CLEARWATER — Pinellas County legislators voted unanimously Thursday to support a bill intended to block St. Petersburg from annexing only portions of Tierra Verde.
The measure, commonly known as the "all or nothing bill," would require any annexing city to take the entire island. That would trigger a referendum, allowing Tierra Verde voters to decide whether they want to be annexed.
Thursday's vote came during the final meeting of the Pinellas County legislative delegation, which hears bills that pertain only to Pinellas but require state action. Such bills are then generally approved by the remainder of the Legislature and signed by the governor as a matter of course.
In November, the city annexed an 18-acre commercial sliver of the island, despite objections from Tierra Verde residents who worried that the city would overdevelop the land and spoil their peaceful atmosphere.
Area property owners supported the annexation — which will add nearly $200,000 to city coffers this year — because the city has a more lenient approach to development than Pinellas County.
The county has sued to overturn the annexation, and this move by local legislators is seen as another way to perhaps block that annexation.
However, St. Petersburg insists the law would apply only to future annexations.
Legislators did not address the ambiguity before Thursday's vote, pausing only to ask if passing the law would open the door to other communities who want similar protection.
Anti-annexation activists in areas like Lealman and unincorporated Seminole have been keeping their eye on the bill in hopes that it could be something they might adopt to protect their areas from adjacent cities.
Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, said the Tierra Verde situation is different. It is the only part of unincorporated Pinellas totally surrounded by water, which separates it from the annexing city and gives it an identity of its own. (St. Petersburg annexed 10 acres of water to connect to the commercial sliver.)
However, "I won't be surprised if we see something similar next year," Kriseman said.