The fate of St. Leo and its relationship with the Lake Jovita neighborhood is now in the hands of Gov. Rick Scott.
The Florida Legislature has officially presented H.B. 1401 to Scott, which would de-annex a portion of Lake Jovita that happens to be inside the town limits of St. Leo. Without the bill, it’s been suggested that the members of the St. Leo town commission who also are Lake Jovita residents could push to dissolve the small Pasco County municipality completely in order to reduce their taxes.
Scott now has 15 days to consider the bill. His signature would make the bill become law immediately. He also could decide not to sign the bill, but as long as it’s not vetoed, it would still become law without his signature by May 23.
Even if Scott vetoed the bill, only one person voted against the bill in either the House or the Senate, so there is a good chance the Legislature could override that veto in the next session. Scott has not indicated publicly what his plans are for the bill.
The Tallahassee action was required because a town cannot de-annex an area that meets all the conditions that would’ve allowed the town to annex it otherwise. To make such a change, it requires both the Legislature and governor to undo it.
The new St. Leo will see see its population drop from 1,369 to 1,173, according to a House committee report. The expected financial impact of the move would decrease the town’s revenue by $50,000, or 15 percent. It also would reduce the number of rooftops by 85.
Lake Jovita is a planned 871-home development that broke ground in the late 1990s, and is located primarily in unincorporated Pasco County. Once H.B. 1401 becomes law, the entire community would be located in the unincorporated part of the county.
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