When we moved to the Tampa Bay Area about three years ago, we bought our first home. No more apartment life for us! We had a short period of time to find a move-in ready place, and since we had done our research we knew we could meet our deadline. What we didn’t know, however, was the area. Central Pinellas County is geographically close to where my husband grew up in Clearwater, but he was as nearly unfamiliar with the Seminole/Largo area as me (and I’m from Jacksonville!)
Since all of Duval County is part of the City of Jacksonville (just like the entire City of Philadelphia comprises all of Philadelphia County), I assumed a house with an address located in Seminole was actually located in this city. NOPE. The City of Seminole is weirdly drawn so adjacent blocks are inside or outside the city limits. There must be a rhyme or reason to it, but I have yet to figure it out. And I certainly didn’t know about it when we went house hunting.
So we ended up purchasing a house in the unincorporated part of the county. Our neighborhood practically borders Pinellas Park to our east, Seminole to our west and south, and Largo to our north. This puts us with 270,000 other Pinellas County residents representing 29.3% of the population. We are in good company!
Since we don’t reside in 1 of the 24 cities or municipalities, the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners serves as our local government. We pay county taxes specifically for municipal-like services that are “over and above the services provided to the county as a whole” (as quoted by the County).
What does all this actually mean for people like us? My husband jokingly told me that it means we can burn our own trash; park boats and disabled cars on our lawn; let our grass grow as high as we want; and fire guns into the clouds. Also, rabies isn’t a big deal anymore so we have that going for us, which is nice. In all seriousness, as a mom with young kids, here’s what I’ve noticed in my nearly three years of residence:
Parks are not within walking distance.
Because we don’t have any specific municipality fees or taxes, we don’t have parks and recreation facilities located within a walkable distance from our home. We have to drive somewhere every time. This is fine since we have two cars, but I bet it’s difficult for the parents who don’t have that luxury.
County parks are amazing!
Pinellas County has 21 parks and preserves, and in Central Pinellas we live within biking distance of Lake Seminole Park and a 20 minute drive to several others. These parks are some of the best in the area, with boat launches, playgrounds, hiking trails, history, and so much more. I don’t think a week goes by without us visiting one of them – our favorites include Boca Ciega and Fort de Soto.
We have to pay extra for recreation facilities like swimming pools.
In this county, all public swimming pools and recreation centers cost money. This shocked me because in Jacksonville the public pools are free. For example, Seminole residents pay half as much as anyone else wanting to use their pool ($3.50 for a parent and child versus $7 for a nonresident), and receive a free membership pass. To obtain a family membership, we have to pay $360 a year! Largo’s pass is more affordable at $99 for residents and non-residents alike. I totally understand that since we don’t pay municipal taxes anywhere, we have to pay more for the pools, but several hundred dollars a year is out of our price range.
We have free access to the libraries!
Everyone who lives in the unincorporated parts of Pinellas county qualifies for a free library card and all the programs the libraries provide. Some have music classes, others do science lessons, a few have play areas, and all have story times. We visit a library at least once a week to get new books and movies, even the latest releases. It’s the best free indoor thing to do around!