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Map shows flaws of all-or-nothing annexation bill

LEALMAN — The so-called all or nothing bill that would make an annexing city take all of this unincorporated area rather than just a piece could more aptly be called a "nothing" bill.

Rather than giving cities a chance to woo all of Lealman to convince voters to annex, the proposal is drafted so that no city can annex the area without violating state annexation laws.

"It makes it a de facto no-annexation area," said Dave Goodwin, St. Petersburg's economic development director.

Goodwin said St. Petersburg opposed the legislation to begin with, but became especially dissatisfied when the full impact became clear.

The proposal is patterned after one passed last year to protect Tierra Verde. That statute prevents any city from annexing a part of the island without taking all of the island. And Tierra Verde residents would have to vote in favor of the annexation for it to take place.

Both East Lake and Lealman demanded they get similar protection, so state Rep. Peter Nehr, R-Tarpon Springs, filed bills for both areas. State Sen. Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg, filed a similar bill for Lealman in the Senate.

The wording of the Lealman bill makes it appear that adjoining cities — St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park, Seminole and Kenneth City — would have the option of trying to convince Lealman voters to become part of their city. But a map of the protected area created by the Pinellas County Property Appraiser at the request of the St. Petersburg Times tells a different story.

The protected area includes all of Kenneth City and parts of the other three cities. Although those could not be annexed, including the cities in the protected area means that some enclaves are included. An enclave is a small area of unincorporated property completely surrounded by one city rather like an island in an ocean.

Including those means that Pinellas Park and Kenneth City, the two with enclaves in the area, would be unable to annex those without having to annex all of Lealman.

That's contrary to state and county policies that, for years, have urged cities to annex enclaves as a way to end confusion over service delivery, Pinellas Park spokesman Tim Caddell said.

The map also shows that none of the cities could annex all Lealman if they wanted to. State law requires annexations to be contiguous to city limits and, with the enclaves and other barriers, none of the four cities have the necessary contiguity for the entire area. The result is a no-annexation zone masquerading as an all-or-nothing zone.

"There's not proper planning with this bill," Seminole City Manager Frank Edmunds said. "It just shows a general lack of planning."

Seminole, he said, does not oppose the bill because it has "minimal effect" on that city.

"I don't think that this bill ever intended to be an 'all' bill," said Caddell, the Pinellas Park spokesman. "It was meant to be a nothing bill. It certainly needs to be looked at a little more closely."

Caddell said Pinellas Park officials also raised eyebrows over the length of the term — the proposal would be good for seven years. But Pinellas Park and Lealman have an agreement that the city will not annex into the area for six years. The longer term could be seen as a way to get around that agreement. Although Pinellas Park is not actively opposing the bill, the city is closely monitoring its progress.

Kenneth City Mayor Teresa Zemaitis could not be reached for comment, but has said that her town opposes the move.

"I didn't draft the Lealman bill," Nehr said. Justice, he said, gave him the language and the boundaries. The goal, he said, was to give Lealman residents peace from annexations and to preserve the tax base to support the fire district.

Justice said he believed the boundaries were taken from an old map. He said both St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park touch Lealman on both sides, and so should be able to annex. He said he was unaware of any enclaves that would prevent annexations.

Reach Anne Lindberg at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

Map shows flaws of all-or-nothing annexation bill 03/13/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 12, 2010 5:54pm]
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