CDD Hears Pushback on North Cell Tower from Shires Residents

At the July 12 meeting Westchase CDD Supervisors sought authority over sidewalk tree permits while Shires residents voiced disapproval of a proposed cell tower.

CDD Engineer Robert Dvorak reported that while exploring ways to increase outflow from the large lake adjacent to Stonebridge and Sturbridge, he had recently attended a field trial of new technology where water was able to be pumped in advance of a storm, leading to the benefit of flood relief, water quality and potential water credits that could be sold to developers. Dvorak did recognize that while this approach may not be appropriate for Westchase, he would continue to explore it.

Following up on last month’s request from resident Ashley Wait to consider construction of a football field and track, Dvorak shared a plan he had drawn up of the area behind the library. While the land was sufficiently large enough for the football field, there would not be enough land for a track. Later in the meeting Wait inquired into the possibility of acquiring land owned by Tampa Bay Downs for the purposes of the sports facility. CDD Attorney Erin McCormick concluded this would be a complicated process of expanding district lines potentially into another county. Wait went on to point out that, having looked at the size of high school fields, the minimum amount of land needed would be a little over three acres but a fully functioning facility with amenities would require between twelve and fifteen acres. Supervisor Greg Chesney confirmed that the largest parcel the CDD had to build on currently is 4.9 acres. He went on to remind the floor that a sports field under the TECO lines had been suggested but that the idea was not popular with parents. He suggested that Wait look at the horse stable land at Highland Park, possibly county owned. Chairman Matt Lewis concluded the topic by thanking Wait for her continued exploration of the project.

Attorney McCormick began her report by confirming that she had received the proposed contract to redesign and update the West Park Village Bell Tower area. Supervisor Brian Ross questioned the contract and asked why the planning procedure was not being done ‘in house’. McCormick explained that the idea was for an external landscape architect to produce a conception design and then manage construction. It was up to the board if they continued with the consultant. The board approved the contract as presented 4 to 1 with Ross dissenting.
A resident request for a fence to be erected prompted a lengthy discussion into the potential problems of building on homeowner property near wetland areas. The CDD owns the wetland area behind the property and the fence would be within 15’ of the required 30’ wetland setback on the homeowner’s land. Dvorak confirmed that there had been similar works on wetland setbacks that had not come through the CDD. Office Manager Sonny Whyte confirmed she had no recollection of any such request being received previously. Supervisor Ross was concerned by the impact these unreported works have on the community and argued the board should “hold ourselves to high standards” to maintain the aesthetic integrity of Westchase. The board approved a motion for Attorney McCormick to review future requests.

Following up on May’s approval that the district ask the county to turn over street tree permitting to the CDD, Attorney McCormick she confirmed she had spoken to the Assistant County Attorney and can now begin the process to gain a Global Tree Permit. McCormick confirmed that all trees currently identified by the CDD were allowed within the county code. The next step is to produce a site plan and figure out the cost. Supervisor Ross reflected that while the CDD would be able to remove trees more quickly with the permit, he asked if the county would repair the damage to the sidewalk. McCormick agreed to discuss this with the county along with exploring who would be liable if somebody should trip.

A number of Shires residents attended the meeting to voice their opinions on the proposed North Cell Tower due to be constructed on land between the library and Shires’ lots. The general consensus from the audience was disappointment that the CDD had not been explicit enough with the location. One member accused the CDD of “not representing the neighborhood.” Supervisor Ross reiterated that the project had not been driven by the CDD but by residents concerned with the safety issues arising from poor coverage. He explained that over the years several companies had solicited the CDD over the construction of a new cell tower but it was not until residents approached the board that the issue was pursued. Chairman Matt Lewis added that revenue had zero impact on the decision making process. Finally Supervisor James Wimsatt, a former Derbyshire resident, confirmed he would approve the cell tower even if he still lived in that neighborhood.

Field Manager Doug Mays was pleased to report that despite the labor challenges facing district landscaper, Davey, the company is “hanging in there” and scheduled work and resident requests are being completed. Jeremy Tibbets, Davey’s District Branch Manager, has confirmed that four new foreign workers are due to start working next week once their work visa process is completed. They have also sub-contracted out some of the mowing duties and also outsourced the replanting of the seasonal plants. Tibbets, Mays said, is “determined to honor their contract” and the only area that is hurting is mowing around the lakes. Chairman Lewis asked Mays if there was anything more the CDD could do to help and Mays confirmed Davey will send a letter with any proposals. Mays concluded his report by advising the board that A&B Aquatics, which has been servicing the ponds for 12 years, was sold to a new owner but this will not impact on the community.

By Sarah Temple

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