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Despite Failed EPC Noise Test, CDD Approves Two New Movies in Park

At their Feb. 5 meeting, Westchase Community Development District supervisors addressed a handful of issues, from a proposed volleyball court and a kickball league to noise complaints about the Movies in the Park.

Kicking of the meeting was Bridges resident Ramesh Kolli. Kolli observed that the Westchase Community Association (WCA) had announced plans to build two Quick Start tennis courts (which feature courts and nets downsized for children’s use) in the area currently occupied by the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center’s sand volleyball court. While Kolli said he would appear at the WCA Board meeting in February to present a resident petition seeking to preserve the court, he also inquired if supervisors would be willing to construct a new volleyball court if the association eliminates the existing one. “About 16 to 20 of us play every Sunday morning,” he said. “For us it’s like going to church.”

Kolli described how his participation with the group led him to purchase a home in Westchase. “It’s really an added value to have the volleyball court in the area.”

CDD Chair Mark Ragusa, however, observed, “In my 18 years in Westchase I’ve never seen anyone playing volleyball in there.”

While CDD Supervisor Ross also encouraged Kolli to check if the expansion of the Westchase Recreation Center would permit his group to play at that site, Ragusa concluded discussion by requesting that Field Supervisor Doug Mays explore the possible location and cost for constructing a sand court on district land.

Supervisors also heard from Stockbridge Voting Member (VM) Joe Odda, who requested that the district direct its off-duty patrol to ticket vehicles parked within 30 feet of the stop sign at the intersection of Stockbridge Drive and Montague Street. Odda stated a significant safety issue is created at the intersection when parents drop high schoolers at the bus stop there in the morning and parents use the street as a pick-up spot for Davidsen Middle School students in the afternoon. Supervisors stated staff would make the off-duty patrol aware of the situation but stated they do not direct the patrol to undertake specific enforcement actions. Instead, they encouraged Odda to go back to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and request they address the matter.

Returning to a matter that supervisors have discussed over the past few months, CDD Chair Ragusa observed that results from a January Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) noise test of the Westchase Community Association (WCA)-sponsored Movies in the Park had been circulated to supervisors earlier that day. Addressing the report, CDD Attorney Erin McCormick stated, “It does show that there is some violation of the standards the EPC has.”

Specifically, the EPC report indicates two moments during the 90-minute movie when sound levels briefly exceeded allowable levels. Referring to an individual with the EPC, McCormick stated, “He said it’s not really a big problem and it’s one that can be adjusted.”

In recent months supervisors have addressed complaints from Stamford homeowners Steve Forehand and Jim Allen, whose properties lie adjacent to the park’s field. They have described the events as producing unreasonable noise that has rattled their homes’ windows and has shaken pictures hanging on walls. Both have also insisted the events violate the WCA’s own deed restrictions guaranteeing homeowners’ peaceful enjoyment of their homes. Their complaints have come before the CDD, however, because the district owns the park in which the WCA shows the movies.

In response to the noise complaints, the WCA has had its vendor reduce the volume and redirect the speakers so that they point toward Linebaugh Avenue rather than the Stamford houses. CDD Supervisor Brian Zeigler stated he had attended the January Movie event and visited Allen during the EPC noise test at his home. Zeigler stated that Allen was upset because he believed the vendor had decreased the volume just to pass the EPC test. Zeigler stated, “He was pretty fired up that the sound had been turned down.” He added, “He just said, ‘It needs to be somewhere else. End of story.’”

CDD Supervisor Bob Argus stated he also attended the event and monitored sound with a downloaded software app that he said produced the same results at the EPC study. Argus stated he stood at the back of the park, closest to the homes and observed that conversation levels coming from people involved with the EPC testing in their yards was equivalent to the sound coming from the movie. He added that noise from Linebaugh traffic exceeded the movie’s soundtrack at times.

Ragusa then quizzed Zeigler. “Brian, if it were your house, would it bother you?”

Zeigler responded, “I’m too easy-going for that stuff.”

Ragusa observed, however, “My concern is the volume has to come beneath the EPC.” He added, “We’re going to get strong assurances from the WCA that there are going to be no more violations of the noise ordinance.”

Some of the assurances the board was looking for may have come in a letter from WCA President Joaquin Arrillaga, distributed to supervisors. Stating the association was happy to see that the event barely exceeded standards on only two brief occasions, Arrillaga said the association had purchased sound monitoring equipment that would allow its vendor to test sound levels to ensure they didn’t exceed EPC standards at future events. “The WCA feels strongly about keeping the Movies in the Park, a program that has become a staple program from the community and a favorite for hundreds of families in the community,” observed Arrillaga’s letter. “I strongly believe the CDD, the WCA and all residents of Westchase can achieve our goals to give back to the community, create a safe environment for our families to enjoy a peaceful time together, and, at the same time, guarantee that all residents can still enjoy their own homes without unwanted disruption.”

Arrillaga’s letter also stated the association hoped to reduce the number of movies at Baybridge Park to between two to four per year and hold two others in the West Park Village Town Center green on Montague Street. He committed that the events would end before 9 p.m.

In response CDD Supervisor Brian Ross made a motion to permit two additional movies on the Montague Street green, which is also owned and maintained by the CDD. Those movies represent additions to February’s movie, previously approved for Baybridge Park. Ross’ motion stipulated the events had to comply with EPC noise limits and that any cost for the installation of needed electrical outlets had to be covered by the WCA. That motion passed 4-1, opposed solely by Argus, who argued the events should be approved for Baybridge Park so that the association could test out its sound monitoring equipment there.

Concluding the meeting, supervisors briefly discussed possible capital improvements and acquisitions they may consider in the next budget cycle. Ragusa asked District Manager Mendenhall to provide staff with the name of a contractor who recently installed a spray fountain in another district so they could seek possible pricing for the repair or replacement of the West Park spray fountain. That fountain has never functioned as originally intended and past boards have not undertaken repairs due to their projected cost.

Supervisor Brian Ross also committed to exploring whether reasonably priced land might be available in the Westchase area for the district’s use or development. Ragusa concluded by asking supervisors to submit all requests for capital improvements to CDD staff for inclusion in a wish list to be discussed with the draft budget later in the spring.

In other actions:

Supervisors accepted the 2012 audit of the districts. The audit was clean with no exceptions or findings. Upon learning that the auditor, Grau & Associates, had completed the third and final year of its contract, supervisors directed District Manager Mendenhall to make preparations to bid the auditing contract in the coming year.

Supervisors took no action on a request by Bridges resident Brian Rieth, owner of Little Strides Fitness for Kids. Rieth had requested use of Glencliff Park fields over the summer to establish a children’s kickball league. Rieth acknowledged that the league was part of his business venture and he had hoped to charge a small fee for participation. While supervisors liked the idea of a kickball league, they stated that it was the district’s practice to deny requests for exclusive use of the publicly-owned fields by for-profit enterprises. Rieth committed to exploring other options, explaining, “I think this would be a great program for the community.”

Field Manager Doug Mays announced that, barring weather delays, the repaving of West Park’s alleys should begin Feb. 11 and should take five days to complete.

Supervisors approved the bid documents – and agreed on a methodology for evaluating submitted bids – for the conversion of Harbor Links/The Estates’ gas street lights to LED lights. Once bids are received, CDD Chair Mark Ragusa stated homeowners in the neighborhood would be notified of the project’s cost before final district approval of it. Harbor Links/The Estates homeowners are separately assessed for costs associated with their streetlights.

Supervisors adjourned at 6:12 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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