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Pier Petition to Get Closer Look by City Council

There is growing pressure on the St. Petersburg Council to let voters decide the fate of the Pier. City Council will discuss the referendum on Thursday.

On Thursday, City Council will consider two new business items that could be the next steps to getting the future of the St. Petersburg Pier up for a public vote. 

Council member Karl Nurse placed an item on the agenda to get an official report on the status of the pier petitions from the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections. Council member Wengay Newton is requesting the city's legal department to draft an emergency ordinance to place VoteOnThePier.com's question regarding the pier on the Nov. 6 presidential ballot. 

The city has until Aug. 3 to get any potential ballot questions to the Supervisor of Elections. 

In an interview with Patch, Nurse said it may be time to slow the process down to build the new pier, called the "Lens", and have the people vote on the pier.  

"What they really want is to slow the train down and to have a conversation about how we build something that we actually want," Nurse said. 

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the designers of the "Lens" are adjusting the design to include more shade, more eating areas and more seating. The Times added, "The Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office said Tuesday it had verified 12,037 signatures from 14,401 petitions submitted by voteonthepier.com. A spokeswoman said more than 5,000 were yet to be processed."

Vote on the Pier is that was . 

Nurse, who has voted in favor of the , said after public input meetings about the "Lens" design, it would be hard not to put it up for a vote. 

"It’s pretty overwhelming that the voters are not enthusiastic about this at all," Nurse said of the "Lens" design. "We need to listen to them.

"There's a cliché that says form follows function. All we’ve really seen from the 'Lens' is the form," Nurse said. "We need to have a conversation about what is the function, what attributes do you want in a new pier."

In a memo sent to City Council, City Attorney John Wolfe said the city has two options to get the question(s) on the Nov. 6 ballot.

"There are two ways that an ordinance could be adopted which would meet the deadline of Aug. 3 for supplying language to the Supervisor of Elections for the Nov. 6 2012 election. It can be done by approval of a regular ordinance, which requires a simple majority to approve or by approval of an emergency ordinance, which requires a 2/3 vote of the members making up City Council, which would be six affirmative votes.

An emergency ordinance could be passed as late as Aug. 2, which is a regularly scheduled City Council meeting or at a special meeting very early on Aug. 3."

Nurse said that if multiple questions were put on the November presidential ballot regarding the future of the pier, he believes that up to six current council members might support the measure. 

"I think there could be as many as six people to put it on the ballot as long as we put on multiple questions," Nurse said. 

Having just one question on the ballot, such as should the pier be torn down, does not create a solution, Nurse said. He told Patch that multiple questions would be necessary to truly get an idea of what the public wants. 

In order to have the referendum options available, Wolfe drafted a sample ordinance with questions regarding the pier to provide a framework to Council.

Sample "Yes", "No" Questions Proposed

  1. Are you aware that, by law, the $50 million in tax increment funds to be used for the construction of the new Municipal Pier can only be spent for capital projects in the downtown redevelopment area and cannot be used for operational expenses?
  2. Are you aware that, by law, the $50 million in tax increment funds to be used for construction of the new Municipal Pier cannot be spent for the new police station because it is outside the downtown redevelopment area?
  3. Should the city replace the pier approach, pier head and renovate the existing inverted pyramid in its current configuration at an estimated cost of $24 million more than the $50 million tax increment financing available and provide annual operating subsidies estimated to be $1 million per year, which respectively is approximately equivalent to a property tax increase of 0.5 mills lasting 5 years for construction and 0.1 mill additional tax every year for a subsidy?
  4. Should the city stop the process of constructing the new Municipal Pier, currently known as the "Lens", for the $50 million in available tax increment funds with an annual operating subsidy of approximately $500,000 per year and seek alternative design concepts to build a pier within the constraints of the $50 million of available tax increment construction funding, which would also have some level of operating subsidy?
  5. Do you favor the city having some type of Municipal Pier whether it is rebuilding and restoration of the existing Pier or the building of some type of a new Municipal Pier?

Nurse added that saving the current inverted pyramid seems improbable and expensive. 

"I am have been convinced by the engineers that saving the pier is really not an option," Nurse said. "Clearly the approach has to be rebuilt, everything around the pier has to be torn down. It might be possible to save the base of the pier, but it doesn’t make any economic sense."

