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Council to Consider Digital Billboards, Fire Readiness Fee

City Council has a full plate today including decisions regarding digital billboards, fire readiness fee, downtown waterfront master plan and a contract extension with the Honda Grand Prix.

Tonight, City Council will revisit an ordinance aiming to amend the city's sign code, which would allow digital billboards in conjunction with an agreement with Clear Channel to remove existing static billboards. 

The Development Review Committee unanimously approved the billboards on June 6 but digital billboards were originally voted down, 5-3, by the Council in August 2011.

In the agreement considered tonight, Clear Channel is proposing removal of 80 its existing 126 billboards before constructing any of its proposed six digital billboards. In August, Council rejected an agreement, which proposed 10 static signs removed for every one digital billboard to be constructed.  

The digital billboards would be located on or near the interstate:

  • I-275 and Gandy
  • I-275 and Gandy
  • I-275 and 13th Avenue N
  • I-275 and 22nd Street S
  • I-275 and 4th Avenue S
  • 175 and 12th Street S

According to city documents:

"Allowing digital billboards in St. Petersburg has been reviewed by the Administration in the context of an opportunity to significantly reduce the number of static billboards and to increase the city's marketing and public information capability."

Digital billboards are currently allowed in Pinellas Park, Tampa and South Pasadena. 

The agreement, if apporved, provides a 20-year sunset that requires digital billboards to be replaced with a static billboard within 20 years.

If approved, July 26 would be the second reading and public hearing for the agreement. 

Fire Readiness Fee

Last week City Council voted 5-2 to explore/in St. Petersburg to help fill the budget shortfall in fiscal year 2013 by collecting around $10 million. 

The yearly tax is set up into two tiers as a 75/25. With the fee, 75 percent of the revenues would come from a per parcel fee. With 105,000 taxable parcels in the city, said that means each parcel would pay $75 a year. The other quarter of the revenues to be generated with the fee will be relative per household improvement value.

Mayor Bill Foster and the Council appeared to be more willing to implement the fee rather than hiking property taxes with a millage increase. 

"It’s a tax, (but) now where it’s different and where I am comfortable recommending this; it's a fee on everybody," Mayor Bill Foster said at last week's meeting. "To where every single person receiving the benefits of libraries, police, fire, parks, pools ... everyone receiving these benefits will pay something. Even if it's $5 a month, at least they are paying something."

Honda Grand Prix

City Council will vote on a three-year contract extension for the Honda Grand Prix race on Thursday evening. The extension would keep the IndyCar care in St. Petersburg through 2017. 

Dates for the 2013 Honda Grand Prix have been set for March 22-24. 

Downtown Waterfront Master Plan

In 2011 the city's Charter Review Committee proposed a measure that would require the city to adopt a downtown waterfront master plan. In November 2011, city residents approved the measure. 

By law, the city now has until July to adopt an ordinance to create a master plan. City Council will be voting on the creation of the process Thursday, not a specific plan. 

Many residents who have spoken out against the "Lens" and pier renovations have cited the need to wait until the waterfront master plan is complete so that the new pier is in line with the city's new plan. 

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