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Map Mysteries // Border residents live in a twilight zone

Life can be rather schizophrenic in the shadowland along the border of Pasco and Hillsborough counties.

Maps show Land O'Lakes and Lutz on opposite sides of the line, Lutz to the south, Land O'Lakes to the north.

A welcome-to-Lutz sign south of the Pasco-Hillsborough border seems to back up that delineation.

But check any envelope bound for a house between the border and State Road 54 in Willow Bend or Carpenter's Run, in what appears to be Land O'Lakes.

What's this?

The address says Lutz?

A half-mile north of that sign welcoming motorists to Lutz, safely within Pasco County, stands the Lutz Animal Hospital.

In Land O'Lakes?

Pass the compass and some aspirin. Pull over and ask for directions.

Where the heck are we?

"No Man's Land," suggests Betty Thompson.

Thompson, a real-estate broker, has been an off-and-on lifelong resident of Land O'Lakes . . . Lutz . . . Land O'Lutz?

"People here don't know where they are," she says.

Likewise for many people who make their homes in Odessa, another community that seems to be both in Hillsborough and Pasco counties.

"I usually tell people we live in unincorporated Hillsborough County, but we live in Odessa because that's the post office," says Barbara Davis.

You are here . . . or here?

Adrienne Mitchell, a self-employed interior decorator, has lived in Willow Bend for five years. Relatives used to get confused about her address. She told them she lives in Land O'Lakes, with a Lutz mailing address.

"My brother said, "Make up your mind. Where do you live?' " Mitchell says. "It's annoying. . . . I wish they would just let us say we live in Land O'Lakes."

Melissa Herd, a Carpenter's Run homemaker, says, "Actually, I tell people we live in Lutz _ but in Land O'Lakes. They look at you funny. It's kind of strange."

It's not just a case of muddled identity.

The problem can also strike the pocketbook.

Andrew Browne lives in Carpenter's Run in "Lutz O'Lakes." He moved here from Tampa five years ago and expected his insurance rates to drop in Pasco.

They didn't.

Insurance companies base rates on ZIP codes.

At first glance, 33549 says Lutz, and Lutz suggests Hillsborough.

"I don't like it because it's costing us extra money," Browne says.

Shirley Albeitz of Willow Bend had to give her automobile insurance company a government map to prove she lived in Pasco.

"We were pretty disgusted with it," Albeitz says. "It was decided that we definitely lived in Pasco."

Thompson had a similar problem.

"Some computer in some big company changes your insurance rate simply because of your ZIP code," she says. "It can be changed without you knowing."

Susan Lussenden is a Prudential insurance agent. She lives in Lake Padgett Estates East in Land O'Lakes. Her office is on U.S. 41, north of County Line Road and south of SR 54 in the gray area.

She explains that the difference between Hillsborough and Pasco premiums are significant.

A homeowner can expect to pay $30 to $100 a year more for insurance in Hillsborough than in Pasco depending on the size and materials used to build a house.

A Hillsborough motorist, depending on the type of coverage, can pay $100 to $300 more annually for automobile insurance.

Lussenden handles policies on both sides of the county line. She said residents of "No Man's Land" are asked to provide proof, such as automobile registration and property tax bills, that they live in Pasco.

That 5-digit code also puts borderland residents like Thompson on telephone solicitation lists for Hillsborough County organizations.

"All because they think I live in Hillsborough," she says. "Well, I don't give to them. I don't like getting those calls."

Origins of "No Man's Land"

How did the overlap of Lutz and Land O'Lakes happen?

The answer's in the mail.

In the early 1950s, before a civic association held a contest to name Land O'Lakes, the Lutz post office served central Pasco at least as far north as State Road 52. Then Land O'Lakes got its own post office, which started with a single delivery route.

More than a decade ago, Land O'Lakes spread its delivery area south to SR 54.

Bill Ragan, Land O'Lakes' postmaster, thinks of Land O'Lakes as stretching from Gowers Corner to County Line Road.

At least a decade ago, he distributed questionnaires asking residents whether they wanted to be considered Lutz or Land O'Lakes.

Back then, however, residents to stick with Lutz.

Now, many new residents live in the area. Some want the Land O'Lakes address.

They can ask, Ragan says, "but that would not be my decision to make."

Instead, any petition would have to be initiated by residents, then sent to the Suncoast District Office manager.

These days, though, the Land O'Lakes post office on U.S. 41 barely has enough space to handle the neighborhoods within its current delivery zone, Ragan says.

The U.S. Postal Service has bought property to expand in Land O'Lakes, but has yet to approve the addition.

Benefits of confusion

Confusion actually works to the advantage of some residents who live on the Hillsborough side of Odessa, a sprawling area mostly along the Gunn Highway corridor.

"The only benefit from the confusion that I know of is the fact that they get license plate renewals from Pasco, and you don't have to get an inspection," Davis says.

Steve McCarter agrees. "One of the big issues is auto emissions. If you live in Odessa in Pasco, you don't have to deal with it. Other than just the geographical problems of companies wondering whether you're in Pasco or Hillsborough when they want to deliver, it's no big deal.

"Technically, I don't think it causes anybody any big problems."

But even here, in Odessa, Lutz causes problems.

Yes, in this corner of northwest Hillsborough, Lutz juts in west of N Dale Mabry Highway and north of Van Dyke Road.

Still have that aspirin handy?

"People who've been out here a long time will say, "It's so many miles to this point and it's so many miles to this point,' so we've never really had a problem," says Nancy Robertshaw, who has lived in Odessa since 1968.

"I have more confusion over the cutoff line between Lutz and us than the other way around. Van Dyke is Odessa, Carlton Arms (which is on Van Dyke) is Lutz."

_ Times staff writers Ed Quioco and Erika N. Duckworth contributed to this report.