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Tarpon to negotiate land buy

City Manager Carey Smith got the go-ahead Tuesday to negotiate the purchase of land on Lemon Street for a new library.

Over the heated objection of Commissioner Blaine LeCouris, the city commission voted 4-1 to authorize Smith to negotiate with owners of 13 parcels across the street from the old post office in downtown Tarpon Springs.

The commission ended a long controversy over the site of a larger library by voting two weeks ago to construct a new building on Lemon Street. The other choices had been new buildings at sites on Huey Avenue or Lime Street, or expansion of the existing library in Craig Park.

LeCouris said buying the Lemon Street parcels without a public referendum was "circumventing" the city charter.

He said the charter requires a referendum on the purchase of a new property unless it is land for parks and recreation and costs less than $250,000.

City Attorney Herb Elliott earlier issued an opinion saying that the library could be considered under the parks and recreation exemption. Assessed value of the 13 parcels, spread among nine different owners, is $258,000, so Smith would have to negotiate to get under the $250,000 limit.

Another exception to the referendum requirement is condemnation of property by the city. Elliott was directed by the commission to research how the city could acquire the parcels by condemnation if Smith is not able to negotiate satisfactory prices.

Mayor Anita Protos rejected LeCouris' objections and said, after the long controversy over the library site, it was time for the commission "to join hands and get this show on the road."

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