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CDD Supervisors to Explore Locations for New Cell Towers

At the Oct. 2 Westchase CDD meeting, supervisors agreed to explore potential locations for new cell towers to enhance cellular service in Westchase.

Speaking to supervisors was Alan Ruiz of Vertex Communications. Ruiz brought an image of nearby cell towers and their coverage, illustrating that a significant part of the Westchase community—specifically neighborhoods along the Countryway Boulevard corridor—lies outside of the 1.5 mile diameter coverage of the seven closest cell towers.

Ruiz added that the ideal solution to enhance cellular service would be a 150-foot tower located on the property of the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center on Countryway Boulevard or Glencliff Park.

Three Glencliff residents attended the meeting with Bill Eddleman carrying a petition from 26 Glencliff homeowners. It requested the district find a workable location for a tower than would enhance coverage. “Most people have a problem with their in-home reception,” Eddleman stated.

Glencliff resident Danielle Riley added that it was nearly impossible for residents to work from home, adding she could neither receive or send no cell calls from inside. She suggested placing the tower in nearby conservation areas.

Ruiz, however, stated that conservation areas, which are environmentally protected lands, were off-limits for towers. Offering an image of Glencliff Park, he stated the ideal location for a tower there was on the eastern side of its northern parking lot between the lot and a conservation area. He stated that while the base of the tower could be camouflaged by a fence or landscaping, a person could throw a ball from the proposed location and hit the closest Glencliff home.

Supervisors expressed concerns that residents would be opposed to a tower in such close proximity, although Eddleman advised, given the lack of cell coverage, that assuming great opposition from the neighborhood might be incorrect. Eddleman acknowledged his Glencliff petition was silent on actual locations.

Ruiz added that 5G service, projected to roll out in the next three years, would allow residents of communities that have it to break free of cable services and simply wirelessly stream all programing and internet service directly into homes. He added, however, that to make it work, carriers would have to be able to place 50-foot towers down major thoroughfares like Linebaugh Avenue and Countryway Boulevard. Yet making these shorter towers operational would require reliable cell service throughout the community, which Westchase currently lacks.

Over the last decade, there have been a few attempts to bring cell towers into the community to enhance service. The earliest, a proposed tower on the Westchase Golf Course land, was taken out of consideration after Harbor Links residents opposed it. More recently, the CDD briefly considered leasing land near the Maureen Gauzza Library for a tower, but supervisors declined to move forward when the offered leasing fee proved low.

Ruiz stated that opposition to towers most commonly arises from both aesthetic concerns and from worries about the impact of the towers’ electro-magnetic waves on the human body. He pointed out that there was no scientific basis for the concern and added that holding a cell phone to your ear creates a greater amount of electromagnetic radiation near your skull than any nearby cell tower does.

Riley, however, suggested that as homeowners have become more dependent on wireless and cellular services, Westchase’s inability to offer reliable coverage would do more damage to home prices in the long run than any nearby tower.

Looking at the coverage map offered by Ruiz, Supervisor Brian Ross stated, “It seems like we need two towers, one at Glencliff Park and one at the library.”

Ross added that community cellular service could be enhanced by offering another, shorter tower in the back of Brentford.

“I would like to see state of the art service for Westchase,” said Supervisor Barbara Griffith.

Supervisors ultimately tasked staff with identifying possible locations for towers for review and discussion at a CDD workshop at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 23, at the Maureen Gauzza Library.

With Ruiz’s departure, supervisors reviewed an initial version of a layered, digital map prepared by the district’s engineering company, aimed at tracking work history on various CDD owned parcels and ponds. While initially seen as being available community-wide, the licensing fee provides for only 10 users with each additional user costing $100 per year. Thus, the map will likely be used for only in-house purposes.

Supervisors, however, were very happy with its initial rollout and expressed interest in seeing additional layers added to the map. “I think it’s fantastic,” said Griffith.

Supervisor Matthew Lewis, who worked with Stantec staff to develop it, said he was quite impressed with the two individuals with whom he worked.

