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CDD Supervisors Address Board Vacancy and Noise Complaint Against Movies in the Park

The final CDD meeting of 2012 saw the acceptance of CDD Supervisor Ernie Sylvester’s resignation and a board that deadlocked on his replacement. The meeting also saw supervisors again address a Stamford's resident's demand that the Westchase Community Association's (WCA) popular Movies in the Park, held in Baybridge Park, be ended there because of its noise levels.

In a two-hour meeting largely filled with old business items and housekeeping issues, supervisors began by addressing the board’s membership. Sworn into four-year terms on the board were incumbent CDD Supervisor Brian Ross of West Park Village, elected by default in November’s General Election when no other district resident challenged him, and new supervisor Brian Zeigler of The Bridges. Zeigler won the seat on Nov. 6, outpolling former CDD Supervisor Bob Argus of Lexington Park.

Supervisors then turned to a vacancy caused by their acceptance of Supervisor Ernie Sylvester’s resignation. In November Sylvester had indicated his intention to resign due to medical issues, but, to ease the transition, he delayed it until he could be officially sworn into his seat on Nov. 21.  Like Ross, Sylvester had won reelection to his seat when no other resident but Sylvester filed to run for it.

While the four existing supervisors debated whether to postpone naming his replacement until January to see if any other residents indicated an interest in serving, they ultimately interviewed and considered two candidates who were present – Argus and former WCA Director Joseph Payne of The Greens.

In introducing himself, Payne, a former Westchase Community Association (WCA) board member, touted his engineering background and current work as an engineer for other CDDs outside of Westchase. A volunteer who works on a county contractor licensing review board, Payne also sought to allay CDD Supervisor Mark Ragusa’s concerns that his work with the county or other districts might preclude Payne from voting due to potential conflicts of interest. Payne’s assurances that he foresaw no issues seemed to win over Ragusa, who later indicated support for Payne’s appointment.

Already familiar to sitting board members, Argus fielded fewer questions. CDD Supervisor Ross, however, pointed out that Argus, a former Westchase homeowner who now leases an apartment in a Westchase complex, had touted his status as a non-property owning resident of the district as an asset. Argus had argued he would bring a point of view to the board that was currently not represented. Ross, however, stated he didn’t necessarily agree. As residents who don’t directly pay CDD assessments, he observed that apartment renters, who tend to be more transient than property owners, could be less supportive of capital improvement projects within the district. Argus, however, made an effort to convince him otherwise.

In a straw poll to determine if either candidate had a support of three of the four sitting supervisors, Payne and Argus tied, with Payne receiving support from both Ross and Ragusa and Argus receiving support from Zeigler and CDD Supervisor Greg Chesney. Supervisors ultimately decided to table the decision until January, adding they were open to still considering other candidates. Interested residents can contact District Manager Andy Mendenhall at amendenhall@severntrentms.com or 991-1116.

Turning to other matters, CDD supervisors gave final approval to a contract to repave West Park Village’s alleys. The repaving will cost approximately $125,000. West Park’s homeowners are specially assessed for amenities unique to that neighborhood such as alleys and streetlights and there are already adequate funds in West Park Village reserves to cover the work.

CDD Attorney Erin McCormick stated she had also discussed the suspended fee differential between residents and non-residents for rentals of Glencliff and Baybridge park pavilion with the assistant to Hillsborough County’s attorney. The county attorney had previously expressed concerns the district was charging non-residents $50 for reservations while charging homeowners, whose assessments pay for all park maintenance, $25. Supervisors suspended the higher non-resident fee in November. McCormick stated that Christine Beck of the county attorney’s office was “very receptive” of the district holding discussions with the parks department over eventually permitting the fee differential. In previous discussions, the county’s attorney has held that charging non-residents a higher fee would violate the interlocal agreement that transferred ownership of the parks to the district.

Following up on Glencliff residents’ complaints of parties and trespassing in wooded areas off Glencliff Park, Field Supervisor Doug Mays stated he had investigated the areas pinpointed by residents but could find no evidence of parties or fires. He added, however, that district staff was still monitoring the situation with the off-duty deputy patrol.

