Real Estate News for North Pinellas County

Archive for September, 2006

Taste of Palm Harbor

One of the most enjoyable local events of the year is coming up this Sunday — the annual Taste of Palm Harbor, which will be held from noon to 6 p.m. in historic Old Downtown Palm Harbor, which is centered around Florida Avenue between Alt. 19 and County Road 1.

This year, 20 local restaurants will be taking part, offering samples of their best dishes in exchange for tickets that you buy for 50-cents each. Most of the dishes cost three to six tickets, but a few are a little more.

Half of the money raised goes to the restaurants; the other half goes to the sponsor, the Palm Harbor Women’s Club, which dispurses the money to such charities as the the Humane Society of North Pinellas, Hospice, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and a number of others.

This year a second event is piggybacking on the Taste of Palm Harbor. Palm Harbor Fire Rescue will be celebrating 50 years of service to the community at the same time. An open house will be held between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. at Station #66, 1123 Illinois Ave.

A fish fry will start at 11:30 a.m. and there will begames, rides, exhibits and an antique fire truck exhibition.

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Take a walk on the Pinellas Trail

The Pinellas Trail is one of Pinellas County’s greatest assets. It is a walking and biking trail that runs for more than 30 miles from south Pinellas County to North Pinellas County. It gets lots of use in Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Tarpon Springs and throughout the northern part of the county, but South County people love it, as well.

The trail began in the early 1980s, when the CSX Railroad didn’t know what to do with a 34-mile right-of-way that ran north-south through the county. The line was no longer viable for train service.

That led to the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization and then to the Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Pedestrian Safety Committee, groups which thought the railroad right-of-way would make a great recreational trail.

The Pinellas Trail started out as a five-mile section in Largo and Seminole. It grew rapidly from there.

Now, the trail is hugely popular and is used by about 90,000 people every month, linking parks, coastal areas and residential neighborhoods. There are eight overpasses that allow walkers and bikers to avoid busy intersections. There are refreshment stops and strategically-placed bike racks.

Like most things, there are rules. Here are some of them:

— Alcoholic beverages are prohibited
— Pedestrians and handicapped have the right of way
— Bicyclists must obey all traffic controls and signals, and are not permitted to wear headphones.
— Under 16 bikers must wear helmets
— Motorized vehicles and horses are prohibited
— Pets are allowed, but must be kept on a 6-foot leash.

To learn more, visit http://www.pinellascounty.org/trailgd/about.htm

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More Dunedin tax news

Dunedin officials seem to have gotten the property tax message. Just a couple of weeks ago, city commissioners agreed to a five percent reduction in the millage rate after local property taxpayers demanded some action on tax relief. Now, they’ve bumped that reduction to 7.5 percent.

That means a an overall tax reduction of $411,742. The city’s budget will be $57.9 million.

The city says it won’t have to cut services, but it will have to dig into several city reserve funds, especially the Capital Improvements Fund, the Facilities Maintenance Fund and the Leisure Services Capital Improvement Fund.

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Orange season once again in Pinellas County

 
It wasn’t too many years ago that North Pinellas County was nothing but orange groves. If you lived in St. Petersburg or some other nearby community, a nice weekend jaunt might be a drive up US19, which back then was little more than a two-lane road, and perhaps stop at a roadside citrus stand for a bag of oranges or grapefruits.

Almost all of those orange groves have given way to housing developments, car dealerships and other businesses. But one roadside stand, Citrus Country Groves, has managed to survive to the present day.

Located on US19 in an unincorporated part of Pinellas County at the corner of Belleair Road between Largo and Clearwater, Citrus Country Groves has soldiered on, offering small cups of free orange juice, bags of citrus fruit and all kinds of touristy gizmos to send back or take back to the friends and neighbors up north. There is even an active orange grove of several acres out back, lcated on what now is pretty expensive real estate.

This year, the owners of Citrus Country Groves took the signs off the building, and people were worried that Citrus Country Groves might have finally decided to sell out. But the owners say the signs were removed only to make it easier to paint the building.

The seasonal business is set to open on schedule, on Oct. 23.

Citrus Country Groves is a Pinellas County landmark. Stop by for a glass of orange juice, and take some home with you while you’re at it.

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Can you stand another tax story?

I don’t know whether I can or not, but people are sure interested in what’s going on around here property tax-wise.

Anyway … the city of Clearwater isn’t avoiding the great property tax debate. Tonight, city commissioners will meet (that’s Thursday night, September 21) to talk about budget issues for the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. And they are likely to lower the tax rate a bit more. Earlier, the commissioners lowered the millage rate from 5.75 to 5.42, and it looks now as though the council will be lowering the rate some more, this time to 5.25.

