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Third vote planned in January on annexation

(ran SEMINOLE, WEST, BEACH editions of NEIGHBORHOOD TIMES)

John Riley and his neighbors talked about annexing into Seminole, but it never was much of a priority until the city mailed fliers last month touting the benefits of residency.

Riley says he and fellow homeowners in Botanica Estates, a small gated community off 102nd Avenue N, did the calculations and discovered they would pay less in taxes if they joined Seminole.

And, he says, they like the idea of small government and of having access to Seminole's elected officials and administrators.

"It's a pretty logical decision," said Riley, president of the Botanica Estates Homeowners Association.

Apparently, enough people living near Botanica Estates feel the same way that the city will hold another annexation referendum on Jan. 21. Registered voters in two other unincorporated areas already are scheduled to vote that day on annexation.

"This was brought on by a number of different things," said Mitch Bobowski, Seminole's general services director. But mainly organizers encouraging their neighbors and the city mailing promotional brochures led to the additional referendum, he said.

If all referendums pass, Seminole's population will grow by more than 8 percent. Only registered voters who live in the proposed annexation areas can vote. Votes in each area will be counted separately.

City officials are calling the new area "Northwest" since it encompasses several subdivisions between Seminole's northwest boundary and Walsingham Lake. Neighborhoods include Frank Estates, Windtree Estates and Park Place Estates.

If approved, the Northwest referendum would add 317 acres, 459 homes and 1,101 residents to the city.

The two areas already scheduled to vote on annexation are Bridlewood, a 24-home subdivision north of 86th Avenue N and west of Starkey Road; and Timberwoods, a nearby 109-unit condominium complex, and Parkview Woodlands, a neighborhood of 44 homes north of 82nd Avenue N and east of 98th Street.

Suzy Strieder lives in one of the neighborhoods north of 102nd Avenue that will vote. She organized the annexation drive in her neighborhood.

Like Riley, Strieder says joining the city will save her money. But she says she also wants to join Seminole to be a part of a community.

"Hopefully, we can get everyone to feel that way," she said.

Kathy Jacobs, past president of the Frank Estates Homeowners Association, said she's been pushing annexation in her neighborhood for a couple of years. She says by joining Seminole she'll pay less in taxes and won't be charged a $70 per person registration fee for nonresidents at the city's recreation center.

Besides, she said, she already feels like she lives in Seminole. "We consider ourselves residents of Seminole even though we're not," she said.

Two years ago, the city plotted new boundaries: 131st Street on the west, 110th Avenue on the north, Starkey Road on the east and Bay Pines on the south, although the Pinellas Planning Council drew smaller boundaries. The council created a map in 2000 that designates how far each city may expand its borders.

City Manager Frank Edmunds says the planned borders would give the city easily defined boundaries. If accomplished, the city would cover 12.5 square miles and would contain 50,000 to 60,000 residents, compared with Seminole's current 4.5 square miles and 17,000 residents.

If all three referendums pass, it means Seminole will . . .

+ Grow by 435 acres.

+ Add 636 homes to the city.

+ Increase its population by 1,393 residents.

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