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Poll shows public support for Pier Park over Destination St. Pete

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

According to the latest poll conducted between Monday and Wednesday, Pier Park is sitting pretty when it comes to voter approval. Nearly 47 percent of respondents indicated they preferred Pier Park over Destination St. Pete Pier while just 38 percent favored Destination.

The results roll in just hours before City Council is set to meet to determine whether or not to give Mayor Rick Kriseman the greenlight on beginning negotiations with the Pier Park design team. That design was ranked at the top of a list of three designs. Destination St. Pete Pier came in second with Alma sitting in the third seat.

The poll comes as something of a shock when compared to others. Polls conducted prior to the Pier Selection Committee’s original final ranking meeting in March showed Destination St. Pete Pier with overwhelming support. Pier Park was in second, but the difference between the two was huge.

The poll also showed more respondents approved of Pier Park than Destination St. Pete Pier with just over 60 percent of respondents approving of Pier Park and nearly 59 percent approving of the Destination design.

The debate between supporters of either design has become heated over the past couple of weeks since the Pier Selection Committee put Pier Park in the top spot. Supporters of Destination St. Pete Pier have come out as a bunch highly addicted to the current inverted pyramid and calling on preservation. They’ve launched a host of complaints about the competing design including permitability issues, over-the-top subsidies, environmental issues, problems with planned landscaping and even outright cheating.

Those supporters are calling on City Council to reject the final ranking. Council member Wengay Newton is on their side. He’s asking council members to support a new business item asking for a Special Election allowing voters to decide whether they want Destination St. Pete or “a park.”

A poll released Tuesday showed voters favored that route with 63 percent of voters polled indicating they wanted the issue to go to voters. That support dropped slightly in the latest survey, but voters still indicate a strong desire to put the issue on a ballot. The poll released on the eve of City Council’s vote shows 52 percent saying City Council should send it to a referendum.

If City Council chooses to move forward with the Pier Selection Committee’s final ranking with Pier Park on top, those voters could very well get their way. The group Vote on the Pier spearheaded by Pier activist Tom Lambdon has already begun collecting petition signatures to force a ballot referendum.

That effort would ask voters to change the city’s charter to mandate that any construction or demolition to downtown waterfront property would require voter approval.

The Thursday morning meeting begins at 8:30. The Pier issue is currently listed at the bottom of a long list of presentations. That could mean the debate doesn’t begin until later in the meeting. Regardless, countless members of the public are expected to flood City Hall to speak either in favor of Pier Park or Destination St. Pete Pier.

During the last Pier-related public meeting more than 100 people turned in comment cards to either speak or make their design preference known on record.

The latest scientific poll was conducted among 1,008 registered St. Pete voters chosen at random from data from the Supervisor of Elections. There was a 3.1 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level.

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 [email protected]

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