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Tropicana Field study, Pier fence to be debated this week in City Council

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

There’s a full slate for St. Pete City Council Thursday afternoon. The eight-member board will address two of the city’s three most prevalent issues – the Pier and Tropicana Field.

Councilmember Jim Kennedy placed an item on the agenda asking for an Urban Land Institute study looking at various options for development on the Tropicana Field site both with and without a stadium.

It would “establish a vision with the development potential and scope of what the projects could include.

Details would include how many and what size residential units would be ideal for the space and how much of the land should be used for non-residential space. It would also evaluate the estimated investment value and how much public space could be provided.

It would estimate the capital costs for a new stadium with and without a retractable roof, estimated time lines for build out under various scenarios and compare potential redevelopment to Minnesota’s Metropolitan Stadium site and the Atlanta Braves new site.

City Councilmember Wengay Newton, a longtime opponent of demolishing the existing St. Petersburg Pier, will ask his colleagues for support in asking Mayor Rick Kriseman to remove the fence currently surrounding the inverted pyramid and re-hire security guards to patrol the site until demolition permits are secured through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Public Works Administrator Mike Connors had previously told City Council demolition of the structure could begin immediately because the city already had permits in place to do that. The demolitioin was put off when it was determined more permits were needed.

Now Newton is concerned that without security people could navigate around the fences and open the city to liability. Newton’s ask seems unlikely to be approved because the city’s legal department has said there is no reason to believe the city would be culpable if someone were to trespass on the site.

The Pier has been closed for two years, but up until early this month pedestrians could still walk to the end of the Pier to enjoy views. That strolling possibility was cut off when the city put up the fences.

City Council members will also vote on whether to fund $150,000 for a contract with the URS Corp. for development of an Edge District improvement plan. The plan will include improvements to rights of way, signs, mass transit, pedestrian access, business development and building strong identity.

The funding would be taken from the Intown West Tax Increment District Fund and moved to the Neighborhood and Citywide Infrastructure Capital Improvements Fund.

City Council members will also set public hearing dates for next year’s budget and be asked to approve several changes to the city’s charter including one measure that would allow a candidate in a St. Pete municipal primary election to win the election with more than 50 percent of the vote and not have to proceed to a citywide General Election.

Currently, candidates must win both elections even if they received a majority vote in the primary. The measure isn’t likely to affect the upcoming August 25 primary because there are five candidates. The likelihood of four of them splitting less than half the vote is slim.

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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