Leaders of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club have some concerns about the city’s proposed downtown waterfront master plan. In a letter penned by Yacht Club Commodore Harvey Ford and signed also by Vice Commodore Richard Winning and Rear Commodore Robert Birkenstock, the group expresses concerns that the city may inadvertently be creating water hazards and encroaching on private property.
The letter was sent to all members of the St. Pete City Council, as well as Mayor Rick Kriseman and Dave Goodwin, with the city’s planning and economic development department.
In the letter Ford argues the downtown waterfront master plan “shows the complete relocation and rearrangement” of its docks and “shows public access directly into our dockhouse.”
“This rendition refelects an eminent domain taking of our property, is illegal and altogether reflects negatively on our private property,” Ford wrote.
He demanded the city revise the renderings shown in the plan to “honor our private property rights.”
The letter also alleges the city’s proposed “Taxi Dock” at the end of Central Avenue encroaches private yacht club property and would “illegally block access to the existing … docks near the seawall.”
Another yacht club concern is the city’s plan for transient docks. Ford worries a large dock shown in the plan within the “Central Basin” would make the entrance into that basin too narrow and dangerous to navigate.
“City Staff called me and we met in person several years ago and I expressed this same concern and was assured that the new transient dockage near the breakwater would remain clear of the narrow basin access,” Ford wrote. “Contrary to those assurances, we now see this dangerous idea back in the Plan.”
One of the problems the St. Pete Yacht Club has with the plan is elimination of youth sailing and learn-to-sail classes that currently take place in the south basin. According to Ford those classes would have to be eliminated by the addition of more docks.
“It will be unsafe to take such beginners outside of the breakwater even if the new offshore reefs are installed as shown on the Plan,” Ford argues, noting that the classes have been offered through the Yacht Club for more than 70 years.
Other arguments involve a proposed kayak pass. Ford said it would be a “poor idea” because “it exposes those inside to bad sea conditions” and “defeats the purpose of the breakwater.”
Ford also asks the city to confirm commercial deliveries will remain available along Bayshore Drive. The area is referred to as a “promenade” in the plan and Ford said that makes it unclear whether delivery trucks will still be able to access the club along Bayshore.
“We feel the plan has many interesting ideas that might work, but we know that if the SPYC’s concerns are not addressed now, that future planners and city designers will understandably use this Plan as a benchmark of approval that can and will lead to even greater encroachments,” the letter reads.
The downtown waterfront master plan that still has yet to be approved includes themes that grow on the city’s already robust system of downtown waterfront parks. It’s meant to put an emphasis on city-owned green space along an activated waterfront.
Controversy in the plan surrounding private waterfront development of a hotel and convention center has caused St. Pete City Council to delay a vote approving the plan.
The Yacht Club is a private entity that owns part of the city’s waterfront. It urges the city to “preserve our dwindling open space on the land and on the water” (emphasis added in letter.)