VMs Discuss Potential Westchase Rules Changes and Hear from County Commissioner

The Dec. 14 meeting of the Westchase Voting Members (VM) saw a visit by County Commissioner Harry Cohen and saw VMs pass a series of neighborhood-specific guideline amendments.

The meeting also saw Westchase Community Association (WCA) Director Dale Sells, the chair of the Documents Review Committee, brief VMs on the current revision of Westchase’s rules and offer lists of possible changes under consideration.

Government Affairs Committee Chair Eric Holt introduced Cohen, thanked him for his visit and asked him to address a handful of topics. Speaking at length to VMs, Cohen first addressed the road condition of Linebaugh Avenue. “There is no question that the pavement condition is deteriorating,” Cohen stated. “It definitely is going to have to be repaved but it hasn’t been programmed for paving.” Cohen added, however, that federal infrastructure money recently made available will allow the county to address a portion of its paving backlog, potentially accelerating a fix for Linebaugh.

Citing the county backlog for maintenance to sidewalks, roads, lighting, congestion and safety issues, Cohen stated, “Countywide we’re about $800 million short from where we need to be to bring things up to current standards.” He also touched on the overturned infrastructure/transit sales tax in the county, stating commissioners were still waiting to hear from a county judge regarding how the nearly $500 million collected will be refunded to taxpayers. He said the current Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners had the votes to put a new infrastructure/transit sales tax on the 2022 ballot. While stating the funds were critical, he acknowledged its passage was not guaranteed.

After detailing the Howard Frankland bridge expansion and plans for expanding the Veterans/SR 60 interchange, Cohen touched on recent complaints about truck traffic on Linebaugh. “Trucks are prohibited west of Sheldon Road on Linebaugh Avenue,” he said. “That is a direct enforcement issue with Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.” He added of efforts to address the problem. “The only thing that does it is constant, consistent enforcement.”

Cohen also touched on recent redistricting, which placed the northern portion of The Shires in a new county commission district represented by Commissioner Ken Hagan. “Is this something that is important?” He answered by saying he saw some benefits to being served by two commissioners.

Cohen also touched on his work expanding water resources for the growing county, expanding the port and the upcoming renovations to the Straz Center, funded, in part, by the county. He added he expected to see county proposals offered in January or February in a bid to build a stadium in Tampa to keep the Rays in Tampa Bay for at least half their season. He added that no general tax revenue would be used but special district taxes, hotel bed taxes and car rental taxes on tourists might fund the project if approved. He stated he currently had an open mind on a possible stadium but wished to hear from his constituents.

Matt Lewis, who was attending the meeting as chair of Westchase Community Development District and speaking for the district, asked for Cohen’s help moving a proposed cell tower in the southern parking lot of Glencliff Park forward. The matter has been held up by county staff, citing objections by Woodbay residents. While stating he could not discuss or take a position on a zoning matter that was expected to come before the board—possibly as early as February—he stated, “I am very aware of the need for a cell phone tower.” He added, “There appears to be a lot, based on what I’ve seen in my inbox, a great deal of community support for it.”

Cohen’s remarks ended with resident Connor Lamb also asked for his support for a cell tower at the park to enhance coverage after his infant daughter stopped breathing as his emergency call was dropped. VM Rick Goldstein (Woodbridge) also requested Cohen’s help getting more county code enforcement on trash receptacles in West Park Village, which Goldstein argued is attracting turkey vultures to the community.

Opening the meeting’s business, WCA President Shawn Yesner asked for VMs to vote on a handful of proposed neighborhood-specific guideline amendments. Passing with great support for the second time (meaning they are officially approved) were bronze pool cage enclosures for Baybridge, Wakesbridge, Stockbridge and Sturbridge, as well as black aluminum fences and the use of black mesh screening for Baybridge, Sturbridge and Wakesbridge homes backing onto Montague Street.

VMs then heard brief debate about a proposed guideline to permit homes in Harbor Links/The Estates to have gutters the same color as roofs; the current rule only permit gutters to be the same color as a home’s body or trim. Speaking out in opposition were Harbor Links/The Estates VM Nancy Sells, who stated the broadly worded guideline could permit green, red and variegated gutters. Dale Sells, also a resident of the neighborhood, also observed that the Documents Review Committee was looking to update color rules for gutters across all of Westchase.

