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"Power grab" by Pinellas County | News

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"Power grab" by Pinellas County
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Imagine the homeless returning to panhandle along the Pinellas Trail or giant digital billboards popping up in downtown St. Pete like Times Square! Those are just some of the fears of city leaders across Pinellas -- after county officials say they want to play by their own rules when it comes to county property.

It started with a dispute between the county and the City of Largo over one county building inside Largo city limits. Instead of addressing that issue alone, county commissioners drafted an ordinance that would affect hundreds of thousands of people and every incorporated area of Pinellas County.

A few pieces of paper from Pinellas County are not being confused for any love letter. This proposed county ordinance could effectively end city control over any county property inside city limits.

St. Petersburg City Council chair Jim Kennedy told us, "It's a, in my opinion, kind of an attempt at a big power grab."

St. Pete's council is not alone. "It's hard for, in my opinion, for the county with a straight face to be able to say we want all of our citizens, our businesses to follow certain rules but we're not going to," added Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard.

St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster even fired off a letter to Pinellas planning officials saying: "Quite frankly, there is serious concern as to the impacts and unintended consequences that this ordinance may create for all municipalities. We respectfully request that this ordinance be denied or delayed."

Foster fears losing the ability to enforce panhandling laws along the Pinellas Trail or county-owned roads, losing control of the old Toytown landfill, and even losing control of Tropicana Field.

"We've already talked to many of the county commissioners and I think they may reconsider what the ramifications are of this," says Mayor Hibbard.

Pinellas County attorney Jim Bennett told 10News that they wouldn't dream of doing some of the things that city leaders fear. Bennett says the county only wants control of select properties and that it's under their Florida constitutional power.

Still, mayors of virtually all 24 Pinellas towns and cities say they're already in talks to work out a solution before the county moves forward.

There will be a public hearing with the Pinellas County Commission on September 27th at 6:30pm where you can voice your opinion.

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