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Suit by two commercial property owners seeks to void Largo's annexation

LARGO — Two commercial property owners are going to court to challenge Largo's biggest annexation since 2005.

Owners of Great Bay Distributors, a prominent beer distributor, and P-Squared Fast Lube & More are appealing the annexation of more than 123 acres of commercial property along busy Ulmerton and Starkey roads.

They're hoping the court will void the annexation approved by the Largo City Commission by a 6-1 vote last month.

Their case alleges that the annexation creates isolated pockets of unincorporated property that violate state statutes, a claim that Largo City Attorney Alan Zimmet disputes.

The petition also claims that the city, trying to grow the tax roll and utility revenues, targeted high-value commercial properties and excluded from the annexation any areas with registered voters, thereby avoiding the annexation referendum process.

But Zimmet said the property owners' attorney is "trying to make something nefarious" out of the city following the statute.

In commercial annexations, state law requires that owners of more than half of the properties in a proposed area agree to the annexation. City staffers said about 75 percent of them consented in the recent case.

Both Great Bay and Fast Lube & More were annexed by the city's action. Phil McHenry, owner of Fast Lube & More, has been a vocal opponent of the annexation. He's worried that his expenses will skyrocket with higher electric bills and additional fees.

He's also upset that he may have to shell out about $30,000 to replace his marquee sign by 2017 to comply with city sign regulations.

"This is going to cost us business owners a lot of money," McHenry said.

On Friday, Circuit Judge Linda R. Allan ordered an amended petition from the parties challenging the annexation. She said that some references in the challenge were not specific enough and that a preliminary review showed that some allegations were not supported by the documents submitted.

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155.

Suit by two commercial property owners seeks to void Largo's annexation 05/24/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 5:27pm]
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