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St. Petersburg annexes chunk of Tierra Verde land

ST. PETERSBURG — The city just got a little bigger.

The City Council voted 5-2 to annex 28-acres of Tierra Verde's waterfront commercial district Friday, expanding St. Petersburg's border across the Pinellas Bayway and into the wealthy enclave.

Now in the city: the Tierra Verde Marina, a vacant 56-unit condominium resort, five empty residential lots and a 7-Eleven. Property owners there supported the annexation because the city has a more lenient approach to development than Pinellas County.

The city also annexed 10 acres of submerged state land, the only way it can connect to the 18 acres of commercial property on the island.

The annexation will add nearly $200,000 to city coffers in 2009. New development could eventually contribute $1-million in annual property tax revenue. In return, the city must now provide services such as police and code enforcement to the northernmost tip of Tierra Verde.

Critics claim the annexation is inappropriate at a time when the county is in the midst of overhauling its annexation restrictions.

Hundreds of Tierra Verde residents who are not part of the annexation worry new development will strain the bedroom community's already overstressed main corridor, the only road to the county's Fort De Soto park.

Council members said they received phone calls up until Friday morning asking them to delay the vote.

As an olive branch, the city made a last-minute offer to opponents: Don't challenge the annexation, and development will be limited to eight stories instead of 15. If it is challenged, officials said the deal would be off and 150-foot buildings would be allowed. Tierra Verde limits building height at five stories.

But county and Tierra Verde residents not involved with the takeover say they plan to challenge the legality of the annexation in court anyway.

"They left us no choice," said Brian Smith, the county's planning director. "I'm kind of disappointed."

Several council members seemed uncomfortable with their decision Friday.

"I've been kind of wrestling with this," said council member Karl Nurse. "All the pros are self evident, and, frankly, for the citizens of St. Petersburg, a million dollars a year over time is not insignificant."

But, Nurse said, the city's actions could also strain its relationships with the county and the people of Tierra Verde.

"We have been trying to act in good faith," said Mayor Rick Baker. "The city has tried to listen."

.Fast facts

What people are saying

• "While we understand the city's need to improve the tax base, we are disappointed that they choose this particular way to do it." — Barbara Heck, president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations

• "They did the right thing." — Don Mastry, a spokesman for property owners involved in the annexation

• "This means a long court battle, expensive litigation that could go on for years. The community is very upset. … They are talking about boycotting the businesses." — Paul Murray, president of the Tierra Verde Community Association.

• "I am glad that the annexation went through. I'm sorry that everybody doesn't get what they want." — Tony Amico, a property owner involved in the annexation

St. Petersburg annexes chunk of Tierra Verde land 11/21/08 [Last modified: Sunday, November 23, 2008 10:57pm]
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