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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Could Kenneth City become Lealman City?



Long LEALMAN - State Rep.Janet Long (left), D-Seminole, was one of two speakers during Wednesday's meeting of the Lealman Community Association.

High on the agenda was annexation. No surprise there, this IS Lealman, after all, where anti-annexationists have fought for more than a decade to preserve their community.

Long was speaking somewhat hesitantly about the possibility of proposing an "all or nothing" annexation bill in the upcoming Legislative session to protect Lealman. The idea would be to mimic a bill passed by the Legislature this year to protect Tierra Verde. That bill provides that anyone who wants to annex a portion of Tierra Verde must take the entire island and island residents would have to vote in favor of the annexation for it to take place.

Long was explaining some of the hurdles such a bill would encounter where Lealman's concerned when LCA president Ray Neri stepped forward to give some background on recent behind-the-scenes talks.

Seems Long met with Neri and Kenneth City Mayor Pro Tem Teresa Zemaitis in the past few weeks to discuss possible solutions to the town's recent decision to use annexation to improve its tax base. One of the suggestions? Have Kenneth City annex Lealman. All of Lealman.

This is not the first time the idea has come up. Several years ago, then-Mayor Bill Smith asked Neri and other Lealman activists to come to a council meeting to discuss the plan. But the uproar from Kenneth City residents who saw Lealman as a blight on the face of the Earth and wanted nothing to do with it pretty much killed the idea before any discussion began. There was also the logistical issue of a town of about 4,500 taking over an area with about 40,000 to 45,000 residents. It was akin to a guppy trying to swallow a whale.

It's unclear if Kenneth City residents have any more respect for Lealman these days, but the logistical issue of a small town taking over such a large area in one fell swoop is mind boggling, to say the least. Of course, one idea would be to let Kenneth City take the area in small increments over a definite period of time.

But Neri said the idea was nixed as a kind of "been there, couldn't do that." He suggested forging ahead on a Lealman "all or nothing" bill.

But that doesn't mean the idea of a merger has completely died away.

-- Anne Lindberg, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:11pm]


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