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CDD Addresses Parks Bids, Westchase Soccer and WCA Road Repaving Proposal

The April 2016 meeting of the Westchase CDD finalized many aspects of the district’s parks improvement plan while supervisors wrestled with a few other potentially contentious issues.

During the four hour, ten minute meeting, supervisors discussed the Westchase Soccer Association’s use of Glencliff Park and an invitation by the Westchase Community Association (WCA) to attend an April 22 meeting to learn details of a county-proposed interlocal agreement. That agreement could get Westchase roads repaved early, but could come at a potential cost to the community. 

Opening the meeting, supervisors reviewed CDD Supervisor Greg Chesney’s financing plan for their current $1.5 million parks improvement program, which focuses on Baybridge and Glencliff Parks and the splash pad on the West Park Village Town Center green. The West Park Village area will also see the construction of a new tot playground. Chesney’s spreadsheet detailed funds already assessed and collected for the project ($812,000) and district fund balances. Chesney stated that a reserve fund for road repaving had been located. Dating back to Westchase’s development and totaling $502,000, the fund is needed to pave only three areas – a stretch of Radcliffe Drive before the Westchase Golf Course; a handful of common alleys in West Park Village (not those running behind neighborhood homes); and Whitmarsh Lane, a road that serves as access to the Westchase 7-Eleven, Primrose Preschool and a number of office buildings. Chesney said the district engineer estimated those roads could be repaved at a cost of $80,000. He then suggested transferring all but $5,333 from the road reserve account and using the balance for the parks plan. His plan would then have collected $5,333 annually in general assessments over the lifespan of the roads. His motion, however, failed 2-3 when only Chesney and one other supervisor supported it.  Supervisor Bob Argus, however, made an alternative motion to retain $80,000 in the road fund and transfer the balance, roughly $422,000, to the district’s general fund, where supervisors could spend it on something other than road repaving. While CDD Chair Mark Ragusa stated he would not support a future motion using the transferred funds to pay for the parks program, the fund transfer motion itself passed unanimously.

Supervisors then turned to a number of items surrounding Westchase Soccer Association’s (WSA) use of Glencliff Park. Ragusa began by stating that after last meeting, staff determined that the WSA had not requested the renewal of its usage agreement with the district for its current spring season. He added, however, that he had signed an interim agreement lasting until the April CDD meeting. Following supervisors’ ratification of that agreement, supervisors discussed approval of another agreement for the WSA’s use of Glencliff Parks’ fields for the current spring season ending May 21. During discussion of the motion, which ultimately passed unanimously, Supervisors Chesney and Brian Ross requested that staff and the board explore two matters before renewing the WSA’s fall contract for exclusive use of Glencliff Park. Ross inquired with Supervisor Mays about the costs for repairing and maintaining the Glencliff fields and Mays estimated $20,000 over three or four years. Currently those costs are borne by all Westchase homeowners. Ross suggested that the district should revisit asking the WSA, which consists of players from roughly 350 Westchase and non-Westchase families, to pay for the wear and tear it causes to Glencliff’s fields.

Stating he had received copies of the WSA’s IRS filings from previous years, Chesney also stated that he supported a district’s review of the WSA’s financials. Chesney suggested CDD Attorney Erin McCormick review both the non-profit group’s IRS filings for the three most recent years as well as its check registers. Doing so, he stated, would ensure that WSA leaders were not receiving compensation directly or indirectly. (The WSA has previously assured the district that its leaders were not receiving any compensation.) While initially proposing that the financials be reviewed before the contract for the current season was approved, Chesney agreed to put off the review until prior to the fall season after Supervisor Jim Mills disagreed. “I don’t disagree with the concept,” clarified Mills. “Just the timing.”

Speaking on behalf of the WSA, West Park Village resident Nick Kuhn argued against an in-depth financial review of the organization by the district. Kuhn stated that if the IRS accepted the documents from the WSA, the district should too. Stating the WSA was largely made up of Westchase families, Kuhn also argued that the WSA shouldn’t be charged for field maintenance. “Why should a Westchase family pay twice?” he stated, adding. “We need to take a step back.”

“That decision is not being made today,” Ragusa assured him.   

Chesney, however, countered that the IRS is merely a filing mechanism. “It is not a review,” he stated. Referring to the significant variances that appear on the WSA’s annual expenditure reports to the IRS, Chesney stated, “Some people have brought my attention to the fact that the financials are different from year to year.”

