Aggressive annexation drive sees results
By MAUREEN BYRNE AHERN
SEMINOLE -- City officials say they are pleased with the response they are getting from thousands of annexation fliers mailed to hopeful residents.
City Manager Frank Edmunds said about 300 people have called the city with questions about joining. And the city's Web site has received about 75 hits since the 14,000 brochures were mailed earlier this month.
"So there continues to be interest in annexing into the city," Edmunds said, but not enough of an organized effort at this time to pursue any referendums. City officials are working with people interested in joining the city, and referendum votes on annexation could follow, he said.
The mailing is a change in Seminole's casual annexation strategy. For the past several years, city officials have waited for the curious to approach them. They hold public meetings to answer questions and, if enough people sign a petition, the city holds a referendum vote on annexation.
Now the city is no longer waiting and, with the colorful brochures, is taking a more aggressive approach. The new method aggravates unincorporated residents who have no desire to live in Seminole.
Betty Bootier showed up at a City Council meeting last week with a small bundle of the brochures. Twenty-seven to be exact.
She plopped them down next to City Clerk Beverly Brown. "They send a strong message against annexation," she told the council.
Since 1960, Mrs. Bootier has lived in her neighborhood south of Seminole Recreation Center and west of 113th Street. It's also near Seminole Community Library, which will become City Hall in 2003 or 2004. And it's also where the city wants to grow.
To square off its jagged borders, Seminole wants to extend its boundaries to 131st Street on the west, 110th Avenue on the north, Starkey Road on the east and Bay Pines on the south. The city then would cover 12.5 square miles and would contain 50,000 to 60,000 residents.
Nancy Nick is hoping to be one of those new residents. She and her neighbors would like to be annexed, but the neighborhood they live in off Old Oakhurst Road is not contiguous to the city. When she saw the annexation flier in the mail, she called Mitch Bobowski, Seminole's general services director.
"Put our area on the top of the list," she told him. "We're all anxiously waiting."
Others aren't. Mrs. Bootier said she collected the brochures from neighbors who are opposed to annexation. She said she asked them to write their signatures on them.
Some wrote more.
"Don't want in the city of Seminole. We are happy the way it is."
"No-No-No!! Leave us alone! We are unincorporated and want to stay that way!!"
The last message is from Rosanne Haag. Like Mrs. Bootier, she says joining the city would mean higher taxes and another level of government.
"I get really upset because it's just another thing on a daily basis to worry about," she said. "Why don't they just leave us alone. If I want to join a city, I'll move there."
Seminole paid about $2,500 for printing and postage for the fliers.
On the front are color pictures of city properties, including the band shell at Seminole City Park, the recreation center and a fleet of fire engines. The trifold leaflet gives three reasons for annexing into the city: quality city services, easy access to elected officials and financial benefits.
The flier points out that the city charges each nonresident $70 for a recreation card. A family of four, for example, could pay $280. Seminole residents pay nothing.
Other cities are beefing up their annexation efforts as well. Largo officials want a country club community to join the city and plans to hold a referendum in January.
Lou Hilton, Largo's annexation coordinator, said the city already is serving the people who live in the country club so it is in their best interest to join the city.
Seminole also will hold an annexation referendum in January, but it was planned long before the brochures were mailed. The referendum will be for three areas: Bridlewood subdivision, 23 homes north of 86th Avenue N and west of Starkey Road; Timberwoods, a 99-unit condominium complex near Bridlewood; and Parkview Woodlands, a neighborhood of 44 homes north of 82nd Avenue N and east of 98th Street.
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