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WCA Postpones Planned Tennis Cabana Construction

At the Oct. 9 Westchase Community Association (WCA) Board of Directors’ meeting, directors tackled legal fees and tennis leagues and decided to temporarily postpone construction of their planned Tennis Cabana.

The fate of the Tennis Cabana and court expansion now appears to hinge on Westchase Voting Members’ feedback.

Opening the resident forum preceding the directors’ meeting, Chelmsford Voting Member (VM) Bill Dennis told the board that several of his residents had complained to him about large trucks damaging lawns and the median strip when they made turns into the neighborhood. The residents had asked him to find out what could be done to prevent the damage. Director Brian Ross suggested that Dennis talk to the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) office.

Stamford VM Don Costello told the board that he thought it was time to ask for bids for a new law firm since the association’s current firm was raising its rates by ten percent. Director Kathy Carlsen said that the issue had also been discussed at the last VM meeting and that she agreed with Costello that it is time to ask for bids from other law firms. WCA President Joaquin Arrillaga said that in the past seven years the WCA’s law firm had provided great service and had only increased their rates one time but he said the board would discuss the issue at another meeting.

Several Westchase tennis players attended the meeting with different questions and concerns for the board. Fords resident Natalie Kobel questioned the board about the composition of the WCA’s Swim and Tennis Committee and voiced concerns that there was a member of the committee who did not participate in the programs. Arrillaga replied that the members of the Swim and Tennis Committee were serving their second year of a three-year term.

West Park Village resident Carmen Fiorito asked the board to make changes to association’s current policies so that Westchase residents would have priority for spots on United States Tennis Association (USTA) teams. She asked the board to change the current policy so that residents had the first opportunity to be on a team, that they play a minimum of three matches and that Westchase residents comprise at least 50 percent of a team. She also asked the board to establish online registration for USTA teams. She said she did not want to exclude non-resident players but wanted to advocate for Westchase residents. Director Pithers said that the 50-percent resident rule was waived initially because there were not enough residents who wanted to play. Now the program has grown and there are enough interested residents, she said, they should get priority.

During the board’s discussion of rules and policies regarding USTA leagues, Ross said that he felt the board should set policy, not run the tennis program or make decisions about teams and leagues. When asked about becoming more involved with the oversight of the program, Operations Manager Kelly Shires said that each team captain manages his or her own team. He said all the captains do an excellent job but that Head Tennis Professional Roberto Calla and he could play a more active role and that he was open to any suggestion and would work with whatever the board decided. All board members voted in favor of Director Ken Blair’s motion that tennis program participants be required to register online by a given deadline, that 50 percent of the team be Westchase residents and that the captains and co-captains of the teams be Westchase residents.

Harbor Links resident Wendy Baier said that the 50-percent rule would come back to haunt the board because there were some levels that did not have enough residents available to play. The board agreed to ask Calla and Shires to ensure that the board’s policies were adhered to and gave them leeway to make exceptions to the 50-percent resident rule if there were not enough qualified, interested players.

All board members also voted in favor of Pithers’ motion to allow a new USTA 3.0 ladies team that will meet at night as long as the team follows USTA and Westchase rules and their practice time does not conflict with any other teams or lessons.

Carlsen asked the board to revise the minutes from last month’s meeting. She said, “I requested that printed copies of the CCRs and bylaws be available upon request not that copies by printed automatically.”

Arrillaga said that they had already printed the copies and that VMs could request them through the association office. Community Association Manager Debbie Sainz said the cost was less than originally budgeted.

All directors voted in favor of reappointing Cynde Mercer, Mary Griffin, and Kathy McGlone to the Covenants Committee, which hears appeals to fines for unresolved deed restriction violations, and Jovanna Hoagland to the Modifications Committee, which reviews homeowner requests to make changes to yards and home exteriors.

Government Affairs Committee (GAC) Chair Joe Odda, who also serves as a WCA director, said that there is concern about the conditions of Westchase streets. “All the streets have issues,” he stated. “In some places on Gretna Green in The Fords there are cracks in the road with plants growing in them.”

Odda said that Radcliffe VM Eric Holt had been trying to get the streets in his neighborhood repaved. “The micro resurfacing technique that they used to repave them has not held up at all,” Odda observed.

Odda and Holt attended a meeting with Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman and brought the issue up. She suggested they bring a neighborhood petition to the county with a statement of concern. Odda said Holt and he thought the association should do a neighborhood-wide petition and include a list of Westchase’s worst areas. He said he would like the petition to be written by legal counsel and was wondering if there was an electronic way to go about getting signatures. He said that he would also be bringing the matter up at the next VM meeting.

