Palm Harbor activists win step toward incorporation vote
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01/04/08 Mitch E. Perry
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Yesterday the Pinellas County legislative delegation unanimously approved getting a referendum bill on the agenda at the spring Legislative session that would ultimately allow the city of Palm Harbor to incorporate.

The proposal would give the residents of not only Palm Harbor, but also Crystal Beach, Ozona and East Lake the chance to vote on whether or not to become a city.

Jim Kleyman with the Greater Palm Harbor Community Coalition says he’s hoping for a win-win situation in which Pinellas County and community members are all behind the effort.

Kleyman says that a catalyst in getting Palm Harbor residents to rally behind incorporation was when the community attempted to get Penny for Pinellas funds for local projects, like parklands and fields last year.

Lesley Klein is the owner of Oak Trail Books in downtown Palm Harbor. She says frustration with not getting the opportunity for more funding from the Penny for Pinellas sales tax is driving much of the push to incorporate Palm Harbor.

Pinellas County administrators have been examining a feasibility study that activists behind the incorporation effort have produced, and on Thursday, Assistant County Administrator Elithia Stanfield went before the state Legislative delegation to discuss the county’s fiscal analysis.

She said one suggestion is that activists explain in better detail the reason for incorporation.

Another assumption that administrators say needs more clarification is whether the new Palm Harbor would get any Penny for Pinellas Funds before the newly re-approved tax ends in 2020. Stanfield says interlocal agreements on distributing the tax between the county and individual cities inside Pinellas would need to be altererd.

Supporters of incorporation say that if the Legislature approves the referendum, city and county residents would have a full year to debate the issue before voters decide in early 2009.

Kleyman says he wants a robust debate on the issue.

The bill is being co-sponsored by state Rep. Peter Nehr and Rep. Tom Anderson. For more information, visit Palmharborcoalition.org.

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