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Annexed Tierra Verde land still in limbo

A meeting Wednesday between St. Petersburg and Pinellas County officials to resolve a dispute over the city's Tierra Verde annexation was cursory.

One county staffer put the length of the gathering, held in Clearwater, at a hopeful 20 minutes, but participants from both camps said the actual time was a more modest 10.

"There was not a lot of discussion," said St. Petersburg economic development director Dave Goodwin. "There was just nothing there."

The meeting was to fulfill state requirements for resolving annexation spats. There are still gestures toward reconciliation that must be made, but it seems likely the parties' turf battle is headed to court.

In late November, the City Council annexed 28 acres of Tierra Verde's waterfront commercial district. The area is home to business interests drawn to the flexibility of the city's redevelopment rules.

The county challenged the move in December. Pinellas officials argue that Tierra Verde is an isolated community and that for services to be delivered efficiently, it must be under the jurisdiction of a single government.

At Wednesday's meeting the county offered to withdraw if the city were to allow all residents of Tierra Verde to vote on whether they want to become part of St. Petersburg. As expected, the city declined.

That proposal tracks with what's being called the "all or nothing" legislation. Sponsored by state Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Treasure Island, the proposed special act would ban any government from annexing only a portion of Tierra Verde.

It remained unclear Wednesday whether the legislation, if approved, would nullify St. Petersburg's action. City officials said absolutely not, and even the county legal staff expressed doubt over whether the "all or nothing" bill could have any impact on the current dispute.

For the moment, the annexed land is in limbo. It's part of St. Petersburg, but cannot be shifted to the city's tax roll until the county's challenge is resolved, said Property Appraiser Pam Dubov.

Annexed Tierra Verde land still in limbo 01/14/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 10:36pm]
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