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CDD Supervisors Address Rezoning and Fence Issues

A 90-minute meeting of the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) on Aug. 2 saw supervisors discussing the proposed rezoning of property off Thomas Ranch Lane and the best way to deal with homeowners whose backyard fences encroach on CDD property.

Addressing supervisors, CDD Engineer Tonja Stewart detailed potential storm water drainage issues with the Thomas Ranch Lane parcel. That parcel, which currently holds four brick ranch homes off Sheldon Road and across from the proposed Costco, is currently zoned for 66 units. Its owner, Flournoy Companies of Georgia, has filed to rezone the property to more than triple its density to 218 units.

At their July meeting supervisors voted to support the WCA’s current opposition to the project. They cited concerns about increased traffic at the Sheldon/Linebaugh intersection and flooding concerns in the southeast part of West Park Village. In particular, Supervisor Ross pointed out that nearby portions of West Park Village had been previously prone to flooding and the development would likely add to storm water drainage issues there.

Stewart, however, distributed storm water basin maps that showed that the portions of West Park Village that had previously experienced street flooding actually sit in a distinct storm water basin than the Thomas Ranch Lane. The Thomas Ranch Lane parcel drains beneath Linebaugh Avenue before joining storm water outflows from the Costco parcel and heading southward.

This information, however, didn’t ameliorate the concerns of supervisors or Stewart. The same storm water basin also drains the areas lying south and east of Cavendish Drive’s intersection with Linebaugh Avenue. More significantly, the vast majority of The Vineyards and the commercial area holding the CVS pharmacy and Applebee’s lies in the same basin.

This conflicts with Flournoy Companies engineer, who, she said, stated at the July rezoning hearing that the Thomas Ranch parcel sat in a basin that did not serve Westchase. “It’s not clear to me how their engineer says they’re in a different drainage basin,” Stewart added.

Of concern, she said, was the fact that the entire basin drained southward through wetlands between The Vineyards and the Thomas Ranch Lane parcel before crossing beneath Linebaugh Avenue in a single pipe. “That is basically a bottleneck at the bottom southeast corner of their property,” Stewart added.

Again emphasizing that Flournoy hoped to more than triple the permitted units on the site, creating more paved parking areas that will increase storm water runoff, Ross cited West Park Village’s past experience and stated that if the county permits the rezoning, they will be back to spend a significant amount of money to address problems with drainage.

Other supervisors emphasized the importance of notifying the county that the Flournoy engineer’s testimony was not accurate. CDD Attorney Erin McCormick was asked to convey that information to county staff. CDD Supervisor Jim Mills added he would attend the Sept. 13 meeting of the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners, where the rezoning will come up for a final vote. (He is expected to attend with Westchase Community Association Director Joe Odda). Supervisors voted unanimously, 4-0, to support submitting the additional information and authorizing Mills to speak before the BOCC on the CDD’s behalf.

Turning to issues related to pond bank erosion repairs, Stewart stated that some of the district’s repairs of eroded pond banks in recent years – repairs that she recommended and which cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars, have failed. Stewart largely blamed the failure on aquatic plantings installed to strengthen the pond banks but which didn’t take.

Past erosion repairs largely involved the laying of jute across eroded areas, backfilling them and installing the plants.

Stewart stated the situation called for a significant multi-year plan and different approaches to address pond erosion. Referring to CDD staff members, Stewart stated, “I don’t think we have any choice based on what I’m hearing from Doug and Sonny.”

The plan, she added, could stretch as long as 10 to 15 years. Because supervisors cannot increase the current draft budget for 2017, the earliest the plan could be undertaken without financing or eating into the district’s fund balance would be October of 2017, when the 2018 budget would take effect. At that point, however, the current parks renovation project will be complete, freeing up $400,000 annually.

Stewart also stated that staff had hit upon an aquatic plant that would work in stabilizing banks but added, “The problem is you and your residents will hate it.”

Staff, however, stated they would likely spend up to $5,000 planting it in areas where it would least affect homeowners.

Supervisors then turned to the 2016 draft budget, which is slated to be approved at the Sept. 13 public budget hearing. For the second month they made no changes that affected the previously announced assessments. If approved next month, nearly all homeowners outside of gated neighborhoods will see no assessment changes. (Some homeowners in The Bridges and The Fords will see slight decreases as they are nearing the end of their debt payments on 20-year infrastructure bonds.)

Supervisors then turned to a request from a homeowner on Woodford Bridge Street. The owner has complained a neighbor lets a dog roam freely and the homeowner would like to put up a fence that would extend beyond his or her yard and cross the six feet of CDD property containing the oleanders and metal fence lining Montague Street. Staff stated there were three other homeowners who have already extended their backyard fences across CDD property in the same fashion.

CDD Attorney Erin McCormick stated that under current law, the CDD’s failure to notify homeowners of the encroachment could jeopardize district ownership of the land. While Supervisor Brian Ross was initially inclined to develop a license that would allow homeowners to install a fence with gates, provided they pay all legal fees associated with the agreement, Supervisor Mark Ragusa responded, “I’m going to speak out against the motion.” Ragusa added that the district had never allowed a homeowner to impact any CDD property in ways that could affect the district’s property rights.

Ragusa added that it would open the door to requests from owners to encroach on CDD property with pools, lanais and backyard play equipment. “That is arguably indefensible,” he said.

“I agree,” responded Supervisor Greg Chesney.

Ross withdrew the motion, adding, “You’ve persuaded me.”

Subsequently Ross offered a motion that McCormick notify the homeowners with fences encroaching on CDD property that they will have to remove the portion crossing the district’s land. The motion passed unanimously, 5-0 (Supervisor Bob Argus arrived to the meeting at 5:10 p.m.)

In other actions:

Field Manager Doug Mays stated work to repair a Glenfield brick wall was awaiting permits for the removal of trees. He also stated that permitting issues and legal issues surrounding contracts were delaying the completion of Glencliff Park and West Park Village splash pad and playground renovations.

CDD Attorney Erin McCormick concluded by stating she had still heard no response from Hillsborough County regarding CDD supervisors’ questions about a WCA-proposed interlocal agreement allowing the district to repave Westchase roads earlier than the current county timetable.

CDD staff also announced that the Westchase Soccer Association (WSA) had informed the district that it would not be requesting use of Glencliff Park’s fields for the fall soccer season due to delays associated with its renovation. WSA President Margot Pinheiro stated the association plans to return to Glencliff for the spring season.

Supervisors declined to take action on a Westchase Voting Members’ request that the WCA partner with the CDD to install pet waste stations in West Park Village. District staff pointed to a lack of common areas on which they could be placed. CDD supervisors instead encouraged staff to explore expanding the number of garbage cans they can place in those areas, enabling residents to dispose of bagged waste there.

Supervisors adjourned at 5:34 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

Posted 12 August 2016

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