The Lens: Controversial new St. Petersburg Pier project moves forward

5:56 PM, Dec 6, 2012   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida - Pretty pictures of the proposed Lens project always guarantee a pretty lively debate at City Hall.

"I'll tell you, just because I don't agree with you doesn't mean I didn't hear you," Councilman Bill Dudley told a line of Lens opponents seated in front of him. "It means I just don't agree with you."

PHOTOS: St. Petersburg's new proposed Pier

This latest city council vote on the Lens produced an overflow crowd of residents and many of them came to City Hall wearing their opinion.  Opponents of the Lens sported red t-shirts and supporters blue ones.

And that stark color contrast was echoed in their comments.

"I think the pier has a wow factor. I'm in a business where the wow factor is everything," said Lens supporter and TV pitchman Anthony Sullivan. "And when I look at that video, I just really go 'Wow!'"

But a Lens opponent had a polar opposite view of the controversial modern design. "This pier is not something that works the people of St. Petersburg and if you continue to throw money at this... know that we will win," Tyler Mitchell told the council.

The decision before council members on Thursday involved essentially moving the project forward by allocating close to $5 million to the architect and builder for their pre-construction work.

But with opposition groups gathering signatures for a referendum and an ongoing lawsuit calling for the same thing, the Lens' future is still a bit murky.

"What I'm trying to do is grapple with how do we prudently and responsibly continue the momentum, but also confront the reality that there may be this stop point," said Councilman Charlie Gerdes.

But after two hours of public testimony and more hours filled by council questions, the council voted 7 to 1 to continue with the project and the Lens lurches ahead.

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