St. Petersburg to require developers who get city money to provide community benefits

The plan requires developers who get significant city funding to reinvest in the community.
The St. Petersburg skyline looking west from the waterfront in June 2018.
The St. Petersburg skyline looking west from the waterfront in June 2018. [ Times (2018) ]
Published July 22, 2021|Updated July 23, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council on Thursday approved a “community benefit agreement” that would require developers who get significant city funding to reinvest in the community.

Depending on the amount of funding received, the requirements can include building new affordable or workforce housing or paying into a fund for those projects, paying into a fund to improve local schools and renovate historic buildings, and providing job training. Developers would also have to hold public meetings to get input on their projects.

Related: St. Petersburg City Council moves ahead on community benefit agreement

Applause broke out among residents gathered in City Hall after council members passed the agreement in a series of 7-0 votes. Member Deborah Figgs-Sanders was absent, but she’s a longtime proponent of the idea, and City Clerk Chan Srinivasa read a statement on her behalf.

“Today we are in a momentous place in our city’s history to becoming a more diverse, inclusive and progressive city,” Figgs-Sanders said in the statement.

Council Chair Ed Montanari said he still had some concerns and asked city development officials several questions about the agreement, but voted in favor of it.

Council member Robert Blackmon said he initially had “a lot of concern” about the idea but had come around to it as it was developed. Darden Rice, who earlier this month raised questions about unspecific language in the proposal, praised the agreement on Thursday.

“The merits are straightforward, well-justified and overdue,” Rice said.

St. Petersburg NAACP President Esther Eugene also praised the agreement.

“We know that a community benefits agreement supports equity, inclusion and allyship,” Eugene said.

Former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, a candidate for mayor, called the agreement “a major step toward ensuring equitable development as our city grows and moves forward.”

City Council members Lisa Wheeler-Bowman and Brandi Gabbard, City Council candidates Richie Floyd and Mhariel Summers, and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin all spoke in favor.

The requirements apply to development and redevelopment projects that cost $2 million or more and receive city funds equal to 20 percent or more of their cost, or $10 million regardless of cost. Projects that get more city money would come with higher requirements for developers.

Some projects would be exempt, including some that include affordable housing. But the agreement says the Tropicana Field redevelopment project can’t qualify for exemptions.

Council member Gina Driscoll asked those gathered in City Hall to think of the agreement as a beginning.

“When these projects come up, City Council still has to approve them,” Driscoll said. “We need your voice then, we need your voice every single time, so that we can ensure that this policy is achieving the goal that we’ve all set out today to achieve.”