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Supervisors Confront Park Delays and Hydrilla Invasion

A rezoning request, Glencliff Park playground delays and hydrilla-choked ponds dominated discussion at the July 12 meeting of the Westchase Community Development District (CDD).

The meeting, however, saw no significant changes proposed to the district’s draft budget offered in June. Outside of some gated villages that made requests for special services, the draft budget still calls for assessments to remain the same as last year. (Some neighborhoods in The Bridges and The Fords will see overall assessments decline due to falling debt payments covering the last year of their infrastructural bonds.)

Supervisors opened the session by debating whether to take a formal position on Flournoy Companies’ requested rezoning of land off Thomas Ranch Lane, just south of Westchase on Sheldon Road. The developer wants to expand the parcel, on which four ranch homes sit, from its currently permitted 66 units to 218 units. The rezoning hearing, originally scheduled for June, was rescheduled for July 18.

While the Westchase Community Association (WCA) voted to oppose the rezoning request and while CDD supervisors seemed unanimous in their concerns about the Flournoy development, CDD Attorney Erin McCormick cautioned them that any formal opposition should be based upon the project’s real effect on CDD-maintained infrastructure.

CDD Brian Ross, however, argued that due to past West Park Village flooding and the strong possibility that Flournoy parcel’s stormwater system would tie into the same limited drainage infrastructure that currently serves West Park Village, a position of opposition was justified. Ross also stated that the project would have a clear impact on the district’s traffic. He commented, “It will adversely affect our storm-water drainage system and adversely affect our transportation on Linebaugh Avenue.”

When Supervisor Jim Mills volunteered to appear at the rezoning hearing to make the district’s case, supervisors unanimously voted to send a letter to the county echoing the WCA’s opposition while citing the development’s impact on Westchase’s storm-water system and traffic. Another motion authorized Mills to speak on behalf of the district and authorized CDD Engineer Tonja Steward to also attend the hearing to speak on the proposed rezoning’s adverse effects.

Supervisors then grilled Jeff Jones of Dynamo Florida regarding delays in the installation of Glencliff Park’s playground equipment. Expressing his frustration that, as an elected official, he was hearing from residents who were dissatisfied, CDD Chair Mark Ragusa said, “I still have not heard why there is a two month delay in manufacturing.”

The park’s old equipment was demolished in early May in anticipation of the new equipment’s arrival on May 21.

Glencliff Voting Member V(M) Ed Fugit also attended the CDD meeting with at least one other resident to voice his neighborhood’s frustration with delays and the fact that the old equipment was removed prior to the new equipment being ready for installation

“I want to apologize to the board and the residents,” responded Jones. While adding that the delay was the fault of the manufacturer, Jones added, “You were told the wrong [delivery] time from the get-go.”

Jones stated that the district should have been told that the equipment, which includes a special-made climbing structure, would take 16 weeks to manufacture. When pressed for a finish date, Jones said the equipment should arrive within the next two weeks and the playground should be finished by late August.

Field Supervisor Doug Mays stated that the rest of Glencliff Park’s updates, from new basketball courts and new sod, should also be completed at that time. He added the only item that might remain outstanding was parking lot resurfacing.

Supervisors and CDD Attorney Erin McCormick also expressed concerns that work on Glencliff Park began prior to the acquisition of a performance bond, required by state law given the project’s cost. McCormick stated she was working to acquire the bond but it required proving to the insurer that the bond was not belatedly being acquired because of a discovered problem. Staff was reminded not to proceed with any work prior to the completion of all paperwork.

Supervisors also asked staff to consult with professionals about the costs and possibility of grounding the Glencliff playground equipment to protect users from lightning strikes given that it’s nearly all metal and some of its shade-structure poles are nearly 30 feet high.

Mays also informed supervisors that work had begun on the West Park Village spray fountain. Supervisors unanimously voted to hire Interlocking Pavers for $4,765 to address pavers around the fountain and the adjacent band shell.

After Supervisor Mills requested it, staff also committed to providing board members with an updated spreadsheet detailing projected and actual costs for all ongoing work on Baybridge, Glencliff and West Park’s parks.

Mays, along with Aaron Jackson of A&B Aquatics (the district's pond maintenance company), then addressed issues related to hydrilla, an aquatic plant that has been spreading in some Westchase ponds. Also speaking to supervisors on the matter was Village Green VM Bobbi Pitcher, who stated the canal pond between Village Green and the tennis courts was recently sprayed but the dead hydrilla was now floating on the surface, making for an unsightly mess and a breeding and hiding area for mosquitoes and snakes.

Jackson stated he had been performing Westchase’s pond maintenance work since 2008 without an increase to his contract but chemical and labor costs were making it increasingly difficult for him to address pond maintenance effectively. Jackson stated that while he didn’t want to lose the district contract, he couldn’t effectively address the hydrilla problem without additional funds.

“There are about four or five lakes we have a hydrilla problem on,” stated Mays.

Supervisors requested that Jackson bring a proposed contract increase for them to consider in the future. They also unanimously approved spending $15,000 on the manual removal of hydrilla from affected lakes and up to $10,000 for the purchase and stocking of triploid carp, which eat the aquatic plants.

Supervisors, however, rejected 2-3 a motion by Supervisor Bob Argus to reimburse Jackson for some of his recent chemical costs.

After briefly debating the performance and effectiveness of OLM, Inc, the horticultural company that monthly inspects and grades the work of Davey, the district’s landscaping company, supervisors approved an $80 per month increase, to $1,630, in OLM’s compensation beginning in October. Citing issues with the community’s shrinking flower beds and weeds in them, Supervisor Ross wondered whether the OLM-supervised system was really producing top-notch landscaping or simply keeping the performance of landscaping companies from bottoming out.

For the second straight month, Supervisor Mills expressed concern about the shrinking flower beds at the community’s intersections and encouraged staff to explore the adoption of the landscaping  currently used at the entrances to Citrus Park Mall and Citrus Park Plaza. He suggested the plant selection would alleviate some of the repeating costs of planting annuals and look better.

Concluding the meeting, Supervisor Brian Ross addressed a July WOW letter to the editor from the Westchase MOMS Club. Stating the letter suggested that the group had sent three unanswered emails to supervisors regarding Baybridge Park shade issues, Ross stated he had simply received a single email regarding the existence of a MOMs Club petition for more shade structures prior to the letter’s publication. Supervisors Mark Ragusa and Greg Chesney concurred that they also had not received three emails. Ross emphasized that he takes care to respond to emails that appear to request or need a response from him.

In other actions, CDD Attorney McCormick said that she had heard nothing more from Hillsborough County staff after she requested clarification of aspects of the term sheet provided by the county for a possible interlocal agreement regarding the early paving of Westchase roads.

Supervisors adjourned at 6:17 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

Posted 13 July 2016

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