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County challenges two Dade City annexations

The vice mayor wants to fight Pasco's lawsuits that attempt to nullify the city's pair of annexations.

By CHASE SQUIRES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 24, 2002

DADE CITY -- Pasco County and Dade City appear headed for a courtroom showdown.

Pasco County officials slipped in under the wire Thursday to file a pair of last minute lawsuits against Dade City seeking to block two recent annexations, and Dade City's vice mayor said he's ready to fight the county in court.

The suits object to the city's decision to absorb two properties into the city. In both cases, the property owners asked to be taken into the city.

With minutes to spare on the last day possible to object, a secretary from the Pasco County Attorney's Office walked into the Clerk of Circuit Court's office in New Port Richey and got in line before the doors locked behind her at 5 p.m.

"Petitioner, Pasco County, asserts that the essential requirements of the law were not observed by Dade City," the lawsuits both state.

The county's suit claims one of the properties wasn't adjacent to city boundaries at the time the annexation process began, as the law requires. And in both cases, the properties are not compact enough to meet state law, and the county didn't have time to voice its opinions, according to the suit.

The suit claims state law required the city to send certified letters notifying the county government there were public hearings scheduled, but the city did not.

At issue is the 136-acre Roadside Groves property and about 27 acres called the Cameron Property across Happy Hill Road from Roadside Groves, about 1 mile north of State Road 52.

The city annexed both April 23 after the owners requested to join the city. City officials originally thought the deadline for anyone to file an objection extended only 10 days, but later acknowledged the county had a month.

The county's objections baffled Dade City Vice Mayor Bill Dennis.

"I don't quite understand why this is happening. . . . Dade City's future depends on annexation," Dennis said. "If we don't fight this, they'll simply file every time we have an annexation."

The county is asking the court to nullify the annexation and force the city to pay the county's legal costs.

The lawsuit comes just as Dade City and the county appeared to be patching up long-running differences over how to handle improvements in the Tommytown community north of the city. The county and city government sparred over the cost of sewer connection fees, and which should provide utilities to the area surrounding Dade City.

A solution appeared near last week when officials from both sides agreed to compromise. Then county commissioners earlier this week agreed to try to block Dade City's annexation.

City Manager Doug Drymon and Mayor Scott Black were out of town Thursday afternoon, but Dennis said the matter would definitely be on the table at Tuesday's City Commission meeting.

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