The Harbor Links homeowner who proposed the change, Matt Ring, argued in favor of its adoption, stating it was meant to be inclusive and intended to give homeowners options currently being implemented in new home construction. “Highland Park has been allowing colored gutters for many, many years,” he said. Ring added that variegated roof shingles were largely earth tones. “You’re not going to buy a variegated gutter. I don’t think that’s an argument.”

The proposed Harbor Links/The Estates gutter guideline, however, ultimately failed with 17 of the 23 VMs opposed.

Dale Sells then briefed VMs on work currently being done by the Document Review Committee. He stated current members of the review committee included residents from Bennington, Chelmsford, West Park’s Classic Townhomes, Harbor Links, Radcliffe and Woodbridge. He distributed a list of rules amendments the committee was currently discussing. He emphasized that the list simply represented starting points and some might not emerge from the committee while others, not currently on the list, could be added. He encouraged VMs and residents to submit any input, including additional changes, to Association Manager Debbie Sainz at manager@wcamanager.com or to him at dalewestchase@aol.com.

Click here to see the Document Review Committee’s current list of CCRs amendments under discussion.

Click here to see the committee’s current list of Residential Guideline amendments under discussion.

Sells observed that he frequently saw resident comments on social media that stated that Westchase’s rules are never updated. Referring to the document review and amendment process, he stated. “This process happens every other year.” He added that between 2011 and 2019, VMs has made eight amendments to the Articles of Incorporation, 10 amendments to the Bylaws, 40 amendments to the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CCRs), which offer broad prohibitions/permissions on items and 119 amendments to the Residential Guidelines, which offer more detailed rules and specifications for permitted items.

WCA President Yesner, referring to a viral media story about an early holiday decorating violation sent to Chelmsford homeowners, emphasized to VMs that the homeowners were not fined and, with the calendar change, were no longer in violation of the rule. He added that the committee was already entertaining expanding the dates for holiday decorating because society in general seemed to be gearing up for Christmas earlier. He said it was going to ultimately be up to VMs to consider and approve. He added that when some folks had expressed concern that allowing decorations from October through Jan. 15 might result in Halloween headstones in front yards in December, Yesner responded, “You gotta give Westchase residents more credit than this.”

Yesner, however, emphasized that it was not in the WCA Board’s power to make or waive rules but to simply enforce rules the VMs have passed. Changes, he said, ultimately lay with VMs.

Yesner added that another issue he receives emails about is street parking. “That’s another one that’s sort of on my hot button list.”

Director Eric Holt stated that the review committee had discussed the issue. Saying he had circulated to VMs 10 reasons why the WCA should end the street parking restriction (which exists everywhere but West Park Village), he observed, “I kind of have a strong opinion of getting out of the parking violation business.”

Holt also stated that, contrary to the main reason often cited in the past for enforcing street parking restrictions, emergency vehicles could successfully pass through Westchase roads even with cars parked on both sides of the road. He stated county construction codes required roads to be built to allow ten feet of clearance between such vehicles.

Stating the issue has come up multiple times, VM Mary Griffin of West Park’s Single Family Homes, said, “It seems we’ve been misinformed all along.”

Holt’s remarks, however, prompted spirited protests from two West Park VMs, Deb Guerino and Lisa Godfrey. Guerino insisted that vehicles couldn’t pass when two large trucks were parked opposite each other, which Holt insisted was not accurate. Godfrey stated that street parking in West Park Village has gotten even worse and an ambulance responding to her couldn’t get through.

“The reality is we don’t enforce parking during the day,” observed Holt. “What’s the reason for patrolling it for other six [hours]?” he stated. He added he had gone to the fire department, which told him that the county has never had an issue with getting emergency vehicles through Westchase streets, which Guerino insisted wasn’t true. Holt pointed out that in West Park Village street parking was already permitted and the current WCA street parking restriction didn’t apply there.

Matt King, president of Stonebridge, observed from the audience that the roads platted with the county didn’t necessarily reflect what was constructed by the developer. Acknowledging the Westchase CDD was not bound by WCA rules, he did criticize the district for not following the WCA’s decorating timeframe. “If the rules are there for the Westchase residents, the CDD shouldn’t be setting a bad example for the residents.”

Yesner stated the WCA had a good working relationship with the CDD and if the rule remained the same, they could request the CDD not decorate outside the WCA’s permitted times.

VMs adjourned at 8:32 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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