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CDD Passes Budget With No Assessment Increase

At their public budget hearing, CDD supervisors passed a budget that leaves CDD assessments largely unchanged from 2015 levels.

The meeting’s end also saw a surprise announcement that long-time Westchase CDD Chair Mark Ragusa was selling his Harbor Links/The Estates home and would be leaving the CDD board no later than June of 2017.

The district’s public budget hearing, when supervisors hear from residents about the budget and assessments, saw comments only from Jane Carter, the owner of the commercial parcel holding the Westchase Burger King on Sheldon Road. Carter asked if there was anything supervisors could do to address her high commercial CDD assessments. Stating her fees were the same as Applebee’s and CVS’ assessments but her parcel was far smaller, she added, “They really are a hardship to pay.”

CDD Chair Mark Ragusa and Supervisor Greg Chesney explained that commercial assessments are a complex combination of parcel size and the average number of trips the type of business on the parcel generates. In Carter’s case, for example, the number of car visits an average fast food establishment generates daily is higher than a pharmacy’s. The board acknowledged, however, that Carter’s assessment could be high because the size of her parcel included a significant portion of unusable wetland behind the restaurant, which Carter expressed willingness to deed over to the district.

Deeming Carter’s proposal “an interesting concept,” Ragusa asked District Manager Andy Mendenhall to research the three commercial parcels to determine the equity of the assessments for next year but informed Carter it was too late to adjust assessments for the current budget cycle.

After offering no further input on the proposed spending plan, supervisors passed the budget and its assessments with a 4-0 vote. Supervisor Jim Mills participated in the meeting by phone and Brian Ross was absent from the meeting.

Making her report, CDD Engineer Tonja Stewart stated a review suggested that significant erosion repairs were needed to approximately 60 Westchase ponds, totaling 59,049 lineal feet. She estimated the repair bill at $5 million, a challenge given that approximately $60,000 was set aside for erosion repairs in the coming year’s budget. Stewart mentioned again that past erosion repairs, which involved laying down coconut jute, backfilling the pond banks and then planting them with aquatic plants had largely failed because the plants did not take root.

Stewart stated that Bio Mass Tech was now recommending repairs done with Flexamat, a grid of 6.5-inch square, low-profile concrete blocks linked by a polypropylene grid that allows plant material to sprout between them. (Field Manager Doug Mays stated that sod can also be placed on top of it.) Its cost, however, is $110 per lineal foot. Stewart’s estimate prompted Ragusa to remark, “When are we going to start special assessing those who back up to the lakes?”

Stewart stated that the district could take a less expensive route of planting the one aquatic plant that has successfully taken root, Club Rush, which costs $1 per square foot. She added, however, that some residents adamantly dislike aquatic plantings and Mays, speaking to WOW after the meeting, stated some homeowners will even remove plants after the district puts them in, leaving their yards prone to further erosion.

As the result, Supervisor Greg Chesney remarked that perhaps the district could send a waiver to homeowners who oppose the plantings, making clear the homeowners were subsequently responsible for the collapse of their yards into the ponds.

While staff was asked to come back with a plan for addressing all erosion repairs, Mays cited two areas that needed immediate attention. One was 350 feet of a pond bank behind four Greensprings homes. The other was the creek that passes behind homes in Keswick Forest and Glenfield. He stated portions of the creek bank were eroding and that 1,500 feet of the creek needed dredging to remove trees, palmettoes and other obstructions. He estimated the two projects would cost $100,000. Staff was instructed to get bids for the work for October’s CDD meeting.

Mays and CDD Office Manager Sonny Whyte announced that work would commence on the West Park Village splash fountain and tot playground in the next few days, with an expected completion date of Oct. 15. Mays added that the work on Glencliff Park, delayed due to the manufacturer of the playground equipment, is also expected by mid-October. Mays mentioned, however, that staff had developed a less expensive drainage plan, coming in at $15,000 for Glencliff Park.

Ragusa then announced his Westchase home was currently for sale and his family would be moving out of Westchase and closer to downtown. He was unsure when the sale might trigger his resignation from his CDD seat (state law holds that CDD supervisors must reside within the district) but stated it would be no later than June. Ragusa was elected to a four-year term in November 2015. The board will be responsible for naming a resident to any vacancy.

Supervisor Bob Argus closed the meeting by stating he would discuss with staff the “still deplorable landscaping here.” In recent months, Argus has been critical of the district’s landscaping contractor, Davey.

In other news:

Supervisors discussed compensation for the four CDD staff members at length, ultimately passing a motion 3-1, which Chesney opposed, to approve a two percent increase in salary in 2017 with a bonus of 10 percent of staff's total annual salary to be distributed to the four staff members at District Manager Andy Mendenhall’s discretion. The motion also permits the continuation of the district’s practice of awarding smaller holiday bonuses in December.

Stating that WOW Publisher Chris Barrett had recently reminded the WCA and district that this year was Westchase’s 25th anniversary, CDD Chair Mark Ragusa asked staff to pull together ways of celebrating or acknowledging it. Staff stated they could explore the creation of 25th anniversary banners that could be hung from light poles in West Park Village Town Center and the parks. Ragusa also asked them to explore the possibility of holding a small community party in conjunction with the Westchase Charitable Foundation’s Santa Parade in December.

CDD Attorney Erin McCormick stated she had hammered out a drainage agreement with Flournoy Companies, who won rezoning of a parcel off Thomas Ranch Lane, increasing its density from just over 60 units to just over 200. The agreement provides the CDD with an easement over drainage to ensure the district can act to address any problems with stormwater flow. Flournoy’s drainage basin drains the eastern edge of West Park Village and nearly all of The Vineyards.

Supervisors adjourned at 5:41 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

Posted 14 September 2016

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