VMs Discuss Regional Transportation and Election Changes

After roll call and the approval of the last month’s meeting minutes, WCA President Ruben Collazo passed the VM meeting to Government Affairs Committee Chair Rick Goldstein.

Goldstein introduced Ray Chiaramonte, former Director of the Tampa Bay Regional Transportation group, who was in the audience. Goldstein reported that the GAC had been working on putting together a comprehensive plan for Westchase so that the association is ready for the future changes in transportation. He then introduced Beth Alden, current Director of Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning for Transportation (MPO).

Alden began by thanking Chiaramonte for his guidance and for being her mentor. She passed out handouts and pointed people’s attention to the MPO’s 2019 calendar. The calendar describes accomplishments for last year and plans. She said that January’s page shows Bottleneck Innovations with the picture of a “diverging diamond” interchange in Sarasota, which helps reduce crashes and allow for better flow. July’s page is about the Sunshine Line, which provides service for the transportation disadvantaged. August’s page focuses on resiliency, which Alden says is important in case of major storms. She said that local government needs to determine now what roadways need reinforcement to be sure that roads will be usable after storms. She also provided a handout with financial scenarios based on the one cent sales tax increase. She stated the increase will fund a number of projects that can not be completed without the revenue it will generate. She closed by inviting residents to participate in the next MPO survey released in the beginning of June at https://itstimetampabay.org. Goldstein noted that the Voting Members (VMs) would complete the survey at the meeting as they had done at the August 2018 VM meeting.

When the floor was opened for questions, Goldstein asked why Veterans Expressway express lanes aren’t frequently used. Alden responded that the Florida Turnpike Enterprise, which owns the Veterans Expressway, used the concept of price management to manage traffic flow but they have not yet started implementing the pricing structure. VM Debra Guerino (Villas of West Park Village) asked about recent press around billionaire Richard Branson’s plans to transform the Brightline passenger rail into Virgin Trains USA. Alden responded that the Brightline project would connect the downtowns to the Orlando airport and stated a proposal exists to have it all privately financed. “CSX railway would be a great way to connect,” she stated, noting that the railway in Westchase goes all the way to Ybor City.

Goldstein asked how the association can be sure that Linebaugh Avenue won’t be widened in the future. Alden suggested Westchase speak with its county commissioners about seeking a comprehensive plan amendment to designate Linebaugh as constrained. Goldstein agreed to do so.

Turning to improvements to village elections, VM Russ Crooks (Bennington) explained what his committee had been working on for the past few months. At the December meeting, VMs discussed residents’ concerns about the biannual VM election process and formed Crooks’ committee to suggest improvements. Crooks began by introducing committee members Mary Griffin (Single Family Homes of West Park Village), Nancy Sells (Harbor Links/The Estates alternate), Lucas Capuzzo (Harbor Links/The Estates alternate), Eric Holt (Radcliffe), Heather Greeley-Hessefort (Keswick Forest), Terrance Maloney (Harbor Links/The Estates) and Ward Farley. He added that they had also gotten a great deal of help from the association manager’s office. The full report can be obtained from the association manager’s office but in the interest of time, Crooks presented the Executive Summary and Recommendations. To view the complete report, click here. In order to arrive at these recommendations, Crooks said the group reviewed Westchase’s current documents, its processes and Florida Statute 720 and sought legal advice from WCA counsel. The committee suggestions for VMs are:

  1. Adopt a proposed Suggested Conduct of Standards for Campaigning – i.e., be ethical.
  2. Improve community education and information. Utilize the WOW, Facebook, Nextdoor, etc. Explain how to become a “Declared Candidate.” Candidates will also sign and agree to the Suggested Standards.
  3. Declared candidates’ names will be printed on the limited proxy (formerly known as a ballot). A blank space for write-in candidates will be included and, if elected, that person(s) would also sign the Code of Conduct document.
  4. Revisions should be made to the current “limited proxy.” Each proxy will be signed by the property owner, folded and inserted into a postage paid envelope which can be mailed, or hand delivered to the association manager’s office. To have impartiality, the WCA president or vice president will vote all proxies. All proxies must be voted as the property owner designated.
  5. Electronic voting should be analyzed further but there are costs and complexities involved in its adoption.
  6. During the election period, declared candidates can request a one-time report from the WCA association manager which lists property owners who have and have not yet submitted their proxies.

Related to electronic voting, Maloney said, “People’s communication needs are changing. We need to prepare for the future. We really have to think about it. FS 720 has a lot of rules. There are concerns with security and sharing information but when you are dealing with vendors of this kind (those that deal with electronic voting), you are dealing with vendors who are very experienced with this.”

Maloney volunteered to lead the committee researching electronic voting with VM Michael Turnbull (Village Green) also saying he would serve on the committee.

Westchase Community Association (WCA) Director Joaquin Arrillaga stated that he had discussed at the last WCA board meeting that the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) has been addressing problems with street trees and a uniform street tree plan. He also said that many people are getting violation letters for grass not growing beneath the trees. “The last time we talked about landscaping was when we did the Florida Friendly Landscaping and we haven’t talked about it since. There are different types of grass. When we met with Costco (during its development), we found out there is an oak tree called the Cathedral Oak where the roots go down not sideways. I am hoping to see if the VMs could form a committee to get information to the residents.”

Arrillaga added that the University of Florida has a department that can provide guidance to VMs.

The group agreed that the oaks are causing many problems and they discussed distinctions between how residents must handle trees on their properties, which are under the WCA’s jurisdiction, versus trees in the right of way, which will be covered by the CDD tree plan. Nancy Sells suggested the group work in conjunction with the CDD. Dan Perez (Shires Alternate) complained about the FIOS cables not being buried deeply enough and volunteered for the committee. VM Trish Lewandowski (Woodbay) and Jim Wimsatt also volunteered for the new Landscape Committee along with Arrillaga.

Dale Sales, Modifications Chair, brought up the last agenda item, which addressed the Modifications Committee’s request for guideline clarifications. He stated two recent guideline changes had brought up some unforeseen questions. One was if VMs would approve a brand-new garage door with the faux wood paint in an approved paint color which had gone through a similar process to the one described for existing doors in Westchase’s documents. All VMs unanimously agreed that they would approve this. Sells’ second requested clarification regarded mechanical equipment screening, which specifically permits “white vinyl.” He observed this would not be consistent with guidelines for villages that permit only wooden fences. VMs all agreed that the documents need a revision to remove the word white and perhaps add some additional guidance.

VMs adjourned at 8:25 p.m.

By Brenda Bennett

Click here to view the WCA Election Committee’s Final Report.

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