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St. Pete "Lens" opponents have enough signatures to force vote

6:06 PM, May 31, 2013   |    comments
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Photo Gallery: Final moments at the St. Petersburg Pier

Video: "Lens" opponents have enough signatures to force vote

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St. Petersburg, Florida -- You could say it's "pierly" coincidental.

On the same day people were saying goodbye to St. Pete's iconic pier, opponents of its proposed successor "The Lens" were told they had in fact collected enough verified signatures to force the controversial project onto the ballot.

Related: Lens debate - an up-close look at new plans for the St. Pete Pier

"The citizens want a better answer for St. Petersburg," said "Stop the Lens" leader Fred Whaley.

Just before noon, members of "Stop the Lens" were told they'd exceeded the 15,652 signature requirement.

Based on that, the City Council could adopt the petition's ordinance and terminate the contract with Michael Maltzan Architecture, but that's doubtful.

Instead, more likely, it will be placed on the city's August 27 primary ballot.

"We think the citizens should help decide that. We think that should be a process and we've got a process started," said Whaley.

"If it's stopped, there's gonna be nothing out there," warned Hal Freedman, who supports of the $50 million Lens Project.

Freedman says he's disappointed but not surprised.

His group, "Make Lens Not War," hopes voters will take increased interest in a ballot issue, and thinks once they "get all the facts" they realize it "may be 'The Lens' or perhaps nothing".

He takes issue with critics who say the public was left out of the pier process.

In fact, Freedman said there have been dozens of hearings and just as many revisions.

"The restaurants, the shaded breakout areas, the restrooms, the width of the paths. All of that is because of citizen input," said Freedman.

But opponents, who felt marginalized if not ignored, say today's petition is vindication. Something, they say, will eventually replace the iconic inverted pyramid.

"We are not opposed to putting something on the waterfront," said Whaley. "We are just wishing for a master plan that takes the whole thing and not just that basic sidewalk to nowhere."

The council will get it's first look at the ordinance next week.

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