ST. LEO — St. Leo town commissioners agreed Monday night that about 85 residents of the Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club should be de-annexed from the municipality. The question now is whether it is legal to do so.
The commissioners unanimously voted to direct Town Attorney Patricia Petruff to “aggressively” pursue an avenue for the de-annexing of the Lake Jovita residents.
The sticking point is that Petruff doesn’t believe that Florida law allows for the de-annexation. Other attorneys may disagree, but as the town attorney, she said she must advise the town to not allow the de-annexation.
She has drafted a letter to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi asking for an opinion.
Some Lake Jovita residents, who reside in the town’s city limits, have been at odds with St. Leo officials for years. In 2006, about 80 Lake Jovita residents presented the town commission with a petition asking to secede from St. Leo. Some of the homeowners complained that they didn’t know they would have to pay St. Leo taxes when they bought their homes.
The Lake Jovita subdivision has about 650 homes and about 85 lie within the St. Leo town limits and pay taxes for limited services. The services are limited because by law St. Leo cannot enter the gated community to provide for roads or lighting. The town provides garbage pick up and police protection — a Pasco County sheriff’s deputy divides his time between San Antonio and St. Leo.
The Lake Jovita residents say that they pay the same taxes, but do not get the full range of services that other St. Leo residents receive.
Ronnie Deese, president of the Lake Jovita Homeowners Association, said in the past town commissioners would not listen to pleas for de-annexation. Now, he said, they understand.
“They all understand the problem; we all understand the problem. They haven’t found a solution; we haven’t found a solution, but at least we’re talking, at least we’re looking for a solution,” Deese said.
Deese came to Monday’s meeting with two proposed ordinances – one for the de-annexation of the Lake Jovita homes, the other calling for a ballet vote on dissolving of the 123-year-old town itself.
Deese said the state will likely have no issue with the de-annexation.
“I don’t think Tallahassee is going to care one way or the other,” he said.