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Marina owner seeks Tarpon annexation

If you can't beat the county, join the city.

In May, Pinellas County commissioners denied Michael Tsalickis' plan to put a fish camp at the Marker 25 Marina.

Now Tsalickis has asked Tarpon Springs to annex his 2.3 acres on the Anclote River into the city. The marina is on Anclote Road between the Hickory Point RV Park and the Meyer's Cove subdivision.

Contacted this week, Tsalickis and his attorney said he wants to put 10 boat slips in at the property. But they declined to discuss other possible plans in detail.

The annexation request faces opposition from two groups. The first are neighbors who have complained about past businesses there since Tsalickis has owned the property. The second are county officials.

In a letter this month to the Pinellas Planning Council, county planning director Brian Smith said annexing Tsalickis' property would create an isolated chunk of the city. It would be separated from most of Tarpon Springs by the river, which is 1,100 feet wide at that point. It also would be 2,300 feet from the nearest city boundary to the east, he said.

Tsalickis' attorney, Herb Elliott, said the "issue is whether the property is contiguous to the city."

"The city limits go to the north bank of the Anclote River," Elliott said. "I don't know what the county's position is, but I doubt it's going to get too far if it went to court."

Tsalickis, who runs Paul's Shrimp House, declined to discuss his plans. He did say being annexed into Tarpon Springs would get him away from the county, which he said gave him a "raw deal."

Elliott said the city has approved such annexations on the north side of the river before. Smith said that's happened only once that he knows of since 1982.

Moreover, Smith said in his letter to the Pinellas Planning Council that the Anclote River is not a minor geographic division.

Other Pinellas cities have not jumped across rivers and lakes to expand their boundaries, Smith said. Instead, they've used a physical connection such as a bridge or causeway or have annexed a series of properties along the shore to create a continuous extension of the city limits. That, he said, is what Seminole did on Lake Seminole.

Tsalickis' annexation request was scheduled for a public hearing with the Tarpon Springs Planning and Zoning Board this week. But that was postponed after county officials raised questions about the annexation.

City planners have not made a recommendation on Tsalickis' application. They are waiting for a report from the Pinellas Planning Council, city planning and zoning director Renea Vincent said.

Neighbors say that after Tsalickis got a county variance in 1998 to sell beer and wine, the marina was transformed into a rowdy bar and grill. In March, county officials rescinded the variance after complaints about pounding rock music, roaring motorcycles and drunken customers.

That history has not given neighbors confidence about how any new development would turn out. Several have written the city to oppose the annexation.

"We've been fighting this for two years," said neighbor Gene Russelo, 71. "I owned the property, and I sold it to Michael Tsalickis. I'd like to have it back."