City now faces lawsuit over Pier - FOX 13 News

City now faces lawsuit over Pier

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

Voteonthepier.com has launched its legal attack on St. Petersburg City Hall.  The plaintiffs: "15,652 Petitioners and Kathleen Ford." 

The action follows the city council's rejection earlier this month of a petition requesting a referendum on saving the St. Petersburg Pier. 

City attorneys told council members they were free to ignore the petition because it was flawed. 

The lawsuit argues otherwise and goes even further.

"The Pier is specially designated as city waterfront property," attorney Kathleen Ford told FOX 13 News. "So it has special protections under ordinance...and under the municipal charter which incorporates by reference [the] ordinance." 

In other words, the city was required to call a referendum even without a citizens' petition. 

The city's charter contains strong protections for public waterfront property, and Ford claims the Pier building is shown on the official map of waterfront property.

"If they want to permanently dispose of what we have, it's our contention that they need referendum approval," Ford said.

A third part of the lawsuit filed Wednesday requests the city be enjoined from demolishing the Pier until the legal issues are resolved.

A 2004 engineering study revealed the 1920s vintage Pier approach has reached the end of its life span, but suggested the inverted pyramid and its supporting casons have servicable decades left. 

In 2005, the city and Pinellas county established a funding source for downtown improvements, including $50 million for refurbishing the Pier.  That action required an ordinance. 

Earlier this year, the funding ordinance was revised to allow demolition and replacement of the Pier.  Ford said that is when the city made another mistake. 

"They used a city council resolution in an attempt to amend a city council ordinance, which is a violation of state law," she explained.

Since 2011, the city has followed a process to replace the existing downtown Pier.  That has produced a conceptual design known as "the Lens".  A majority of city council members said they feel bound by that process. 

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