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City balloons after vote for annexation

By SHARON TUBBS

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 14, 2000


SEMINOLE -- Voters nearly doubled the size of Seminole on Tuesday, drastically increasing the city's tax base and adding thousands to its population.

Residents of three unincorporated areas overwhelmingly voted to be annexed into Seminole's borders. The annexation is the largest in Seminole's history and among the biggest ever in Pinellas County.

In the Seminole Lake Country Club Estates area, which is south of Park Boulevard and west of Park Street, 74 percent of those who went to the polls voted for annexation.

In the Woodbridge area, which is north and south of 102nd Avenue N west of 113th Street, 71 percent of voters said they wanted to join the city. And in the Gardens area, which is north of Park Boulevard and west of Starkey Road, 83 percent of those who voted favored annexation.

The annexations will take effect June 23.

"Amazing," said council member Jim Dunn. "I've been waiting for 17 years for something like this."

Dunn and other city leaders waited for election results at City Hall after their regular council meeting. Although they were pleased, the outcome was not a shock. The three neighborhoods had asked to be annexed.

"We had a pretty good affirmation that people wanted to come in," Dunn said. "I think the numbers show it."

The annexation will nearly double Seminole's land. In 1995, Seminole comprised 1,264 acres. The annexations approved Tuesday total about 1,100 acres.

It is unclear how many residents the annexations will add to the city's population, which was estimated at about 9,700 in 1999. According to the Supervisor of Elections Office, 3,113 people are registered to vote in the three areas. Of registered voters, about 49 percent voted in the election. However, many more residents of the neighborhoods are not registered voters.

The increase in residents is expected to propel Seminole's population past other small cities in the county such as Gulfport and Oldsmar, each with about 12,000 residents. When all the heads are counted, Seminole could rival Safety Harbor's population of about 17,000 residents.

The election also adds about $205-million in taxable value to the city's existing tax base of $360-million.

Dunn said the city already has contacted the Sheriff's Office about the possible need for more patrol officers to accommodate safety needs in the new areas. In coming months, leaders will look more closely at the annexations' impact on their service delivery, officials said.

Tuesday's annexation results differed from experiences in other cities such as Largo, Pinellas Park and Clearwater, where annexation plans resulted in wrangling between cities and residents and costly legal battles.

In Seminole, however, city leaders decided against aggressive annexation tactics that other cities used, hoping residents would choose to come into the city.

On Tuesday, they did.

Jim Heap, a resident who lives in the Woodbridge area, stood smiling with city leaders Tuesday. He thinks the annexation will benefit his neighborhood by giving residents more input in zoning, taxation and safety issues.

"You have a much better voice and a much better chance to get that representation," Heap said.

Former Seminole Mayor Holland Mangum counted the annexations as a major victory, bringing to completion expansion efforts begun decades ago.

"It's part of what we planned 30 years ago when we formed the city," Mangum said.

But the city's work is not done.

Seminole intends to continue its annexation efforts by touting the benefits of living within city boundaries, officials said. Plus, the city's edges still are too jagged for council member Pat Hartstein's tastes.

"I still would like to square off the boundaries a little bit more," she said.

In the meantime, council member Paul Trexler said, "I want to welcome everybody, all our new residents to the city of Seminole."

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