Q: I live in unincorporated Pinellas County. What does that mean?
A: It means you are in good company. Roughly 270,000 people reside in unincorporated Pinellas County, which represents 29.3 percent of the County population. The remaining residents live within one of the 24 cities (or municipalities). The unincorporated areas include communities from the Pasco County line to Tierra Verde. As an unincorporated resident, the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners serves as your local government. A portion of the County budget called the Municipal Services Taxing Unit or “MSTU” is paid by residents of the unincorporated area and is devoted solely to providing municipal services (like law enforcement , and Code Enforcement, etc.) to unincorporated residents that are over and above the services provided to the county as a whole.
Q: What is annexation?
A: Annexation is a process, with various rules and procedures, by which municipalities can legally expand their boundaries by adding unincorporated property to the boundaries of a municipality (a city or town).
There are two main ways in which unincorporated property can be annexed into a municipality. It can be by, (1) "voluntary" annexation, or (2) by a "referendum" annexation. Both methods are governed by State law (Chapter 171 of the Florida Statutes).
Voluntary annexation occurs when a property owner (or owners) submits a petition to annex into a municipality. As a result of that petition, and if the municipality agrees, a municipal ordinance is passed at a public hearing annexing the area. By state law, in order to be eligible for voluntary annexation, the property has to be contiguous to the annexing municipality and compact.
Referenda annexations are typically initiated by a municipality in order to bring areas of unincorporated county into municipal limits. In order to participate in the decision, the property owners or renters must be registered to vote. A majority of those casting votes determine the outcome and, if approved, the area is annexed. If the referendum fails to gain a majority of those voting, the area remains unincorporated. The annexing municipality sets up the referendum by adopting an ordinance of annexation after holding at least two public hearings. The referendum shall not be held sooner than 30 days following the final adoption of the ordinance.
Q: Who decides the outcome of an annexation referendum?
A: All registered electors residing in the proposed annexation area are eligible to vote. If a person owns property within the proposed annexation area, but is not a registered voter within the annexation area, he or she is not eligible to vote on the referendum. In other words, voter registration, not property ownership, determines who gets to decide on a referendum annexation.
Q: What if I vote no, but my neighbors vote yes?
A: If a majority of those casting ballots vote for annexation, the entire area proposed for annexation becomes part of the municipality. This includes the property of those who voted against annexation. That's why every vote is important.
Q: What services stand to change if I'm annexed into the City?
A: Not as many as you might think. Pinellas County would continue to provide its many countywide services such as 9-1-1 emergency communications, Sunstar ambulance and Mosquito Control. And, cities contract for some municipal services through the County, such as law enforcement and utilities.
For more information check out this listing of County services.
Q: Who can I call with my specific questions about annexation?
A: Pinellas County Planning Department staff can help with a variety of questions you may have pertaining to annexation and your individual situation. Contact them at (727) 464-8200.