CJ July 19, 2012 at 03:08 PM
I wish when the Petition on The Pier is presented to the City Council people, that right along with it they get copied of all ''The Patch'' comments and suggestions. If they want a well rounded batch of opinions and new ideas...there is no better choice than right here. I hope they are reading. Unfortunately, it appears as if they have their head in the sand and are not listening to anyone. I want to conclude withsaying that ''if'' tearing down The Pier is inevitable...and there is nothing going to stop it...then for crying our loud....don't proceed with that god awful ''Lens'' idea. i personally would like them build ''another'' Inverted Pyramid...and whatever they go with using ''that'' seems like it would be cool with virtually everyone and be a plan that people would rally behind. Isn't that all that matters? It will be a sad day in St Petersburg when there is no longer the beloved inverted pyramid. A new one? Hmmmm...now that sounds sort of ''neat-o''....to coin a pharse from 1972 when it opened.
HANI F MATTA July 19, 2012 at 08:45 PM
" FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION." this is true and very real ... that is the reason this design is a total failure, what we have in this design is a lifeless form with a big hole they like to call a lens this project has to be scratched and started over......we cannot afford to build a 50 million sculpture.......you can try it in Dubai where money comes from digging for oil in the backyards you restart by drafting a serious project program based on the residents desires and input , so the project will become alive with functions similar to what the existing building has, such as restaurants, cafes, shops, bars....etc. once we have a mature program, we should advertise for a design competition opened to florida and national architects to remodel/expand the existing structure or to build a new facility whichever will satisfy our approved program an open competition will bring the talents of many architects so we will have on hand many ideas to choose from ( not just 3)......and only the wining design will be compensated only then we will be certain we made the wisest choice Hani Matta architect elmasry73@aol.com
Dharma July 19, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Any major purchase or change in the landscape of a town, city, or state should be put to vote always. Without hesitation or excuses. Again those in office represent what the people want. They know how much money they can afford and want to put out in order for a mayor or city council person to feel good about their jobs. Simply put stop over shooting the goals that this community can and should be taking on. WE are not in an economy where this is acceptable. And as to a new police station, does anyone here know about fixing things and making it work better, i say all officers and workers in that building put in a day every two to three months on repairs to fix things. It would do them a world of good to be off the streets and reconnect with each other than the people they are to protect. In the old days do you think this country became its best because they had everything give to them, or was it because they literally had to build it again and again to make it work for all
Jeannie Cline July 19, 2012 at 10:33 PM
In spite of Ms Curran telling us that we citizens have trouble with change, masking the fact that she has been at the forefront of this process that has resulted in a very, very unpopular Lens proposal......she, member Danner and Kennedy, more or less, believe that they know more than we about an issue that is at the core of our soul in St Pete. Not once did anyone even ask if we citizens support the subsidy of the pier and if we should evaluate why we subsidize the Trop Dome, where multi millionaires play ball and the Mahaffey Theatre, where wealthy entertainers and production companies get at least $50 a seat for a show. The pier is subsidized at $6 per person per year and the trio of our so-called reps have been closed to alternative ideas, perhaps they are the ones having trouble with change. Even the mayor said that he would honor over 20,000 citizens voicing their cry for a say. Ms Curran found a nit picky part of the petition and totally overlooked the spirit of the drive. I would guess that this poor leadership on this key issue is the end of her political career. She is biased and not representing us, nor is Danner or Kennedy. Congratulations Mr Newton for leading this drive on the political end. It's time to "vote on the pier!" and to get some real alternatives out there...
William Mansell July 19, 2012 at 10:59 PM
A vote on the future of the St. Petersburg Pier is closer to reality. Council will vote on possible pier referendum questions at a Aug. 2 public hearing. http://patch.com/A-wmHh
Robert Thompson July 21, 2012 at 05:04 AM
