Pier Petition to Get Closer Look by City Council
There is growing pressure on the St. Petersburg Council to let voters decide the fate of the Pier. City Council will discuss the referendum on Thursday.
On Thursday, City Council will consider two new business items that could be the next steps to getting the future of the St. Petersburg Pier up for a public vote.
Council member Karl Nurse placed an item on the agenda to get an official report on the status of the pier petitions from the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections. Council member Wengay Newton is requesting the city's legal department to draft an emergency ordinance to place VoteOnThePier.com's question regarding the pier on the Nov. 6 presidential ballot.
The city has until Aug. 3 to get any potential ballot questions to the Supervisor of Elections.
In an interview with Patch, Nurse said it may be time to slow the process down to build the new pier, called the "Lens", and have the people vote on the pier.
"What they really want is to slow the train down and to have a conversation about how we build something that we actually want," Nurse said.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the designers of the "Lens" are adjusting the design to include more shade, more eating areas and more seating. The Times added, "The Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office said Tuesday it had verified 12,037 signatures from 14,401 petitions submitted by voteonthepier.com. A spokeswoman said more than 5,000 were yet to be processed."
Nurse, who has voted in favor of the "Lens" contract, said after public input meetings about the "Lens" design, it would be hard not to put it up for a vote.
"It’s pretty overwhelming that the voters are not enthusiastic about this at all," Nurse said of the "Lens" design. "We need to listen to them.
"There's a cliché that says form follows function. All we’ve really seen from the 'Lens' is the form," Nurse said. "We need to have a conversation about what is the function, what attributes do you want in a new pier."
In a memo sent to City Council, City Attorney John Wolfe said the city has two options to get the question(s) on the Nov. 6 ballot.
"There are two ways that an ordinance could be adopted which would meet the deadline of Aug. 3 for supplying language to the Supervisor of Elections for the Nov. 6 2012 election. It can be done by approval of a regular ordinance, which requires a simple majority to approve or by approval of an emergency ordinance, which requires a 2/3 vote of the members making up City Council, which would be six affirmative votes.
An emergency ordinance could be passed as late as Aug. 2, which is a regularly scheduled City Council meeting or at a special meeting very early on Aug. 3."
Nurse said that if multiple questions were put on the November presidential ballot regarding the future of the pier, he believes that up to six current council members might support the measure.
"I think there could be as many as six people to put it on the ballot as long as we put on multiple questions," Nurse said.
Having just one question on the ballot, such as should the pier be torn down, does not create a solution, Nurse said. He told Patch that multiple questions would be necessary to truly get an idea of what the public wants.
In order to have the referendum options available, Wolfe drafted a sample ordinance with questions regarding the pier to provide a framework to Council.
Sample "Yes", "No" Questions Proposed
- Are you aware that, by law, the $50 million in tax increment funds to be used for the construction of the new Municipal Pier can only be spent for capital projects in the downtown redevelopment area and cannot be used for operational expenses?
- Are you aware that, by law, the $50 million in tax increment funds to be used for construction of the new Municipal Pier cannot be spent for the new police station because it is outside the downtown redevelopment area?
- Should the city replace the pier approach, pier head and renovate the existing inverted pyramid in its current configuration at an estimated cost of $24 million more than the $50 million tax increment financing available and provide annual operating subsidies estimated to be $1 million per year, which respectively is approximately equivalent to a property tax increase of 0.5 mills lasting 5 years for construction and 0.1 mill additional tax every year for a subsidy?
- Should the city stop the process of constructing the new Municipal Pier, currently known as the "Lens", for the $50 million in available tax increment funds with an annual operating subsidy of approximately $500,000 per year and seek alternative design concepts to build a pier within the constraints of the $50 million of available tax increment construction funding, which would also have some level of operating subsidy?
- Do you favor the city having some type of Municipal Pier whether it is rebuilding and restoration of the existing Pier or the building of some type of a new Municipal Pier?
Nurse added that saving the current inverted pyramid seems improbable and expensive.
"I am have been convinced by the engineers that saving the pier is really not an option," Nurse said. "Clearly the approach has to be rebuilt, everything around the pier has to be torn down. It might be possible to save the base of the pier, but it doesn’t make any economic sense."