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New Pier Petition Drive Launches

With a petition focused on a city ordinance, rather than a capital expense, the group thinks its petition drive will legally force the city to hold a pier referendum.

Earlier this year, city council voted 6-2 to not put anything on the November ballot regarding in the future of the St. Petersburg Pier despite VoteOnThePier.comcollecting more than 16,000 verified petitions. 

The city's legal team and multiple council members argued that the petition drive was not legally valid because the city's charter only allows for petitions to force a vote if the petition deals with a city ordinance. Vote on the Pier's petition did not and council voted it down. 

On Thursday, the day council voted to approve a contract for the construction manager for the "Lens", a new petition drive launched in hopes to force the city's hand into a public vote on the future of the pier. 

"Stop the Lens" made the announcement on the steps of City Hall that it is starting a new petition drive to collect nearly 16,000 petitions. 

"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. "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.

"We have filed today our petition with the city clerk," Whaley said. "We are petitioning the city council to pass an ordinance to terminate the contract with the architect for the Lens."

The "Lens" is the design by the Michael Maltzan Architecture team designed to replace the existing St. Petersburg Pier, which is scheduled to close on May 31, 2013. Demolition is scheduled to begin in Fall 2013. 

Stop the Lens is not taking a position on saving the existing inverted pyramid, just stopping the "Lens" design. 

"We can move forward. We can go form where the pier task force ended and go from there," said council member Karl Nurse. 

Nurse took a page out of council member Wengay Newton's playbook and signed the first petition. Newton signed the first Vote on the Pier petition. 

"The city council should have listened to the almost 20,000 people who signed petitions asking for a referendum," Nurse said. "When the (Request for Proposals) went out for the proposal, the effort of the pier task force, candidly, was forgotten.

"All of the functional elements that we talked about for two years were frankly tossed aside and what we got was something that its only goals was to be iconic or bizarre. And I think we probably got that," Nurse added. 

City staff and Mayor Bill Foster have said that the city will continue with the process to build the Michael Maltzan design, the "Lens". 

"This is coming along and move forward is what we will do," Foster said at a September pier workshop. "I assure you that my staff is prepared to move forward with permitting, demolition and construction until somebody tells us to stop.

"I am excited about the potential for the new pier," Foster added. "There are some in the city that disagree and that’s the American way. If things turn into a campaign then people in this city will be able to take a side ... and this may end up on a ballot, but until then we are going to move forward."

To fill out a petition, visit StoptheLens.com, print out the petition and contact one of the group's petitioners.  

cherylwithac October 05, 2012 at 01:36 PM
I agree with Karl Nurse: the Lens design is bizarre. It's also way oversized, dwarfing the rest of the waterfront skyline (just look at the architectural drawings). But most importantly, the Lens is yet another indication of the people who are really important to Mayor Foster and the City Council: tourists and the millionaires on Beach Drive rather than the majority of the residents of St. Petersburg. With St. Petersburg, it's all about "image" all the time. Matters of substance, like the outrageously high crime rate in "beautiful downtown St. Petersburg," do not seem to interest our city leaders.
Rider October 06, 2012 at 02:26 PM
The intent of the TIF money, an effort led by former mayor Baker, was to replace the approach of this pier and update the building. After Foster got into office, this was way-laid and, after going back on his campaign promise, he somehow became part of a hijacking of the TIF money intent. The justification was that the approach is too expensive to replace. To this day, those figures cited by the mayor and certain council members remain controversial and unfounded. Watch for this new group to get to the bottom of this issue. We welcome their efforts.

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