. I like the Pier and view it as Iconic. But: It is certainly the public's will that the pier be put to a vote. It light of the ballot measure, the wording is so vague and imprecise as to suggest the Current pier will be rebuilt by magic. If we vote down the current Lens project, there will be a lot of money lost to the current Pier project that has already been spent. Not to mention, the city is under contract for the Lens. While we fight these battles, the current pier will be rendered useless by 2014 as it must be closed. It will still cost the city money every day to keep it safe even when it is closed. It is also true that the Single 60 ft by 60 ft caisson that the inverted pier sits on is structurally sound. What is less clear is how long it will remain that way. It is already 34 yrs into a projected 50 yr life span. Estimated cost to rehab the Triagle and rebuild the pier approach are at about 90 million. The city has 50 million in TIF funding. Where will the other 40 million come from? Raise your property taxes? The Pier is now and always has been a bad business model. It is currently costing the taxpayers about 2 million per year BEYOND what it takes in. With the current budget crisis, when the city is facing cutting vital services, should we rebuild the the current Pier and continue this charade of tax money waste? Or should we proceed with the less costly and much less expensive to run and maintain LENS design?
CJ July 21, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Your comment was not bad until the last sentence. The expense of The Lens will quickly be brought to light after just the damage a simple storm like Debby would have done to it. As we can see, the existing Inverted Pyramid stood perfectly srong and seemed fit for even a significant hurricane. As one person pointed out, The Pier, was never meant to generate profit..it was to draw customers to the area for the various venues offered in the entire Downtown area. Obviously, downtown is about a lot more than simply The Pier...but as in a violin..if you remove one string, then the results are not worth it's absence. Truthfully,The Lens looks cool and fun and all that...but not at the expense of The Pier being gone forever. For me..it's bascially that simple. I'd like to see The Pier remain with basics necesssary repairs done. Like anything, it goes without saying it needs that done. Comments on the needed repairs are exagerated simply to push The Lens. Seriously, St Petersbur citizens...to a newbie like me....I assure you ...The Pier is an absoultely ''awesome'' attraction...just the way it is. I travel a lot, and the St Pete Downtown area has a ''way above average'' fun factor. The Pier is a crucial ingrediant to that fact.
N.A.W. July 21, 2012 at 04:00 PM
The pier sits on 4 caissons, each 20ft by 20ft, not a single caisson. I would like to point out that the lens uses those very caissons to support itself. Do you know where the 90 million dollar figure came from? It came from a city engineer, not an outside rfq. And do you know that in that internal analysis, the city WIDENED the current approach by 50%? Yes, the current 100ft wide approach was made into a 150 ft approach, driving up the cost from 24-30 million. This will come out VERY soon. The only way for the city to be truthful from this point on about the refurbishment costs would be to secure at least 3 outside marine contractors to put up bids to refurbish what we have. It's truly astounding that they didn't do this from the start, as the vice chair of the Pier Advisory Task force, Ed Montinari is quoted as promising the city that a refurbishment option would always be an option through the entire process. The Pier is a bad business model? Since when is the pier a business? It is an attraction, it was never designed to make money, or be a business. It was 100% subsidized in the beginning, and businesses were brought in to lower the subsidy, which amounts to a paltry 6 dollars a year per resident.I would be happy to pay double,or triple that number yearly to keep our history,and continue the 74 million a year economic impact that the pier produces(read the Klager report).In the lens,the caissons are kept, surrounded by concrete to prevent erosion,to support the lens. LOL
Jeannie Cline July 21, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Why doesn't anyone on council or the mayor ask us citizens to prioritize the subsidies in town? Not only is the pier subsidized (which I support), we taxpayers subsidize the Trop, the Mahaffey, Sunken Gardens, the Coliseum and possibly the airport and the History Museum. To me, paying $6 a year to support this pier is well worth it.
CJ July 21, 2012 at 05:18 PM
You are exactly correct...but I also am OK with helping pay taxes for the other things as long as it wins the right to do that by vote. It's part of what goes along with living in a thriving paradise...and have no doubt that is what this area is. I get more concerned about the escalating utility bills, cost of food, fuel, etc. The main thing we all want is for our tax money to be used honestly and not simply to furnish lavish perks for politicians.
None July 21, 2012 at 08:09 PM
What great commentary! I am quite certain that there is a substantially lower alternative than 900 million to build a pier that represents more closely what the public wants. It is a shame that the political voices have moved forward evidently wasting taxpayers money. Committing to a design that will undoubtedly exceed its budget and is not supported by the taxpayers is foolish.
N.A.W. July 21, 2012 at 09:05 PM
don't forget the port of st.pete
Robert Thompson July 22, 2012 at 03:51 AM
I was on the task force with Ed. 60 some meetings...... Where were you? R.
N.A.W. July 22, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Robert Thompson, hard to tell who your comment is directed to, but I was at those meetings....interesting that you were on the task force yet think there is ONE caisson supporting it? I would think you would know the construction of the pier. Then you must have been at the meeting where a prominent business leader stormed out? Accusing the process of being a sham, with demolition planned all along? I was there, I saw it. I also saw that 75% of those on the task force said they would like to refurbish and keep the pier, but the city "internal analysis" claimed it was cost prohibitive, so they voted for the only option left after that, demolition and rebuild. 90 million to refurbish the pyramid? Really? That means you actually believe that, after the approach and pier head are demolished, and replaced, that the pyramid would take 45 million to refurbish? Please.....
