Clearwater Beach neighborhoods talk secession
CLEARWATER -- A small group of activists from Clearwater Beach, Sand Key and Island Estates are launching an effort to explore whether the three island communities can secede from Clearwater and start their own city.
They have hired influential attorney Ed Armstrong to represent them. They say they’re unsatisfied with the service they’re getting from Clearwater, and they contend that there are “philosophical differences” between the city government and the island communities.
If the island neighborhoods were able to leave the city, it would be a major blow for Clearwater, as those three communities pay nearly 40 percent of the property taxes in the city.
However, Clearwater officials say this talk of secession is unrealistic. They say it would be incredibly difficult for these neighborhoods to de-annex from Clearwater.
“Unless the City Council authorizes it, they really can’t do it,” said City Attorney Pam Akin. She noted that Clearwater taxpayers own many public buildings and facilities in those communities, and that a separate new city would also have to assume its share of Clearwater’s debts. “It would be an enormously complicated process to untangle this,” Akin said.
The activists who are exploring de-annexation are JoEllen Farnham, Cynthia Remley and Dick Jackson of Sand Key; David Muzio and Arnie Shaw of Island Estates; and Jerry Murphy of North Clearwater Beach.
At this early stage, they have no answers about how the de-annexation process would work. They say they’re in the beginning stages of their effort. They're exploring whether it would be legal and practical for the islands to split from the rest of the city.
“I think it’s a sign of our times, where nobody is happy about anything and their solution is usually pretty draconian,” said Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard. “I’ve also talked to a bunch of people who live in these areas who don’t hold the same feelings.”
-- Staff Writer Mike Brassfield