CDD Hears Concerns on Tree Policy

The May 7 CDD meeting began with the resident forum. A Greens resident spoke first regarding his property, which backs onto the fourth hole on the golf course. He note there is a cart path on the back of his lot and was looking for information on how the Golf Club interacts with his property, particularly pertaining to any potential liability issues. Attorney Erin McCormick confirmed that this wasn’t really CDD business, but she would look at it in closer detail for him. Engineer Robert Dvorak suggested he check for more details on the County Property Appraisers website. Supervisor Reggie Gillis concluded the conversation by explaining there were specific rules within the Declaration of Covenants of Westchase which can be found on the WCA’s website.

Following up on what he read in last month’s WOW, Radcliffe resident Jeff Selingson urged the board to think carefully before purchasing a street sweeper. He specifically wanted to know if the board had considered all the costs associated with the machine. Chairman Matt Lewis reassured Selingson that the board scrutinizes every purchasing decision.

The majority of the meeting then pertained to a thorough discussion regarding tree removal, specifically in the gated community of Stonebridge. President of the Stonebridge Villa HOA, Matthew Rice, identified that up until a few years ago, if requested, the Field Manager would remove an oak tree and the cost would come directly from the Stonebridge budget. Rice now wanted clarification on why last month one resident’s request was approved but their neighbor’s request for tree removal was not. Supervisor Chris Barrett explained that the request had not been denied because of an easement issue but because the board is trying to preserve the trees. He then went on to explain that the change in policy to move the cost of tree removal to the resident was to disincentivize homeowners from pulling down trees. Rice suggested that the cost of tree removal should be absorbed by the external landscaping budget of the Stonebridge HOA and not the individual homeowner. Other residents on hand explained that there were only 17 oaks left in the neighborhood and suggested it would make more sense to replace them all with Crepe Myrtles for consistency. One resident asked the board if they would be receptive to the idea of homeowners paying more into the association in anticipation of more tree replacements. Supervisor Jim Wimsatt questioned whether this would be supported by the whole neighborhood.

In an effort to compromise, Supervisor Gregory Chesney suggested an arborist look at the tree for which the permit was denied in April and also ask their advice on the whole street and the “flow of trees.” To end the discussion, Lewis asked McCormick to put into writing the policy that the cost of tree removal in gated and non-gated communities goes to the resident, and replacement trees are donated by the CDD.

During the April workshop, Engineer Robert Dvorak introduced the concept of a trail system throughout Westchase. Since then, he had been looking at the cost of materials for both timber and asphalt walkways. At the bare minimum, the cost would be just under $12 million but it would be a long term project over five to ten years – he would provide more details at the next workshop.

Manager Andrew Mendenhall had prepared the presentation of the 2025 Budget for the board to review ahead of its approval in June and subsequent public hearing in August. Major items to note included an increase in paving costs. Compared to the engineers’ report in 2021, costs in broad terms had nearly doubled. But he reminded the board that there were a few neighborhoods due for repaving and suggested that if they delayed the work, they ran the risk of ruining the integrity of the pavements. Mendenhall had included some increases as a starting point for those areas in need of repaving and also asked the board to consider a payback plan. He urged the board to take the information away and digest it. Chesney agreed that his  financial strategy was strong.

A recent inspection had identified that the Glencliff sports field was in less than good shape. In his report, Field Manager David Sylvanowicz made two recommendations: 1) fence the area off, seed and cover in hay or 2) re-sod the entire area. Gillis was concerned that someone was going to seriously hurt themselves on the poor surface and that the board should consider other long-term solutions, such as AstroTurf. Chesney asked Sylvanowicz to bring pricing options for both Glencliff and Baybridge parks, to the next workshop.

The inspection also recommended that the oak trees behind the Linebaugh/Sheldon monument should be removed and replaced. However, an arborist had looked at the area and, in his opinion, some rejuvenating cuts and retrenching would be much more cost effective.

After two hours, the board was keen to wrap up the meeting with confirmation of the workshop on May 21, where they will be discussing the potential of the Golf Course, turf prices for the parks and a further look at a trail map.

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