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Oldsmar itches to grow

Undeterred by four failed attempts to annex unincorporated West Oldsmar, Oldsmar is looking westward once again.

This time Oldsmar hopes to bring the East Lake Woodlands, Brookers Landing and El Pasado subdivisions into the city limits, as well as the Shoppes of Boot Ranch and East Lake Woodlands shopping centers.

"The city of Oldsmar has changed," said Mayor Jim Ronecker. "It's a great, progressive city that has a lot to offer its residents."

The change, which is an all or nothing proposition, would bring all of ZIP code 34677 into the city, so residents who formerly had just an Oldsmar mailing address would actually live in the city.

A vote to join Oldsmar would increase the city's population by at least 50 percent: from about 14,000 residents to more than 21,000. And it would reduce East Lake's population more than 20 percent: from about 33,000 residents to about 26,000.

Oldsmar is testing the waters at this point, Ronecker said. But if residents show an interest at community meetings and surveys, city officials will put the question on the ballot next March.

"Cities are looking for ways to create new revenue streams," he said. "And we feel what we bring to the table would be of value to the residents there."

County Commissioner Susan Latvala said she hasn't heard from Oldsmar on the subject.

"I have not heard one citizen express an interest, " she said. "As long as I can remember, they've wanted to change their ZIP code so they weren't in Oldsmar."

Representatives of East Lake Woodlands homeowners have met with city officials and formed a committee to gather information on the pros and cons of annexation.

"We're not taking any position on it," said Bryan Kutchins, who is on the board of directors of the East Lake Woodlands Community Association and is chairman of the annexation committee. "Every person can vote on it at the ballot box."

Annual taxes would be only slightly higher in Oldsmar, Kutchins said.

"It's about a wash, give or take a one-couple night out at Cracker Barrel," he said.

City officials plan to meet with residents of El Pasado and Brookers Landing soon.

Benefits to joining Oldsmar would include a better discount in flood insurance rates, a much lower rate for an Oldsmar recreation card and the possibility of reclaimed water in future years, he said.

Oldsmar officials have also met with East Lake Fire Rescue officials to talk about how fire services would be handled.

The change likely would amount to a financial exchange only, with Oldsmar transferring funds to East Lake Fire Rescue for EMS and fire services.

"We would like to continue the way we are," said Flo Galloway, the chairwoman of the East Lake board of fire commissioners. "We don't want to give up anything."

Times staff researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Theresa Blackwell can be reached at tblackwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

>>Fast facts

More info

Go to eastlakefirerescue.com for a summary of a July 10 meeting on a possible Oldsmar annexation of East Lake Woodlands, Brookers Landing and El Pasado subdivisions, as well as two commercial areas. Flo Galloway, East Lake fire commission chairwoman, wrote the summary of her meeting with the Oldsmar city manager and the East Lake and Oldsmar fire chiefs.

Oldsmar itches to grow 07/21/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 2:56pm]
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