LARGO – Every week, the city of Largo receives three to five requests from property owners who want to join the city, agreeing to pay its taxes in exchange for the extra services it provides.
The requests come without any advertising from the city or any active attempt to extend its boundaries, said Teresa Brydon, the city’s economic development manager. It’s a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless: the city currently has a backlog of 240 annexation agreements for properties waiting to be added to the tax roll.
“We have a lot of people that want to be a part of us, the city of Largo. It’s a reasonable assumption that we want to be bringing them in,” Brydon said.
Given budget constraints, the city doesn’t have a dedicated staff person to handle the issue. But during the Jan. 14 work session, Brydon’s two-person department committed to tackling what she called “the beast” to try to get ahead of the curve in the upcoming year. Largo commissioners suggested she solicit the help of other city staff, an intern or a temporary hire to complete the project.
“Don’t let us be the hold up,” Commissioner Woody Brown said. “We’ll do whatever needs to be done, I think.”
The city may schedule extra hearings solely to authorize the ordinances needed to annex the properties, but not until May or June, Brydon said. Each property that’s not adjacent to another needs its own annexation ordinance, which must be read by the city clerk during two public hearings. The process for the ordinances takes about 45 days.
Brydon said she saw the benefit of getting the annexations “all cleaned up.” She wasn’t in favor of putting a hold on new annexation agreements until the backlog was cleared, as Commissioner Michael Smith suggested.
“I think we need to continue that to show that we are a friendly city,” she said. “If we were to tackle this and get this under our belt, then bringing in annexation agreements in the future … will be a simple process.”
The city has been treading water on annexations since the backlog was first brought to the commissioners’ attention in March, fluctuating right around 340 eligible annexation agreements despite completing numerous annexations in the last year.
Of the 340 annexation agreements currently eligible, 125 are “on hold” because they are within a county community development district of some sort, leaving 215 for the city to tackle in the coming months.
The city also has 36 single-parcel and eight multiple-parcel properties that have a “sewer indenture” agreement with the city, which grants residents use of Largo’s sewer system but nothing else. Eighteen of those properties are eligible to join the city, including four multi-family properties that account for 143 residential parcels.
Last month, the county drafted an interlocal agreement to resolve Type A enclaves, unincorporated areas that are surrounded on all sides by a single municipality. Should Largo, the county and the other eight cities involved approve the agreement, Largo would be able to annex another 44 properties that are in a Type a enclave but aren’t contiguous to current city boundaries.
Largo commissioners will be considering an ordinance to approve the agreement in the next few months.
To help prevent a future backlog, the city will be eliminating some of the financial incentive residents have to sign annexation agreements, especially when it will be a while until the properties are eligible to join the city. Under new annexation agreements, residents won’t receive a waiver of a 25 percent surcharge until they are annexed in or become continuous to a municipal boundary.
Per the commission’s previous direction, annexation agreements that are outside the city’s planning service area have been canceled, Brydon said.
The commission also agreed with staff’s recommendation for a consultant who would examine the fiscal impacts of annexing even more properties within the planning service area. The city has an additional 700 annexation agreements on properties that are not contiguous with city boundaries and can’t be annexed in right away, Brydon said.
“There is a greater percentage that are still outside that we haven’t touched,” she said.
Such a study – which would analyze if the city would need to hire more police officers, for example – could cost between $50,000 to $75,000, said Community Development Director Carol Stricklin.
During the Jan. 15 meeting, the commission also:
• Agreed to hire Water Company of America to review the city’s utility billing; the company is paid 46 percent of any revenues it discovers are not being paid to the city for three years’ worth of billings after the mistake is identified
• Gave suggestions for changes to the charter review committee, much of which involved clarifications of language
• Discussed the merits of enacting term limits within the charter, which will be discussed by the charter review committee.