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St. Pete council hems, haws over long-term waterfront plan

ST. PETERSBURG — On a budget, the City Council will have to decide which parts of St. Petersburg's coastline are worth including in long-term plans.

Last month, the city contracted with AECOM, a Los Angeles-based global consulting firm that worked on Vision 20/20 to develop the city's land use regulations, to devise a similar plan for the city's waterfront.

AECOM principal Peter Sechler detailed for council members the creation of a long-term master plan for the city's waterfront. The plan would identify the community's needs, rally support and create a strategy for the coastline stretching from the Old Southeast neighborhood to Snell Isle to the tune of $475,000.

Sensing the council's hesitation to approve a nearly half-million-dollar plan before any ground is broken, Sechler proposed two alternatives: Reduce components and cut the total to $450,000 or narrow the geographic region and end up at $420,000.

For the latter option, the coastal neighborhoods of the Old Southeast and the Old Northeast toward Snell Isle would be on the chopping block.

Darden Rice wasn't comfortable with shrinking the planning area. Amy Foster agreed.

"It might inadvertently send the wrong message," Rice said.

Steve Kornell was turned off by the price tag of the plan.

"It's a half a million dollars in a recession when we're told we don't have money," he said, suggesting that the marketing and planning efforts could be homegrown in order to cut costs.

Inevitably, talk about the welfare of the waterfront sparked the topic of the hotly contested St. Petersburg Pier.

The Pier, Sechler said, is a whole different discussion.

"This project is not going to answer the Pier question," Sechler said, adding that he hoped the waterfront plan would run parallel with a separate plan for the Pier.

Amid the debate, Mayor Rick Kriseman weighed in.

"In a perfect world, this waterfront master plan would be developed, completed and approved and then this Pier process would start," he said, adding that the city can't afford to wait until 2020 to begin construction on the Pier.

Kriseman said he thought about narrowing the scope of the project, but for the amount of money saved, it wasn't worth slighting those two neighborhoods.

"It's not significant enough that it justifies reducing the scope, given that it's intended to last 50 to 100 years," he said.

The next step for AECOM and the City Council, on May 15, is to finalize the fee and to compare methods for presenting the waterfront plan to the public, Sechler said.

Colleen Wright can be reached at cwright@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8913. Follow her on Twitter @Colleen_Wright.

St. Pete council hems, haws over long-term waterfront plan 04/24/14 [Last modified: Friday, April 25, 2014 4:21pm]
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