New Effort Underway to Incorporate Palm Harbor
"We want to be able to control where our tax money goes," said longtime Palm Harbor resident Norm Atherton, who is spearheading a movement to incorporate Palm Harbor.
It's a topic that's been at the center of heated debate in Palm Harbor for years; should Palm Harbor incorporate and become a city?
It appears as though the controversy is about to heat up again. A new effort to incorporate Palm Harbor is underway.
Longtime Palm Harbor resident, Norm Atherton is spearheading a movement to make Palm Harbor a city. He's recruiting volunteers to join the "Palm Harbor Coalition". The group will be spreading the word about the effort to incorporate Palm Harbor.
"We want to be able to control where our tax money goes," Atherton told Palm Harbor Patch.
Palm Harbor's a Cash Cow for the County
It turns out, there is a lot of tax money involved when it comes to Palm Harbor and its 88,401 residents.
According to 2010 U.S. Census records, the East Lake community in Palm Harbor has a population of 30,962. The median value of owner-occupied homes is $312,700. 80 percent of East Lake residents owned their homes from 2007 through 2011.
As for the rest of Palm Harbor, 2010 U.S. Census records show there are 57,439 residents. This includes the communities of Ozona and Crystal Beach. The median value of owner-occupied homes is $200,600. 78.2 percent of Palm Harbor residents owned their homes from 2007 through 2011.
With its high home ownership rate, high property values and large population, Palm Harbor contributes a large chunk of property tax dollars to Pinellas County tax coffers.
Pinellas County Commissioners allocate this tax money for projects and services throughout the county. If Palm Harbor incorporated and became a city, Atherton thinks residents would see more of their tax money spent in Palm Harbor.
Right now, the only property tax money designated specifically to benefit Palm Harbor residents comes from special fire district taxes and a tax which pays for services and facilities maintained by the Palm Harbor Community Services Agency (PHCSA). PHCSA oversees Palm Harbor's public parks, the library, Palm Harbor's parks and recreation facilities, and The Centre, which serves as a community center for Palm Harbor.
Money's Not the Only Issue
Some people are against incorporation because they say becoming a city would bring an additional layer of government to the area. Because Palm Harbor is unincorporated, there's not a mayor or city commission that runs Palm Harbor. Pinellas County Commissioners are the ultimate decision makers for Palm Harbor.
Ozona residents fought an incorporation effort back in 2009. "We want to preserve our originality and uniqueness, not be swallowed up into a town of Palm Harbor," Ozona Village Improvement Society President Dennis Green told the Suncoast News. "We are happy with the service and representation received from the county," he added.
Atherton is seeking volunteers for the Palm Harbor Coalition through Jan. 18. Applicants must be residents of Palm Harbor and must be able to attend several meetings a month for up to a year. More information can be found at the Palm Harbor Coalition website.
We'd like to know what you think, should Palm Harbor incorporate? Vote in our poll below. You're also welcome to explain why you are for or against incorporation.