A new citizens group has a simply-stated goal: "Stop The Lens."
That is the name of the proposed next-generation St. Petersburg Pier, which Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg thinks is a flawed concept.
"We hope that if we're successful in stopping the Lens project, that we'll be able to be a group that fosters discussion in community about what to do next," said Bud Risser, one of the group's organizers.
Risser confirmed a public unveiling of the new petition drive is scheduled for Wednesday, the day before Lens architect Michael Maltzan updates the city council on the $50 million project.
"We knew this was going to be a newsworthy event this week, and so we thought while people's attention was focused on the Lens, this would be a good time for us to go public," Risser said.
Earlier this year, Risser and other business leaders threw their support, and money, behind an existing citizens' petition called Voteonthepier.com. That support funded mass mailings of petitions with return postage and quickly gathered more than 20,000 signatures of registered voters.
However, city attorneys declared the proposed "Vote on the Pier" ballot language defective, and the city council voted 6-2 not to place the issue on the November ballot.
Voteonthepier.com leader Tom Lambdon confirmed he has shared his database of voters who signed his petition with the new group. That suggests the first mass mailings to "Stop The Lens" will be to citizens who may already feel slighted by city council's rejection of the earlier petition.
The new group differs from the first in its opinion of the existing Pier. It focuses less on the fate of the current inverted pyramid and more on the proposed replacement. Risser said different supporters have different motivations.
"A significant number of people think that it is simply not in character with St. Petersburg and our waterfront," he said, while others object to its size. He personally is more concerned about the cost.
"When you talk about borrowing $50 million and then add in the debt service to it, you're talking about something like $80 million," Risser explained.
City leaders think a long string of public presentations is lessening public opposition to the Lens.
"I think what they don't get right off the bat is that it is a community pier," council chair Leslie Curran said. "It's a place where people can go as a community to do a variety of things. I think we need to keep moving forward showing the public, explaining the Lens to the public."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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