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No progress made in Tierra Verde annexation talks

The St. Petersburg City Council and Pinellas County Commission were unable to find common ground Wednesday and resolve a dispute over the city's annexation of commercial land in Tierra Verde.

The meeting, at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, was mandated under state law. With no agreement reached, a mediator will convene with both parties within 28 days. If there's still no accord, a circuit court judge will rule on whether the annexation is legal.

The deadlock was expected and several elected officials expressed frustration at being involved in an annexation dispute at a time when local governments are struggling to absorb the impact of falling revenue.

"Here we are sitting across the table fighting over crumbs," said County Commission Chairman Calvin Harris after it became clear no progress could be made. "There are a lot of things we should be doing, and this isn't one of them."

In late November, the City Council annexed 18 acres of Tierra Verde's waterfront commercial district. The area is home to business interests that approached St. Petersburg about joining the city, which offers more flexible redevelopment rules than the county.

The land is worth $200,000 in property tax revenue for the city in 2009, and up to $1 million annually if further development takes place.

The county challenged the annexation in December, arguing that Tierra Verde is an isolated community and that for services to be handled efficiently, it must be under the jurisdiction of a single government.

The county also maintains that the city's annexation is inconsistent with state law. In addition to the 18 acres of commercial land, the city annexed 10 acres of submerged land to extend its boundary to the desired tract. Using a body of water to meet the requirement that cities may only annex adjacent property violates the law, the county alleges.

City Council member James Kennedy was unimpressed. "I don't see any reason for the city to change its position on this and I think the city's chance of success in litigation is fairly high," he said.

Will Van Sant can be reached at vansant@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4166.

No progress made in Tierra Verde annexation talks 02/04/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 4, 2009 10:20pm]

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