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St. Petersburg resumes Tierra Verde annexation efforts

TIERRA VERDE — The city of St. Petersburg resumed its efforts to annex a commercial portion of unincorporated Tierra Verde with some minor changes that could help streamline the process.

The city submitted an initial report to the county outlining its plans to annex the Tierra Verde Marina, the Tierra Verde Yacht and Racquet Club Condos and the Tierra Verde Resort Marina last December but later scuttled the plans after determining that more than a dozen registered voters living at one of the marinas would have to approve the annexation.

The voters were live-aboard residents at the Tierra Verde Resort Marina who had listed their address as 200 Madonna Blvd. on their voter registrations. The new plan's most notable difference is the removal of the submerged lands below that marina.

"They couldn't do an annexation without voters that lived in that area voting, which they didn't want to do," said Brian Smith, director of the county planning department.

Without the threat of a handful of marina residents who could potentially vote against the annexation, the plan's approval will rely on the property owners in Tierra Verde who petitioned the city and the St. Petersburg City Council.

City officials denied any connection between the removal of the submerged lands from the newest report and the potential for a referendum vote, saying that there are no longer any registered voters at that address.

"My understanding is that all those issues were resolved," Assistant City Attorney Mark Winn said.

The Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office confirmed that there are no registered voters at that address due to numerous attempts by Timothy S. Haws, the property's project manager, to remove the voters from that address.

Those attempts, coupled with a number of voluntary changes from the address and concern over a phone call from one voter caused the elections staff to forward a log of the events to the Voting Rights Section of the Department of Justice.

"We had at least one voter call and say that they were told that they had to change their voter registration or they would be evicted," said Nancy Whitlock, spokeswoman for the Pinellas County supervisor of elections. "We felt that was possible voter intimidation, and we wanted that checked out."

Marina officials refused comment and referred the Times to Darian Johnson of the Ballast Point Group, who did not return phone calls.

The city's new plans also include the addition of submerged lands below the Pinellas Bayway and the Tierra Verde Bridge.

The addition of the bridge was to address concerns over access raised by the Pinellas County Planning Council, and the bridge will continue to be owned and maintained by the Florida Department of Transportation, economic development director Dave Goodwin said.

The annexation plans have had a poor reception with the county staff and many Tierra Verde residents.

The Tierra Verde Community Association has been vocal in its opposition, vowing to fight the annexation by any means necessary.

"We're not sitting on our hands. That's for sure," said Paul Murray association president.

The majority of the changes made in the report were in response to errors or concerns expressed by the county, Smith said.

"If they're doing a questionable annexation, they have to make sure there are no glitches. Otherwise, you could have it thrown out in court," Smith said.

Nick Johnson can be reached at nickjohnson@sptimes.com or 893-8361.

St. Petersburg resumes Tierra Verde annexation efforts 04/19/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 21, 2008 4:24pm]
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