Proposed Crosswalk Stirs Debate at December WCA Board Meeting

The Dec. 14 meeting kicked off with unanimous approval of the consent agenda, Glencliff’s budget, and the renewal of Glencliff’s management contract. Director Jim Brinker was absent.

Treasurer Michiel Oostenbrink began his monthly report by discussing the details of an IRS revenue ruling related to how community associations may handle excess income. The WCA does not have any excess income this year, explained Oostenbrink, but he wanted to be certain that everyone understood the implications of the ruling and explained that it gives associations the option to apply any excess income to offset the amount that homeowners will be required to pay the following year.

GAC Chair Rick Goldstein noted that Oldsmar Mayor Dan Saracki will attend the January Voting Members’, Hillsborough County Commissioner Harry Cohen, who represents District 1, will speak to the VMs at their February meeting, and Jonathan Ellis from Shumaker, Loop, & Kendrick, the WCA’s legal counsel, is scheduled to come to the VMs March meeting.

Goldstein then moved to nominate Dale Sells to serve on the GAC, and his motion passed unanimously. He also addressed the upcoming parking changes in West Park Village, which he explained were needed to accommodate emergency vehicles. Director Michele DelSordo asked whether WPV residents would be paying for the new signage that is accompanying the changes, and Goldstein confirmed that they would. DelSordo said it was vital to communicate that to the residents, and Goldstein said he would reach out to Sonny Whyte from the Westchase CDD to ensure that she shared the information in a timely manner.

Vulture Update

Goldstein told the Board that he had met with CDD Chair Matt Lewis to discuss ways in which they could work together to mitigate the local turkey vulture population. GAC Member John Frazier said he had attended the most recent CDD meeting, and the supervisors discussed that residents could use approved mitigation modifications like adding spikes to their roofs. Those methods don’t work, replied Goldstein.  Goldstein acknowledged the vultures are very important to the area’s ecosystem, but added that without proper mitigation efforts, the population will become unmanageable. He said residents of Stonebridge and Woodbridge have been paying to repair damage to screens and roofs caused by the birds’ sharp beaks and talons.

Proposed Crosswalk Discussion

Goldstein said he’d met both with Lewis and with the public works department to discuss a proposed crosswalk from West Park Village to Westchase Elementary School. According to Goldstein, Lewis asked whether the WCA could table the matter to give the CDD the opportunity to discuss it at their January meeting. Director Terry Boyd said he didn’t fully understand the issues surrounding the need for a crosswalk, and asked Goldstein to elaborate.

John Frazier interjected to say that parents of elementary school students who live on the far east side of Montague either have to walk a substantial distance to the closest crosswalk; illegally and dangerously walk across Montague; or get in their cars and drive their kids to school, which adds to already slow traffic during drop-off and pickup times. A crosswalk would provide these parents with a safe and prompt way to walk their kids to and from school, he continued.

Transportation professional and 20-year Westchase resident Lisa Silva reported that 575 Westchase Elementary students live on the south side of Linebaugh Avenue. She said that safety professionals all agree that a crosswalk is needed, which was why the county so quickly approved it. She expressed confusion as to why Goldstein had contacted the county in opposition to the project.

Westchase resident and crosswalk proponent Lauren Frazier echoed Silva’s concerns, saying that Goldstein was initially on board with the project, but had more recently shut down her efforts to keep him in the loop about the progress of the proposed crosswalk. Goldstein responded by saying that Lauren Frazier had misconstrued some of his actions, and that he reached out to county officials asking for time to evaluate the situation, not to oppose the crosswalk.

“In terms of talking to the county commissioners, my job is to analyze and to ask questions. I have a bunch of questions that need to be answered,” said Goldstein. “Shawn [Yesner] said to me that we need to know what the CDD wants to do about it, and Matt [Lewis] said he would appreciate it if we could hold off on the discussion.”

“I don’t know if I’m in favor of it or against it,” commented Yesner. “I have kids that go to Westchase Elementary. What surprised me is that this came up before the last board as an idea. Next thing I know, we’re going to bust through Linebaugh, and I said, ‘Whoa! We’re just at the beginning of due diligence.’”

Even if the board decided to oppose the crosswalk, the land belongs to the county, so officials could move forward with it anyway, added Yesner. Lauren Frazier assured Yesner that even if approved, the crosswalk would not be built right away. The project has about a $2 million price tag, she continued, and wasn’t included in the current fiscal year’s budget.

Paula Flores, transportation engineer and Stonebridge resident, was also in attendance as a proponent of the crosswalk.

“As professionals, we are very lucky that we have a condition here that we can mitigate,” said Flores. “The county has recognized that we have a problem. If the county says it’s justified, it’s justifiable. I urge you to delve into it and listen to the professionals so you clearly understand what is the problem, what are the objectives, and, more importantly, what are the outcomes.”

Goldstein then made a motion to table the matter until after the CDD had the opportunity to discuss it at their January 2024 meeting.

“It feels a bit contentious. It doesn’t have to. It’s more like a fact-finding mission,” stated Oostenbrink. “I’m happy to get some more information. If I know so little about it, what does the rest of Westchase know about?”

