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CDD Passes 2013 Budget With Reduction in Assessments

The Aug. 8 meeting of the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) saw the passage of a budget that reflects no assessment increases and envisions no major capital improvement projects in the coming year.

The only resident appearing to address supervisors on spending issues was Bennington Voting Member David Love. Love’s neighborhood is currently working to update its Westchase Community Association (WCA) mailbox guideline in order to replace the neighborhood’s white mailboxes with black metal ones – similar to those in Harbor Links/The Estates, West Park Village and Radcliffe. Love suggested the CDD might help with process by paying for the mailboxes and then assessing homeowners over two years to cover their replacement. He also suggested supervisors consider replacing existing county street signs throughout Westchase with black metal signs like those in Radcliffe and other neighborhoods. He pointed out this would create a more consistent look throughout the community.

Supervisors observed, however, that they could not add such large expenditures at this point in their budget process when the district has already submitted an estimate of assessments for the county’s property tax trim notices. Under current rules, assessments cannot increase beyond estimates sent to the county. After suggesting they could consider the street sign conversion as part of the 2014 budget, they also pointed out that the CDD had never handled mailbox conversions in any non-gated neighborhood and would decline to set a precedent of doing so.

The only changes made to the district’s previously proposed 2013 spending plan ultimately came at the suggestion of Alan Baldwin, a member of the financial team at Severn Trent, the district’s management company. Pointing out that reserve schedules for repaving of West Park Village’s alleys and Primrose Lane would be changed by their upcoming resurfacing, Baldwin stated his reserve estimates would allow supervisors to lower a portion of their 2013 assessments.

Accepting Baldwin’s suggestions, supervisors ultimately voted unanimously to accept their 2013 budget and assessments. All homeowners except The Enclave will likely see minor decreases of one to three percent, with West Park Village’s assessment perhaps dropping a bit more. Homeowners in Radcliffe and the villages off Countryway Boulevard, however, will see their assessments decline as much as 20 percent. This is due to a credit arising from last year’s payoff of 20-year bonds, which originally paid for infrastructure construction (Bonds in the eastern villages of Westchase won’t be paid off until 2016-2020, thus those homeowners still have debt service as part of their CDD assessments.). Commercial property owners will likely see their assessments increase somewhere between one and three percent.

Appearing at the meeting, Glenfield resident Bill Geary requested the district’s help in addressing significant flooding in his backyard from a CDD-owned retention pond. Addressing the matter, CDD staff informed supervisors that the original owner of the home, which Geary purchased in 2006, had requested the CDD not increase the elevation of the pond bank across the property in order to preserve an oak tree straddling the property line. Geary, however, pointed out that  the lower pond bank pond allows his property to flood with increasing frequency when the pond level rises during heavy rains. The constant flooding has even damaged the tree. Geary requested the district remove the tree, raise the elevation of his yard and the pond bank to match his neighbors, and then re-sod and irrigate the area as was originally planned. Declining to do work on Geary’s property itself, supervisors agreed  to share costs associated with the tree removal while raising the elevation of the pond bank in the CDD-owned land. With Geary agreeing to fund the work on his own property, supervisors requested CDD staff coordinate the work with him and assist with extra fill, if available, to raise the elevation of his backyard.

CDD Engineer Tonja Stewart also briefed supervisors on recent work to address street flooding. Stewart stated that recent investigations of areas flooding along Gingerwood Drive in Woodbridge and in West Park Village had revealed a series of bulkheads that had not been removed from the storm water system following construction. Stewart stated that three had been found north of Linebaugh Avenue and 12 had been found throughout West Park Village.

The bulkheads date back to the original construction of Westchase’s infrastructure, when contractors bricked up storm sewer pipes, leaving just a few inches at the top for water flow. Contractors install bulkheads during construction to keep workers safe while working in incomplete storm sewer systems. The bulkheads, however, should have been removed upon completion of the work. Leaving them in place greatly restricts drainage, perhaps contributing to street flooding. Stewart stated she hoped their removal would enhance drainage but offered the caveat that more water would now flow more quickly into the southern portions of the system. How this may impact West Park Village will only be made clear by future heavy rains.

Expressing some frustration at the piecemeal approach to resolving storm water system backups, Supervisor Brian Ross requested that Stewart prepare an estimate for completing a thorough check of the entire Westchase system for other bulkheads or blockages.

Concluding her report, Stewart added that previously planned work to enhance street drainage at Greymoor Place and Marblehead Drive within The Estates could not proceed because the existing storm water pipe is not large enough to handle the expansion of the sewer opening.

WCA President Joaquin Arrillaga then appeared before supervisors to explore the district’s willingness to permit the installation of a geothermal system in the CDD-owned canal between Parley Drive and Village Green. The system, if installed, could heat and cool the adjacent Village Swim and Tennis Club’s pool, which is currently closed during the cooler months. Supervisors offered their tentative consent and stated they would have their attorney produce an interlocal agreement if the association decided to proceed with the project.

Making his report, District Manager Andy Mendenhall stated the district recently received only one bid for a proposed Distributed Antennae System (DAS), a series of shorter cell phone/wireless antennae that do the work of a larger cell tower. “I get the impression we’re not that interesting to developers,” observed Supervisor Bill Casale, who has worked on the project.

Supervisors stated they would let their representative, Rusty Monroe of Monroe Telecom Associates, speak with individuals at the company, Crown Castle, to clarify some issues regarding their proposal.

Addressing supervisors, CDD Attorney Erin McCormick stated that conversations with Nick Neubauer and Clay Thomas, the Westchase Golf Course’s owner and manager, prompted her to conclude the course would decline to enter into any stormwater system maintenance agreement that bound the course to specific actions. In recent months, with the expectation that regulatory agencies would impose more stringent standards on storm water quality emerging from the Westchase system, supervisors decided to seek an agreement with the course, similar to those that exist between other golf courses and their surrounding districts. McCormick added, however, that Neubauer and Thomas stated a more general agreement pledging cooperation would be acceptable. Reassured that the golf course was giving CDD staff access to monitor the system, supervisors elected to take no further action.

Making his report, Field Manager Doug Mays stated that the first of a number of Hillsborough County grants for street trees recently allowed the district to purchase and install 29 new maple trees.

In other news, Mays stated the county believes that work in an alley just east of Tate Lane should be completed by roughly Aug. 23. A contractor is currently repairing a leaking storm sewer pipe that caused a depression to form in the alley when it settled and allowed soil above it to wash into the pipe.

Mays also added that Certus Builders, the firm hired to design the bid specification for the conversion of Harbor Links/The Estates gas lights to LED lights, is nearing completion of its work. Once the current location of existing gas and utility lines in the rights of way are pinpointed, the project will be ready for bid.

Supervisors adjourned at 6:17 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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