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Map's lines show how town may expand

A proposal suggests that Kenneth City could grow by more than 75 percent in land area and by 48 percent in population.

By ANNE LINDBERG

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 3, 2000


KENNETH CITY -- Residents and council members got a glimpse of Kenneth City's possible future when a county official unveiled a map showing a proposed annexation area that could increase the town's size by more than 75 percent.

"Obviously, that isn't going to happen overnight, if at all," said Dave Healy, executive director of the Pinellas Planning Council. "We can draw these lines anywhere we want to. Ultimately, it depends on the wishes of the people and where they want to go."

But Healy recommended that if Kenneth City wants to make growth by annexation happen, town officials should hire a consultant to analyze the costs and benefits of such a program. It could be that the costs of providing police and other services to the newly annexed land would outweigh the increased tax income that would flow from any annexations, he said.

"I think you should look into it, gather your facts and go from there," Healy said.

Healy made his commments last week during a Town Council workshop. Kenneth City Mayor Bill Smith invited him to explain to the council and residents the annexation issues that the Planning Council is trying to address.

Healy said the Planning Council wants to stop the annexation wars that have been springing up between cities as they battle to increase land and tax revenues. Skirmishes such as the recent border battle between Pinellas Park and Largo can scare people and are bad for business.

So, in an effort to prevent border wars, the Planning Council, which has members from municipalities across the county, is drawing up maps setting aside "planning areas" for each city. The idea is that each city can annex within its planning area free from competition by other cities.

That does not mean that those landowners would be forced into a city's borders, he said. The property owner would have to want to come in. Healy also said the borders would be flexible, so that if a property owner in one area wanted to annex into a different municipality, then the County Commission could approve such a move.

While the maps are still being refined, Healy showed the latest map of Kenneth City's potential planning area.

If Kenneth City managed to annex all the land within that proposed planning area, the town would see an estimated 77 percent increase in land area, about a 65 percent hike in property values and an estimated 48 percent larger population.

But that may not be enough for Kenneth City.

Smith, the mayor, is worried that Pinellas Park wants to add about an eight-block area to the northwest of the town to its planning area rather than let Kenneth City have it.

Pinellas Park wants it because it has a potential annexation agreement with a property owner on 54th Avenue, Healy said. Right now, the property does not touch Pinellas Park's border, which is required for annexation. But the property owner apparently has agreed to annex into Pinellas Park should that city's limits ever touch the land.

While Pinellas Park, Largo and other cities frequently use such future annexation agreements, Kenneth City town attorney Paul Marino said it was "absurd" and "meaningless" because Pinellas Park's borders are so far away.

But Bud Wortendyke, who heads Pinellas Park's annexation program, says it's neither. He said it's likely that Pinellas Park's border will touch the property before the annexation agreement reaches the City Council. That could be in a few weeks.

Mike Gustafson, Pinellas Park's assistant city manager, agreed that Pinellas Park is almost there.

"If (Wortendyke) puts together a couple he's working on, we will be there a lot quicker than they think," Gustafson said.

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