The July 14 meeting of Westchase Voting Members, held via Zoom, tackled some recent controversies on Westchase social media pages.
After the minutes of the previously held March 12 VM meeting were approved unanimously, WCA President Shawn Yesner addressed the first agenda item. “The WOW had sent me an issue that was distributed out to the VMS where they were lodging a complaint about Ruben,” he explained.
Specifically, the WOW Board had contacted the association over then WCA Director Ruben Collazo’s calling for a WOW boycott on a small social media group. In their letter to the association, the WOW Board stated Collazo’s behavior would hurt the many Westchase residents who advertise in WOW and affect the WOW’s ability to continue making its charitable donations to schools, scholarships and events like the Westchase Santa Parade. That letter was forwarded to VMs on Friday.
“Ruben over the weekend resigned as a board member, he resigned as [The Shires] VM and he resigned as a Variance Committee Member,“ stated Yesner. “With that I think the issue is moot.”
He added, “And I think it’s time for the community to settle and move on.” He added, “We can close this chapter and do what’s in the betterment of Westchase.”
WCA Director Eric Holt, chair of the Nominations Committee, briefed VMs on proposed rules for the Sept. 8 board election. “We are anticipating we are also going to be doing those elections by Zoom.”
He added, “We are actively seeking candidates interested in running for the four board positions that are open this September.”
Holt stated he had circulated the committee’s proposed election rules, which will be formally approved by VMs at their Aug. 11 meeting. He stated that while they initially thought that technological limitations might make floor nominations impossible, requiring all candidates to announce in advance, the committee ultimately concluded that floor nominations would be possible.
Committee member Heather Greeley-Hessefort stated the committee would offer a practice session for all announced candidates so they are familiar with breakout rooms and Zoom’s other functions.
Turning to the next issue, Yesner stated, “We’ve had some requests to look at the CCRs…to see if we want to make any changes to those documents.”
He stated that three topics arose from a recent meeting or social media discussions regarding yard signs, the storage of sports equipment like portable basketball hoops and the delivery of WOW.
In his conversation about the matter, Yesner emphasized that WCA Attorney Jon Ellis advised that the association not create temporary exceptions for enforcement of existing rules. Yesner stated the yard sign controversy, arising from violation letters sent to residents for graduation signs, came about when the association received a complaint about a political sign. The association, he said, could not arbitrarily decide to enforce the sign rule for the political sign while overlooking the other signs, and so the violation letters went out for all yard signs.
He added, “There has been a handful of complaints from social media from the community. With Covid in full force, they said that there should not be a ban on basketball hoops being left out overnight.”
In addition, Yesner said that three homeowners recently requested to opt out of WOW delivery but stated the association currently used the newsmagazine at no cost to deliver guideline notification requirements. The CCRs require the association to notify homeowners via its newsletter.
Association Manager Debbie Sainz observed that making any of the three CCRs changes would require the association to mail notices to homeowners, triggering costs in the thousands of dollars for legal review, printing and mailing.
Abbotsford VM Ralph Caputo inquired, “On these three issues, how may have made this a concern?”
“I live in Abbotsford,” Caputo added. “It’s kind of small. I’m in contact with lots of residents. None of these have been a concern that I have heard.”
Yesner stated that social media discussions on yard signs and basketball hoops generated hundreds of comments.
WCA Director Michele DelSordo stated that many thought the board could simply change the rules. She stated she outlined the way CCR changes are done and encouraged residents to communicate with their VMs, who are the only group empowered to change Westchase rules.
Caputo observed, “This issue has come up all the time,” he said. “We’ve been going through this over and over.”
When Vineyards VM Lynn Adamson inquired how many VMs had heard from any residents about changing the rules, Caputo, and VMs Forrest Baumhover (Kingsford), Charles Stephens (Chelmsford), Mary Griffin (WPV Single Family Homes), and Rick Goldstein (Woodbridge Villas) stated they heard from none. Stamford VM Jamie Kolev, however, stated, “I had a few requests to allow basketball hops to stay out.”
After further discussion, involving some VMs’ suggestions that perhaps a brief exception should be made for portable hoops, Kolev added, “As a parent of young children, I’m here to tell you life is rough right now. Very, very rough.” Stating that the unique nature of the pandemic demanded flexibility, she added, “That’s why I would say we can allow it.”
VM Sarai Heikkinen (Village Green) also voiced support for a temporary exception for basketball hoops and sign rules.
Other VMs voiced strong concerns to a sign exception, with political campaigns about to begin in full force.
VM Jim Brinker (Classic Townhomes) suggested the matters just be tabled as they would likely resolve themselves within a year.
While stating he wouldn’t support a permanent change to the rule, Baumhover ultimately pitched a motion that would have encouraged the board to allow a brief exception to enforcement of the sports equipment storage rule until local parks reopened.
The suggestion triggered a number of VMs to remind the group that the association’s attorney had advised against making exceptions. Ultimately Baumhover’s motion failed when it garnered only four votes, those from Harbor Links/The Estates, Kingsford, Stamford and Village Green. Meanwhile VMs from Abbotsford, Brentford, Castleford, Chelmsford, Classic Townhomes, The Greens, Keswick Forest, Radcliffe, The Shires, WPV Single Family Homes, Stockbridge, Stonebridge, Traditional Townhomes, WPV Villas, The Vineyards, Woodbay, Woodbridge and Glenfield voted in opposition.
When asked, no VM made additional motions regarding the other issues. Yesner concluded, “I appreciate the discussion on behalf of the board and the rest of the community.”
Closing discussion, VM Mary Griffin asked Yesner to look into individual VM rights to add items to the meeting agenda and VM Keith Heinemann (Radcliffe), a Hillsborough County poll supervisor, encouraged everyone to participate in the upcoming Aug. 18 primary elections.
VMs adjourned at 8:24 p.m.
By Chris Barrett, Publisher