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CDD Rehashes Budget, Splash Fountain and Nearby Development

In July supervisors of the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) again saw their conversations dominated by a proposed budget draft, a West Park Village splash fountain and issues related to a parcel of undeveloped land lying east of Stonebridge.

CDD Chair Mark Ragusa began the July 9 meeting by greeting 11 Boy Scouts and three of their adult leaders from Troop 46. The group attended the meeting to learn about local governance.

Supervisors then turned attention to the parcel adjacent to Stonebridge. In coverage of the June CDD meeting, WOW’s report described the former property of John Bailey, Inc., now held by Tiger Investment Group, Inc., a subsidiary of Florida Capital Bank, as having been acquired by an attorney who was seeking access to it through Stonebridge to build 20 townhomes there. That description was inaccurate. The parcel is still owned by Tiger Investment Group and the attorney simply has a contingency agreement to purchase the parcel. The formal purchase, Ragusa suggested, might be contingent upon the developer gaining access through Stonebridge.

Referring to Ragusa, CDD Attorney Erin McCormick stated, “Mark and I met on June 18 with the proposed developer of that property.” McCormick reiterated that the developer hoped to gain access to the landlocked parcel through Stonebridge and hoped to build 20 townhomes, a clubhouse and a barbecuing area there. At June’s CDD meeting, a group of Stonebridge residents made clear their strong opposition to providing access.

Ragusa emphasized that he had communicated that opposition to the attorney holding the contingency agreement.

When invited to address the issue, Stonebridge HOA’s president, Davis Bullard, presented a petition signed by 54 of the 66 Stonebridge Villa owners and stated, “The community is strongly opposed to this.” He added, “We believe if the [access] easement is granted, it will create substantial pedestrian and vehicular risks.”

Bullard estimated that the 20 proposed homes would produce 150 to 200 additional trips per day down Bridgeton Drive through Stonebridge, a road he described as already very congested and crossed on foot by both homeowners and students attending Davidsen Middle School.

Supervisors accepted the petition. Ragusa closed discussion, stating that the district currently had no reason to take further action, absent another formal request or legal demand from Tiger Investment Group.

Turning to the draft of their 2014 budget, the board again debated the proper level of reserves and the appropriate amount that should be budgeted for capital expenditures. While $100,000 was originally placed into the capital expenditure line, CDD Supervisor Brian Ross suggested it be reduced to approximately $44,000 because most of the currently proposed projects accepted by supervisors will likely be funded out of this year’s budget and reserves. With no other projects foreseen, Ross stated the smaller amount should be budgeted to cover those unexpected expenditures that creep up annually.

While his move to reduce the line item seemed to have majority support, supervisors postponed adjusting the line until District Manager Andy Mendenhall could clarify if changes had been made to the draft based on input from supervisors’ June meeting.

Thus, the draft budget – and the assessment tables published in June’s WOW – went unchanged. Supervisors could, however, make further adjustments and reductions at their Aug. 6 meeting. That meeting represents the formal public hearing for the budget, at the end of which supervisors will likely adopt the district’s finalized 2014 spending plan.

Addressing proposed renovations to the West Park Village spray area, Field Supervisor Doug Mays said a recent visit to Ballast Point, which has a facility similar to one proposed for the splash area, prompted some concerns. “That water park was so crowded,” he stated. “It could possibly cause a lot of issues.”

Describing concerns with liability, Mays stated, “I’m more inclined to advise the board to downsize the area.” He added, “Give us a little more time to research something like this.”

CDD Supervisor Brian Zeigler agreed. After previously expressing concerns about adequate parking in the area, he stated, “I’m starting to lean towards something more simplistic.”

The board consensus appeared to move away from the proposed, large, metal splash structures initially considered. “I like the Children’s Museum,” observed Supervisor Greg Chesney, citing the splash fountain at Curtis Hixon Park. “Big pipes. Pretty lights.”

Describing the Curtis Hixon Park’s splash area as downtown’s homeless shower, Ragusa, however, stated he didn’t want changes that would attract a lot of people to the area and create parking issues.

Supervisors ultimately asked Mays to return with a proposal that would upgrade the existing spray area, perhaps expanding its sprayers and improving its lighting, plumbing and pumping system, without adding splash park features that could draw significant crowds.

In other actions:

Supervisors briefly discussed the acquisition of available land parcels and explored accessibility issues regarding the properties. Addressing a large, undeveloped West Park Village parcel that had recently gone through foreclosure, Supervisor Brian Ross stated that the bank that owned the parcel informed him it had a signed contract with a developer for the land.

Supervisors unanimously approved a one-year contract for district auditor, Grau & Associates.

Field Supervisor Doug Mays presented resident requests that the CDD do something about enforcing the Westchase ban on fireworks, particularly in gated communities like The Greens, where the district has jurisdiction over the roads. Ragusa, however, responded, “We don’t have law enforcement capacity.”

Ragusa added the district could direct its off-duty deputy patrol to work New Year’s Eve but added it may be difficult finding deputies willing to work on holidays. Stockbridge resident Joe Odda closed discussion by suggesting additional education of residents, like the reminder e-mail circulated by the Westchase Community Association a few days before the Fourth about the community's firework ban, would help minimize their use.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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