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About the Trop, one dirty little detail …

Last July 27, the state sent a letter to the city of St. Petersburg about environmental problems on the site of Tropicana Field.

In that letter, the Department of Environmental Protection asked the city for a deed restriction that would restrict future uses of the site, "to prevent exposure to contaminated soil."

The letter said that the DEP has been seeking such a deed restriction since 2000, but that the city has not complied.

In a followup letter just three weeks ago, on May 8, the DEP wrote to the city, giving it 60 days to execute the deed restriction.

This is relevant, as you know, because selling off Tropicana Field to developers is a key part of the current proposal for a new baseball stadium in St. Petersburg.

I asked a DEP spokeswoman, Pamala Vazquez, what all this means. She said it means that the blacktop parking lot at the Trop needs to stay put, at least until a new permit applicant satisfies the department otherwise.

"For example, if someone said, 'We want to lift that parking lot and put condos there,' " Vazquez told me, "we would want that property to be remediated to residential levels."

As my colleague Aaron Sharockman reported in Wednesday's newspaper, the city says that it considers the DEP's request for a deed restriction to be "voluntary" and does not intend to comply.

In one sense, this is not a shock or an automatic deal-breaker.

The Tropicana site was used for many purposes over the decades, and there are all sorts of chemicals in the ground, albeit at safe levels, supposedly. So any future use would certainly have to satisfy the DEP anyway.

On the other hand …

It is a little late in this deal to be finding out that the state has been seeking a deed restriction on the property for the past eight years.

No, wait. It's not just "a little late." It is jaw-dropping ridiculous, is what it is.

The St. Petersburg City Council will vote just one week from today on whether to start the process of calling an election on the new stadium deal.

I asked a couple of City Council members what they knew about this. Karl Nurse said he learned about it last week. Herb Polson did not know about it at all.

I also called Michael T. Harrison, a senior vice president of Hines, one of the developers in talks with the city.

"I have no idea of what you're talking about, so I'm the wrong person to ask," Harrison said. "Ask the city."

Let's bend over backward here. Let's suppose that this DEP letter is just a nuisance, an obstacle to be overcome.

Still, you would think it would have come up by now.

For eight years, the DEP has sought a deed restriction on Tropicana Field.

This demand was renewed last July — while the city was still busy keeping the stadium plan secret. And the demand was renewed again just three weeks ago.

And this never came up?

Members of the City Council didn't know? Citizens kept coming to meetings and asking about environmental issues at the Tropicana site, and this was not Topic A?

Really?

• • •

I've posted copies of the DEP's letters from July 27, 2007, and May 8, 2008, on TroxBlog. The address is blogs.tampabay.com/troxler.

About the Trop, one dirty little detail … 05/28/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 30, 2008 7:58pm]
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