The grassroots political action committee called Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg will get some, but not all, of its wishes.
"We know we have 16,000 petitions in hand," said Stop The Lens spokesman Bud Risser on Tuesday. "It's probably more than that."
It takes 15,600 signatures to force a referendum on the Lens, the proposed new St. Petersburg Pier. Risser said his group will continue to gather signatures for another week or so to make sure there are more than enough to survive certification by the supervisor of elections.
In a letter to be published Wednesday, the group will also advocate keeping the existing Pier open past May 31st. That is the date Mayor Bill Foster set to close the Pier, shuttering a couple of dozen businesses in the process.
"We are not saying tear it down, we are not saying save it," Risser said. "We just think closing it is a bad mistake."
Risser claimed the closure will cost 400 people their jobs.
Mayor Foster questioned the number of people impacted, and said the closing date is firm.
"You're just prolonging the inevitable and it needs to come down," Foster told FOX 13 News.
The mayor also rejected another request by the petitioners: That further spending on the Lens be halted until after the referendum. The mayor said construction inflation might be an issue, adding the cost of any delays is being calculated.
Risser countered his company is building and had not noticed any increased costs. The opponents are specifically targeting the next $1.2 million for Lens design work. That is on the city council's May 2 agenda.
"If they spend that million dollars this summer and the referendum says stop the Lens, there'll be no recovery of that million dollars" Risser argued.
Foster does not object to the group's primary objective of a referendum on the Lens.
"There's no if and or buts about whether or not this question will be on the ballot," Foster predicted. "You get the signatures and they're verified -- they've done everything right."
Foster said that is different from an earlier petition asking for a "vote on the Pier." Last week, a circuit court judge agreed with city leaders that the ballot language proposed by voteonthepier.com was too vague.
More than 23,000 residents signed the first petition, including some of the leaders of behind "Stop The Lens."
Mindfull of the earlier experience, they retained legal counsel to ensure the newer petition did not meet the same fate.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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