Tuesday, December 12, 2017
News Roundup

Gov. Rick Scott signs bill to de-annex Lake Jovita from St. Leo

ST. LEO — Part of Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club is no longer part of St. Leo.

Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill Monday that de-annexes 85 homes and two dozen empty lots in Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club. The move is a windfall for homeowners who have pushed for de-annexation for more than a decade, arguing they pay extra taxes without receiving additional services. Most of the upscale development already sits outside the town, in unincorporated Pasco County.

As a result, the homeowners will save an average of $600 per household in taxes, according to the bill's analysis. St. Leo, meanwhile, will lose $50,000 in tax revenue.

Rep. Amanda Murphy, D-New Port Richey, sponsored the legislation after it drew support from St. Leo officials who worried the town might be dissolved unless the de-annexation occurred.

Lake Jovita property owners will escape the town's property tax rate, 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, and franchise fees and municipal taxes on their utility bills. But, they'll be assessed Pasco County's annual $47-per-house stormwater fee and have to arrange their own trash collection service from a private hauler that could run roughly $132 annually. And, building new homes on the undeveloped lots will become more costly because the county's schedule of impact fees is substantially higher than the town's fees.

The legislation also will require two town commissioners from Lake Jovita to withdraw from the commission. The remaining commissioners will appoint people to fill the vacancies. The state law was required because the property had met all conditions allowed for the annexation. Because of that, the state must undo the action.

It also could clear the way for the town to annex nearby property owned by the Iafrate family, who were behind a controversial landfill proposal in neighboring Dade City. The Iafrates have not said what they want to do with the land abutting St. Leo, but in a move that rankled town officials, county representatives told the town they don't think it has the resources to handle the planning and delivery of services to whatever might develop there. Town officials ultimately decided to wait until the fate of Lake Jovita was decided before pursuing a pre-annexation plan.

The Iafrate property is agricultural land at the southwest corner of State Road 52 and Prospect Road. Land south of the Iafrate property is set to become the Villages of Pasadena Hills, a master-planned development of 42,000 homes and a half-million square feet of office space. And set to run through the Iafrate property is the new State Road 52, a six-lane highway that will eventually connect to Clinton Avenue in Dade City, which Pasco County Administrator Michele Baker told town commissioners is a key to the county's strategic plan for the whole region.

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