Annexation is the process set forth in the Florida Statutes that allows properties outside the current city limits to become part of the city. Annexation allows businesses and residents to join the City of Lakeland and receive municipal services that are available to properties located within city limits.
Generally speaking, urban services are better in the City. Police response times are shorter and patrols more frequent. Properties within the City receive priority fire response. A stronger code enforcement program assures safer, more attractive neighborhoods. The infrastructure—streets, sidewalks, sewer and water systems—is better maintained. The parks and recreation programs are superior. There is also a greater level of urban planning with strict land use and zoning regulations, subdivision controls and design standards that result in a more stable land use pattern with fewer conflicts. All of this translates into higher property values and a better quality of life.
Perhaps even more important, annexation means having a voice in City government and an opportunity to be a part of one of the most progressive cities in Florida.
Not necessarily. Although City property taxes will be assessed in addition to county taxes, the City’s millage rate is very low—only $5.5644 per $1,000 of assessed value—and certain fees and charges are eliminated which in some cases can offset all or most of the increased tax bill. For example, the annual county fire service tax is eliminated upon annexation. Also, if you are on the City of Lakeland water or wastewater system, you now pay a monthly surcharge that is eliminated upon annexation.
Aside from an increased tax base, the City benefits by being able to control its fate—by being able to influence the type and quality of development that occurs and by being able to maintain that quality. The City also benefits because certain state and federal funding formulas are based on total population. Uniform city limit lines also help eliminate confusion over service boundaries—for example by being able to clearly determine law enforcement jurisdiction.
First, the property to be annexed must be contiguous, that is, it must touch the current city limits, and it must be "reasonably compact." As a practical matter, the property must also make sense in terms of service delivery. For example, under normal circumstances the City would not consider annexing one lot in a residential subdivision. Rather, the City would consider annexing the entire subdivision.
Property can be annexed by different methods. Property owners can initiate voluntary annexation of contiguous property by submitting a petition signed by all the affected property owners. The property is annexed upon the approval of an annexation ordinance by the City Commission. The City can initiate annexation by conducting an annexation referendum of registered voters within the area proposed for annexation. The City may also annex small enclaves of ten acres or less through an interlocal agreement with Polk County. (Enclaves are areas of county jurisdiction that are surrounded by the City.)