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Westchase CDD Discusses Developments, Park Projects and Road Repaving

At its May meeting, the Westchase CDD continued to approve bids for park work and heard back about a possible interlocal agreement to get Westchase roads paved early.

Opening the May 3 meeting, Westchase Community Development District (CDD) Engineer Tonja Stewart stated that talks with M/I Homes about the district taking responsibility for a lake between West Lake Townhomes and Sturbridge and Stonebridge has reverted to the original proposal: transferring the lake’s ownership to the district.

At April’s meeting, Stewart stated that M/I had decided to explore simply transferring maintenance responsibilities for the lake as the developer concluded dividing the current water management permit covering the entire West Lake Townhome development, which currently includes the lake, would be too costly and cumbersome. Stewart, however, stated the developer now favored undertaking a 12 to 18-month process to split the permit, granting the district full ownership and maintenance responsibility for the lake. “It might be in everyone’s best interest to have two clear permits,” Stewart stated.

CDD Supervisor Brian Ross, however, cautioned Stewart not to presume that the district would be willing to bear all the costs for the permit division and property transfers. “My gut reaction,” he said, “is that’s not appropriate.”

When pressed to detail why outright ownership of the lake was in the district’s interest, Stewart cited four reasons. Full ownership with divided permits would grant the district full control over maintenance of the lake, which is adjacent to two Westchase neighborhoods. She also pointed out that the Westchase neighborhoods were at much greater risk for flooding from the lake because they were built at lower elevations than the townhomes. The CCD’s ownership would allow the district to control the lake’s water level. The district could also enforce a ban on boating on the lake as well as trespassing on its banks by non-residents. 

Concluding the matter, Ross asked Stewart to compile all costs for delivering the lake in acceptable condition to the CDD.

Turning to another development within Westchase, District Manager Andy Mendenhall stated that David Weekley Homes, which plans the construction of 36 townhomes in West Park Village, plans to start construction at the end of May. The developer, he stated, is interested in turning ownership of the roads and conservation areas over the district once completed. Ross again cautioned Mendenhall not to presume that supervisors would agree to do so. “I think there are some issues we wish David Weekley Homes would address,” he said. “What I’m hearing is they are not interested in working with the WCA.”

Ross added, “Maybe you could convey to them that the WCA requests they increase their parking.”

When WOW’s reporter asked if supervisors would insist that the developer join the townhomes to the Westchase Community Association (WCA), Ross stated that while that was implied by his remarks, it was too early to make demands or a formal position.

Mendenhall then briefed supervisors on the results of a meeting held on April 22 among Hillsborough County officials, WCA representatives, CDD Supervisor Chair Mark Ragusa and CDD attorney Erin McCormick. The meeting explored a possible interlocal agreement between the county and either the WCA or CDD that would enable Westchase to get its roads repaved early. Without the agreement, much of Westchase would have to wait three years for the work.

Mendenhall stated that under the agreement, the association or district would take full responsibility for the repaving. Further, the Westchase entity would take out a loan, estimated at approximately $2.5 million to cover the work, and pay its interest payments until the county repaid the principal. In turn, the county would include a budget resolution committing the county to repaying the loan. Mendenhall, however, stated the county had committed to preparing a term sheet, which would detail things like possible repayment periods, which McCormick estimated would be three years.

Mendenhall added that the meeting led participants to believe that the CDD was the more logical entity to undertake the work. If the WCA undertook the project, Mendenhall stated, the county would likely require that 65 to 75 percent of Westchase homeowners agree by petition first.

For the district to undertake the work in the coming year, however, supervisors would have to budget for the interest payments – estimated at $50,000-75,000 – in their budget, which is generally finalized over the summer.

McCormick stated that the primary issue was whether supervisors wanted to be involved with the agreement. She added it would be fair to let the WCA and county know.  It wasn’t clear from discussion, however, where supervisors are leaning.

Supervisor Mark Ragusa, who in April stated he would never support such an agreement was absent from May’s meeting.  Supervisor Bob Argus stated, “It’s hard to determine without seeing the term sheet.”

Ross showed the most support. “I’m receptive for the CDD to undertake this option,” he said. “The concept to me is not uncomfortable or foreign.”

When WOW’s reporter asked if the district would assess interest payments on homeowners in gated communities who already pay county taxes and additional district assessments so that the CDD repaves their roads, CDD Supervisor Greg Chesney stated he hoped the district could structure a bank loan that would wrap interest payments into the principal so the repaving could be done at no actual cost to Westchase homeowners. When later asked, he stated he could support an interlocal agreement done this way.

Meanwhile, CDD Supervisor Jim Mills expressed concerns that the district would be managing – and liable for –  the repaving.

McCormick, however, stated that the county generally requires a two-year guarantee on road work and in the third year the county would pick up maintenance again.

CDD Field Manager Doug Mays and Office Manager Sonny Whyte then detailed current work on Baybridge and Glencliff Parks and the newly named Village Park on West Park Village’s Montague Street. They stated that Glencliff’s playground had been closed for demolition and preparation for the arrival of new equipment, previously scheduled for May 21. Mays stated that Baybridge Park’s playground surface, a soft material called Pour and Play, should be completed by Friday, May 6. Mays stated that the repaving of Baybridge Park’s parking lot had been scheduled for May 25-26, but supervisors gave the green light to reopen that park in the interim and simply close it again for the two-day repaving. Whyte added that approved work replacing the West Park Village splash pad was currently in permitting and could begin the week of May 8.

Addressing bids for park work, supervisors voted 4-0 for a motion authorizing a bid from RNP Sod for $83,000 for the re-grading and sodding of Glencliff’s fields; multiple bids from Davey not to exceed $12,000 for irrigation work; a bid of $38,500 from ACPLM for repaving Baybridge and Glencliff parking lots; and a bid for $57,500 from Stewart Tennis for the demolition of the existing Glencliff basketball courts and their reconstruction on the southern end of the park.

Closing the meeting and park discussions, supervisors tied, 2-2, on the color scheme for the shade structures for Glencliff Park, with half supporting a blue and yellow color scheme and the others supporting blue and gray. While the installer recommended the gray because of the yellow’s tendency to fade, yellow supporters argued the yellow would enhance the playground’s appearance. Supervisors asked Office Manager Sonny Whyte to contact Supervisor Ragusa, who was absent, to break the tie and move forward with the chosen colors.

In other actions:

Supervisors approved a motion authorizing the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections to place the CDD seats whose terms are expiring on November’s general election ballot.

Supervisors postponed preliminary approval of their draft budget and assessment tables, prepared for the county’s Truth in Millage (TRIM) statements, until Fishkind and Associates can finish an update to the district’s assessment methodology. The update was caused by the addition of a parcel at the end of Montague Street and the conversion of the David Weekley parcel from commercial to residential.

Supervisors learned that OLM, Inc., which inspects the work of the district’s landscaping company each month, rescinded its recent fee increase after discovering the district had not received proper notice of it. OLM, however, requested an $80 increase from $1,550 to $1,630 monthly, to be included in the new fiscal year beginning in October.

Supervisors asked Attorney Erin McCormick to contact Google Fiber to discuss a proposed agreement to gain access to district-owned rights of way within gated communities. Supervisors were concerned about the company’s cap of $25,000 on repairs caused by errors made during installation of its fiber network.

Supervisors declined to take action on a request that the district post banners advertising a charitable basketball tournament in Westchase medians.

CDD staff requested supervisors submit their wish list items for the upcoming draft budget.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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