Lens opponents will get to question designers - FOX 13 News

Lens opponents will get to question designers

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

The chairman of the St. Petersburg City Council has called a council workshop with unusual guests: friends and foes of the Lens, the proposed New St. Petersburg Pier.

"Maybe it'll be a disaster, maybe they'll just be throwing rocks at each other," Karl Nurse said. "But these are all smart people who I candidly think all have our city's best interest at heart."

Lisa Wannamaker, lead local architect for the Lens and possibly other members of the design team, will be on one side of the table. Leaders of "Stop The Lens," a citizens group petitioning for a referendum on the $50 million project, will be allowed to directly ask questions.

"There's multiple issues around the construction [techniques], there's multiple issues around people that don't care for the Lens" Stop The Lens co-chair Fred Whaley said, "I think maybe the workshop will help address some of those questions and bring to light some of the construction problems."

Wannamaker also welcomed the opportunity.

"Let's sit across a table from each other and respond to each other's questions and try to educate each other," she said. "I'm just as interested in hearing what they have to say so I think it's a very good idea, I'm looking forward to it."

The workshop is scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday, April 4th, at City Hall. Nurse said he would also like to negotiate an agreement about the proposed referendum. The petitioners expect to have gathered enough signatures to call a referendum by mid-April.

The city council will consider the next big spending on the Lens April 18th.

"To me, the rational thing if they get the signatures is to hit the pause button," Nurse said, suggesting the project -- and related spending -- be put on hold until after a public vote.

By city charter, the council has to hold the referendum within 90 days of certification of sufficient petition signatures. Nurse explained ideally the petitions would not be submitted until sometime closer to an already-scheduled municipal primary.

Otherwise, the city will have to pay roughly $250,000 for a special election.

Whaley agreed with Nurse's logic.

"We will get the petitions and there will be a vote," he asserted. "Hit the pause button. I think that's a good idea. I think that we need to let the city, let the council re-look at [the project] and let's address it."

Wannamaker said "pausing" is not a decision her colleagues can make.

"The design team is charging forward, we've got a lot of momentum and we're going to keep moving," she said.

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