Petitioners are now very close to gathering enough signatures to demand a vote on renovating the existing St. Petersburg Pier. Mayor Bill Foster gave the first glimpse of what a proposed replacement might look like.
Nearly 20 months after forming "voteonthepier.com," organizer Tom Lambdon delivered approximately 15,000 signatures to St. Petersburg city hall late Friday afternoon.
Citizen-initiated referendums require the signatures of 15,648 registered St. Petersburg voters, and Lambdon quickly told reporters "We don't want to send any message that we're done, we're not done, they are coming on an hourly basis, and we need more."
However, Lambdon predicted more signatures would be delivered next week.
"We really would like to get it on this upcoming presidential ballot, and so we felt this would give [election officials] a head start," he said.
Earlier in the day, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster confirmed city attorneys are already preparing possible ballot language. Foster noted that the petition drive has been ongoing for months, and recent donations afforded direct mailings to 40,000 voters.
"I would be silly to ignore it," Foster said.
The mayor repeated his support for holding the referendum, even though the petitions could be dismissed on a technicality.
"Because you can't restore the inverted pyramid without an appropriation and the charter says that citizen-initiated ballots cannot contain an appropriation of funds, so that's a prohibition," Foster said.
If that is the case, only the city council can put the question on the ballot.
"I'm reasonably certain that it will be discussed on Thursday," Foster predicted.
The city council could also put multiple questions on the ballot, and the mayor ticked off four possibilities:
Renovate the existing Pier,
Support a proposed replacement
Demolish the existing Pier without replacing it
Start all over on a new design.
"I don't know that council will consider multiple questions. I think that we'll certainly have an opportunity to talk about it," Foster said.
In the meantime, Foster will continue trying to sell citizens on a new Pier called "The Lens". During the course of the interview, he tried to always refer to it as "The New St. Pete Pier."
"We need to get over the stigma of The Eye, The Lens, The Wave and come up with, this is where we are in the process, and this is where we go from here, so yes, it's the new St. Petersburg Pier," Foster said, referring to the three proposals from an international design competition.
He said two key staff members will travel to California next week to meet with architect Michael Maltzan.
"My instructions to my staff: don't come back from California without ten visuals, the top ten reasons why [we] are going to constantly go out to the new St. Pete Pier," Foster said, before naming some of the amenities identified in recent public forums.
Those sessions were poorly attended, but produced suggestions for a tram system, shade and climate control, a restaurant, and activities such as concerts and plays.
"There are going to be a multitude of reasons to want to go out to the St. Pete Pier," Foster said. "It's not just a piece of art over water that is static. It's going to be constantly evolving and it's going to be living."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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