Westchase Voting Members sat through a Dec. 8 session impacted by some tacit neighborhood politics after a VM election in Harbor Links.
The group listened as Harbor Links Alternate Terrance Maloney, recently omitted from his neighborhood’s ballot when he did not inform the association of his intent to run for VM again, asked them to address the matter. VMs’ later vote, however, showed scant support for further clarifying election rules.
The meeting began with Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Resource Office Deputy Matthew McCutcheon discussing a recent package theft in The Bridges. “As you all know, it is the holiday season and we’re having what we call the porch pirate season,” he said. McCutcheon stated that the HCSO’s Operation Pinch a Grinch allows residents to ship packages to the sheriff’s office by the Citrus Park mall, provided packages are smaller than 50 inches.
The packages should be shipped to residents who can claim them with ID. They should be shipped to 7202 Gunn Hwy, Tampa, FL 33624.
“The best advice I can give you is let your neighbors know,” McCutcheon said of home deliveries. “Maybe they can pick it up for you.”
McCutcheon also reminded everyone that belongings should be taken out of cars and that they be locked in driveways.
McCutcheon briefly turned to the use of golf carts in the community, which some residents have complained about. “If you have a golf cart privately, you must have a license and seatbelts if you want to ride it on the road.”
As a government entity, McCutcheon stated, the Westchase CDD’s lawn maintenance crews are exempt from the law.
Addressing the use of golf carts at a February Westchase CDD meeting, Deputy David Owen of the HCSO’s traffic enforcement division stated that use of golf carts in Westchase was illegal and citable with traffic tickets because Westchase was not a designated golf cart community, which requires eight-foot wide sidewalks and lower road speeds. He added that street legal golf carts must be designated low speed vehicles (LSV) and be capable of top speeds of 20-25 miles per hour. In addition, they must be insured and have headlights and taillights, mirrors, turn signals, a windshield, seatbelts, a license tag and a vehicle identification number, among other things.
After WCA Director Dale Sells requested VMs ask their residents to nominate generous neighbors for the Nathan Lafer Good Neighbor Award, VMs voted unanimously in their second required vote to approve fence guideline amendments for The Shires, Chelmsford and Woodbay.
“The next two items on the agenda have to do with future voting member elections,” said Yesner, who then offered the floor to Maloney, who detailed that he had been left off his neighborhood VM election ballot because he assumed his name, as the incumbent VM, would be automatically included. While he ran as a write-in, former Harbor Links VM Nancy Sells won the Dec. 3 election. Maloney, now an alternate, asked VMs to change the rules to make automatic inclusion of incumbent VMs on the ballot the practice.
Bennington VM Russ Crooks, who served on the committee that compiled the current election rules, stated the committee had looked at the matter and decided to require even sitting VMs to formally declare, submit a bio and sign the required form.
“I’ll back you up on that,” said Director Heather Greeley-Hessefort, who served on the committee. “We made the recommendation that everyone declare as candidates.”
“When my name was excluded from the ballot, it was a little concerning,” said Maloney, who argued he should have been offered the respect of being asked by the association manager about his intent. “I was a little bit let down by the system and the process.”
Long-serving Greens VM Jerry Pappa, however, stated, “I always had to redeclare my candidacy.” He added, “I’ve never taken it for granted I would be on the ballot again.”
WCA Manager Debbie Sainz added that Manager Charlotte Adams sent two emails to all VMs that stated, in bold print, “I need to know who will be running again and who will not be.”
Ultimately a motion made by VM Mary Griffin (WPV Single Family Homes) to include a sentence in election rules stating that incumbent VMs had to inform the office of their intent to run again was defeated by VMs when it gained the support of just Griffin and the VMs from Woodbay and The Bridges but saw 24 VMs opposed.
Yesner then turned to another issue raised by Maloney: whether a VM should be reporting deed restriction violations from their neighborhoods to the association office. Yesner stated that while rules violation reporting was not part of a VM’s job, he added, “Any resident of any neighborhood in the community can report a violation to the WCA office.”
Maloney countered that VMs should represent the intent of their neighborhood, supporting their homeowners’ interest, not reporting them. He added, when he ran for VM, he promised not “to be the person who walks around with a notepad and a camera.”
Kingsford VM Forrest Baumhover said, “I trust each VM takes into consideration the general feel for their neighborhood. I trust if they’re making harassing decisions that aren’t in the best interest of their neighborhood, they won’t be a VM much longer.”
“I am not going to stop reporting obvious violations I see to the office, most of which I see on my evening walks,” said VM Griffin. “I’ve had several violations myself.”
Adding that he’d seen harassment in his neighborhood, Maloney responded, “Then let’s do away with the expense of having management look for violations. Just have VMs do it.”
Griffin responded, “Terrance, you are taking a situation and are making the worst case of it.”
When Yesner said the issue was intended for clarification and there was no need for any motion, VM Ralph Caputo (Abbottsford) stated, “I’ll make a motion. I’ll make a motion to adjourn the meeting.”
Closing the session, Caputo reminded VMs of the Santa parade and the toy drop off at Westchase Elementary from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12.
WCA Director Joaquin Arrillaga also reminded VMs that the Master Plan Committee still wanted to hear from residents about program and facility improvements through Dec. 10 at https://wowmagazine.survey.fm/2020-master-plan-survey. “Communicate with us,” he said. “We would love to get ideas.”
VMs adjourned at 8:23 p.m.
By Chris Barrett, Publisher