The council is expected to meet again in the near future to discuss whether some city services will have to be cut because of the property tax cuts. City officials have pointed out that the city is dealing with increased costs like everyone else, costs that include higher fuel costs, higher insurance rates and increases in city pension contributions.

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… And even more on taxes

 In my last post (about property taxes in Dunedin) I mentioned that Pinellas County property tax revenue will go up this year by $148 million simply because property values have gone up so much.

Now, Pinellas County has taken steps to reduce property taxes in response to pressure from county taxpayers.

Yesterday (that would be Tuesday, Sept. 19), county commissioners agreed to lower property tax rates to a level that hasn’t been seen since around 1990. The action came during a County Commission meeting that was attended by more than 250 taxpayers, some of them a bit irate.

The commission agreed to lower property taxes by 10.3 percent. Many of the taxpayers in attendance said they wanted even deeper cuts, but the commissioners said it was too late in the budget cycle to reduce taxes more than that. They said the state of Florida will have to get the message from angry taxpayers if property tax rates are to go down any more — the state has dealt with its own tax revenue problems by pushing a lot of revenue requirements down to the local level.

What the lower tax rate will mean is around $36 million less in revenue for Pinellas County. Commissioners say they will have to make budget cuts and make cuts in programs and staff to meet the new spending limits.

Still, the Pinellas County budget stands at $1.926 billion for 2007. That’s Billion, with a “B”.

Small business owners have been particularly hard-hit by increasing taxes. If you have a small business that owns property, you don’t enjoy the benefits of the annual cap on property assessments that apply to homeowners who occupy the homes they own.

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If you’d like to see what area people are saying about taxes, go to www.itsyourtimes.com and scroll down to “taxes are killing us.” Itsyourtimes.com is a blog run by the St. Petersburg TIMES.

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More taxes, this time from Dunedin again

Back in late July I wrote about the city of Dunedin, and how the City Commission there had overruled city staff and had rolled the city’s tax rate back a bit. City staff wanted to keep the tax rate the same and enjoy the benefits of more tax revenue via higher property values.

Now, the City Commission has reduced the tax rate even more, in response to angry local taxpayers who are upset (like everyone else) about increasing property taxes.

Throughout Tampa Bay and across Florida (and beyond Florida, as well), taxpayers are getting up in arms about property tax rates. In this area, at least, the culprit is exploding property values. Home valuations have shot up, and that increase in value results in higher property taxes.

Here’s an example of what that means locally; Pinellas County will rake in $148 million more in tax revenue this year without having to increase tax rates one bit — the huge increase in property tax valuations is at fault.

Anyway, back to Dunedin: A few days ago the City Commission voted to drop the millage rate by 5 percent in response to angry taxpayers. Scores of taxpayers showed up at a commission meeting and pleaded with commissioners to provide some relief. And the commissioners said at the meeting that they will consider additional tax rate cuts, even thought the result may be cuts in city services.

Across the region and the state, it is looking more and more like a full-fledged taxpayer revolt in the making. Stay tuned.

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Baby Boomers will still come to Florida

Florida’s real estate market may have slowed up, but it still has an undeniably rosy future. That according to Richard Hokenson, a former Wall Street economist who spoke last week in Tampa Bay.

Hokenson stated the obvious during his speech, saying that the huge tidal wave of Baby Boomers coming up on retirement will ensure a healthy real estate marketplace in Florida over the long term.

“There’s a baby boom tsunami and a fixed supply of coastal land,” Hokenson told his audience.

What’s the biggest threat to retiring baby boomers’s plans for the future? Hokenson says it’s their ability to get rid of what he called “NIKES” — No Income Kids with Education.

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Good news from Tampa Bay’s other airport

Everybody knows about Tampa International Airport, one of the most convenient and highly-praised big airports in the country. Everyone raves about the convenient access, the close-by parking and the big variety of flights to just about anywhere.

The downside of all that praise is that it tends to overshadow Tampa Bay’s other airport, St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, which sits in Pinellas County on the other side of the bay at the western end of the Howard Franklin Bridge, in St. Pete.

St. Petersburg-Clearwater is no slouch when it comes to size — it sits on about 2,000 acres, is fully-certified and has three runways, including one 8,500-footer. It is also home to the most active Coast Guard station in the world.

Things were going really well for St. Petersburg-Clearwater, and the facility hosted 1.3 million passengers in 2004. But then, the airport losat its two biggest carriers, and that number has declined drastically, to about 400,000 passengers this year.

But now there’s good news for the airport. Allegiant Air, a discount airline that serves travelers mostly in the Midwest and East, has agreed to bring a number of new flights to St. Petersburg-Clearwater, starting in November. The first flights will come from Allantown, Pa., Lansing, Mich., and Rockford and Peoria, Ill. There will be more flights from other smaller cities after that.

The new Allegiant flights are expected to swell passenger numbers at the airport by about 250,000 flyers per year.

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