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Pier supporter Ed Montanari celebrates kicking the Pier can down the Pier road

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The road to a new Pier may have just gotten a little longer. After a 12-hour meeting Friday, the Pier committee kicked the can down the road by postponing its final decision on a design ranking and instead shortlisting three final plans.

After a series of straw votes the team had Alfonso Architects’ the Alma ranked at the top of its list followed by Pier Park and then Destination St. Pete.

That was a problem. Dozens of people rushed the podium to speak in favor of the St. Pete Design group’s renovation of the inverted pyramid. They came with pleas to reconsider. Some tossed around threats that the public would revolt if the committee members ignored the will of the people who, in two separate polls, clearly favored Destination St. Pete.

One of them, likely City Council candidate Ed Montanari, asked the group to slow down.

“I just was beside myself,” Montanari said of the meeting and, really, the entire process. “Taking seven concepts to the public is too much.”

At the beginning of the meeting seven designs were on the table. At least they accomplished narrowing the field.

Montanari said the meeting should have gone quicker. They should have eliminated some of the designs long ago and they shouldn’t have spent so much time meticulously combing through each one in 45-minute chunks.

The selection committee is under no obligation to make their choice based on results from the non-binding public survey conducted by the city in late February and early March, but it might be unwise for them to ignore it entirely.

If they put the Alma at the top of their list, that’s exactly what they’ll be doing.

“Alma didn’t score very well with the public and Destination St. Pete blew everyone out of the water,” Montanari said.

Nearly 11,000 votes were cast for Destination St. Pete on the city’s survey. The next closest design got fewer than 7,000. And that wasn’t the Alma. That design finished third from last.

“It could lead to a reset back to 2013,” Montanari said of the near vote to basically ax Destination St. Pete from consideration.

And it still could if the committee doesn’t change it trajectory. But Montanari thinks that could happen.

“They brought up a lot of questions,” Montanari said.

The lead architect for Destination St. Pete is Yann Weymouth. He tried to answer some of their questions, namely concerns over transportation options to the Pier head, but there just wasn’t enough time. Weymouth, just like everyone else who spoke during public comment, was limited to three-minutes.

Thus, Montanari’s granted plea for more time.

But the postponed vote didn’t just save Destination from near elimination, it gave the other teams a chance to rally some more support. And that’s OK, Montanari said.

“I think it’s going to give all 3 of the concepts a bite of the apple,” he said.

The committee hasn’t set a date for its next meeting.

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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