Analyzing annexation: Kissimmee weighing the benefits of broadening northern boundaries

Kissimmee resident Naji Aalim helps load food into cars at a May food distribution event at Marydia Community Center, a county facility run by the city.  

 People who live just outside Kissimmee’s northern border will soon find out how just how much being annexed into the city could cost them, if anything.

The city is in the process of analyzing the taxes and fees that the residents pay in the city versus what they would pay if their houses were annexed into the city.

“It’s not necessarily higher,” said Assistant City Manager Desiree Matthews.

As the city moves to smooth its jagged boundary lines, enclaves of homes surrounded by the city are being analyzed for annexation.

The city already has annexed large swaths of land for new construction near The Loop outdoor mall. But some existing neighborhoods, such as the one around Smith Street in the northern part of the city, include both city and county properties.

In August, the City Commission directed staff to analyze the 20 homes in that area for annexation.

Commissioner Angela Eady said residents in that area are often confused about who receives city services and who receives county services.

“We need to be uniform over there,” Eady said.

One of the most confusing aspects of split neighborhoods –part in the city, part in the county – is public safety services. Some residents’ 911 calls go to Kissimmee Police Department while others are re-routed to the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office.

Code enforcement is another sticky wicket within the jagged edges between Kissimmee and the county.

Smoothing the boundaries provides “service delivery efficiency” and a better quality of life for residents, Matthews said.  

In February, the city and the county approved an interlocal agreement to annex 35 small enclaves into the city. At the end of the month, those residents will switch to city waste collection.

As part of the deal, the city adopted an ordinance that allows for the “grandfathering” of non-conforming uses within annexed properties, such as buildings zoned for commercial uses.

There are two ways the annexation process works, City Manager Mike Steigerwald explained.

One is through a state process, the other is through a voluntary process – that is, residents agree to be annexed into the city.

Getting residents to approve their homes’ annexation is the easiest,

he said.

Marydia, one of Osceola County’s historically African-American communities, is another neighborhood that city and county officials have said could be annexed into the city.

One of the biggest problems with that plan is that the neighborhood of about 500 homes is not contiguous with any city boundary, one of the requirements for annexation, Matthews said.

Still, the county contracted with Kissimmee’s Parks and Recreation Department earlier this year to provide services for children at the Marydia Community Center.

County Commission Chairwoman Cheryl Grieb, a former city commissioner, has said it’s only a matter of time before Marydia becomes part of the city.

Meanwhile, the city must finish the cost analysis before formally reaching out to residents to share the results and gauge their interest in being annexed into the city.

“There’s always the perception that you’re going to pay more taxes in the city and that code enforcement will be more strict,” Matthews said. “But that’s not the case. Sometimes it’s higher, sometimes it’s lower.”