Informal Discussion Group Report - Annexation of Feather Sound
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Report on informal group discussion with City of St Petersburg regarding annexation.
By Feather Sound resident - Rich Pettit

The City of St Petersburg has been conducting a series of informal discussions with small groups of residents to determine if, as Mayor Rick Baker stated in his recent letter, "there are any needs which exist within your community which might make alliance with our city a positive thing". This is a report on one of those discussions held on Monday December 15th.

The discussion was hosted in the law offices of Feather Sound resident Denis Cohrs, on the second floor of the Intervest Bank building and began at 5:30 p.m. Eight Feather Sound residents met with three representatives from the City of St Petersburg with Mayor Rick Baker joining the group shortly after it began.

A presentation was given by city staff members starting with a chart comparing the city's declining millage rate trend over the past several years to an increasing rate for county residents. The trends in millage rates was in part attributed a declining tax base for Pinellas County and increasing efficiencies in managing costs by the City of St Petersburg.

Accompanying the millage chart was a table comparing the total cost of living in St Petersburg to living in the county. The table included the cost of other fees such as city taxes on utilities in addition to property taxes. For each of the four levels of residential property values given the total cost of residing in the city was greater than the county. Residents were told that a model would be available on the city's website which would allow them to calculate a cost comparison using values for their own property. Alternatively residents may contract city staff member Gary Jones at 893-7877 to run this computation. Another set of displays was presented with pictures of enhancements to St Petersburg neighborhoods such as landscaping, signage and neighborhood monuments as examples of improvements provided by the city.

City staff members described the annexation process used in other St Petersburg acquisitions such as that of the Carillon development just south of Feather Sound. Prior to a vote by residents on annexation the city would specify in an agreement what actions it would take should residents decide in favor of joining the city. All registered voters in Feather Sound would be eligible to vote on the issue.

The group was then asked to comment on what they thought was working well in the community. The list included fire and police services, county construction permitting processes, street lighting, traffic calming measures and trash collection. Residents cited the convenience of a location in the center of the bay area and expressed a high level of satisfaction with the quality of life offered.

When asked what was not working well, the condition of privately held roads at the Egret entrance was high on the list of concerns. Uncertainty regarding the impact of possible development of the Airco Golf course between the airport and Feather Sound was also raised as an important issue. Occasional flooding on some roads was mentioned, as was the need for improved communications between residents and government agencies. When asked his opinion regarding the development of the golf course Mayor Baker stated that if Feather Sound were a part of St Petersburg he would ask residents what they would like done with the land and would be an advocate of their concerns. This was qualified with an acknowledgement that the golf course is the property of the airport and that it is uncertain what impact the City of St Petersburg could have on negotiating in the interest of area residents.

The question of a possible mailing address change was discussed with the group split on whether a St Petersburg address would be preferable to Clearwater in the event of annexation. Residents found that they had mixed perceptions of images associated with each of the municipalities.

Additional questions were asked by city staff members as to what services or enhancements could persuade the group to vote in favor of annexation and what reasons they could give for voting against annexation. These were listed and assigned a weight of high, medium or low concern.

At the end of the meeting Mayor Baker excused himself to attend another function. He thanked those in attendance for participating, stated that no decision had been reached by the city and that further evaluation was needed. He invited the group to look at some of the performance measures for the city available on its website and noted the 108 neighborhood associations in the city as evidence of its community-based initiatives. Residents thanked Mayor Baker and complimented city staff members on an informative session.

The group was told that because of the number of meetings and amount of information being collected that a second letter to residents from Mayor Rick Baker originally scheduled for December would be delayed to January 2004. This second letter will be a report on the information gathered from the informal discussions and what course from here the city of St Petersburg intends to take. The discussion ended at 8:00 p.m.