The March Voting Members meeting was scheduled to begin at 6:30 pm, but WCA President Shawn Yesner was unable to call the meeting to order on time because there weren’t enough VMs present to constitute a quorum. While they waited for more VMs to arrive, Jonathan Ellis from Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP, the WCA’s legal counsel, began the annual VM training session, since a quorum was not required for his presentation.
By the time Ellis had completed his presentation, a quorum had been established. Yesner then opened the floor to a discussion about the previous month’s presentation from Blue Stream about the possibility of Westchase adopting a bulk fiber optic contract. He said he wanted to make it clear that Blue Stream’s presentation was simply a very preliminary step in the due diligence process. He assured the VMs and audience members that the board had neither solicited any bids nor discussed any contracts.
VM Rick Goldstein took the floor to formally object to Blue Stream’s proposal to bring bulk fiber optic services to Westchase on behalf of his neighborhood, Woodbridge.
“What I do not understand is that Mr. [Eric] Holt [head of the Government Affairs Committe] would have all of Westchase dug up to install fiber that we already have,” said Goldstein. “It’s not the next generation or the next evolution. It’s the same fiber.”
Goldstein continued, “All it’s going to do is create a 10-year monopoly. You can continue with FIOS, you can continue with Spectrum, but you’ll still have to pay this monopoly. I’m going to guess there’s not a lot of people in Westchase who want to pay double. It’s an abridgment of our constitutional rights.”
Goldstein went on to express his concerns about the cost of the additional administrative infrastructure that a bulk contract would require and the aesthetic damage that would be done to the community during the installation of any new fiber optic cables. He also said that Westchase residents wouldn’t want an outside company potentially to have access to their personal data.
Village Green VM Bradley Lloyd said that he felt Goldstein’s objections were unnecessary, as all that the VMs had done at February’s meeting was to agree to further explore the concept of a bulk fiber optic contract with Blue Stream or one of their competitors. Yesner agreed, saying that they had taken a poll of the VMs who were present and all had indicated their desire to continue the exploratory process.
Matt Rice, President of the Stonebridge Homeowners’ Association, then took the floor and mentioned that he works in the field of cybersecurity. He said it was unlikely that Blue Stream would actually install their own fiber optic cable when Westchase already has that infrastructure in place. He also expressed concern that Blue Stream’s methods were “predatory.”
A member of the audience then shared that she was a longtime Westchase resident who disapproved of the discussion. “A free market exists. You have an option to engage or not to engage. It causes many residents to feel why is this even being broached?” she said. “This is frustrating to be told that you have to pay for it whether you use it or not.”
Yesner said he had reached out to Spectrum and learned that they could also provide a bulk fiber optic contract, if that was what residents wanted.
Stonebridge VM Judy Oliveri said she felt that residents overwhelmingly disapproved of such an agreement. “A lot of people don’t want to continue with the search. I’m not even talking just about Blue Stream,” she asserted. “We don’t have anything like that now and we don’t want something like that. We don’t want our rights taken away.”
Yesner then shared that one of the CDD directors had sent him a message stating their opposition to the idea of a bulk fiber optic contract as well.
Goldstein moved to petition the WCA board to discontinue exploring the concept of bulk contracts for fiber optic installation in Westchase. The motion passed, 17-3, with VMs from the Village Green, Radcliffe and the Greens voting in opposition. Lloyd explained that he wasn’t necessarily in favor of a bulk contract, but felt that discussions were in such early stages that it would be premature to cease the exploratory process.
Jim Brinker, VM for the West Park Village Classic Townhomes and member of the WCA board, said he didn’t want anyone to think that the board was advocating for the bulk contract or trying to push such an agreement on anyone. Yesner agreed, and stated that Blue Stream had approached Holt, not the other way around.
The final item of new business was the question of whether the VMs wanted to update the current color palette, which was last updated in February, 2020, said Yesner. VMs agreed to table the discussion until a later date.