EAST LAKE — A bill to protect this area of northeast Pinellas County from unwanted annexation has passed the Legislature and is awaiting the governor's signature.
The "all or nothing" bill sponsored by state Rep. Peter Nehr and state Sen. Mike Fasano forces cities to annex an entire community and requires voter approval to boot. The bill, which has a 2022 sunset requirement, took three years of effort for lawmakers to approve.
The Council of North County Neighborhoods had long followed debate over the bill. The council sent out the following message upon approval of the bill by both chambers of the Legislature:
"... Representative Peter Nehr and Senator Mike Fasano, co-sponsors of the bill ... advocated for the (bill's) passage in Tallahassee for the past three years. Representative Nehr who overcame many hurdles and objections was able to continuously steer the bill through the various committees until it finally reached the House floor for a vote. Senator Fasano who has always supported the East Lake residents helped the bill move through the Senate. The bill passed 116-0 in the House and 39-0 in the Senate."
The effort to protect East Lake from unwanted annexation attempts began after Oldsmar tried to take in East Lake Woodlands, a sprawling gated community with thousands of residents. East Lake Woodlands voters spurned Oldsmar's attention, with 92 percent of voters saying "no" to the annexation.
Twice, the bill to protect the entire East Lake area went nowhere in the Legislature. After some fine-tuning this year, the bill easily passed.
A similar "all or nothing bill" was passed by the Legislature in 2009 to protect Tierra Verde, an island community in south Pinellas County, after residents were angered when St. Petersburg annexed 18 acres.