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Westchase Soccer Wins New Season at Glencliff Park With No Schedule Changes

Three months of debate regarding the Westchase Soccer Association’s impact on parking within Glencliff came to a close at the May 1 meeting of the Westchase Community Development District (CDD).

After hearing nearly two hours of discussion from residents and supervisors on both sides of the issue, CDD supervisors voted 4-1, with Supervisor Bill Casale in opposition, to renew the soccer association's exclusive right to use Glencliff Park fields for its 11-week fall season. The four hour meeting also saw supervisors adopt a preliminary budget for 2013 to establish a high water mark for county property tax notices.

At the heart of the soccer debate was whether supervisors would compel the Westchase Soccer Association (WSA) to accept changes to its current contract. In recent months, Supervisor Casale had pitched what he called a compromise between residents of Glencliff, who had submitted a petition with over 120 signatures expressing concerns about overflow parking, and the WSA. Casale’s plan called for the WSA, which currently plays three games concurrently over several hours on Saturday mornings, to commit to playing only two games at a time and extend play into the afternoon hours. Casale argued the schedule change would reduce the number of cars spilling out of the northern parking lot onto Glencliff Circle while allowing the district to take party reservations for that park’s pavilions during the season. Because of the WSA’s use of the park, the district currently refrains from taking reservations for parties on Saturdays there during soccer season.

“It’s a problem,” Casale stated of the parking. “I’ve just come up with a reasonable solution to the problem.”

Casale’s plan met with approval from Glencliff residents in attendance, represented by its Glencliff Voting Member (VM) Nick Palumba and Alternate VM Kathy Carlsen. Addressing the proposed schedule change, Carlsen said, “We were very pleased to see some restrictions be placed on the contract.” While saying that overflow parking hasn’t been a significant problem recently, Carlsen said she hoped the park would not be turned into a soccer facility with no restrictions on the league.

Agreeing, Palumba stated that Glencliff residents weren’t looking to have the league excluded from the park but simply desired limits on overflow parking.

The estimates of cars parked on Glencliff Circle during soccer games has varied among supervisors, WSA board members and Glencliff residents themselves. Supervisor Casale stated he had seen up to five cars. Carlsen stated there are usually one or two there. WSA official Greg Pinheiro stated the absolute worst he had seen was ten cars for a time period of 30 minutes.

Casale’s proposed changes to the contract, however, received strong pushback from CDD Chair Mark Ragusa, who participates in the WSA. Stating he had taken the time to observe parking during recent Saturdays the league was in session, Ragusa said, “I was floored there was still some perception among residents there is a safety issue.”

Carlsen quickly countered that the proposed changes were to prevent a reoccurrence of the parking nightmares that plagued her neighborhood during the WSA’s early years when it had 200 more players than it currently does. “That’s not to say it’s not going to happen,” she cautioned. Carlsen stated that when Glencliff residents recently learned the WSA had a contract to use the park, they jumped at the opportunity to include use restrictions that would keep the parking situation manageable.

While complimenting Casale as smart and his analysis as thorough, Ragusa added, “The analysis doesn’t match the reality of what’s out there.” Opposing the district involving itself in WSA’s scheduling, Ragusa stated his own observations – as well as a conversation with the district’s off-duty deputy patrol – caused him to conclude overflow parking was not the inconvenience or danger it was described to be. He also pointed out that when Glencliff residents submitted the petition complaining about the parking, the soccer association’s spring season had not yet begun and argued that residents present at the meeting seemed surprised to learn that fact. Ultimately, Ragusa argued the league was working with its parents to remind them to use the parking lots and park courteously. “I have a lot of faith in the WSA,” he stated. “They’ve proven responsive.”

WSA representatives also used the meeting to lobby against Casale’s proposed compromise. WSA board members Greg and Margot Pinhiero and their spokesperson Matt Peaire of Village Green echoed Ragusa.

Speaking after Peaire, Greg Pinheiro stated, “We’re trying to fix a parking problem that is non-existent.”

Simply denying the problem, however, didn’t persuade Supervisor Brian Ross. Observing he had seen the Glencliff petition stating there was an overflow parking issue that posed safety risks, Ross instead suggested Pinheiro convince him Casale’s proposed solution was unworkable. Speaking of the one game, Ross queried, “Why not just be a good neighbor and move it to the afternoon?”

Pinheiro then pointed out the rescheduling the game to the afternoon would put more games at risk of cancellation due to thunderstorms. He added that many young players would struggle to play in the heat at 2 p.m., placing extra field time on those kids who were present. “When it’s hot,” he stated, “they don’t show up.”

Arguing that the recreational league was meant to be fun, Pinheiro argued the later, hotter games would undermine the league’s purpose and participation levels. Further, Pinheiro suggested that rescheduling would not positively reduce parking in the north parking lot. Families attending the two games would still park in the northern lot, which were closest to the fields. Pinheiro also argued that rescheduling one soccer game in order to open a pavilion to a birthday party with 20 guests made no sense. “How does that help out with the parking issue?”

Concluding, he added that Palumba’s recommendation – that games be rescheduled to Sunday mornings rather than Saturday afternoons – would cause games to conflict with many families’ religious services.

