Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Reject St. Petersburg's request to demolish Pier, group urges Swiftmud

St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Kathleen Ford wore a red jacket in solidarity with the anti-Lens group at the Swiftmud hearing Wednesday.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Kathleen Ford wore a red jacket in solidarity with the anti-Lens group at the Swiftmud hearing Wednesday.

ST. PETERSBURG — Fewer than a dozen people showed up at the offices of the Southwest Florida Water Management District on Wednesday to urge denial of St. Petersburg's request to demolish its recently closed Pier and build a replacement.

Several wore red T-shirts representing the group Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg, which has collected enough petitions to force an Aug. 27 referendum about the proposed $50 million Pier known as the Lens. The appearance of the group, whose motto is "Stop the Lens," opened another front in the battle to halt the controversial project.

Mayoral candidate Kathleen Ford, who sued to force a referendum on the fate of the now-shuttered Pier, wore a red jacket in solidarity with the anti-Lens group. She mentioned the upcoming referendum and her appeal of a judge's ruling as reasons to be cautious about issuing the permit.

"There is the potential that if Stop the Lens is successful, there will be no Lens project, but if the permit is given to demolish the inverted pyramid … we are stuck with potentially a huge navigational hazard," she said, noting that the Lens design calls for keeping the massive caissons under the old Pier.

"I have a 29-foot sailboat, 19-foot whaler, a little kayak, little canoe and a little laser sailboat. We love to be out on the water and, frankly, a concrete structure like that will be a huge navigational hazard. I think it would be better to push the pause button right now and wait until we find out what will happen with these other very important decisions."

The Tampa meeting was a routine step in the permitting process, Swiftmud spokeswoman Susanna Martinez Tarokh said. A decision is not expected for at least a month.

Environmental activist Lorraine Margeson said the project would have a negative impact on the environment, affecting threatened species such as the roseate spoonbill and reddish egret, which nest nearby on Bird Island off Coffee Pot Boulevard. She and others also said the manatee population would be jeopardized.

James DeRusha said he was speaking on behalf of "the many different marine life and species" that live under and around the Pier. "They couldn't be here today, because they've been given an eviction notice," he said.

Cindy Miller questioned the method planned to clean the Lens canopy and wanted to know what would be in water used to clean the structure, how it will affect the natural habitat and how much water will be used in the process.

Hal Freedman of WOW Our Waterfront St. Pete was the only speaker on behalf of the Lens. "Admittedly, any work that is done on the Pier will be disruptive for a period of time. However, based on the application and review of the Army Corps of Engineers, there appears to be a net environmental benefit of the Lens project," he said.

Freedman said that construction barges will be prohibited from working or anchoring within 20 feet of existing sea grass beds and that the project likely won't affect manatee habitats or fish. Besides, he said, the new Pier will occupy a smaller footprint than the now-closed 1973 structure, allow less vehicular traffic and, as a result, have less impact on the environment.

Thomas W. Reese, a lawyer specializing in environmental and land use issues, sent an 11-page letter. He represents Bud Risser, one of the leaders of Concerned Citizens. The project would affect Risser's interests, said Reese, noting that his client lives in a waterfront home in Snell Isle and owns "a remarkable, environmentally sensitive piece of real estate that may be impacted by any construction in this area."

Reese urged the agency to deny the permit "because the city has not provided reasonable assurance concerning compliance with Florida's water quality standards" nor "sufficiently avoided and minimized adverse impacts to the aquatic environment."

In Pinellas County, a separate application for a construction permit hit a snag a few weeks ago when officials said the Lens did not meet the requirements of the county's water and navigation code because of its size. As envisioned, the project would need a significant variance, a process that would require a public hearing and a decision by Pinellas County commissioners. The city responded that county staff was working with outdated figures and promised to provide new dimensions.

That has not yet happened, said Kelli Levy, a manager in the county's department of environment and infrastructure. "We met with them a couple of weeks ago and it looks like they should be revising the application fairly soon," she said.

The project also is being reviewed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is being asked to issue a joint demolition and construction permit. Spokeswoman Nancy Sticht said there is no time line for a decision.

Demolition of the closed Pier had been scheduled for late August, with construction of the Lens to begin in early 2014.

Reject St. Petersburg's request to demolish Pier, group urges Swiftmud 06/05/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 11:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump sprinkles political attacks into Scout Jamboree speech

    GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Ahead of President Donald Trump's appearance Monday at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, the troops were offered some advice on the gathering's official blog: Fully hydrate. Be "courteous" and "kind." And avoid the kind of divisive chants heard during the 2016 campaign such as "build …

    President Donald Trump addresses the Boy Scouts of America's 2017 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va., July 24, 2017. [New York Times]
  2. Trump, seething about attorney general, speculates about firing Sessions, sources say

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

  3. John McCain to return to Senate for health care vote

    WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Tuesday to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws with the last-minute arrival of Sen. John McCain — but tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from skeptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but …

  4. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  5. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the mess they are in right now.

    Tim Beckham stands hands on hips after being doubled off first.