Hundreds of Tierra Verde residents hoping to keep their unincorporated island community intact were snubbed Friday by the St. Petersburg City Council, which cared more about tax dollars than peace with the neighbors. The council voted 5-2 to annex 18 prime acres on the island, incurring the wrath of Tierra Verde residents and the county government, both now poised to fight the annexation in court.
Some City Council members acknowledged feeling conflicted about the annexation, but only two, Jeff Danner and Herb Polson, had the independence to oppose the land grab and Mayor Rick Baker. Danner voted no after asking if the city wants to annex the entire island, as some Tierra Verde residents claimed. Economic development director Dave Goodwin acknowledged the city's comprehensive plan contains a goal to annex all of Tierra Verde.
With a "damn the torpedoes" attitude, the city is now well on its way. Almost a mile of Intracoastal Waterway separates the Isla Del Sol area of St. Petersburg from Tierra Verde, but the water was no barrier to the city's land grab. It just used the Pinellas Bayway to extend the city limits halfway across the waterway. Then it annexed state submerged land to reach the lucrative shore of Tierra Verde, where two commercial development groups that requested the annexation wait to build big projects under accommodating city codes.
Some council members, in explaining their vote for annexation, said the city could gain up to $1-million in annual tax revenue if the 18 acres are developed. But St. Petersburg gained something else as well: an enhanced reputation as an arrogant bully to county residents who only wanted their community to be left alone.