ST. PETERSBURG — With a likely referendum coming in August, support to stop the Lens from being built in place of the Pier seems to be falling, according to a new poll.
In a telephone survey Tuesday, 53 percent of respondents said the city should terminate its contract with Michael Maltzan Architecture, the Lens designer. That number fell from 67 percent who indicated they opposed the project in a May 1 poll.
The automated telephone poll of 744 registered St. Petersburg voters was done by stpetepolls.org and commissioned by local blogger Peter Schorsch. The poll has a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points.
Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg, a group working to stop the Lens, collected more than 20,000 signatures to force a public vote on the issue. Leaders declined to comment on the poll.
The petition signatures are being validated.
For months, Mayor Bill Foster and City Council members who favor the Lens have said residents would warm up to the project.
Anthony Sullivan, founder of WOW Our Waterfront St. Pete, which backs the Lens, said residents are paying more attention to the project and don't want to be left without a Pier.
"That's what we've been fighting for," Sullivan said about the poll numbers. "It's great news. The Pier is going to close. People wonder what's next. The Lens is a pretty great option."
The inverted pyramid closes Friday after anchoring the downtown waterfront for 40 years. Fences will soon encase the structure; demolition will start in the fall.
The poll also asked respondents four questions that Foster wants the council to consider adding to the Aug. 27 ballot.
When asked whether the city should build a replacement pier to honor the 100-year tradition of having a pier, 70 percent of respondents said "yes."
Sixty-four percent said they don't want the city to offer a 99-year lease to a private company for a pier. An overwhelming majority — 76 percent — don't want a wooden fishing pier to replace the inverted pyramid.
The poll's closest margin was on whether the city should adopt universal curbside recycling and charge residents $3 a month. Forty-nine percent answered "no," 41 percent answered "yes" and 10 percent were unsure.
Foster has said he wants to give voters options in case they vote to halt the Lens in August. He doesn't want some of the most pristine waterfront property in Florida left vacant. Millions of tourists have flocked to the Pier since 1973.
The City Council will discuss the possible questions in an agenda-review session this afternoon.
Council member Leslie Curran, a Lens supporter, said the public has been fed misinformation by critics. The city, she said, needs to educate residents as a possible referendum approaches.
"We need to quit playing games with questions and share info with the public about the Lens," she said.