LARGO -- The Largo City Commission Tuesday night approved an amendment to a land purchase on 49th Street doing so subject to a Pinellas County requirement that a lawsuit be dismissed.
It was the most delicate of proceedings.
Note to Steve Spratt, county administrator -- your interlocutor, Steve Stanton, Largo city manager, stressed the sensitivity of the situation.
Note to Largo citizens -- your commissioners, Pat Burke and Charlie Harper held out for a deal that would benefit, at least on paper right now, your interests.
Some background: This land is the site of the PSTA property on 49th Street, just north of the Pinellas Couny jail and criminal court complex. It is made up of 13 acres.
Largo annexed the property more than a year ago and the county filed a lawsuit, trying to block the annexation. Largo has contended that it is within its rights.
Largo made an agreement in September 2003 to purchase the 13 acres from PSTA for $5 million.
Now, because the southern portion of the land abuts the jail and criminal courts area, the county wants eight acres of the land for expansion purposes.
That is the legislative matter that was before the commission Tuesday night. The amendment to the purchase agreement modifies the agreement, allowing the county buy the eight acres it wants with Largo paying $1.7 million for the remaining five acres.
First Burke and then Harper insisted on iron clad guarantees that if the commission agreed to the amendment the county would drop its lawsuit.
Stanton advised the commission that he had discussed this very matter with Spratt and that Spratt had said that the County Commission would not go along with an agreement to dismiss the lawsuit.
Stanton's argument was that agreeing to the amendment was an opportunity to "reach out to the county, mend fences and do something that was of general, widespread benefit to the county as a whole."
He added, "Putting something else ahead of Largo is not a position you will find me in very often."
Harper and Burke made "sensible business" arguments. That Largo's interest needed protection. That the city could not be in a position of relying on Spratt's "trust me" position.
It became obvious that the commission -- absent two of its members, Harriet Crozier and Gay Gentry -- would not go along with the amendment unless the lawsuit element was included.
Harper demanded that Alan Zimmet, the city attorney, fashion a motion in writing including that key information. When he returned later he had a motion that agreed to the amendment but made the Largo agreement subject to the county dismissing the lawsuit with prejudice.
"With prejudice" is a legal term that means the action cannot be brought up again.
On that basis, the commission voted in favor, 5-0.
Stanton warned that the downside might bring a very negative response from the County Commission which he said, "might feel they are being delivered an ultimatum."
Zimmet advised the commission that the County Commission might rebuff Largo's action. That would put the whole issue back to square one.
Mayor Bob Jackson was in favor of the amendment on the basis that having agreed to buy the property for $5 million there was a question of where that purchase money would come from. "This would get us out of that," he said.
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