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VMs Hear County Construction Updates; Address Swim Team Expansion

The April 4 meeting of the Westchase Voting Members (VMs) saw a visit from Hillsborough County staff and VMs expressing concerns about the expansion of the swim team.

Westchase Community Association (WCA) President Ruben Collazo opened the meeting by asking Government Affairs Committee Chair Rick Goldstein to introduce the representatives from Hillsborough County. Goldstein introduced Jim Duncan, project manager for the reclaimed water project on Linebaugh Avenue; Mary Sheets, another project manager with Hillsborough County; Tom Rawls, the project manager for the Citrus Park Drive extension; and Stephanie Agliano from the Office of Neighborhood Relations.

Duncan provided a brief update about the Linebaugh reclaimed water main project. He reported that once complete, the pipes will all be underground. Duncan reported that the lane realignment hadn’t been working well and the project had been suspended until the median cutouts were lengthened and tapered for greater safety. He said that the contractor had submitted new plans. Once accepted, the project will start back up. The speed limit, however, will be lowered to 35 mph. Duncan reported that the crew will be working west to east and restoring as they go. Collazo asked, “You will refill the cutouts as you go along?”

Duncan replied, “Yes, that is the goal.”

Duncan added that the replacement should also enhance the reclaimed water line’s pressure, so residents may need to adjust sprinkler times once completed next year.

Rawls then addressed the Citrus Park Drive extension, which will run just north of the TECO power lines that are adjacent to the UTB Regional Library. Rawls said the county is working with the Army Corps of Engineers and doing another review to make sure everything is acceptable. Rawls stated they will be meeting with residents from Fawn Ridge, Mandolin and Deer Park Elementary. VM Eric Holt (Radcliffe) asked, “Are there going to be developments or businesses connecting into that?”

Rawls replied, “Right now it’s a straight away.” He added, “Anything like that is not on the drawing board.”

Sheets added that the county estimated that 50 percent of the traffic currently on Linebaugh would be diverted to the new road.

Agliano then addressed VMs and stated her office hoped to connect with residents. “We would love the opportunity to come out and speak,” she said.

She explained about the Back Stage program, which allows residents to see behind the scenes of Hillsborough County government. She said the program’s classes are hands on and county leaders provide tours. She also encouraged residents to visit the Hillsborough County website and search for the Office of Neighborhood Relations, where they will find a number of grants available. See http://hillsboroughcounty.org/en/search?q=neighborhood+relations for more information.

Goldstein noted that Westchase Community Development District (CDD) Supervisor Barbara Griffith was in attendance. After briefly touching on crosswalks, Griffith said she was meeting with the planning commission in order to better understand and shape nearby developments. “Rather than reacting, how do we get in front of things and communicate what our community would like to see?” she asked.

Closing the night’s meeting, VM Carl Longnecker (Villas of West Park Village) stood up to explain that at the February WCA Board meeting, directors voted to expand the swim team to the West Park Village pool but the residents of West Park Village did not know about it. Longnecker stated that the swim team had recently used the West Park Village pool while the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center’s pool was being repaired and the residents realized what a problem the expansion would pose with traffic, parking and noise. Referring to the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center where the VM meeting was held, Longnecker stated, “The West Park Village pool is not like this one with lots of parking.” He added, “There are no drop off and pick up locations. There are 15 spots total for parking.”

Observing the West Park Village pool was designed for pedestrian rather than vehicular traffic, he stated 60 West Park residents had already signed a petition in opposition to the expansion there, as well as West Park’s VMs. “They are formerly asking for a review of the process since the residents weren’t consulted,” Longnecker said.

VM Cynde Mercer (The Bridges) added, “As someone who has begun swimming, I am very distressed to hear that you will be closing both pools to homeowners. I would prefer that you offer early morning swim hours for homeowners. I also agree with Carl that they can’t handle the traffic. I am not getting my money worth if I can’t swim when I want to.”

VM Joaquin Arrillaga (The Greens), who is also a WCA Director, said, “Maybe the board should have come to you guys to ask for your input. The agenda has always been distributed. They would only use four lanes but we believed at that time that it would be enough. Just a small amount of the swim team was going to move there. We never thought about going behind anyone’s back.”

Longnecker replied, “The agenda item only said ‘Swim Team Expansion,’ so they were unaware what that really meant.

In response to Mercer asking for early morning hours, Collazo replied, “You could build extra lifegauard coverage into the budget.” When several VMs asked how much revenue the association was getting from the swim team, Collazo responded, “Not much, minimal, but I think of it as a community investment.”

On April 6, two days after the meeting, TBAY Westchase Swim Coach Alex Richardson withdrew his request to expand the swimming program to the West Park Village pool.

By Brenda Bennett

Posted 7 April 2017

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