“From a board perspective, if we have a majority of residents who are in favor of it, then I’ll be in favor of it, too,” added Yesner. “My surprise was the speed at which it was approved.”

DelSordo asked whether it would be possible to ask transportation professionals who do not live in the community to weigh in to remove some of the emotion from the discussion. The board agreed that that would be a good idea, then voted unanimously in favor of Goldstein’s motion to table the issue until after the CDD had discussed it.

Committee Updates

Oostenbrink then moved on to discuss the progress that the RFP Committee has made. Committee members put together a draft of technical requirements that had been shared with the VMs and the board, he continued. There will be a collaborative presentation at January’s VM meeting and the committee will take the opportunity to solicit feedback, he said.

Maurer provided an update from the Renovation Committee regarding the bathrooms at the Countryway pool. He explained that they reached out to nine companies seeking bids for the work, and have received only two responses thus far. Contractors will bid on the scope of work at Countryway, but could potentially end up doing work at the West Park Village pool as well.

An audience member asked Maurer whether the committee had considered using solar power at the Countryway facility to save on electric costs. The amount of solar power needed to cover the fans would likely be cost-prohibitive, replied Maurer, but he agreed to look into it.

Yesner reminded board members that they had voted to reconstitute the Swim and Tennis Committee at the November meeting, and asked them to select committee members from among the resumes that candidates had submitted. There were 12 total applicants for five to nine positions on the committee, he added.

Boyd moved to have a total of seven committee members, to include two WCA board members, and his motion passed unanimously. The board agreed that two committee members should represent swimmers, two should represent tennis players, and the remaining three (including the two board members) would be neutral members.

Board members voted unanimously to appoint the following committee members: Boyd, Maurer, and Renee Wargo (neutral); Greg James and Pam Wilcox (swim); and Dan Haigy and Sean Lynch (tennis).

Management Reports and Facility Updates

Property Manager Debbie Sainz then began her monthly report by sharing that she had made a payment to Imagine Audio for the projectors at the Countryway activity room and at the WCA office on Parley, and that the projectors were on order. She added that the fence at the pickleball court at Countryway had been repaired.

Facilities Manager Dwight Kilgore said he was working with his lifeguards to put together an accurate representation of how the Westchase facilities were performing, attendance-wise. He hoped to have that report next month, he added.

Kilgore has also been working on some proposed facility rule changes, and Yesner said he had questions about some of them. The board then discussed whether to allow open flames and wall hangings in the activity room and whether to change the court cancellation rules. DelSordo agreed to prepare an updated set of rules that would be approved at a future meeting. Kilgore stated that he wanted to focus more on adding new activities for residents in the coming year, but warned that they may be accompanied by some upfront costs.

Yesner asked board members whether they wanted to renew AB Tennis Services’ contract with the WCA. Coach Alex Bogdanovic was present to answer any questions. Oostenbrink moved to increase the monthly fee for the tennis contract by ten percent (from $1000 to $1100) and to renew it for a year. Board members agreed that the increase was necessary to cover the costs of wear and tear on the courts that the program incurs.

The Pipeline Swimming contract was also up for renewal, said Yesner. Sainz said the contract is renewed on an annual basis, and that the program uses the Countryway pool from 4 to 7:30 pm Monday through Friday. Boyd moved to extend Pipeline’s contract with a ten percent increase, and all board members voted in favor of his motion. The board also agreed to work with legal counsel to amend language that prohibits them from increasing any fees for outside contractors by more than ten percent in a given year.

Only one company responded to requests for bids on the West Park Village pool repair, and Maurer asked whether the issue could be tabled until staff successfully gathered additional bids. Boyd moved to table the matter until the next board meeting, and his motion passed unanimously.

End of Year Gifts for Staff and Non-Staff

Yesner raised the question of whether the WCA board would give year-end gifts to staff members and to non-staff who support Westchase. Goldstein moved that the board should gift the same amounts to staff members this year as it did last year, and Yesner seconded the motion. The budgeted amount for year-end staff gifts was $5,000, and voting in favor of Goldstein’s motion would permit the WCA to spend a total of $3,050 on staff gifts, said Yesner. The motion passed unanimously.

Regarding non-staff, Yesner clarified that he was referring to the community’s night inspector and three Greenacre Properties employees: Debbie Sainz, Charlotte Adams, and Cyndi Moses. The budget line item for non-staff gifts was $3,500, added Yesner. Goldstein made a motion to gift the same amounts to non-staff members that were gifted in 2022, and Boyd seconded his motion.

Oostenbrink said he had researched the matter independently, and learned that it’s not advisable for a community association to provide such gifts to employees of property management companies. Setting a precedent of gift giving could create ill will among non-staff members, if, for some reason, that precedent was not to be followed in the future, he added.

Boyd said the board should take that advice into account when the next contract with a management company is negotiated. Goldstein said that the non-staff members in question do a lot for the community and that the gifts show that residents appreciate those efforts. Goldstein’s motion passed unanimously.

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