PORT RICHEY — City officials from across the county lent a sympathetic ear to colleagues from St. Leo over the town’s recent dispute with Pasco County over a controversial annexation.
Town commissioners voted in October to begin negotiations with the Iafrates family, who applied for the voluntary annexation of 179 acres at the corner of State Road 52 and Prospect Road. County officials have said the town lacks the expertise to oversee development of such a large parcel.
Port Richey Councilman Bill Colombo brought the issue up for discussion Thursday night during the quarterly Municipal Association of Pasco (MAP) meeting because his town went through a similar battle with the county three years ago when the Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park sought a voluntary annexation. County commissioners and local lawmakers put so much political pressure on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, it ended up backing out of the plan.
“I read what’s going on in St. Leo, and I ask if there’s anything we can do as an organization to help out,” Colombo said. “We’re all municipalities with self-rule, and we have the right to annex property. We should be able to do it without too much external heat. There are valid reasons to be annexed into the city.”
Zephyrhills Councilman Charlie Proctor agreed. “I think we’re more business oriented and people-friendly,” he said. “Have you ever tried to get a permit from the county? It takes forever.”
St. Leo Councilman James Wells said Iafrates’ annexation will depend on how forthcoming the family is during negotiations. The family’s attorney has said they have no plans to develop the property, which is adjacent to the future Pasadena Hills project in Pasco County.
“To me, it’s insincere to spend all that money on property and then say you have no plans for it,” Wells said. “If it’s in the best interests and long term plan of what the people of St. Leo want to do, then we’ll bring them into the city. We know it’s going to be a long-term project.”