The only other supervisor to comment on the matter, Supervisor Greg Chesney, stated he had received calls from residents supporting the WSA and credited them with helping him better understand the value of the organization. While he still questioned why the district would favor one sports league over others and why the association was not asked to help defray field maintenance costs, Chesney added the WSA seemed like it was controlling overflow parking well. He added, “It would not be my intent to put Westchase Soccer out.”

When he asked Pinheiro if they had a long range plan, such as one to acquire land for fields, Pinheiro responded, “Our plan is to serve the community as long as they want us.”

“I’m truly on the fence,” Chesney responded. “In the beginning I would have said no. I wouldn’t say that now.”

Peaire then joined the conversation again. “I think what we’re talking about is what’s the greatest good for the park,” he said. “I’m biased. I think soccer is.” He concluded. “I don’t see how this is anything but an asset.”

Supervisors ultimately approved the WSA’s fall contract without demanding changes to the league’s schedule. They did, however, stipulate that no soccer games were to be held during the October garage sale. Because the association stated it no longer needed use of the fields on Sundays, supervisors also removed inclusion of Sundays from the contract.

Further attempting to reassure Glencliff residents, supervisors committed to monitor parking before renewal of future contracts and use the off-duty deputy patrol to ticket cars parked illegally on Glencliff Circle. CDD staff also stated it had been opening the park earlier on Sundays to reduce overflow parking from informal adult soccer games held those mornings.

In addition to the soccer contract, supervisors spent significant time at the meeting combing through a draft of the 2013 budget. The budget is expected to be finalized in June and July and approved at the Aug. 7 meeting of the districts. A rough draft of the document, however, must be submitted early to Hillsborough County to enable them to include assessment estimates on its property tax trim notices. Thus, supervisors traditionally strive to indicate a high water mark for spending as overall assessments may not exceed those submitted for the notices.

Severn Trent’s Alan Baldwin led supervisors through a number of different line items.  After reviewing 2012 budgeted amounts and current projections for spending, supervisors indicated tentative support for adjusting Severn Trent’s suggested budgeted amounts in the following ways:

• Reducing engineering fees from $25,000 to $20,000
• Reducing telephone/communication costs from $7,500 to $6,300
• Reducing utility and reclaimed water costs from $10,000 to $8,000
• Reducing costs of irrigation repairs from $30,000 to $25,000
• Reducing budgeted sign repairs from $14,000 to $7,000
• Reducing office supply purchases from $2,900 to $2,500
• Reducing budgeted amounts for uniforms from $1,000 to $600
• Reducing pond erosion repairs from $100,000 to $50,000
• Increasing the sidewalk repair budget line from $15,000 to $20,000

Further, while Severn Trent had pitched a 2.9 percent cost of living adjustment to their management contract, Casale’s request that they reconsider the request won tacit support of fellow supervisors. “I think if they look really hard, there are reductions [to be found],” he stated. Addressing District Manager Andy Mendenhall, Casale said, “I think you guys need to talk about it internally and bring it back.”

Supervisors also elected to discuss at a future meeting potential savings from changing the way they record meetings. Currently they employ a stenographer, who records the meeting’s minutes verbatim. They also asked Field Manager Doug Mays to explore whether hiring an individual part-time made more sense that paying existing staff members overtime to open and close parks at dusk and dawn and collect park trash on weekends.

As part of their discussion, supervisors again debated whether the district’s reserves were adequate. While Mendenhall stated that the district has reserves in excess of most other districts he manages, supervisors asked him to generate a study of Severn Trent’s Florida districts to help them better grasp whether Westchase reserves were acceptable.

A motion accepting the budget for county tax notices and scheduling the public budget forum on Aug. 7 at 4 p.m. at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center was approved 4-1, with only Chesney opposed. Chesney stated he voted in opposition because he could not be present on Aug. 7.

Addressing a request by the The Vineyards’ homeowners association, supervisors briefly discussed a proposed dock, erected on the large lake lying to the west of that neighborhood. While the proposal is simply in the conceptual phase, the association wanted to gauge supervisors’ feeling about the project to ascertain whether it would even be possible. While Supervisors Chesney and Ross raised questions about its aesthetic impact on the lake and whether its uses would comply with Westchase standards, supervisors gave no clear indication of support or opposition to the project. Ragusa, however, instructed staff to inform the association it could judge the potential district’s position from the conversation.

In other news:

CDD Supervisor Bill Casale encouraged staff to develop a written emergency plan, including a review of funds that would be available should a disaster such as a hurricane strike Westchase.

Village Green VM Bobbi Pitcher requested supervisors’ assistance in addressing safety issues at the intersection of Gretna Green Drive and her Green Links Drive. She requested supervisors trim bushes and flowers to improve the line-of-sight for vehicles turning into Village Green. To protect pedestrians, she encouraged supervisors to consider moving the intersection’s existing crosswalk and improve lighting to protect students who congregate at the bus stop in the morning. Supervisors committed to working with field staff, TECO and the CDD engineer to address her requests.

Supervisors passed motions accepting the suggested investment of district reserve funds and approved a $3,300 contract with a vendor who will appraise the district’s assets.

Supervisors unanimously approved USF soccer’s use of Glencliff Park for a weeklong summer camp.

Supervisors unanimously approved a Request for Proposal for a Distributed Antennae System (DAS) in Westchase.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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