue. Each has been represented by five supervisors. Over the years the two Westchase boards have made most budget and policy decisions jointly, with each board required to approve them.An earlier district manager of the CDDs speculated that the Westchase developer established two districts instead of one because smaller districts enabled it to seek county rather than state approval for their creation. State approval, required for larger districts, is more time-consuming and costly. Creating two districts also allowed the developer to control eastern Westchase while it was still under construction (the villages along Countryway Boulevard were completed first).

With the passage of a final motion and two resolutions – all effectively transferring property, contracts and outstanding bonds on the CDD East to the CDD on Sept. 20, the CDD East will cease to exist on that date. The last action, however, was not without a hiccup. CDD Attorney Erin Larrinaga stated that a state official had misinformed her about the effective date of the merger. Originally, supervisors had scheduled it to occur Oct. 1, the beginning of their new fiscal year. Larrinaga stated, however, that the date of the merger was dictated by the district’s filing of a relevant merger document with the state, mandating the date of Sept. 20. While Larrinaga stated that all relevant parties, such as the CDD East’s bondholders, had been informed of the change and found it acceptable, CDD East Supervisor Brian Ross stated that the bond counsel’s letter regarding the date change appeared incomplete, as it did not fully acknowledge the CDD East’s communication on the matter. This may have triggered Ross’ vote against Larrinaga’s prepared Merger Implementation Agreement, which passed unanimously on the CDD (with CDD Supervisor Joseph Lechman absent) and 4-1 on the CDD East, with Ross opposed. Ross, however, voted with the rest of supervisors in favor of two subsequent merger resolutions that Larrinaga suggested they pass to make the merger effective on Sept. 20.

Following that merger, Westchase will have a single CDD overseen by five of the current ten supervisors: Bill Casale (Radcliffe), Greg Chesney (The Bridges), Mark Ragusa (Harbor Links/The Estates), Brian Ross (West Park Village) and Ernie Sylvester (The Greens). CDD supervisors serve four-year terms. Three of the seats, including Casale’s, will face elections in November 2012 and the remaining two seats, including Ragusa’s, will face election in November 2014. 

Major action at the Sept. 13 meeting, however, began with supervisors reviewing a list of qualified bidders for their landscaping contract. In August the CDDs landscaper, Vila & Son, pulled out of Westchase after experiencing financial difficulties. Meeting late in August, supervisors approved the bid specifications and adopted a process for bidding the contract. At the Sept. 13 session, District Manager Andy Mendenhall reviewed the results of the work of the districts’ bid committee, which reviewed, among other things, 14 interested companies’ financial strengths, sizes, scopes of current contracts, and past experience working with CDDs and the Westchase districts’ independent horticultural reviewer, OLM, Inc. Mendenhall then stated that the committee deemed six of the 14 firms qualified to bid.

When asked, CDD Field Manager Doug Mays stated that he believed current interim landscaper, Design Management, should be included among those deemed qualified to bid. A motion to include the company failed, however, after it earned a tie on the CDD and gained only the votes of CDD East Supervisors Ernie Sylvester and Susan Edgereley on the CDD East.

Subsequently supervisors unanimously passed a motion authorizing Mendenhall to seek bids from the six companies.

Addressing the meeting before its 5:34 p.m. adjournment, a few supervisors who will lose their seats as the result of the merger expressed their thanks to their fellow supervisors and CDD staff for making their time on the board enjoyable. “I would like to take the opportunity to say how much I appreciate the board members who will continue to serve,” stated CDD East Supervisor Lewis Patterson. “I hope things go well for you.”

CDD East Supervisor Edgerley concurred, stating, “It’s been a pleasure working with the staff. I’ve never worked with finer people.”

CDD Supervisor Keith Heinemann, who agreed to serve out a handful of months remaining in the term of CDD Supervisor Bill Kemerer (Kemerer resigned earlier in the year after moving outside of Westchase), added, “I also wanted to say thanks in particular to Andy [Mendenhall] and Erin [Larrinaga] for answering questions that I’ve had.” Referring to CDD Field Supervisor Mays and Office Manager Sonny Whyte, Heinemann continued, “I’ve always been a fan of the group at the end of the table.” He added, “It’s a very talented group of people.”

In other actions:

Supervisors approved a request from World of Beer to post banners for its Oktoberfest celebration in the Linebaugh median. The event will benefit a charity.

Supervisors unanimously approved an interim bid by Design Landscape for the application of fertilizers and pesticides until the new landscape contractor begins Nov. 1.

CDD East supervisors voted 4-1, with Supervisor Edgerley opposed, to authorize Mays to spend up to $3,500 to install a fence separating newly installed exercise equipment at Baybridge Park from the existing children’s playground equipment.

CDD Engineer Tonja Stewart informed supervisors that county construction plans for the expansion of Linebaugh Avenue from two to four lanes between Countryway Boulevard and Race Track Road have been finalized. Stewart, however, advised supervisors to explore street light requirements with TECO and offer input on the number of lights on that stretch of road.

Addressing CDD East Supervisor Brian Ross’ concerns about West Park Village street flooding during rainstorms, Stewart committed to investigating the issue and walking West Park Village’s storm-water system to identify a solution. Ross stated that recent storms caused significant flooding on West Park Village Drive and Rowlett Way, with water rising as high as the top step on homeowners’ front porches. While Stewart and CDD staff have acknowledged the problem for the past three months, Ross insisted they expedite a solution. “The problem is getting worse,” he stated. “My concern is we have a safety problem here.”

CDD supervisors unanimously approved the renewal of a contract authorizing the Westchase Soccer Association’s use of Glencliff Park for its fall season.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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