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VMs Frustrated at Pet Waste Scofflaws

The June 14 Voting Member’s meeting began somberly with the group observing a moment of silence for the victims of the Orlando shooting.

After unanimously and quickly dispensing with their only agenda item – giving their first of two required approvals for an updated color palette guideline for the Villas of West Park Village – VMs spent the bulk of the meeting voicing frustration about residents who don’t pick up after their dogs.

Prior to that, David Horwitz of The Bridges then addressed VMs. Thanking them for their service, Horwitz expressed concerns that VMs had not considered all information related to the proposed Tampa Bay Express (TBX) project and held a balanced discussion before their vote to back the toll road expansion in May. “I am concerned about the TBX. I read in the WOW that the VMs had the Executive Director (of TBARTA) give a talk about it. A vote ensued after that,” Horwitz said. “Did we ever hear any other information from the residents in Seminole Heights?”

TBARTA Director Ray Chiaramonte, a Westchase resident, spoke to VMs and encouraged them to back the TBX project in May.

VM Cynde Mercer (The Bridges) responded, “Yes, they called me because of the comments I made. I have friends that are affected. What I heard from Ray (Chiaramonte) is not what I hear from them. I think there were some gray areas that were not discussed.”

Horwitz continued, “My only concern was that we had made a motion to vote in favor of this. I couldn’t get all of the information from other folks in Seminole Heights. Are they affected or not?”

Citing local development and rezoning issues affecting Westchase, Horwitz emphasized the importance of ensuring neighbors will support the community when it has concerns. “We need our neighbors to help support us. This concerns me.” He added, “In the future, if you could sit together and talk about it. Seminole Heights is getting a perception that Westchase is voting against them.”

VM Mary Griffin (Single Family Homes of West Park Village) replied, “Ray (Chiarmonte) brought up the objections and they have been well publicized in the newspaper.”

Horwitz thanked the VMs for the work that they do and allowing him to speak.

Community Association Manager Debbie Sainz updated the group with good news. After VM Ralph Caputo (Abbotsford) mentioned in May that the Westchase fire station’s mailbox was wooden and in bad shape and suggested that Creative Mailbox, which provides Westchase neighborhood mailboxes, might donate a new one, Sainz contacted Creative Mailbox and they agreed to do so.

VM Mary Griffin (Single Family Homes of West Park Village) then brought up ways of addressing residents who don’t pick up pet waste, a topic that dominated discussion for the next hour. “Five percent of the people that own dogs and walk dogs are irresponsible and don’t clean up the waste. My idea is for VMs to talk about it and approach our board to see if the CDD could share a project to install pet waste stations.”

Stating she thought it would cost between $30,000 and $50,000, Griffin stated, “The bags full of waste are routinely found in the pond or in the open sewers. I have observed a lady throwing a bag full of dog waste into the pond.”

VM Rick Goldstein (Woodbridge) said, “We had a problem in Woodbridge and we communicated that the people that had dogs would get a surcharge and the problem cleared up. The board was looking to impose an additional fee. If you have an animal, you were getting a surcharge. It is in our documents so the sub-association can do that.”

“This issue is a growing issue in Westchase,” VM Gerald Pappa (The Greens) said. “Doug [Mays] from the CDD will tell you that those bags show up thrown into the wooded area, in the ponds and dropped on lawns. We even have strategically placed garbage receptacles. I believe we have to get behind this somehow.”

Griffin said that she had researched the issue online and found that the homeowner association in Riverview will use DNA testing of dog waste and that residents have to register their dogs when they move in.

VM Lisa Godfrey (Worthington) said of the pet waste stations, “We’ve had them for two years and we’ve not had any problems.” She added, “It’s a couple of hundred dollars every month. They have been excellent.”

Ralph Caputo (Abbotsford) suggested a WOW article discussing the problem and reminding residents that picking up pet waste is the law and that the association is thinking of investing money because people aren’t picking up after their dogs.

Joaquin Arrillaga (WCA President) said, “The WCA has no jurisdiction over any public area where this would be installed. It would have to be the CDD who installs them.”

Griffin suggested that since the budget workshop is coming up, funds could be set aside for the project.

Documents Review Committee Chair Dale Sells then reviewed his committee’s timeline for updating Westchase’s governing documents. He explained, “We would like to have all suggestions by the end of the month.”

Sells stated the committee hoped to send proposed amendments to the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CCRs) and Bylaws, which homeowners must vote on, out with WCA’s annual assessment notice. He added the committee scheduled an in-depth discussion of each proposed change for the October VM meeting with a final VM vote held on the amendments at the Jan. 10 VM meeting.

VM Michael Gorecki (Stockbridge) gave the VMs another piece of good news. “My wife is in the MOMS Club and they got approval to put up a free library. That will be going up at the end of the month in the lawn area across from Irish 31.”

The small exchange library, approved by the CDD, consists of enclosed bookshelves from which residents can leave or take books.

Arrillaga then updated the group on the progress of discussions with David Weekley Homes about the proposed townhomes in West Park Village. He said that the developer has now agreed to have two parking spaces per unit, which is an additional 18 spots. The worry was that they would have 2,000 square-foot units with only one parking spot, prompting overflow parking onto Cavendish Drive. Arrillaga said the next steps are to have David Weekley Homes representatives meet with the voting members from West Park Village.

Arrillaga closed the meeting by explaining that in September there will be four open WCA Board positions, those currently held by Joe Odda, Brian Ross, Ruben Collazo and Keith Heinemann. He asked for volunteers to be on the Nominating Committee and to run for the board. Odda, who is the chair for the Nominating Committee, said, “Serving on the board of this association, I’ve gotten more out of it then I’ve given. It’s been a very rewarding experience. I encourage you to consider coming forward and we need more help on the Nominating Committee.”

VMs adjourned at 8:18 p.m.

By Brenda Bennett

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