CDD Passes 2020 Budget with No Assessment Increases

The brief 70-minute Westchase CDD meeting saw supervisors formally pass their $2.6 million 2020 budget, which will see no homeowner increases in the coming year.

That budget, roughly equal to the current year’s, keeps homeowner and commercial Community Development District (CDD) assessment levels the same or marginally lower than the current year. According to District Manager Andy Mendenhall, the district currently is running an expected $300,000 surplus this year. The district doesn’t close its books until late September and the fiscal year’s end often brings a few large purchases which will lower this number.

The neighborhoods of Village Green, The Vineyards and the portion of West Park Village built first (largely west of Montague Street) will make their final CDD debt payments in 2020. These debt assessments pay off 20-year bonds that funded the neighborhoods’ infrastructure; most of Westchase’s villages have already paid of these bonds. Because the bond funds hold a balance, the final year of a neighborhood’s debt payments is always smaller than those paid previously.

CDD assessments can be comprised of up to three components: operations and maintenance, covering landscaping and maintenance of parks and ponds; debt service; and neighborhood-specific costs paid by gated neighborhoods for their gates, roads and rights of way. The neighborhoods of Village Green, The Vineyards and the portion of West Park Village will see the debt component of their assessments reduced by roughly 33 percent this coming year. Since the commercial properties including the West Park Village apartments; the complex holding the CVS, Applebee’s, Burger King and some nearby office buildings; and the health clinic on Linebaugh Avenue were also included in the same year’s bond issues, their debt assessment will similarly decline. The savings varies by neighborhood and lot size but ranges from $334.68 for the biggest lots in Village Green and $183.37 in The Vineyards to $114.90 for some West Park Village’s smaller townhomes.

The properties that see the 33 percent decrease in debt assessments this coming year will have their debt payments completely disappear going forward. This will leave only the eastern portion of West Park Village to make their final debt assessment payments in early 2021. The rest of Westchase has already paid off the debt assessments.

In addition, the 2020 budget also sees a roughly $300 cut to the neighborhood specific assessments for Harbor Links and The Estates to cover such things as gates, street lights and road reserves.

The balance of non-gated Westchase neighborhoods (outside of West Park Village) will see assessments of $485.44, a decrease of about 80 cents over the current year’s assessment.

Closing their budget season, supervisors unanimously voted to adopt the budget and its assessments.

Attending the meeting, Lauren Kaplus of Real Property Specialists, owners of The Westchase Town Center, requested that the district plant flowers at the median cut at the entrance to the center between The Grind and Fifth Third Bank. “We would like to see the same consideration as the rest of Westchase gets,” she stated.

CDD Field Manager Doug Mays stated they had not planted the area because of its frequent use of parents who cross Linebaugh there on foot to take their kids to Westchase Elementary. He added that CDD supervisors would also have to add it into their contract for the purchase of annuals. CDD Chair Jim Mills told Kaplus that while it was too late to make the change in the current budget, it would be considered in the coming year.

Robert Dvorak from JMT, the engineering firm with which the district is currently negotiating a contract, briefly spoke to supervisors, who stated formal action transferring engineering files would have to wait until the finalization of the contract. Dvorak stated that he had reviewed the district’s current permits and inspections with SWFTMD, whose authority covers most Westchase ponds. He observed that two pond inspections were delinquent. “They’re past due,” he stated.

Staff stated they were unaware of the matter but would address them with SWTMD.

Dvorak concluded that the district’s preferred staff engineer might have a conflict that would interfere with his attending the Westchase CDD’s meetings but that his schedule would soon become clearer.

CDD Attorney Erin McCormick stated she was finalizing the contract with Dvorak’s firm and added that the RFP for the district’s two cell phone towers had been noticed and published the previous day. She stated she expected responses by Sept. 1, in time for review at the district’s Sept. 10 meeting (delayed a week due to Labor Day.)

After briefly discussing a bid for $4,580 for a company to conduct an appraisal of the district’s property to determine insurance coverage, supervisors asked District Manager Andy Mendenhall to seek other bids but passed a motion accepting the existing bid or one lower to complete the review.

Mendenhall also stated he had recently discussed staff reviews with Field Supervisor Doug Mays’ staff and would have his recommendations for salary and year-end bonuses at the September board meeting.

Making his report, Mays stated he would have a formal bid for a second nanobubbler for the pond adjacent to the Westchase fire station for review in September. He added that the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) had contracted the district while reviewing its lake permit for the large, recently acquired lake bordering Stonebridge and Sturbridge. “The EPC would like to see us plant 1,500 plants on the big pond by Sept. 15,” Mays stated. He added the planting requirement, which would impact the south, west and north sides of the lake, would cost $5,250. Supervisors unanimously approved the expenditure subject to their attorney’s review.

Mays stated he was also addressing a representative of property owners along Promise Lane to win district access to land owned at the end of the private road. Mays stated access is needed to bring electrical power to the parcel and fence it.

Staff brought a request from the Irish 31/YMCA running club to put out three snipe signs on Linebaugh Avenue’s rights of way advertising the club’s runs one day a week. Citing the dangers of setting a precedent for other businesses, supervisors took no action on the request, effectively requiring staff to remove the signs if erected. Hillsborough County code bans the use of snipe signs on the rights of way.

Closing the meeting, Mays stated he would bring pricing for the replacement of staff pickup trucks, which have approximately 180,000 miles on them. He stated the vehicles are expected to cost $30,000-34,000. After Supervisor Chesney inquired about a county offer for free mosquito larvae-eating fish, Mays stated he planned to attend a local meeting to see if the district could acquire some for Westchase ponds.

Supervisors adjourned at 5:11 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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