It was reported by Bay News 9 today that:
“Waterfront development will continue whether St. Petersburg residents like it or not.
That’s what the city’s Charter Review Commission decided Tuesday when it rejected a proposal to have residents vote on big-ticket projects.
Residents wanted the ability to vote for waterfront projects, including the new Pier. Business leaders said that would stymie growth.
Chamber of Commerce president Chris Steinocher told Bay News 9’s partner newspaper, the St. Petersburg Times, that developers would have been scared off projects because they couldn’t be sure how residents would vote.
The board must approve the charter in a July 26 vote.”
So what exactly does this mean, and why should you the average Rays fan care? Essentially this: It gives developers an opportunity to get the ball rolling on the construction of a new stadium without first having to first get a public vote via a referendum.
A part of me feels like this was a terrible decision, however if you read between the lines, this was done (and I’m assuming here) in order to get approval for a new stadium without the prior approval of St. Petersburg’s residents. This could be a very good thing, especially considering that the citizens voted down the proposed waterfront stadium a few years back.
I’m not sure if you all remember the kerfuffle surrounding the events leading up to the building of the then Pinellas Suncoast Dome. I barely remember it myself as I was in like fifth grade at the time! In any case, what I do remember was that people were not too excited to approve the building of the stadium then presumably without a solid prospect for a team. The dome was then looked at as an enormous waste of public money especially if no team was to ever make its way to the confines beneath the teflon coated roof. If you recall, the dome was built with the “If you build it, they will come” idea in mind. It wasn’t until after the ground breaking and subsequent construction of the dome that the prospect for a team, be it by relocation (in the form of the White Sox and the Giants) or expansion, became a reality.
What you have to remember in this case, is that even though “waterfront development” in included in the text of the report above, that does not necessarily mean that there is going to be an impending thrust of business men and land prospectors to that area like white on rice. Besides, there are still protections in place to ward of development in sensitive areas as such. In short, we citizens haven’t lost our voices with the rejection of this proposal.
It does effectively open the door to businesses or developers that may want to come into areas like those in Carrilon or Gateway, and propose the building of a new facility in those or other areas without it first going to referendum which may possibly find any proposal being shot down by the public at large, as was the case a few years back.
Could this be a bad thing? Certainly, especially if it’s taken advantage of by folks that are willing to use this as an opportunity to develop environmentally sensitive areas, or overdevelop areas that have already been built upon. However, it could also be a very good thing with regards to keeping the Rays on this side of the bay.