OLDSMAR — City Manager Bruce Haddock stood before the Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday afternoon to present Oldsmar's case for annexing two parcels of land within the Palm Harbor Special Fire Control and Rescue District.
He thought the request was a simple one. The annexation was voluntary. And since the proposed area pays no property taxes, Palm Harbor would not take a financial hit.
"Ordinarily," Haddock said, "I think y'all support those and usually that's pretty much the end of the story."
It wasn't the end of the story. Instead of approving Oldsmar's request, commissioners unanimously rejected it.
The vote followed a stinging back-and-forth between commissioners and Haddock.
"Everybody," Commissioner Susan Latvala said, "doesn't want to join Oldsmar."
"But in this case," Haddock said, "the Water Management District does want to join us."
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At Oldsmar's urging, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, commonly known as Swiftmud, applied voluntarily to have eight parcels totaling 65 acres annexed into the city.
Oldsmar plans to construct a trail along the east bank of the Lake Tarpon Outfall Canal that will link Canal Park, Harbor Palms Nature Park and Sheffield Park. The project, which is in the design phase, has been in the city's Master Trail Plan for years.
In the midst of the planning, city officials learned that two of the eight parcels weren't in the city's limits, but the Palm Harbor Special Fire Control and Rescue District's. Nothing within that district can be annexed without county approval.
Commissioner Ken Welch: You understood that the commission would have to approve this? Or, Oldsmar Council did?
Haddock: Yes, yes. They're well aware of the fact that I'm here this afternoon.
Welch: I noticed that they didn't come with you. …
Haddock: I volunteered.
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Haddock laid out his case:
There are two significant reasons for including these two parcels. The first is common ownership. It's not good public policy to split one owner's public property, annex part of it and leave the rest of it dangling out there, so to speak. The second reason, and perhaps more significant, is the outfall control structure is located in these two parcels. Well, I know y'all realize it wouldn't make any sense to annex half of a building, and I don't think it makes sense to annex half of the control structure.
Commissioners weren't convinced.
Welch: Could you still construct the trail through some kind of agreement without annexing the land?
Haddock: Yes, we could. But that's not what's before you tonight anyway.
Welch: I'm just trying to understand the logic. I have a problem with these annexations — it's for the good of everyone but not a real, clear reason why.
Latvala worried about the precedent approving an annexation would set. The boundaries of the Palm Harbor Fire District, she said, are sacred.
Haddock reminded Latvala that the annexation would have no fiscal impact on Palm Harbor.
Latvala: No, but it's the camel's nose under the tent.
Haddock: Well, I guess I'm going to take that as a compliment you know that the rest of the world is scared about big bad old Oldsmar and what we might do to 'em.
The commission voted, 7-0, to deny the annexation request.