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VMs Endorse WCA Petition for Westchase Road Repaving

While the main focus of the Jan. 13 Westchase Voting Members meeting was community roads, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) opened the session by introducing their new District III leadership team.

District III recently underwent a change of command, with Chad Chronister now serving as the district’s major. Westchase’s Community Resource Officer Deputy Phil Acaba began by describing his role as handling community issues and serving as a resource to assist residents.

Acaba introduced the rest of the District III leadership team – Corporal Kris Gundersen, Sergeant Chad Frisco, Lt. Darrin Barlow and Major Chronister. Chronister spoke of the importance of having residents lock their garage and car doors. “Let’s not make it easy for anybody. There are people who will check every door to see if it’s locked and every car door. They will try 30 cars and find one unlocked,” he said.

Chronister explained that the HCSO is helping residents by moving traffic boards into our community that will remind people to lock their doors. We will also see some bicycle units in our neighborhood.  Chronister said that the bikes are much better for sneaking up on people since the patrol cars can be seen at a distance.

Chronister spoke of some of the challenges of body cameras, which may cause privacy concerns because the films will become public records which others can request. He said they also have a large staff shortage right now that they are trying to fill without lowering their rigorous standards. He concluded, “If you see something or someone who doesn’t belong, say something. We are encouraging you to call.”

Chronister opened the floor for questions. Referring to the major’s suggestion to call, VM Eric Holt (Radcliffe) asked if residents should call the non-emergency number. Chronister replied “Yes, that is the best way. If it is an emergency, call 911.”

VM Don Costello (Stamford) suggested that the HCSO group meet with the Community Development District (CDD). Chronister said they are happy to meet with any interested groups. VM Leslie McCluskie (Keswick Forest) raised a concern about signs instructing vehicles to yield to pedestrians and added, “There isn’t much yielding going on.”

Deputy Acaba said he would follow up on the concern.

Thanking the sheriff’s office, WCA Board President Joaquin Arrillaga remarked,“Officer Gundersen has been great. Everyone is very friendly. Every time we call, somebody is there. We appreciate all of that."

Gundersen supervises the CDD's off-duty deputy patrol.

After the HCSO representatives departed, VMs quickly and unanimously gave their initial approval to the new exterior color palette guidelines for the Classic Townhomes, Traditional Townhomes and Townhomes of West Park Village. The changes will need VMs second approval in February to ensure their official adoption.

VMs then reviewed the printed version of the Owner Brochure created by the Rental Committee led by VM Cynde Mercer (The Bridges). Arrillaga said, “The idea with the brochure is to have them put it in the welcome packet and the Voting Member or the Welcoming Committee can hand them out. They will also be in the office and we will put a PDF copy on the WCA Web site.”

VMs unanimously approved the brochure and thanked Mercer for the time she invested in helping create it.

The final item around the Revised Road Paving Petition generated the most discussion. Arrillaga explained that at their last meeting, the WCA Board had voted to have the association promote the petition. VM Carlos Quiros (Villas of West Park Village) said that the petition looked good but suggested having the board sign off on their support for road repaving and communicate that to the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) immediately.

Describing the history of the petition, Director Joe Odda stated, “Eric and I both attended a meeting with (County Commissioner) Sandy Murman back in September. Eric made an eloquent speech about the issues with his street. We posted the question to her if it would be useful and effective for us to develop a petition and she said that it was always good to come forward with that level of participation and interest in the problem.”

Mercer (Bridges) asked, “Have we decided how we will collect signatures?”

Arrillaga responded that we will collect electronic signatures and use Mailchimp for e-mail notifications. He added that the WCA already has 1,000 residents signed up to receive mailings. An article in World of Westchase will include electronic links to the petition. The petition will also be available in hard copy at both pools and at the WCA office.

Arrillaga noted that Commissioner Murman was to meet with some residents in Radcliffe on Jan. 26 so that she can see the problem herself. VM Ralph Caputo (Abbotsford) asked, “Why are we doing it this way instead of the way Carlos (Quiros) suggests, where the board signs the petition to represent Westchase? There is a lot of labor involved (in getting signatures) and we might only get one half the amount of residents’ signatures. As Carlos suggests, if we have the board sign off, it could be done tomorrow.”

Arrillaga agreed, saying they could do this if the VMs request but the signatures are the “icing on the cake.”

VMs ultimately voted unanimously to approve the motion to have the board sign off initially on the petition and send it to the BOCC as a precursor to the actual petitions with signatures from the community.

Director Kathy Carlsen added, “The biggest thing to understand is that these commissioners are looking for votes. Seven board member signatures don’t represent 3,600 voter signatures. They will look at the individual signatures and want to have those votes. The signatures mean that the individual voters are saying, ‘This is an issue in our community.’”

Referring to the board’s decision to support the petition, VM Patrick O’Brien (Glenfield) remarked, “I am new to Glenfield. Being here five years and just speaking with people, they don’t see a lot of good things coming from the WCA office as far as violations go, so this will be good to show them in terms of getting some support.”

Arrillaga closed the discussion by saying that Holt is helping decide the petition deadline but they hope to conclude the signature drive by the end of February.

VMs adjourned at 8:15 p.m.

By Brenda Bennett

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