The parcel outlined in red, owned by the CDD, is posing an access challenge for the district.

CDD Wrestles With Obtaining Access to Its Land

Greens resident Jim Mills, who announced he would not seek reelection to the CDD Board.

Westchase CDD Supervisors dusted off some familiar topics at their June 2 meeting, the second held online since the pandemic’s start, but the most significant news was held until meeting’s end.

That’s when Westchase Community Development District (CDD) Chair Jim Mills announced that he would not seek reelection to another four-year term on the board. A longtime Westchase volunteer who also served as Westchase Community Association President from 2002-2005, Mills says the decision was driven not by any health concerns but to allow him to enjoy time with family and seek other thing to do or “not do.”

The meeting began with CDD Engineer Robert Dvorak stating he had finished up sketches and legal agreements for the district’s request for an easement across TECO owned property to reach a district owned parcel between Stonebridge and The Vineyards. The land, outlined in the red rectangle on the map accompanying this story, sits behind the large lake beside Westchase Elementary. He stated he would have more for supervisors after a TECO board meeting on June 11.

Later in the meeting, supervisors returned to the easement, which they have identified as the best chance of gaining access to the landlocked parcel to allow its use as a community garden. TECO, however, has told the district that while they would give CDD staff access across the easement, they would not permit its use by residents, making the parcel’s use as community garden impossible. Last month supervisors asked both District Manager Andy Mendenhall and CDD Attorney Erin McCormick to follow up with higher up TECO officials and county contacts to see if they could shift TECO’s position. Supervisor Forrest Baumhover pointed out that the same TECO high powered wires cross very active parking lots adjacent to Westchase Town Center and Fifth Third Bank. McCormick responded that she had not followed up but would try to do so before the June 11 TECO meeting.

Dvorak said he also had completed an illustration that showed the reconfiguration of parking spots in the north parking lot of Glencliff Park to make up for the six spaces that will be lost in the south parking lot with the construction of a proposed cell tower there. Dvorak pitched a plan that would remove some parking lot islands and trees and restripe the north lot with compact spaces for a cost of $25,000. Doing so would actually create more than the six lost spots. He pitched an additional lot adjacent to the basketball courts and south lot, which he estimated would cost $50,000.

After Supervisor Matt Lewis expressed concerns about the larger sizes of vehicles that generally carry local families, supervisors asked Dvorak to redo the plan so that it simply created the six additional spots – in compliance with the county’s request.

Attorney McCormick told supervisors that she’d recently received the latest version of the cell tower land lease agreement from Vertex, which will construct the tower. Stating it has eased her concern the company was losing interest in the project, she stated they had worked through nearly all issues with the lease that supervisors and the company had. McCormick stated Vertex was looking for affirmation that supervisors would not be demanding any additional significant changes and supervisors gave her the authorization to finalize the contract.

McCormick also informed supervisors that she, the county and the sheriff’s office had finalized a traffic enforcement agreement, allowing the district to again enforce traffic law violations in the gated neighborhoods of The Greens and Harbor Links/The Estates. After Supervisor Jim Mills inquired about deputies’ handling of neighborhood complaints about golf cart use in The Greens, Field Supervisor Doug Mays stated that he and the district’s off-duty deputy patrol were working to educate residents on the legal restrictions on golf cart use on roads.

After an inquiry by Supervisor Ross about a resident’s email about a long unused car with no tags or registration parked on the street in Village Green, Mays also stated the deputy had given the homeowner 24 hours to move the car before the adjacent homeowner could call to have it towed at the car owner’s cost.

District Manager Andy Mendenhall stated that 25 landscaping companies had responded to the published RFP (request for proposal) for the district’s landscaping bid. He stated that a representative from OLM, who is overseeing the bid process, Mays and he would go over prequalification questions with companies to determine which of the 25 represented qualified companies that could handle the contracted work. These include things like their financial strength, available equipment and experience with large contracts like Westchase. Once identified, Mendenhall said, that smaller number would submit bids and, following state law, supervisors would approve the lowest.

Mendenhall also asked supervisors to reconsider and approve an amended 2021 district budget that had two changes. While the budget will be submitted to Hillsborough County for Truth in Millage (TRIM) notices, supervisors could make further changes to reduce the budget afterward. Mendenhall stated that working with Supervisor Greg Chesney, staff had been able to eliminate the prior expected increase in assessments for most of The Greens to ensure their budget remains flat. He also stated the new version corrected some errors related to the final payment of some homeowner debt assessments. With the changes, only homes in West Park Village, paying off the recent replacement of sign poles in the neighborhood, would see assessment increases in the range of $250. Supervisors unanimously approved the updated document.

Supervisor Greg Chesney provided a quick overview of the district’s fund balances, which have increased nearly $650,000 over the last two years to a total of $3.1 million. In addition, the district holds about $700,000 in funds to cover expenses related to natural disasters in a separate fund. Chesney stated, “Westchase is in great shape compared to every other government entity in Tampa Bay.”

Mendenhall agreed that Westchase’s fund balances were larger than most districts. Chesney concluded by stating these funds could be used for a future capital improvement project, such as the construction of the community garden, or, if the golf course was put up for sale, the funds could cover a portion of its purchase.

Field Manager Doug Mays asked if supervisors still wished to follow Hillsborough County’s lead regarding the reopening of Glencliff and Baybridge Park’s playgrounds. Mays stated that he recently had to ask two deputies to accompany him to ask about 50 adult men who were playing football on Glencliff’s fields to leave the field as they were not observing social distancing. While supervisors briefly discussed reopening parking lots to alleviate the street parking from people using the playing fields despite the park’s closure, supervisors ultimately concluded that reopening the lots would send the incorrect message that the playgrounds were reopened.

CDD Attorney Erin McCormick advised staff to review their insurance carriers’ requirements regarding signage, cleaning and sanitation related to any potential reopening.

Closing the meeting, Supervisor Brian Ross asked that if the board planned to tackle a significant project or purchase that it be done quickly or be put on hold until after November’s board elections to avoid any board transition complicating matters.

Supervisor Matt Lewis stated that Westchase Soccer Association had informed coaches that the spring and fall soccer seasons would be cancelled. Lewis encouraged staff to make progress on starting construction of the cell tower as expeditiously as possible in order to take advantage of the empty fields and lessen future impact on the league if it returns the spring of 2021.

Following Mills’ announcement that he would not be seeking election, supervisors adjourned at 5:57 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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