TIERRA VERDE — Residents here will take one more step to becoming a city Thursday when they consider revisions to a proposed charter during the second of two public meetings.
The revisions were made after a July 10 meeting. If the revised charter wins approval Thursday, the next step will be to send cards to all registered voters to get a feel for the likelihood that the idea of becoming a city would win approval at the ballot box, said Jack Parker, chairman of the incorporation team.
The concept of forming a city has long been bandied about on Tierra Verde but picked up steam last year when St. Petersburg attempted to annex 28 acres of submerged and commercial land extending across the Bayway bridge and onto Tierra Verde.
Island residents were outraged by the move, saying the annexation would clear the way for more development that would destroy the relaxed ambience of Tierra Verde.
The annexation is on hold, Parker said, but residents are moving forward with incorporation plans.
"This is the best way to protect ourselves from annexation," Parker said.
And Parker said he believes the support is out there.
"We are a very cohesive island. Everybody wants the same thing," Parker said. He predicted that the voting cards will show that a high percentage of Tierra Verde wants to become a city.
But residents' desire to become a city does not mean it will happen. The state must approve the move, but that becomes virtually automatic if the county legislative delegation approves the idea.
That's the next big step, Parker said. While some on the delegation have indicated they support the idea, Tierra Verde residents must still clear a few hurdles.
One is the ability to afford to support a town. A feasibility study done awhile back indicates that should be no problem for this upscale community, but the study has to be updated with data concerning the affect of Amendment 1 on property taxes that would be collected to run a city.
Another hurdle is population. State law requires cities to have at least 5,000 residents. It's unclear if Tierra Verde has that many people. But Parker said that, if one looks at other Pinellas cities, many lack the required 5,000 residents. Kenneth City, for example, has about 4,500 residents, and Belleair Shores has even fewer.
Tierra Verde is not the first unincorporated Pinellas community in recent years to consider forming a city. The unincorporated Lealman area considered it a few years ago as a way to avoid annexation. The movement died when Pinellas Park annexed property that divided east and west Lealman. Also working against the idea were the economics. Lealman, one of the poorest areas in the county, would have had a struggle to survive as a city.
Palm Harbor activists also periodically raise the idea of incorporation, but it is unclear if there is widespread support in that north Pinellas community.