Pier Petition Questioned by City Attorney
'It’s just a petition ... I don’t think it (legally) requires you to do anything,' City Attorney John Wolfe said.
St. Petersburg's City Attorney is questioning whether a local petition drive could legally force the city to hold a referendum on the future of the Pier.
City Attorney John Wolfe said Thursday that the vote would be more of a political requirement, rather than a legal requirement.
"It’s just a petition ... I don’t think it (legally) requires you to do anything," Wolfe said.
At issue is whether the proposed demolition and redevelopment of the city Pier should be decided by voters or by the Council. Some people who want to keep the existing "inverted pyramid" at the Pier want the issue to go to a vote.
The petition states: "Shall the city of St. Petersburg, Florida, preserve and refurbish the existing iconic inverted pyramid structure?"
Mayor Bill Foster cautioned that while there may not be legal requirements to force a vote the city should still hold an election if VoteOnThePier.com receives enough verified signatures.
"We as elected officials can’t ignore it," Foster said. "If they are successful, you will have to put that on the ballot."
He added that the straw vote for the Pier is challenging because there are multiple questions that have to be asked if the residents vote to save the pier and end the process to build "The Lens."
"Because it's not just that question that I think resolves the issue," Foster said. "There’s probably 10 questions."
The discussion came about during a Pier workshop Thursday when Council member Bill Dudley asked how far along in the process the city gets before it no longer has to worry about being required to hold an election.
"(There is) a cloud still hanging out there about the referendum," Dudley said. "About what point is it something to no longer worry about?"
"Up until demolition, it’s still a possibility," Foster said.
Currently there are more than 13,000 signatures on the petition and 15,658 are required for the city to hold a public referendum. Organizers with VoteOnThePier say they need 15-20 percent more than required to ensure enough ballots qualify.
The signature qualification issue is something Wolfe suggested council look into as well. He said the city's charter is silent on the issue of how long a signature and petition is good for.
State law says that on state issues, a signature is good for two years.
"We need to pass an ordinance to define how long the signatures are good for any petition," Wolfe said. "I believe we have the power (to say) signatures are just good for 'x' number of years."