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Another bump in the road for the Pier process

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A petition is circulating on change.org in support of one of the pier designs eliminated last week by the Pier Selection Committee.

St. Pete resident Ryan Mitchell launched the petition Friday in support of Blue Pier.

“We believe that since Blue Pier requires the lowest subsidy, it positions itself as a leading design amongst the finalists,” the petition reads.

“We believe that Blue Pier will succeed because it doesn’t waste usable, activated space with traffic lanes and parking spaces such as is the case with designs such as Destination Pier or Alma who tie up their pier structures with traffic lanes and a ~1500ft concrete walkway respectively. We believe that Blue Pier will provide a successful urban space that people will use just as they use other parks along our waterfront — Florida thrives on a reputation of year-round wonderful weather and beautiful outdoors and that communities the world over have shown that they will use walkable, bike-able, hike-able, run-able parkland…so will we.”

The petition, which had just 12 signatures as of 11 a.m. Friday, goes on to tout other features such as engagement in Florida’s native ecology, the lack of a structure included in the design that will keep the plan relevant for decades to come, and natural habitat affordable for people of all incomes. It rejects the notion that fine dining should be a component of a new pier, noting that there are already plenty of fine dining opportunities throughout downtown.

“Our philosophy should be this: Build public space that people will enjoy, recreate in, kayak through, and picnic at. A place for photographs and lunch breaks, an “iconic” destination space. Provide a thriving customer base that private developers will want to build commercial space around. Icons can be space, not just buildings. If Blue Pier is a ‘leap of faith’ we should’ve jumped,” the petition continues.

Blue Pier lacks many of the components of the targeted amenities required in a new design. That includes dining space, an iconic structure, space for an environmental discovery center and adequate observation area.

Mitchell’s petition notes that the lawn featured in the natural-themed design rises to approximately the same level of the third floor of the current inverted pyramid and “Blue Pier doesn’t provide an environmental pavilion because it is, in-it-of-itself, an environmental learning center.”

Mitchell’s petition adds to the growing chorus of pier process naysayers. There is already a petition effort to place a referendum on the ballot that would require the city to get majority support from voters to make changes to or rebuild waterfront property.

Supporters of Destination St. Pete, the design that most closely resembles the current Pier, are up in arms that the Pier Selection Committee seems poised to select a different design, Alma, as their top-ranked choice.

Destination St. Pete Pier was the winning design in three separate public surveys. Alma was the least favorite in three and fifth out of seven in the city’s survey.

Many critics of the process are calling on the St. Pete City Council to reject Alma if it is placed on its agenda as the selection committee’s top pick.

The committee’s final ranking was postponed and a new meeting has not yet been scheduled. City Council was scheduled to vote a final ranking up or down at its meeting on April 2, but that vote will be pushed down the road now that ranking has been delayed.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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