District Manager Andy Mendenhall of Inframark stated that staff reviews had been concluded and he requested the board’s consideration of staff bonuses for this year and staff salaries for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. Stating that Field Manager Doug Mays and Office Manager Sonny Whyte were compensated at high levels of current market standards, Supervisor Greg Chesney suggested a CPI increase of two percent but stated he supported five percent increases for lower staff members Livan Soto and Christian Guaba. He added a recommendation for a five percent performance bonus for FY 2018, which concluded Sept. 30. Supervisors passed Chesney’s motion 4-1, with Supervisor Griffith opposed. Griffith stated she supported a 2.5 percent increase for Mays and Whyte.

Supervisors then approved a holiday bonus of $1,250 for Mays and Whyte and $500 for Soto and Guaba, 4-1, with Griffith again opposed. She stated she was opposed to holiday bonuses and felt that the compensation should instead be reflected in performance bonuses. “To write a check just because it’s the holiday is not the right thing to do,” she said.

Making his field manager’s report, Mays stated he attempts to weigh the best approaches to the trimming of oleander hedges behind homes on Montague Street in The Bridges and Gretna Green Drive in The Fords. He also factors in resident feedback on the timing and frequency of cutbacks. “It’s tough to make everyone happy,” said Mays. “My plan is to cut them back after the holidays,”

Mays stated, however, that he was bringing a Bridges resident’s request that the hedges be trimmed back now.

Supervisor Ross stated that this was not an example of work being missed and he thought it would not be appropriate for the board to weigh in an overrule the informed opinions of its professional staff regarding landscaping. “I don’t ever see that becoming a board function,” he stated. “Board members should stay out of that.”

Supervisor Jim Mills agreed. “Thanks for bringing it to our attention. Please keep doing what you’re doing,” he said.

During supervisors’ comments, Supervisor Lewis thanked staff for getting additional bids for pond bank erosion repair. While observing the additional quote, using a different approach to repairs than that recently implemented by more expensive BioMass, was a good deal lower, he stated he recently discovered that a pond bank repair in his neighborhood, previously fixed using the less expensive approach, was already showing signs of renewed erosion.

Asked if there were any updates on the potential district purchase of the Westchase Golf Course, Supervisor Greg Chesney, charged with handling negotiations, said that owner Nick Neubauer recently reached out to him and requested a lunch meeting in the second week of October. Supervisor Ross asked Chesney to explore with Neubauer if he had any reasons for negotiations over the deal lapsing. “I’m just totally unclear as to what happened,” said Ross.

Chesney committed to returning with a report of the meeting.

Closing major action, supervisors approved a motion to build a Greendale entrance monument at a cost not to exceed $40,000, taken from the current Greens neighborhood’s reserve surplus. Supervisor Jim Mills, acknowledging he is a Greendale resident, stated he had proposed the project because Greendale is the only Westchase subdivision without its own entrance monument.

In other actions:

Supervisors approved their meeting schedule for FY 2018, adding workshops on Tuesdays two weeks prior to regularly scheduled meetings. These workshops will only be held as needed at 4 p.m. at the Maureen Gauzza Library. Regular CDD meetings at which the board conducts official business are held on the first Tuesdays of each month at 4 p.m. at the WCA offices on Parley Drive. Meetings in July and September are often held on the second Tuesdays of the month due to Labor Day and Independence Day.

Supervisors took no action on a request by their landscaper, Davey, for reimbursement for a $3,000 increase in annuals for Westchase flowerbeds. Earlier this year, Davey had agreed to extend its contract with the district for an additional year at the existing contract price.

Citing the fact that they did not hear back regarding the request, supervisors took no action on a MOMS Club member’s request to install a fence around the West Park Village actuating fountain.

Addressing an inquiry by Supervisor Brian Ross about recent flooding at Glencliff Park, Field Manager Mays stated that the porous subsurface of the playground became saturated by recent rains and staff purchased an additional sump pump to remove excess water. Addressing residents’ social media complaints about the park equipment, Ross and Mays reminded those present that proposed park equipment had been published in WOW to for resident feedback before its installation. Ross added that the recent redesign of parks was purposefully done to offer different types of equipment at the different parks to attract different age groups to each.

CDD Office Manager Sonny Whyte stated a planned sliding board at Glencliff Park was delayed due to a fire at the slide’s manufacturing facility.

Supervisors adjourned at 6:45 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

Posted Oct. 4, 2018


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