Pier Vote Struck Down by Council
The City Council voted 6-2 to reject a proposal for a citywide vote on the future of the Pier. The process to build a replacement called the 'Lens' will continue.
The public will not get a chance to vote on whether to keep the St. Petersburg Pier.
By a 6-2 vote Thursday, the City Council rejected a plan to place a Pier petition on the November ballot.
The Council agreed to continue with the $50 million proposal to develop a futuristic-looking pier titled the "Lens" to replace the existing inverted pyramid.
Council members Charlie Gerdes, Leslie Curran, Steve Kornell, Bill Dudley, Jeff Danner and Jim Kennedy voted against taking the Pier's future to a citywide vote.
Gerdes, who voted two weeks ago and on Monday to explore putting a question on the ballot, said he could not support rebuilding the Pier or saving it, because of the high subsidies the city pays for the current operation.
"When I look at the business plan for the existing Pier, it has a consistent history of drawing $1.2 to 1.3 million out of our treasury that could be used for a lot of other things," Gerdes said. "I don’t think we can ignore that consistent subsidy ... I couldn’t vote for a referendum question, if passed, I would find fiscally irresponsible despite the fact it was supported by 20,000 signatures."
Kennedy said that ignoring the process would be bad for business in St. Pete.
"This decision doesn’t only affect the Pier, it affects our city’s reputation in how we do business," Kennedy said.
Mayor Bill Foster, who did not get a vote on the matter, joined Council members Wengay Newton and Karl Nurse in supporting a Pier referendum.
"I’ve been consistent in supporting this petition process and putting a referendum question on the ballot," Foster said. "Not because I agree with the question, it's (because) I agree with the charter. I do believe the Vote On The Pier efforts should be rewarded with a question."
Foster said the Pier petition language does not legally require the city to place something on the ballot. But he said that in the spirit of the charter that the people should have a vote.
Council Chair Curran argued against the citywide vote. She said that Foster's argument does not hold water, which she said is proven by the lack of consensus during the public input Thursday.
While dozens voiced their opinion in support of a ballot question, many wanted to save and rebuild the existing Pier. Others said that the Pier could not be saved that the "Lens" design proposal itself is the problem.
For Newton, Thursday was an end to a difficult 20 months of fighting for a pier referendum. He was the first person to sign a VoteOnthePier.com petition.
"Twenty months ago, I made a motion that we have a public hearing (about the pier) and it died for lack of a second," Newton said. "I also made a motion to put something on a ballot ... (this) whole process has been flawed from the beginning."
"I think frankly 23,000 signatures is an awful lot," Nurse said. "A lot of people in the community are uncomfortable with where we are. (We) need to engage the public (to) allow more back and forth."
On Aug. 16 the city will hold a workshop to decide the next steps on the public input process for the design refinement of the "Lens."