Carlsen said she was against spending any money on legal fees. Ross said he agreed with Carlsen that no money should be spent on legal expenses and that it was his experience that the decision for road repaving happened on an administrative level. He wondered if anyone had approached county staff yet. Odda said that he had talked to several county engineers and right now Westchase is not scheduled to be surveyed until 2015 and would not be on the schedule for repaving until 2017. He said he did not think it would hurt to give them a petition asking them to repave the areas that are in most urgent need now. Arrillaga said he would bring the issue to the VMs at their next meeting.

Odda also reported that the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce was in favor of Citrus Park Drive being extended from Sheldon Road by the mall to Countryway Boulevard just north of the library. He stated that he would be speaking to them at their next meeting. Ross asked the board if they understood that that the Citrus Park Drive extension, once completed, would lift the stipulation that the planned Costco at the intersection of Sheldon and Linebaugh would not open during morning rush hour. Arrillaga said that, yes, that was understood. Odda said the traffic issues are already present without Costco. 

Sainz reported that they had issued 678 deed restriction violation letters in August and 639 in September. She said many of these were due to the fact that water restrictions had been lifted so WCA managers were now checking sidewalks and driveways to see if they needed to be cleaned. Ross wondered if there were any policies or regulations in regards to how often inspections are done. He said the board should find a time to create a process and schedule for inspections. All voted in favor of Arrillaga’s motion to remove the stipulation that the association will not accept anonymous violation tips.

During her manager’s report, Sainz told the board that capital contributions (required contributions made to the association when a Westchase home is purchased) were up for the year and that there was an average of 26 closings per month in Westchase. She also said that 14 palm trees around the West Park Village tennis courts were being removed at the end of October. She said the tree roots were causing extensive damage to the courts. The trees will eventually be replaced by crepe myrtles.

After her report, Ross questioned Sainz about a computer the association had to buy for the palm scanners at both swim and tennis centers.  He wondered if the association had bought the computer based on information from Fujitsu and if so, he felt that Fujitsu should pay for the computer. Arrillaga said someone had dropped the ball on the palm scanners and that he is ticked off at the money and time the project has taken and the fact that the scanners still don’t work. He said he had a call with the company to find out what they were going to do to fix the situation.

The board has been working to bring renovations and additions to Westchase’s tennis courts, including a new Tennis Cabana, as part of their Master Plan Committee’s recommendations. The board applied for a USTA grant and hoped to receive $40,000 towards construction. Arrillaga, however, announced that the USTA only granted Westchase $10,000, thus creating a shortfall of $33,000 for the project. Arrillaga said that he tried to get Welch Tennis to lower their price on the courts and was told that costs have increased since the time of their initial quote. Welch Tennis said that while they would not increase their quote, they will not lower it. Arrillaga also approached Mangrove Construction to see if they could cut costs anywhere and was told that Mangrove was no longer interested in constructing the Tennis Cabana.

Carlsen asked why the board was proceeding with a project if they didn’t have the money for it. Ross and Pithers both said that part of what makes Westchase a premier community is the neighborhood’s facilities. To Carlsen’s objection that only 1.5 percent of residents play tennis, Pithers said it was very shortsighted to say that the amenities only affect a small percentage of residents. She went on to say that one of the reasons Westchase is a premier community is because of fabulous amenities. “When we stop improving, it will affect the home prices to 100 percent of our residents.”

Arrillaga told the board that there was money available to make up the difference, including $15,000 previously budgeted for a splash park (but cancelled when actual construction costs proved higher) and a $32,782 surplus in capital contributions. He also pointed out that they were going to have to ask for new bids for the project so the cost might decrease. Ross suggested that the board talk to the VMs about the project and tell them how it is now going to be funded.

Four board members subsequently voted against Director Ken Blair’s motion to rebid the project and use the surplus funds to make up for the grant shortfall as long as the new bids come in the same or lower than the original bid. Carlsen and Ross voted against the motion because they felt the board needed to tell the VMs before moving money in the budget; Arrillaga voted against the motion because he thought a less expensive structure should be built; Director Keith Heinemann also voted against the motion. With only Pithers, Blair, and Odda voting in favor, the motion failed to pass, 4-3. Arrillaga said he would take the project to the next VM meeting.

Arrillaga said that he would be asking VMs to bring nominations for the Nathan Lafer Good Neighbor Award to their next meeting. Ross suggested placing the award information – including its past recipients – on the association’s Web site more prominently. All board members agreed.

All board members voted in favor of Carlsen’s motion to remove the restriction that non-profit groups can only use the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center’s activity room once per month for meetings.

The next WCA Board meeting is scheduled for Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. at the WCA offices at 10049 Parley Dr.

By Marcy Sanford

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