N.A.W. July 22, 2012 at 01:58 PM
here is a great comment from the tbt:(part one) There was a lot of public input before and during the design competition. Anyone paying attention knew there was a lot of support to renovate the pyramid. It was also well documented the number one thing people wanted at the pier was restaurants. The Task Force suggested 30,000 to 40,000 sq. ft. of retail space. The purpose of the retail space was so there would be something to do at the Pier. Our current Pier has all sorts of things to do. Not everything out there appeals to everyone, but at least there is a reason to go. So, to increase the usage of the Pier, the Lens team suggests we make it harder to get out there with fewer attractions - pure genius. These wizards from California and their local clueless architect are acting surprised that people are saying the exact same things they have been saying all along. They contend they went out and got lots of public input before they created the design - maybe they should have listened - or maybe they could have read the earlier consulting report and Task Force findings.
N.A.W. July 22, 2012 at 01:59 PM
great tbt comment(part two): How could the jury pick a design that ignored the Task Force, the consultants and most importantly the residents of Saint Petersburg? How can the City still want to work with these people when they have yet to show a land based view of the mess they designed. The jury failed to do their job when they allowed a $150 million dollar design to be entered into a $50 million dollar contest and didn't even get an adequate set of renderings. The question for the Times is: Are you incompetent or are you dishonest? It is can only be one or the other. There is no excuse to be quoting this $74 million dollar number to renovate the Pier when either they know, or should know that the $74 million dollar number is for an approach almost twice the width of the voteonthepier plan with more retail space. The cassions supporting the pyramid are 50 years newer than the ones that need to be replaced for the approach and can easily be protected in a way they should last 100 more years. Taking the City provided and vetted numbers of: $5 million soft costs $8 million demolition $14 million for the approach (narrower than the current approach) We get to $27 million dollars: They must believe it will take $47 million to renovate the pyramid. Really? A building renovation at $1175 per sq. ft.?
N.A.W. July 22, 2012 at 02:00 PM
The ballot questions are easy: Do you want the City to spend the $50 million dollars of TIF money that has been earmarked for the renovation or replacement of the Pier? Do you want that $50 million to be used to demolish and replace the approach and pier head and refurbish the pyramid as shown in the voteonthepier plan? Do you want that $50 million dollars to be used to demolish the approach, the pier head and pyramid and build the Lens design? Do you want that $50 million dollars to be used to demolish the approach, the pier head and pyramid and build a new pier other than the Lens?
None July 22, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Robert; Logically I would assume that this comment was in response to CJ and NAW as I praised all commentary above? It is not linked to any thread though which leaves one to question if it is a general response or referencing my commentary? To my knowledge of the 60 meetings only 3 were open to the public. I applaud your participation and hope that your contribution was effectual. Having been participant surely you are privy to some facts that will benefit this conversation and help to enlighten the public. I am left confused as to whether there is one single caisson as you stated or four as N.A.W. has implied. Just trying to catch up and learn the facts. Again, I thank you and all of the like minded citizens who volunteer their time for the greater good.
HANI F MATTA July 22, 2012 at 02:17 PM
the estimated construction cost of a new public building lavishly finished from foundation to completion is no more than $400 per sq. ft.....assuming a building 80000 sq.ft.....the price tag is aprox. 32 millions....top top cost........i dont understand the problem!!!! ...seems to me that a 50 million budget is more than enough to cover this project hani matta architect/builder
N.A.W. July 22, 2012 at 02:44 PM
CJ, there are four caissons, easily visible on the top of the pier...the blue boxes you see on top? those are the tops of the caissons. For someone to be on the task force and not to know this is interesting to say the least.
Dharma July 22, 2012 at 02:51 PM
my response to these questions are: No, No, No, No. it cant be any clearer than that, and if the city got money from somewhere to become more beautiful than before. i am sure that we can come up with something that citizens need here. its all about the people not those who work for us. Thanks for listening.
N.A.W. July 22, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Dharma, of the close to 22,000 petitions collected, 98% said refurbish the existing pier, so you are in a very small minority, although your opinion is valued as well.