Supervisors ultimately approved the use contract for the WSA’s current season and Chesney requested CDD Attorney Erin McCormick contact the WSA to request a review of the three most recent years of IRS filings and their check registers prior to consideration of the fall agreement.

Later in the meeting, two Westchase residents, Dan Price of Keswick Forest and Tim Pivnichny of The Bridges, returned discussion to the WSA’s contract for using Glencliff Parks. While both praised the WSA, the duo stated they and their kids, who were playing flag football, were recently asked to leave Glencliff Park’s fields due to a WSA soccer practice. Pivnichny pointed out that Baybridge Park, where they usually played, was closed due to construction. Both men stated that one of the WSA leaders told them the soccer group had exclusive use of all grassy areas and referred to a letter posted by the WSA on a Glencliff bulletin board. That letter announced the WSA’s exclusive use provision without providing specific times of days to which it applied. Price also encouraged supervisors should consider usage fees for the WSA so all Westchase homeowners wouldn’t have to pay for the organization’s wear and tear on Glencliff’s fields. He argued the soccer group was made up of a small portion of Westchase homeowners and questioned whether their exclusive use of Glencliff’s fields was in the entire community’s best interest.

Pivnichny also questioned the propriety of the WSA’s posted letter, which featured the name of a law firm on the bottom. Pivnichny asked the district, when drafting the WSA’s next use contract, to ensure that it sets aside some playing space for other residents who are paying for the park. Citing Baybridge Park’s closure and the WSA’s throwing them off of Glencliff’s fields, Pivnichny said, “OK, where can we go?”

Present at the meeting, WSA leader Greg Pinheiro, however, stated, “If we have room, we never ask anyone to leave.” Pinheiro also charged that Price’s and Pivnichny’s players were an organized flag football team holding a practice in violation of the district’s use policies. (Organized groups are asked to show proof of insurance and to sign an agreement with the district.)

Price, however, countered that while some of the kids are on the same flag football team, others who played that afternoon were not. That distinction, however, was dismissed by Ragusa.

The WSA’s posted letter, however, also received pointed criticism from Ragusa and Ross. “Greg, I don’t like this letter at all,” stated Ragusa.

Ragusa stated he did not like how it purported to be from the CDD and expressed displeasure at its display of Hillsborough County’s logo and a law firm’s name.

Pinheiro, however, stated that the law firm’s name was included on the letter simply because they are a WSA sponsor and that the WSA didn’t originally draft the letter’s wording.

Ragusa, however, pointed out the letter was on the WSA’s letterhead.

“The letter is outrageous,” Ross added, “It is just outrageous.”

Ragusa initially told Pinheiro that the WSA should change the letter, but then shifted and asked McCormick to draft a replacement. He also encouraged Pinheiro, Pivnichny and Price to work together, adding that once the fields were reconfigured by the current park renovation project, “We may have to carve out areas for resident use during soccer season.”

Arguing against the idea, Pinheiro stated doing so would cause the return of parking issues during WSA soccer practices at the park.

Turning to other matters, CDD Manager Andy Mendenhall stated David Weekley Homes was still working on its approval process for a 36-townhome development on former commercial land near the high power lines in West Park Village. Observing that the plan allocated a single parking space for each townhome, Supervisor Ross stated this would push overflow parking out into adjacent neighborhood roads. “Will you let them know that at least one supervisor thinks their onsite parking is woefully inadequate?” he said.

Supervisor Bob Argus added, “Make that two.”

Kicking off another significant topic of discussion, Westchase Community Association (WCA) President Joaquin Arrillaga appeared at the meeting with fellow board members, Joe Odda and Ruben Collazo. The trio appeared to request CDD participation in the consideration of a potential interlocal agreement between Hillsborough County and either the WCA or CDD. That agreement could get Westchase roads repaved sooner than currently scheduled. Addressing the idea, which he unveiled it to VMs in March, Odda stated it emerged as a possibility during his work with the county as chair of the Government Affairs Committee (GAC). Odda stated the proposal followed a December vote by the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) made clear that Westchase would have to wait three to four years for repaving under the county’s current priority list.

Arrillaga, however, stated that under an interlocal agreement, the county would permit the WCA or CDD to repave the roads with money borrowed by the county. The WCA or CDD, however, would be the contracting entity for the job and the community would then be charged for interest payments on the loan until the county could pay off the loan principle.

