Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Pete Beach mayoral election features opposing views of development

ST. PETE BEACH — When voters here pick a mayor on Tuesday, their choice will begin a new chapter in the city's ongoing development wars.

The two candidates, incumbent Mike Finnerty, 63, and challenger Steve McFarlin, 54, are split on the meaning of that vote.

Finnerty says the election is a re-run of the city's fractious and expensive battle over height and density of new hotels and condominiums.

That battle ended in March when voters rescinded the city's 5-year old Hometown Democracy-style charter provisions, said McFarlin, adding that he is the only candidate who can lead the city into a prosperous new century.

Finnerty says he is the only person who can find common ground between the city's two bitterly opposed factions.

In effect, the old battle lines — CRG versus SOLV — are, in fact, being drawn again.

Finnerty, who squeaked into the runoff by nine votes in the March election, just received the endorsement of former rival and third-place candidate Bruce Kadoura.

He is now receiving financial contributions from Kadoura's former supporters.

McFarlin, the frontrunner in the March election, is also leading in political contributions, garnering more than $27,000 compared to Finnerty's $9,400, according to election financial reports filed April 1.

McFarlin's contributions run the gamut of residents and business owners, including thousands of dollars from hotel interests.

For those new to St. Pete Beach politics, here are some quick facts:

• Amid fears that the city would allow 20-story buildings along the beach, Citizens for Responsible Growth (CRG) proposed and won a voter referendum in 2006, giving residents the right to vote on any comprehensive plan changes affecting building height or density.

• Two years later, rival political action group, Save Our Little Village (SOLV) proposed and won voter approval for a new comprehensive plan that allowed 12-story buildings and was supported by the city's hoteliers.

• Since then, the city has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars defending against lawsuits challenging the SOLV plan, which were filed by CRG supporter Bill Pyle, Kadoura and others.

• Meanwhile, voters in March repealed the CRG-sponsored charter provisions, putting the decision-power over development regulations back in the hands of the commission.

"The battle has been solved, no pun intended," McFarlin said Monday. "I do hope a lot of these differences are over."

McFarlin was an early supporter and member of SOLV, although he said he has not been active in the group for some time.

He does favor development along the beach, however, saying it is vital for the city's economic future.

"The issues of deteriorating neighborhoods should vanish with redevelopment not only on the beach, but on Corey Avenue," McFarlin said, who is endorsed by the Pinellas County Board of Realtors. "If we can get just a couple of the right franchise hotels in here, it will bring everybody back. Bringing more upscale visitors to the city is key to our growth."

Finnerty wants growth and economic development, as well, but he wants to make sure that there is no return to calls for 20-story buildings.

"Residents are afraid of rampant redevelopment that would be stamped and approved by the city, no questions asked," Finnerty said Monday. Finnerty's "solution" is for residents to "get more involved in government and in politics."

If re-elected, Finnerty said he will work to find a "middle ground" between the extremes of the city's two factions.

The two candidates are split, as well, on another issue — should the city install cameras at intersections and ticket drivers who don't stop properly at red lights?

The commission was scheduled to vote Tuesday night on an ordinance that would do just that. McFarlin opposes the ordinance, while Finnerty thinks it is a good idea.

Both men have lived in the city for more than a decade. They are both retired businessmen and have served the city — for Finnerty, as commissioner and as mayor, and McFarlin as co-chairman of the city's Board of Adjustment (he was appointed to the board by Finnerty).

Both have a vision for the city's future and both agree that re-development will lead the way. How the city gets there are the details voters will decide on Tuesday.

St. Pete Beach mayoral election features opposing views of development 04/12/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 28, 2011 11:16am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bob Buckhorn and Tampa council say county vote on Confederate statue doesn't speak for them


    TAMPA — It was the Hillsborough County Commission that voted not to remove a statue honoring the Confederacy, but Tampa officials are worried that the city, not the county, will pay the price.

    The Hillsborough County Commission voted 4-to-3 this week to leave in place a Confederate monument outside the old county courthouse. It was dedicated in 1911 with a speech calling African-Americans "ignorant and inferior'' and saying a president who would appoint a black resident to a job in the South "engenders sectional bitterness, encourages lynchings, injures the negro," and is "a traitor to the Anglo-Saxon race." CHRIS URSO   |   Times
  2. Who's behind the mysterious butt graffiti all over St. Petersburg?

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first butts, perhaps, appeared in April on some steps behind the Sundial shopping plaza.

    A photo of the butt graffiti that has been cropping up around St. Petersburg in the past several months. [CHRISTOPHER SPATA | STAFF]
  3. During the most expensive mayoral election ever, St. Petersburg City Council wants to limit PAC money


    ST. PETERSBURG — In front of a large group of red-shirted campaign finance reform supporters, the St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday started the ball rolling on an ordinance that would limit individual campaign contributions to $5,000 from political action committees.

    A large crowd gathered Thursday to support passage of a controversial measure to limit campaign spending in city elections
  4. Minority business accelerator launch by Tampa chamber to aid black, Hispanic businesses


    A "minority business accelerator" program was launched Thursday by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce geared toward helping black and Hispanic business owners identify and overcome barriers to grow their companies. The accelerator, known as MBA, will provide participants with business tools to cultivate opportunities …

    Bemetra Simmons is a senior private banker at Wells Fargo, The Private Bank. She is also chair of the new minority business accelerator program for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. [Photo, LinkedIn]
  5. Peter Budaj loves 'vibe' with Lightning


    Two years ago, nobody was willing to give Peter Budaj a shot, the veteran goalie wondering if he'd ever play in the NHL again.

    Peter Budaj signed a two-year extension with the Lightning, worth $1.025 million per year.