Jeannie Cline July 22, 2012 at 03:56 PM
I was at some meetings and observed much resistance to tearing the pier down and even heard the mention of getting public transportation integrated into this present site such as a water taxi. They didn't listen then as they aren't now.
CJ July 22, 2012 at 07:53 PM
NAW...I think you have me mixed up with someone else. I never made any comment on how many cassions there were, and I never said I was on a task force. Actually, I have been following this topic for over a year...and am new to the area...as I have finally completed my move here from Kansas. I have been in support of most of your comments. As new and dumb as I am about this project, I have enogh common sense to have known all along the price of refurbishing The Pier was greatly exagerrated simply to help aid those in favor of The Lens justify thier reasoning on getting grid of The Pier. As a new comer who studied many cities in Florida and Hawaii before we moved, even I knew how iomportant The Pier was. It and several other wonderful things are why we chose here to move. I have already been to it often and each time I shake my head in disbelief that there are plans trying to remove it from the landscape. I have said this all along....I challenge ''anyone'' to go sit at a local park to The Pier, such as Demming, and sit on a bayside bench and gaze at the view that includes The Pier. Then tell me or anyone else it needs to be gone. Removing The Pier from a priceless picture would be a great mistake. Even without repairs, The Pier is sitll one of my favorite things here.
CJ July 22, 2012 at 08:12 PM
Robert, if your comment is directed to me then I want to remind you that The Patch blog is not just for those directly associated with City leadership groups. In fact , The Patch is just the opposite of that. It is for ''citizen'' imput...which is what we ''all'' are whether we are directly in city leadership or not. You comment of ''where were you'' is out of line and it implies you think unless we are part of city leadership, our opinions are not as valid as yours. I appreciate your standing and repect your obvious higher understanding of details on The Pier than me, but that does not mean my casual comments to throw into the discussions are worthless. I am simply stating my viewpoint on The Pier as ''a newbie'' who has read tourist book after tourist book, hundreds or articles on the area, etc, etc...that ''all'' pay tribute to The Pier. Anyone who has visted St Pete since 1972 has gone to The Pier. People ike you take The Pier for granted and have lost your love for it. That would be like a city leader from New York City wanting to get rid of The Statue of Liberty because a few ''big wheels'' like you have deemed it is something ''you'' are tired of...and ''to heck'' with what the citizens want.
N.A.W. July 22, 2012 at 08:24 PM
CJ, no, i was just pointing out to you where the caissons were...the other remark was for Mr.Thompson, who says he as on the task force, sorry for the confusion.
CJ July 22, 2012 at 09:06 PM
yeah..I figured out what you meant after I sent it. I am just killing sometime here and trying to stay on top of what is happening with The Pier. I think what I fear is going to happen is that the Council is going to try and ''continue on'', based on the argument they are already under contract, have already spent so much, etc, etc. Frankly, that all seems to be true form the standpoint of a citizen viewing this circus. Or..they will somehow table this issue, but only for a short time..and then muscle the project through later. The bad part of that is there will be money wasted on remodeling The Pier only to still go ahead and demolish it. With the present plans to close it by such and such date, plus the fact some shops already have plans on leaving or relocating, etc...it seems all this peteition thing is going to amount to is a ''noble effort'' by the public to try and stop this. The wheels seems to already be turning and too hard to stop, though. I get the impression all the City Officials are doing is 'humoring'' the citizens and the petition, ''pretending'' to listen to us...then they will ultimatley simple do what they deem fit. Either way it goes, the eventual outcome will be good...hwether we have a virtually brand new ''The Pier''..or ''The Lens''. It will sure suck during the ''long'' time it is all being built, though.
CJ July 22, 2012 at 09:06 PM
The point of all the complaining is mostly about the way it is being bulldozed through. From my viewpoint, everyone better enjoy The Pier as much as they can...because it is soon going to be gone. The irony is that if The pier would simply be left abandoned and vacant..it would still be standing in pretty fair shape a thousand years from now..whether it is on one caisson or four. Even a farmer from Kansas can see that
HANI F MATTA July 22, 2012 at 11:46 PM
this lens nonsense will be stopped because it is a total nonsense .....it is like throwing 60 millions in the garbage......so let us all attend this meeting on aug. 2nd to make sure that the voice of reason takes over hani matta
Sal Murgo August 02, 2012 at 11:27 AM
Keeping the Pier an attraction, should have attractions. A large ferris wheel, merry-go-round and a countinuous train of some sort to bring people from the parking lot and back. And at least 4 different kinds of restaurants and open food court also, Just a suggestion. Sal Murgo

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