LARGO -- While the city and the county finally reached settlement on the issue of PSTA land, with Largo extracting a promise from the county to withdraw a suit, the annexation war is alive and heated between the two jurisdictions.
The county does not want Largo or any other city annexing property that falls under its jurisdiction. Consequently arguments are presented by the county as guidelines to annexation.
Largo does not accept those guidelines and, having received the blessing of the City Commission, will combat the county's annexation criteria which are now in draft form and which are being discussed with municipalities in the county.
Ordinance 00-63, which was adopted by referendum four years ago, created planning areas for each jurisdiction in the county. The idea was to solve problems, but in the case of the county and Largo, there is incessant warfare, with the county blocking or attempting to block move after move the city makes on annexations.
In opposing many of the county's criteria on annexations, the city points out that applying numerical standards in an attempt to regulate annexation will "essentially stall annexation, and place individual property owners into a position where their rights to voluntarily annex is restricted due to non-compliance with a a subject value."
For example, the county defines "contiguous" (one of the elements of allowing annexation) as where a "substantial part of the boundary" of an area to be annexed coincides with the boundary of the annexing city.
The requirement by the county goes on to say that "This requirement would be satisfied when 50 percent or more of the boundary" coincides with the city boundary.
Opposing this, Largo says that this kind of definition is "an entirely subjective value."
The city says that its position is that as long as an area that is proposed for annexation is within Largo's planning service area (set forth in Ordinance 00-63) there should not be limitations set on voluntary annexations.
Also criticized by the city was a formulation by the county using percentages of coinciding boundaries to allow annexation.
The city cited example after example where this "subjective" standard would not be feasible, including oddly shaped parcels of land, panhandle lots and the like where "the county's draft criteria would prevent a municipality from proceeding . . . as a result of property configuration."
A steady chewing away of county, unincorporated areas and their inclusion within municipal boundaries is something that county commissioners perhaps view with alarm. If there territory shrinks, so does their power.
Pinellas County is odd in that it is one of the few counties in Florida that has many municipalities. The fact that there is constant warfare is a product of competing, political interests.
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