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Thursday, May 24, 2018
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St. Leo revisits Lake Jovita's wish to secede

During Monday's commission meeting, St. Leo's town board discussed the possibility of de-annexing the Lake Jovita neighborhood. The municipality and the subdivision have had issues for years. Although many of the community's homes are in unincorporated Pasco County, a portion of Lake Jovita is in St. Leo. People with homes in St. Leo are responsible for paying the town's property tax rate, which has been a point of contention. In 2006, about 80 Lake Jovita residents presented the town commission a petition asking to secede from St. Leo, and some homeowners complained that they didn't know they would have to pay St. Leo taxes when they bought their homes. The town's attorney said that Florida law does not allow for de-annexation under the circumstances, and the town commission voted against the petition.
Ronnie Deese, president of Lake Jovita's homeowners association, brought up the law in question during this week's meeting. He said that lawyers have different interpretations of the law and there's a chance the community could be eligible for secession. Town attorney Patricia Petruff agreed. She called it a difficult situation. "There probably are different views from different attorneys as to how the language should be interpreted," she said. The commission voted to have Petruff draft a letter to the attorney general asking about the wording of the law. The commissioners will review the letter before it is sent. Commissioner James Hallett proposed a survey of Lake Jovita homeowners who live in St. Leo. Hallett said he wants to determine what Lake Jovita residents want. "I would have at least some tangible feedback from the homeowners," he said. "I think it's a great starting point." In April, Lake Jovita residents James Wells and Robert Inslee were elected to the commission. Wells said he thinks the town electing two Lake Jovita residents who support Deese shows how residents feel. "Two people, including the city mayor, were asked not to come back," he said. "That's a pretty good referendum." Deese said he would like to see the survey expanded to include questions about whether residents think the council should de-annex Lake Jovita and whether residents think the town needs to be dissolved. He said he thinks the town serves little purpose. "All these taxes are charged to people for a layer of government that's no longer needed," he said. Commissioner Donna Dewitt said she thinks it's sad that the town government and the neighborhood have had a hard time working together. "It's not like we sit here and try to get as much money out of you as possible," she said. "We're really trying to work on bringing down the taxes." [email protected] (813) 371-1859
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