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Palm Harbor ready to be city?

A coalition seeking a referendum has been told to collect signatures.

By THERESA BLACKWELL, Times Staff Writer
Published November 3, 2007


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PALM HARBOR - Activists intrigued by the idea of incorporating Palm Harbor as its own city are gathering facts.

But a legislator has told them they should be collecting names, too.

About a dozen Palm Harbor residents met at the Palm Harbor Community Activity Center on Thursday night to talk about the possibility ofincorporating Palm Harbor.

First, the Greater Palm Harbor Community Coalition, an informal partnership of community groups, will complete a feasibility study on the details of incorporating and submit it to Pinellas County's legislative delegation and the Legislature.

They will try to do that by Nov. 15, at least in draft form. It's due in final form by Dec. 1, by state statute, if the Legislature is going to consider it inthis year's session.

The coalition hopes the feasibility study and state review of all the data it contains will help illuminate whether incorporating would benefit residents.

If it doesn't appear to have advantages, the process could stop there.

"It all depends on the results of the feasibility study, which will then be vetted by the Legislature," coalition spokesman Jim Kleyman said at the meeting.

At the coalition's request, state Rep. Peter Nehr, R-Tarpon Springs, has agreed to sponsor a bill in the House that would allow Palm Harbor residents to vote on whether to form their own city. Nehr doesn't necessarily support incorporating, but he said he supports giving people the chance to vote and make their own choices.

If the feasibility study supports incorporating, then the coalition will attempt to secure a co-sponsor in the Senate.

So far, an aide to state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, has told the group Fasano would co-sponsor the bill if the coalition collects 1,000 signatures of people who would affected by incorporation.

Coalition member Scott Fisher said any effort to collect signatures would come after people know whether the feasibility study's findings suggest that incorporation wouldbe beneficial.

Fisher, once president of the now-defunct Old Palm Harbor Community Association, drafted a feasibility study in 2002 that concluded incorporation would benefit residents, create a more responsive local government and might even cost taxpayers less.

That study is the starting point for Fisher's work on the current feasibility study.

In the current draft bill, Fisher said Ozona, Crystal Beach and East Lake would have a choice whether to join the new town. They would all keep their current mailing addresses and fire districts. And the government would have a mayor, a city commission and a city manager, as in Dunedin and Tarpon Springs.

The Pinellas County delegation will meet from 9 a.m. to noon Nov. 15 at the Dr. William E. Hale Senior Activity Center in Dunedin, where coalition representatives will speak about the draft bill. The delegation could vote on the bill Jan. 3 when it meets from 9 a.m. to noon at the Hickman Theater in Gulfport.

Even under the most optimistic scenario, a referendum on incorporation would be more than a year away. If the Legislature passes a bill, then a referendum could take place in November 2008.

"We just want to do what the people want," Fisher said Friday.

Theresa Blackwell can be reached at tblackwell@sptimes.com or 727 445-4170.

If you go

Talk it over

County legislators will meet from 9 a.m. to noon Nov. 15 at the Dr. William E. Hale Senior Activity Center, 330 Douglas Ave., Dunedin. Members of the Greater Palm Harbor Community Coalition plan to speak on a bill to schedule a referendum so Palm Harbor residents can vote on whether to incorporate as a city.

[Last modified November 2, 2007, 22:46:33]


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