Williams Park.... Time for A Referendum?

Maybe the time has come to take a second look at Williams Park.

There are a couple of very interesting and well written articles in the Tampa Bay Times about Williams  Park. In Williams Park 'Spice' addicts Overwhelm Idyllic Setting and What Can Be Done to Fix Williams Park, by Jon Woodrow Cox.

They are worth a read for both content and form.

Williams Park, as Cox points out, has been a significant problem for down town workers, business owners, City Hall and law enforcement for years.

I was working at the St. Pete PD when the current Ordinance and Policing plan for Williams Park was put together and it was a difficult process trying to protect individual rights, get people the help they need and improve the Park, It has been successful to a point.

The problem is and was recognized at the time, the base members of the homeless population simply don't want a different life or life style, and no amount of help, support or incarceration is likely to change that.

The two officers mentioned in Cox's pieces, Taylor and Kenyon,  have done some really good work, but if you have ever tried to help someone who just doesn't want to be helped multiply that by about 1 million and you an idea of what these two face every day.

The basic problem with Williams Park is that it is simply there, right in the heart of the City  a major transportation hub, surrounded by a bunch of well meaning homeless support efforts which in the final analysis probably do more to encourage the problems than mitigate them.

The City Charter does a wonderful job of protecting the City's park land from encroachment by developers, but maybe, just maybe, the time has come to take a second look at Williams Park.

Now might be a good time to put together a citizen and staff group to look at crafting referendum language that would remove almost all of Williams Park from park land status and rezone it for development. A reasonable but small portion could be retained as park land for relocation of the numerous meaningful monuments in the park, a task paid for by those who would develop the land.

It could be that the assignment of the servitude for Williams Park precludes such an approach but if it does not, putting the question of resolving the Williams Park issues to the public and establishing a way to accomplish them while providing for control of the development could be a real step toward solving the problem.

It seems unlikely that the core of the City will develop to any great extent as long as the issues so well defined in John Cox's articles continue to exist. And it would also seem that most reasonable people, after looking at the extraordinary efforts the City has made to address the problem, would agree.

If an effort like this were undertaken, keeping those who might benefit most at bay for the moment, the public could weigh in at the ballot box and just possibly provide a path to resolving the Williams Park problem once and for all.

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend

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Peter J Dunlay February 18, 2013 at 06:18 PM
I generally agree with your point of view, Doc, but this time you've gone too far! The two articles by Jon Cox are well-written and informative as you've said. There is no question that Williams Park makes the City look bad. Personally, I just stay away. Mr. Cox made some good points on things the City could do to remedy the situation. Nowhere does he mention anything like "removing" park land status and allowing " development! Your idea? A bad one and one that the Voters will not support. Many American Towns have had to deal with this sort of problem. Instead of re-inventing the wheel and desroying Public Land, maybe City Leaders should take a look at effective methods that have already been proven elsewhere. Throwing the baby out with the barh water has never been considered a good idea. We don't need more development! Let them take the Tropicana and have their way with it. (that seems to be where that's going to). From your article, it makes me wonder if developers having sprinklied a little change in your pocket!
Johann February 19, 2013 at 01:37 AM
When you squeeze a balloon, does it get smaller or does the air inside just relocate and spread out elsewhere within the confines of the balloon? Just wait until the Len$ is built. Shaded, breezy walkways with benches, Open 24/7, and no traffic to/from restaurants, retail, or bars, no vehiclular traffic to speak of....a $50 million dollar spice pavillion with water fountains & bathrooms! BRAVO!!! Keep Williams Park, dump the Lens, and get these people some help.
Rider February 19, 2013 at 02:44 AM
If Williams Park is regulated and the partiers kicked out, it is quite possible that they'll gravitate to the Lens.....where loitering is included in the design....
Babak February 19, 2013 at 12:19 PM
Johann you indeed suffer from tunnel vision and one-way thinking. No where does the article make mention of the pier, or relate at all to the pier issue. So you come and comment more of your anti-lens rhetoric? I think Johann is the one getting his pockets greased. Only a few more months until that monstrosity of a pier is demolished!! :)
Linda Lewallen February 19, 2013 at 02:36 PM
The Real "Doc" Webb--the original who built Webb's City and tried to make St. Peters burg a better place to live would never have suggested removing park status or development of William's Park. Only someone with limited vision and a ton of self interest would put a building where there is currently park land "Doc 2"--you certainly are not the real thing that I knew growing up in St. Pete.
Bill H. February 19, 2013 at 03:36 PM
It needs to be what it was, a focal point for downtown and surrounding areas. If there are things happening there that are illegal, then more resources need to be focused there until the culture there changes. Otherwise you'll be asking for a referendum on Mirror lake next, then Booker Park and so on and so on and yes, maybe one day the new pier, Lens or not.
Scott Bitterli February 19, 2013 at 05:05 PM
I'm sick and tired of this ignorant way of thinking. "This isn't exactly how I want it, let's knock it down and build something else". That is NOT how great communities are grown, that's how shitty, consumption driven wastelands are created. People, we need to actually focus on solving our issues we have with our city, instead of just throwing money at it until we can say we tried. Williams Park was created with the greatest intent, a park where people can gather together and enjoy our beautiful surroundings and get to KNOW EACH OTHER. Instead, we DO NOT USE IT, and then avoid it because the people that DO actually use it are not to our liking. Preserving monuments, traditions and culture is an involved process. The ones involved should control it, not people that have stood by and complain about how it's "not exactly how I want it". .peace.
Patriot February 19, 2013 at 05:24 PM
Bab, I don't think the current pier is going anywhere soon. WATCH
Bill Stokes February 19, 2013 at 05:32 PM
Great parks make great cities. Williams Park was the hub of our city when born. To say that it should be developed to displace the people who use it is to succumb to dated, wrong headed beliefs that are detrimental to the city. Yes, the park has had its challenges in recent years, but one reason is because people avoid it and do not use it. This encourages the tiny minority of people who dominate the park to continue to do so. When functions are held in the park these denizens disappear. I make it a special effort to walk through the park to give an influx of regular pedestrians that the regulars had rather not see on "their" turf. Until the park is used by all, it will continue to be dominated by the few. This is the heart of the city and to say develop it to displace an inevitable part of city dwellers is to put one's head in the sand and cling to solutions that simply use an incorrect approach to a challenge that can and will eventually be addressed without losing such a potential treasure. The first good starting point will be when the bus hub is relocated. There are many better ways to address this and with proper leadership it will happen, In the meantime, take a walk in the park instead of hiding.
Concerned Floridian February 19, 2013 at 05:32 PM
Agreed. In recent posts, Mr. Webb has shown a strange departure distanciating his writings from what shall be expected from a conservative blogger. Williams Park is a historic and local asset to be preserved, not eradicated nor replaced by ... concrete. It's been proposed to move the PSTA buses elsewhere. The lungs of that park will appreciate being spared from all that diesel fuel exposure. Quite a prospective facelift to just start with this suggestion. Folks will find renewed enjoyment in the park if the noise of all those buses was to disappear.
Kurt Donley February 19, 2013 at 09:10 PM
Lets just start by moving the buses.
Concerned Floridian February 21, 2013 at 05:51 PM
Yes! They are the real culprits in disfiguring the park. In fact, the buses hide the park from the citizens - all of us.


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