Sunday, February 25, 2018
News Roundup

Another group forms to block Lens plan for new St. Petersburg Pier

ST. PETERSBURG — The fight to stop the new Pier continues. A new group, headed by several prominent St. Petersburg residents, held a news conference on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday to launch another effort to halt plans to build the new $50 million Pier known as the Lens.

The group, Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg, timed its announcement hours before Michael Maltzan Architecture was to present a progress report on the project to City Council members today.

"Our goal really in coming out now is to let people know that there is going to be an opportunity for people to pass judgment on the Lens in an effective way," the group's president, William Ballard, said.

A petition drive is being planned, he said.

Key members of the effort include Bud Risser of Risser Oil Corp., restaurateur and investor Dan Harvey, engineer Bud Karins, accountant and former St. Petersburg Yacht Club commodore Skipp Fraser and Fred Whaley, a director at Raymond James.

"Each member of the group has a different reason of why they are active in this," said Ballard, a retired construction and banking lawyer.

"From the moment I saw the Lens design, my conclusion was, whoever drew this up does not understand St. Petersburg or its history and that it is just out of character with our city,'' he said. "Our group will be attempting to make sure that the scientific community in St. Petersburg and possibly the marine industry get active and provide input. We don't know exactly what our role will be."

Whaley, who is chairman of the new organization's board and said he grew up on St. Petersburg's waterfront, spoke on behalf of the group. "We think the voters should have a choice and we think they should have a better choice than the Lens," he said.

The new petition drive will be the second to be launched against the new Pier. The group voteonthepier.com amassed more than 20,000 petitions in an attempt to preserve the current Pier, but City Council members denied the effort to put the issue on the Nov. 6 ballot. Former mayoral candidate and council member Kathleen Ford recently joined the group in a lawsuit against the city.

The new group is taking no position on the 1973 inverted pyramid that serves as the city's Pier. Organizers say they simply do not want the Lens.

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report.

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