Pier Petitioners Vs. City Hearing Set
The petitioner’s lawsuit against the city and City Council will be held Dec. 5 from 10:15 - 11:30 a.m. at the courthouse in downtown St. Petersburg.
In early December, the city has a scheduled court hearing regarding council's vote not to proceed with a public referendum on the future of the St. Petersburg Pier.
According to Tom Lambdon, chairman of VoteOnThePier.com, this suit falls squarely on the back of city council who voted against the referendum in August.
On Aug. 22, local attorney and former mayor candidate Kathleen Ford filed suit against city and council for taking that action. According to county court documents, the city asked for a dismissal.
The first hearing on the suit is set for Dec. 5 from 10:15 - 11:30 a.m. at the downtown St. Petersburg courthouse.
Lambdon released a statement Thursday regarding the Dec. 5 hearing.
"We are hopeful that the Pinellas County Judge, Amy Williams, who has been assigned to hear and decide our case – will agree that our petitions are in fact legal – and have been individually counted and certified by the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections – and that the city must provide for a special election for the voters of the city to finally be able to decide the fate of their Pier – either way.
We as a formally legally registered Political Committee together with our 15,652 certified petitioners have played by the rules, paid the fees and met the burden as required under the Florida Constitution to demand that city voter be heard by referendum on this very important issue."
VoteOnthePier and Lambdon submitted their petitions and hit their goal just weeks after the deadline passed set by Mayor Bill Foster for the petition drive. The group said it was legally allowed two years to complete the petition, which would is this month.
The city and city attorney John Wolfe have argued the petition drive is not legally binding to force the city to act because the city's charter does not require them to act. According to the charter, if a petition drive receives enough valid signatures about a city ordinance then it will require the city to hold a referendum. However, according to the city, the pier was a capital project that required no new laws.
In September, the city voted to move forward with Michael Maltzan Architecture's plan, called the Lens, to replace the existing inverted pyramid.
Foster said the process will continue until a judge tells them to stop.
"This is coming along and move forward is what we will do," Foster said at the September council meeting. "I assure you that my staff is prepared to move forward with permitting, demolition and construction until somebody tells us to stop."
The pier is slated for closure on May 31, 2013 with demolition set for the fall of 2013.
"The longest and hardest portion is behind us – in obtaining the 15,652 certified (petition)," Lambdon said in a statement. "Now we must support Kathleen Ford as she takes on the cit in the very high profile and important fight to the end.
"The pier and democracy, together with everything, we all worked very hard for over the past two years is on the line," Lambdon concluded.
Ford's suit against the city about the pier is the first to go to court, but it may not be the last. In October a second group, called Stop The Lens, launched another petition drive to stop Maltzan's approved design.
"We're here (today) to launch the petitions of our campaign to stop the 'Lens' because we think St. Petersburg can do better," said Fred Whaley, chairman of the Board of Concerned Citizens on Oct. 4. "The council must pass the ordinance or the must place it on the ballot for a vote of the citizens of St. Petersburg."
The group said its petition follows the letter of the charter and even requires petitions to be signed in person so that a petitioner can verify the petition.