The Feb. 2 meeting of the Westchase CDD on Feb. 2 saw supervisors vote to review their road reserves and undertake the planting of hundreds of cypress saplings along a recently obtained lake.
Supervisors unanimously supported a motion asking staff to update the CDD’s road reserve study, which estimates reserve funds needed to pave district-owned roads: Whitmarsh Lane behind the 7-Eleven, Radcliffe Drive between Linebaugh Avenue and the Westchase Golf Course, roads behind neighborhood gates and West Park’s alleys.
The district also elected to complete the required planting of cypress trees on a district-owned pond that the Environmental Protection Commission was insisting that M/I Homes, the lake’s previous owner, complete.
Opening the meeting, CDD Engineer Robert Dvorak focused on a different, district-owned piece of land behind the large lake beside Westchase Elementary – a landlocked parcel tucked between Stonebridge and The Vineyards. He stated it had been staked by surveyors to determine if a fence, constructed by a homeowner living on Promise Drive, was encroaching on it.
Field Manager Doug Mays stated the owner who erected the fence had removed it. He added the resident had put it up to contain swans, which were escaping to the CDD parcel. Mays added that his conversation with a homeowner Promise Lane, which is privately owned, left him with the impression that another Promise Lane homeowner who had opposed the CDD using the road for accessing the parcel had moved away, potentially opening up access through the private road.
Attorney Erin McCormick cautioned, however, that any district use would involve a formal agreement that would likely require consent of homeowners who owned the road.
Supervisor Ross, however, expressed concern that access through Promise Drive might create a belief among its owners of a right to use the district’s land, which supervisors have discussed using as a neighborhood nursery or even community garden. “That’s really not, in my view, the best way to approach it,” he said, expressing interest in gaining access from Linebaugh Avenue along TECO’s land.
After Supervisor Forrest Baumhover was assured CDD staff can access the land along a maintenance easement, Supervisor Greg Chesney stated, “I think it’s too soon to give up on the idea of how to access it….That’s a lot of land we should utilize.”
Ross, however, stated he was not suggesting the district give up, but observed the district had spent a lot of time on the access issue with little progress.
Mays, however, countered that progress had been made bringing electricity to the parcel, necessary for an irrigation well. When Ross stated that was good for the district’s use of the land as a nursery, it didn’t resolve the resident access issue for its use as a community garden.
Supervisor Jim Wimsatt agreed with Chesney. Stating he had visited the parcel, he added, “It seems there is a lot of potential out there. We just have to figure out how to use that potential.”
When Chair Matt Lewis inquired where the district stood with a possible TECO easement for access, McCormick responded, “We’re working on it.” She stated she was waiting for more information about the history of the TECO and Promise Lane land ownership before bringing on another attorney with expertise in landlocked parcel access issues. The fact that maintenance staff is using it, she added, would give the district a right to claim right of way. With some more facts and survey information, she said she aimed to go to TECO with hope of resolving resident access without escalating the matter.
Turning to a district-owned low wall that a Village Green homeowner stated was impeding yard drainage and killing grass, Dvorak stated his review of the survey and grading suggested the district should just regrade the wall easement so water drains to the street. “My recommendation to the board is to fix the issue with minor grading.”
Field Supervisor Doug Mays stated he would also work with the homeowner to ensure no irrigation problems were actually causing the grass to die.
Dvorak also stated that Mays and he recently inspected a pond bank with an erosion issue behind a Greensprings home. He stated he was seeking contractor bids to restore the bank slope and estimated it would cost $10,000.
McCormick stated she had received four additional resident comments on the proposed base for the cell tower at Glencliff Park, two positive and two negative. She stated the county would review all the feedback and schedule the tower for consideration at a Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners meeting, whose date she would place on the district’s Web site and submit to WOW.
Supervisor Ross indicated that McCormick, in addition to recent written comments, should convey the strong community support for the tower that was indicated in previous resident meetings. “I feel my job is to do what the residents want,” he added.
When McCormick suggested the district perhaps put together a committee of residents to review the tower’s aesthetics and give input on its design, Supervisor Matt Lewis said there was board support for looking at aesthetic improvements but wanted to move forward with the county. “Let’s get through this first hurdle,” he said.
“I personally feel our process worked quite well,” Ross said, emphasizing he believed the district had been repetitive and redundant with communication. While acknowledging that some residents were just tuning in, he added, “At the end of the day I’m going to feel very positive we had lots of community input.”
Ross added that, as a result, he felt no strong need for a committee.
“It sounds like there were lots of discussions with residents who wanted the cell tower,” added Supervisor Wimsatt, whose board term started recently. “But I also agree that bringing people in in a workshop in terms of aesthetics makes sense to me. Get them involved.”
“I feel my comments are consistent with yours,” said Ross, adding that resident input could be effectively gained from a workshop involving interested residents instead of a committee.
Baumhover agreed, “We need to make sure the workshop accommodates residents and puts them in charge with [Vertex, the cell tower builder].”
McCormick then turned to a demand made the Environmental Protection Commission on M/I Homes, about that developer’s failure to properly plant and maintain the northwest corner of a lake M/I recently gave ownership of to the district. M/I has refused to do the planting, stating the lake was now the responsibility of the district. McCormick stated that M/I’s claim was likely not legally sustainable and the EPC could still pursue them. She added, however, that it was likely the district’s legal costs in the matter would exceed the cost of just doing the work. Field Manager Doug stated he had received a bid from A&B Aquatics for $6,388. “That’s for 250 cypress trees and removal of invasive species,” he said.
While he said M/I’s refusal bothered him since the district would likely have to monitor the plantings to ensure their success, CDD Engineer Dvorak agreed, “I think it’s worth at least considering.”
Supervisor Ross stated both sides would likely lose if the matter became focused on lawyers and added the district would spend $1,000 just to draft an agreement to split costs. “My gut is, let’s just move forward,” he said.
Supervisor Wimsatt, who, like Ross, is an attorney, agreed. “We already own the property. Overall, fighting over it is going to cost more than just doing it the right way.”
A motion to approve the work ultimately passed 5-0.
Turning to supervisor requests, Supervisor Wimsatt said he had received an email from a Shires resident requesting a fountain in a pond inside the Shires entrance. Mays observed it would really only benefit the residents in The Shires and six to eight homes on the Radcliffe pond side. He said he told the resident that district-installed fountains are placed on major thoroughfares to benefit the entire community.
“My personal position is if they wanted to do it, we would charge the neighborhood since it’s not on a main thoroughfare,” observed Supervisor Chesney.
The board ultimately requested staff check with the Shires Voting Member to explore neighborhood support for the proposal.
Supervisors adjourned at 5:15 p.m.
By Chris Barrett, Publisher