Mays added that a Stamford homeowner, whose home backs up to Baybridge Park, still appeared unsatisfied with noise reductions from the Westchase Community Association’s (WCA) popular Movies in the Park there. The homeowner has complained to the CDD and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office about the noise levels from the movies, held the second Friday of the month. In response to the complaint, district staff redirected the movie speakers to lessen the noise and the WCA has indicated it will no longer show movies during the summer months to ensure they end at an earlier hour. After the meeting, District staff added that Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy, employed by the district's off-duty patrol, investigated the matter during a recent movie and reported that the noise levels did not rise to the nuisance level that would violate county codes. The changes, however, have not satisfied the homeowner, who, in a Dec. 5 e-mail to the district, questioned whether supervisors were simply stalling to enable the showing of more movies.

Supervisors requested that district staff invite the homeowner to address the matter with them at the Jan. 8 CDD meeting, but in his Dec. 5 response to that invitation, the homeowner wrote, “I appreciate your invitation to meet with the CDD on January 8th, 2013 to discuss the Movies in the Park program, however, I am not sure what there is to discuss.”

The homeowner reiterated his demand that the Movies in the Park be ended at Baybridge Park and moved elsewhere. He added, “I’ve tried to resolve this issue diplomatically, but we are at point where it may require litigation, publicity, or both to force a decision by the CDD.”

Concluding his comments, Mays assured supervisors that only the single resident was complaining about the matter and added, “It’s up the board to [decide if they will] let one resident ruin it for everyone.”

At the December meeting supervisors also heard from two board members from Stonebridge’s homeowners association. Susan Cannon and Joan Kanast stated homeowners in their gated neighborhood were strongly opposed to a request coming from an owner of a parcel of land lying to the east of Stonebridge. That owner, which recently acquired the parcel of land through foreclosure, has requested the right to access the land through Stonebridge when the land might also be accessible through Promise Lane, located off Sheldon Road. For the second month supervisors took no action in an open meeting regarding the request and assured Cannon and Kanast they would keep the Stonebridge HOA apprised of the matter.

Responding to reports of an aggressive coyote in Radcliffe that both approached a resident with her dogs and is suspected of killing and eating the homeowner’s cat, CDD Supervisor Brian Ross proposed a motion requested that staff investigate the possible hiring of a licensed trapper. The motion passed 3-1. Casting the lone vote in opposition, Supervisor Chesney remarked. “I think that’s a crazy idea. Leave the thing alone.”

While the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) keeps a list of licensed trappers who capture nuisance animals, the FWC does not recommend trapping as a solution to coyotes. Stating trapping is expensive and ultimately doesn’t work (other coyotes will quickly move in to the territory of captured animals), the FWC instead advises Florida residents simply exercise caution. While there have been no reports of attacks on humans in Florida, coyotes, which generally avoid humans, will prey on small household pets. The commission recommends housecats always be kept inside and dogs be walked on short leashes. If approached, residents are advised to raise and wave their arms and make loud noises.

Closing the meeting, Supervisor Ragusa praised Mays for his response quick response to the removal of a large deer carcass from a Westchase sidewalk over Thanksgiving. He stated the experience was another example of the responsiveness of district staff. Ragusa stated he had reported the matter to Mays by phone over the holiday. “Not four or five minutes later, he was there removing it.” Ragusa added, “Thank you for doing that.”

In other actions:

Supervisors directed CDD Attorney Erin McCormick to draft a letter that District Manager Andy Mendenhall will send on his letterhead to homeowners whose backyard fences encroach on district-owned land around Westchase ponds. Supervisors have identified a handful of homes in The Bridges and The Greens with fences encroaching on district property; supervisors have indicated they will require homeowners to move them to the correct property line.

Supervisors gave formal approval to holiday bonuses for the four CDD staff members. The bonus amounts remained unchanged from amounts included in the fiscal budget that began in October 2012.

Supervisors approved Field Manager Doug Mays’ recommendations that the soccer fields at Glencliff Park be closed throughout July to allow them to recover from use. Mays also stated that, after consulting some experts on Bermuda grass maintenance, that the district will change the way it aerates the fields.

Supervisors took no action on a proposal to fence the Glencliff soccer fields at a cost of $25,000 and the basketball courts at a cost of $12,500 after Mays observed that the fences would likely prove aesthetically unpopular while not successfully keeping individuals off the fields.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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