The Palm Harbor Coalition was smart to stop its push for incorporation of that North Pinellas community, though the halt is only until next year's legislative session, organizers say. This was clearly the wrong time to pursue incorporation.
A passel of problems confronted those who want Palm Harbor to become Pinellas' 25th city.
The Florida Legislature, in the midst of a statewide financial crisis, has many more important issues on its plate this session, so there is no guarantee that the bills filed in the House and Senate to allow Palm Harbor residents to vote on incorporation would have made it out of committee. Rep. Peter Nehr, R-Tarpon Springs, and Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who had helpfully agreed to sponsor the bills at the request of the Palm Harbor Coalition, have withdrawn their bills.
Another problem is the feasibility study the state requires before incorporation can go on the ballot. The Palm Harbor study was completed in December 2007. The world has changed since then, so the financial calculations in the study likely need updating to reflect reduced property values and government revenue caps.
In addition, residents of Crystal Beach were gaining ground in their fight against the Palm Harbor Coalition. Crystal Beach is a tiny unincorporated village within greater Palm Harbor, but there is little support there for being included in the would-be city of Palm Harbor. In fact, Crystal Beach wanted to be drawn out of the boundaries of Palm Harbor and left alone, according to the Crystal Beach Community Association.
While residents there are celebrating the withdrawal of the incorporation bills this year, they have been told that they will have to document the legal boundaries of Crystal Beach in order to be excluded from next year's incorporation effort. The community association would be wise to get legal advice on whether that proof is indeed necessary.
Meanwhile, the association has broadcast an appeal to all residents for help in documenting Crystal Beach's history and borders. Leaders are asking for deeds, letters or any other historical data, plus volunteers to help research the issue at the courthouse. Crystal Beach, previously called Seaside, is believed to be well over 100 years old, so the search for documents is likely to be akin to an archeological dig.
Crystal Beach's continuing fight against incorporation is scheduled for discussion at the next community association meeting April 7.
It may be fortuitous that the state of the economy has contributed to slowing down the incorporation effort. Residents should give some thought to the challenges that would now be confronting Palm Harbor if it were already a city on its own and watching its tax collections plummet.