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VMs Discuss Community-Wide Road Repaving Petition

The October Voting Member (VM) Meeting began with a presentation by the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).

Ray Chiaramonte, a Westchase resident and former VM who is the Planning Commission and MPO Executive Director, stepped VMs through a presentation on the MPO’s 2040 plan, about which county residents were recently surveyed.

Explaining the results, Chiaramonte reported that most people realize that Hillsborough County isn’t spending enough money on transportation. He said that people also understood that taxes would have to be raised to pay for some of the changes. Survey results showed that 82 percent said that the county should exceed current spending. Chiaramonte reported that 600,000 additional people will live in the area by the year 2040. He explained that current road funding comes from gas taxes but as cars become more fuel efficient and people elect to use electric cars, that revenue will decrease. One thing being discussed is a one cent sales tax increase. That would equate to about $150 a year more for an average family or an increase of $80 to $90 for a single person household.

Chiaramonte said there were also a number of smaller projects in the plan such as adding street lighting to major roads like Sheldon Road and Waters Avenue and connecting nearby trails. After the presentation, VMs had many questions about the potential widening of Linebaugh, which Chiarmonte does not support within Westchase; transit options, which are currently limited in Westchase; and the date the new sales tax would end if adopted (probably never).

Residents can review all of the plans, see when the MPO’s upcoming meetings are and get involved by visiting http://www.planhillsborough.org

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Next, VMs unanimously provided their initial approval for Berkeley Square’s paint palette and the reappointment of Variance Committee members Ruben Collazo, Brian Ross, Shawn Yesner and Roger Gritton, an architect.

Westchase Community Association (WCA) President Joaquin Arrillaga then asked the group to consider nominating people in their neighborhoods for the Nathan Lafer Good Neighbor, a yearly award honoring a neighbor who has shown great spirit and helped and volunteered to improve the quality of life in Westchase. The nomination form can be accessed here - http://westchasewca.com/documents_forms/NF_Award_Nomination_Form_2.doc

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Arrillaga then provided VMs information on the association’s violation policy. He said that violations have increased since Westchase is now over 20-years-old and the community needs to keep itself looking good. Unfortunately, the increase in violations has caused some residents to believe they are being singled out and they’ve called or come to the WCA office upset. The board has updated the language to try to discourage residents from “becoming neighborhood inspectors” and trying to report issues they see with their neighbors’ properties when they are cited. VM Cynde Mercer (The Bridges), asked if the names of residents reporting violations was still confidential. Arrillaga confirmed that it is “very confidential.”

VM Jerry Pappa (The Greens) said, “At times I send e-mails out (to Greens residents) that summarize the number of infractions,” His goal is to let residents know that they aren’t being singled out and understand where the major issues are.

WCA Director Joe Odda and Radcliffe VM Eric Holt then discussed a community-wide petition regarding road repaving. Odda and Holt attended a morning coffee with County Commissioner Sandy Murman, where Holt asked if a petition would help. Murman responded that it always helps to present concerns in an organized manner. Holt said, “It’s a matter of being the squeaky wheel and getting our items prioritized.”

Holt has created an initial petition at change.org. This will allow people to sign it online. The idea is to then submit it to Commissioner Murman. Holt will submit the link to the VMs and the board and refine it for potential distribution to the community.

Mercer gave an update to the VMs on the Rental Committee, formed back in April. She said that at that time, there were concerns about the number of rental units. Since then they have found that there are very few commercial ownerships in Westchase and the community doesn’t have an overload of rental units. Mercer said that the clamp down on violations has helped with their upkeep. She asked if there was enough staff to adequately keep up with the inspection schedule and violation process. Arrillaga and Property Manager Debbie Sainz said they are comfortable with the staff they have working on the process and they are keeping up.

VMs then debated the committee’s suggestion of a non-negotiable fine for homeowners who do not register their lease information with the property manager. One suggestion that VMs agreed to was the creation of a brochure that lists the major violations and the location of Westchase’s rules. It can be handed to new renters or even signed with the lease. VM Alan Shabott (Abbotsford) said, “I love the idea of us being friendly and welcoming them and having something to hand them. It is a great way to welcome someone to the community.”

Arrillaga will be taking the suggestion to the board.

Arrillaga provided an update on the Tennis Cabana and court expansion project. He reported that the USTA had given the community a $10,000 grant; while it fell short of the total expected, he stated the balance can be covered from the association’s capital contributions, made by new owners when they purchase Westchase homes. 

Arrillaga then provided the VMs with a few updates from the board. He said directors are reviewing the legal contract to ensure the association is getting the best service for the money. He also acknowledged that at their last meeting, VMs had complaints about the makeup of the Nominating Committee and the fact that it did not include any VMs. Arrillaga said that he had checked with the attorney, who said VMs cannot force assignments on the committee but Arrillaga stated that any VM is welcome to join the committee.

Arrillaga closed the meeting by asking VMs to review the Code of Conduct information to be sure that everyone is respecting everybody’s opinion.

VMs adjourned at 9:24 p.m.

By Brenda Bennett

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