Largo Fire Expansion Calls Up Memories of A Once Larger City
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO – Annexation has been a solid endeavor in Largo in recent years, mostly actions to bring into the city patches of land within the city’s boundaries that are actually under county jurisdiction.
And now it appears that the city is effectively extending its reach beyond the boundaries with the developments in fire and rescue service.
That is, Belleair ended its affiliation with Belleair Bluffs in fire and rescue matters to join Largo and it looks almost certain that the Bluffs fire department will be subsumed into Largo.
And Largo will extend even more because the unincorporated areas south of Belleair Bluffs, Harbor Bluffs and Harbor Hills, now serviced by the Bluffs fire department with county funding, will almost certainly fall into Largo’s jurisdiction.
While most Largo annexation has been to clean up the patchwork of jurisdiction, attempts to extend the city itself have not been successful recently, witness the attempt to bring Cove Cay into the city some years ago.
It failed ultimately because of some technical stuff, but it would have been counter to the feelings of residents there anyway; they wanted to stay in the county.
And one of the chief reasons for that is they didn’t want to lose their Clearwater ZIP code. To them it would have been horrible to have a Largo postal address (although this would not have been the case; there are places in Largo that have a Clearwater address). On such silly prideful matters are wars fought.
While Largo extends in the fire service extent to the west, at one time all that territory – Belleair Bluffs, Belleair Beach, Belleair Shore, part of Indian Rocks Beach – was actually part of Largo.
Charlie Harper, a former member of the Largo City Commission and a well informed member of the Largo Historical Society, told of that history in a recent issue of the Wise Cracker, the society’s newsletter.
Harper told of how Largo was a “beach community” back in the 1920s, in the land booming days in Florida. This came about in the salad days after World War I when prospering Largo, growing in population and with a yen to expand to the west floated a bond issue to finance all the infrastructure that went with such expansion.
Keep in mind that where there are now many houses and neighborhoods and roads and stories and strip malls and restaurants and lots of busy people, back in the ’20s everything was pretty much wilderness where there were not citrus groves.
Largo put its full faith and credit on the line for about a million dollars.
Then came 1929 and disaster. The bloom was off the boom and Largo financially broke all axles. The Depression and everything that went with it, terrible debt for the city and then a lawsuit that Harper described as challenging the expansion doomed the busy effort for Largo.
Harper writes about how the city had to retrench, pull back its boundaries from the beautiful waters of the Gulf, back to the less than square mile boundaries of the town and Largo was court ordered to pay its huge debt.
Payment of that debt, assessed on the taxpayers of Largo, went on until 1968.
Harper quotes some of the language of the Supreme Court of Florida in all that and one thing is clear.
No one in Tallahassee had any vision whatsoever of the future 70 or so years down the road.
A sample – “. . . the area is thinly settled, most of the lands are either vacant, wild, and unimproved or are farms, groves or gardens . . . (and) does not appear to have the remotest prospect of every being benefitted (by being included within Largo city boundaries.”
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