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St. Petersburg Pier plan faces more questions

ST. PETERSBURG — The proposed replacement of the Pier faced scrutiny from a committee of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council this week.

The city's presentation was followed by prolonged questioning about concerns such as the protection of manatees, birds and sea grass during construction and the hurricane-worthiness of a floating marina.

Leading the charge was former Hillsborough County Commissioner Jan Platt, who was born in St. Petersburg.

"I asked them, and all this got into a motion that passed unanimously, to clarify the process under which this is being built compared to when they built Tropicana Field," she said.

"They don't want to build another structure that is fraught with problems,'' she said. "I love St. Pete. I just don't want them to make a big mistake, and I want to make sure this project is well thought out."

Platt had other concerns as well.

"I raised the issue of the floating marina and the potential impact in times of hurricanes, and they said it could withstand a category three hurricane,'' she said. "But you never know what we're in for. If that thing floats, it could cause considerable damage to the structure."

The city's plan to build a $50 million replacement to the current inverted pyramid has met organized opposition, the latest from a group fortified with yard signs, bumper stickers and T-shirts. Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg is focused on stopping the project known as the Lens.

Discussions from Thursday's meeting of the Agency on Bay Management, a committee of the planning council that focuses on the protection and management of the Tampa Bay estuary, could play a role in the city's permit application for demolition of the Pier and construction of a new one.

Bob Kersteen, chair of the committee, said a motion passed this week could be put into a report to the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Florida's Department of Environmental Protection.

Michael Herrman of Moffatt and Nichol, the city's environmental consultant for the new Pier, said the project will have "a net environmental benefit" compared to the current structure.

"The new Pier returns the environment to a more natural state compared to the existing Pier by reducing shading, the number of piles and the pollution that enters the bay," he said.

Herrman was sanguine about Thursday's session.

"I felt that this was a fairly standard review of a construction project in Tampa Bay," he said. "I can't say that there were any major issues that we aren't considering and trying to address."

Kersteen noted that Swiftmud has a number of questions about the city's permit application, including who owns the submerged land around the Pier.

Still, he sent a complimentary email to Mayor Bill Foster's office about the city's appearance before his committee.

"There were a lot of pointed questions and they kept their cool and answered them very effectively," he told the Tampa Bay Times. "And yet I don't support the Lens."

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at wmoore@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2283.

St. Petersburg Pier plan faces more questions 10/12/12 [Last modified: Friday, October 12, 2012 11:41pm]

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