The Jan. 5 meeting of the Westchase CDD saw supervisors largely focus on matters surrounding two proposed cell towers.
CDD Attorney Erin McCormick turned first to the district’s lease agreement, approved in December with Vertex, the builder of a proposed cell tower for a CDD-owned parcel of land behind the Maureen Gauzza Library. “It’s been executed by Vertex,” she said.
CDD Engineer CDD Engineer Stephen Brletic stated he had circulated a preliminary map of the wetlands and uplands of the area to help the district determine if any of the parcel could be used for recreational purposes in addition to the tower. He stated there was an area on the eastern side of the parcel but the district would have to resolve access issues. Referring to the wetland delineation, Brletic stated of Vertex, “They’re going to have to do it in the permit process to get it formally delineated.”
Stating Vertex was required to pick up all permitting and surveying costs associated with the tower work, McCormick added, “The CDD does have the final approval of the location of the cell tower on the site.”
When Brletich added that a portion of the parcel, due to access road construction related to a TECO easement, appeared to have had its drainage impeded and was early in the stages of transitioning to a wetland area, CDD Supervisor Brian Ross inquired if it would be in the district’s interest to have the wetlands mapped sooner rather than later in order to insure all usable uplands be included in SWFTMD wetland maps rather than risk waiting and see the usable area shrink. While stating that Vertex’s permitting timeline likely wouldn’t impact the issue, Brletich added that mapping the area during the dry season would represent a wise approach. After some discussion, supervisors unanimously approved Ross’ motion to have Brletich move forward with formal mapping of the area, at district expense, and then share it with Vertex in order to have the district control the process.
McCormick then opened up discussion about the second proposed tower, in the south parking lot of Glenciff Park. McCormick stated, after soliciting resident feedback on the district’s Web site and through WOW about the proposed base fence and landscaping for the tower, she had received five emails with four opposed and one in support.
Woodbay resident Lorrie Belovich, who called into the meeting and who had submitted one of the emails, stated she had closely followed the cell tower news over the last two years but felt many nearby residents were completely unaware of it. She took issue with the district’s latest rendering of the tower base compared to previously shared images. Citing the tower’s greater height, the base’s stark white fence and minimal landscaping she said, “It looks completely different from what we saw before.” She added, “I just want to make sure that we really have the opportunity to offer feedback on what’s there.”
Belovich stated she wasn’t opposed to the tower, but felt it should be set back and screened better to give it less prominence along what she described as one of Westchase’s beautiful entrances. If a done deal, she added, the district should at least improve the appearance of the fence and landscaping.
Citing a February 2020 meeting attended, she said, by about 25 residents, McCormick emphasized it had been a long process that involved resident input. She added it wasn’t a done deal and stated the comment period was open through Jan. 29 and the county commission would need to approve the tower before it came back to the district for final approval.
Chair Matt Lewis, who has worked closest with Vertex on the project, thanked Belovich and stated, “As a board of five supervisors over the last two years, we’ve taken into consideration a lot of the issues.” Lewis continued, “I live in Wycliff. I’m very close to Glencliff Park myself.” He added, “There’s been a lot of due diligence.”
Supervisor Ross, however, inquired whether the base appearance could be improved with more mature landscaping. He included concern about the white fence, which, McCormick stated, was actually going to be tan.
Acknowledging that it would affect the entrance to the park path and boardwalk, Ross added that placing the entrance on the north side instead of facing the parking lot and street might also improve the appearance and would be worth exploring with the county.
When Supervisor Baumhover suggested the board get through the existing county approval process and then pitch improvements, Lewis responded, “That’s fair.”
Attorney McCormick stated she had followed up with county recreational staff, who told her that even in non-staffed parks, the county was putting basketball hoops back up if requested by residents. Supervisor Brian Ross stated that the district had received multiple resident requests for returning Glencliff Park’s basketball hoops, and if that was county policy, it would make sense to be consistent and return the hoops.
Supervisor Matt Lewis stated he found it difficult to believe that county staff, even at staffed parks, was enforcing social distancing on basketball courts but added, “I’ve been a little torn about this because the playground is open.”
Stating he was also torn, Supervisor Jim Wimsatt, citing the district’s previous agreement to follow county policies, stated, If the county says they are putting up hoops if residents request it, I don’t know if it makes sense to do something different.”
“Just because other people are acting in an irresponsible way doesn’t mean we should,” Supervisor Greg Chesney responded. He asked that Mays confirm with the County Parks and Recreation Department the names of at least two parks where the county had actually done that. “I want to see two to three parks. I’m incredulous but not surprised,” he said.
Once the park names were confirmed by the county, Mays stated he would reinstall the Glencliff Park hoops to the backboards.
On Jan. 7, however, Supervisor Chesney contacted WOW and stated that after CDD staff had inquired further with county parks’ staff, they discovered McCormick had been in error and that no non-staffed county parks had reinstalled basketball hoops. Since the district has been following county Covid practices, Chesney stated the Westchase parks will not have their hoops reinstalled until they are also reinstalled at non-staffed county parks.
Concluding formal action, supervisors unanimously approved Supervisor Wimsatt’s request for the installation of two park benches, roughly at a cost of $1,600, along the lake on the south side of Linebaugh near the Radcliffe pedestrian tunnel.
In other actions:
Supervisors asked Field Manager Doug Mays to follow up with Westlake Townhomes about SWFTMD’s requirement that an island in a lake the townhomes previously transferred to the district be planted with $5,300 in additional landscaping, which, Mays added, the townhomes developer was supposed to have handled.
Field Supervisor Doug Mays and Attorney McCormick stated they planned to address a new fence that appears to be encroaching on a CDD-owned parcel off Promise Lane.
Field Supervisor Mays stated he had an in-person request from Westlake Townhomes that the district return to treating the lake adjacent to the development with larvicide, at a cost of $600-700 per treatment, to address a midge fly problem. Mays, however, stated that the district was currently addressing the issue with a nanobubbler and the use of a bacteria that attacks all insect larva in the lake bottom, which was having a very positive effect. Supervisors asked him to craft a response, run it by the attorney, and send it to the townhomes board member.
Supervisors adjourned at 5:43 p.m.
By Chris Barrett, Publisher
Note: The original version of this article has been edited to include additional information about the district’s basketball decision that came in moments after its first posting.