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Talk is cheap, center isn't

A survey of homeowners overwhelmingly favors a new community center, but there is little agreement over how to pay for it.

Homeowners are divided on the question of how to pay for a new community center.

Members of the Westchase Homeowners Association decided to try to build a new center when land became available at West Park Village, the area's new neotraditional community off Linebaugh Avenue.

To gauge how popular the idea would be, the committee sought opinions from 2,000 residents and received 200 responses. According to the committee, an overwhelming majority indicated they want a center. But there has been little agreement over how much they are willing to pay for it.

"We're going to expect different points of view on the project," said Lisa McCallister-Grant, who heads up the Westchase community center committee through the Homeowners Association.

The committee found some residents willing to pay tax assessment fees of up to $200 per year, while others wanted no assessments at all. "The community has grown to where we need a center," McCallister-Grant said, "although we want to maintain a reasonable level of expenditure."

A center would boost property values and would also make it easier to plan community projects, she said. People who responded to her survey are asking that it include some sort of educational facility, meeting place, babysitting service, workout rooms and more.

Westchase developer Terrabrook has offered to donate both the land and architectural services. "We set up land to be set aside for recreation in a master planned community," said Brenda Kunkel, Terrabrook's southeast regional marketing director.

The proposed location is a 1-acre site on the town green in West Park Village, in the center of Montague Street as it extends south through the neotraditional community now under construction. "But no plans have been made at all yet," said Terrabrook development manager Ty Johnston.

McCallister-Grant is in favor of moving soon, while land is available at no cost.

Until now, Westchase residents have met at Westchase Elementary School and at the swim and tennis center when they needed to discuss community issues such as traffic. But McCallister-Grant said those meeting facilities are not very practical. The swim and tennis center is booked with team events and the school charges a user fee, as does the Westchase Golf Club.

Despite the support shown in survey responses, some homeowners here are cautious about the project. Babette Whitton, who lives in Greensprings Village, said she wants to hear more about the particulars before she decides whether she's for or against a community center. "It's just like that 7-Eleven they put in here _ I wanted a gas station, but I didn't want it to be open for 24 hours," she said.

Backers of the community center hope to begin construction late next year. There will be a Homeowners Association meeting in September to discuss the issue. A date for that meeting has yet to be announced.

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