St. Pete City Council slows process of tall ship's relocation to downtown waterfront
Plans to relocate a visiting tall ship near the Pier weren’t permanently scuttled Thursday by the St. Petersburg City Council, but the Nantucket-based Lynx will have to wait at least a week to see if it can dock on the downtown waterfront.
Council members balked at the last-minute request to spend $65,000 to buy a gangplank and make other improvements to the North Yacht Basin to accommodate the War of 1812 replica, which is used to educate school children about American seafaring history and for corporate team-building exercises.
Instead, the city’s request to use BP settlement money for the relocation will be taken up next week at the committee level.
Council member JIm Kennedy objected to being asked to spend BP money without it being vetted at the Budget, Finance and Taxation Committee.
“It feel very rushed and that makes me uncomfortable,” Kennedy said. He is the chairman of the committee.
Chamber board president Greg Holden and consultant Mario Farias said several private companies had pledged roughly an equal amount of money to provide power to the 122-foot-long ship and provide a floating dock.
Since arriving around Thanksgiving, the ship with its 94-foot mast is at the Harborage Marina south of downtown where minimal foot traffic has made covering its estimated $30,000 monthly expenses difficult, Holden said.
For the past several years, the Lynx has wintered in Fort Myers Beach between November and the end of April. The ship sails around Nantucket in the summer months.
The non-profit’s operators wanted the higher-visibility North Yacht Basin and has committed to winter in St. Petersburg for the next two years, said Farias.
The window for this season is already closing, said Joe Zeoli, the city’s managing director of administration and finance.
Still, council members wanted a fuller vetting of the proposal. And the worried that city officials hadn’t thought through how the tall ship would fit into existing plans for the waterfront and Pier.
“It’s not the money. It’s the fact that we have a downtown waterfront master plan. We have a Pier Approach plan. Right now, it’s a hodge-podge, stick it in here because it’s a nice place to put it,” said council member Charlie Gerdes. “It’s not the right way to do this.