Currently, however, Hillsborough County has a backlog of roads deemed critical but the county lacks the funds to do all the work. It’s also unclear when the county would have the funds to repay the loan’s principle.

When asked, Arrillaga stated that repaving costs for all roads outside of gated areas would cost roughly $2.5 million and the county suggested there might be an interest payment of two percent annually.

Ragusa, however, responded forcefully, “This supervisor is never going to support this.”  Instead, Ragusa suggested the WCA convey to the BOCC, “Do your job.” He added the county commission should be told, “You don’t do anything for Westchase.”

Ragusa added he was tired of Westchase deciding to foot the bill to undertake or enhance services the county should be providing. He cited the district’s ownership and maintenance of Baybridge and Glencliff Parks and its off-duty deputy patrol.

Ragusa observed that the county had no problem reaping significant amounts of tax dollars from Westchase property owners while offering little in return.

“The concept of financing $2 million for an undetermined period of time?” Ragusa scoffed. “Show me something,” he rhetorically demanded of county officials who weren’t present. “What have you done for us lately?

Arrillaga, however, said the county proposal, which was not clear yet, could conceivably reimburse the community completely and cost it nothing.

Odda, however, emphasized the group was simply there to request a CDD representative join them at a county meeting at the County Center on April 22 at 11 a.m. in order to get questions answered.

Addressing which entity was best for the agreement, Ross, who is also a director on the WCA Board, expressed concerns about assessing WCA homeowners for interest payments on road repaving and foreclosing upon homeowners who don’t pay. “I think it’s a horrible idea for the association to go into. A horrible idea.”

Ross added, however, “If it would work, it would be great for the CDD.”

During the balance of the meeting, supervisors selected the colors for Glencliff Park’s proposed playground equipment and approved numerous bids for work at the parks, including bids for Baybridge and Village park fencing, the repaving and striping of Baybridge Park’s lot, and the installation of security cameras, new plumbing fixtures, stop signs, and pavers (West Park Village park). Supervisors emphasized the need for staff to receive certification that all work being done was ADA compliant.

Returning to Westchase Soccer Association’s use of Glencliff Park during supervisor comments at the meeting’s end, Supervisor Chesney repeated his support for keeping Westchase parks open for use by all residents rather than granting exclusive use to groups such as the soccer organizations. “We don’t have to have their organization use our parks,” he stated. “Neighborhood parks are a great idea.”

Ross added, “I’m leaning toward questioning whether the Westchase Soccer Association is maintaining its commitment to the Westchase community.” Adding he was open to revisiting the relationship the district has with the organization, he emphasized the CDD cannot treat them differently than other groups. “Right now the WSA is a great asset for the community…but it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be scrutinized.”

In other items:

Supervisors again discussed hiring Fishkind and Associates, which developed the district’s current assessment methodology, to update areas associated with recent development changes. After the WOW reporter inquired why homeowners should be assessed for repaving Whitmarsh Lane, which serves as access for only commercial properties, staff was directed to inquire whether the update should include the proper way to assess the commercial land owners for the road if supervisors decide to assess just them for Whitmarsh’s maintenance.

CDD Attorney Erin McCormick informed supervisors that M/I Homes, which is developing land to the north of Stonebridge and west of Davidsen Middle and Sturbridge, had decided against transferring ownership of the large lake between the neighborhoods to the district. She stated M/I Homes instead wanted to grant the district a maintenance easement over the lake. After brief debate over the proposal, supervisors directed McCormick and CDD Engineer Tonya Stewart to discuss the proposal and make a joint recommendation to supervisors in May.

Paul Kovacik, the Westchase account manager for Davey Tree, the district’s landscaping company, attended the meeting to address the concerns of Supervisor Bob Argus, who has cited issues with weeds in the Westchase medians. Citing a number of areas of weeds he has recently reported to staff, WOW’s reporter stated he has not seen common areas in such poor condition since the district ended its in-house maintenance program. Kovacik assured those present he was personally addressing problem areas with a new chemical and expected to see results soon. Field Supervisor Doug Mays stated he disagreed with the assessments of Argus and the WOW reporter and expressed confidence that Kovacik, who recently arrived to oversee Westchase, was turning local operations around.

Supervisors unanimously approved renewal of the Glencliff Sunday Soccer Club’s Sunday use of Glencliff Park through May 21, when the park will close for renovations.

Supervisors adjourned at 8:10 p.m. with Supervisor Bob Argus departing the meeting at 7:30 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

Posted 9 April 2016

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