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Wednesday, May 22, 2019
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Times recommends: Vote yes on St. Petersburg charter amendments

St. Petersburg voters will see two city charter amendments on the November ballot related to leases at two city properties. Both amendments would allow for longer leases at sites where improvements are planned, and they deserve voters' support.

At the new St. Pete Pier now under construction, the city charter sets a 10-year lease limit for the main pier building, the St. Petersburg Museum of History and a parking lot that is slated to become the restaurant Doc Ford's. But in the rest of the over-water portion of the Pier district, including the spot where an aquatic education center is planned, the lease limit is five years.

Tampa Bay Watch, a nonprofit conservation group, has a contract with the city to operate the 2,900-square-foot education center, which will include interactive exhibits, classrooms and summer camps. Tampa Bay Watch, which requested the charter change, is investing about $2 million in the space. The group says a longer lease would better enable it to fundraise and guarantee its ongoing educational mission.

The charter amendment would bring lease restrictions for the over-water portion of the Pier in line with other parts of the landmark and would not affect existing protections for any other areas, including nearby Spa Beach.

On the Pier charter amendment, the Tampa Bay Times recommends voting Yes.

A separate charter amendment would extend the lease term from a maximum of five years to a maximum of 30 years on submerged lands at Harborage Marina, south of downtown. Voter approval would allow the City Council to amend the lease on the condition that the tenant build a new dock up to 200 feet long and update the facility's electrical systems. The city would retain ownership of the site and the improvements at the end of the lease.

On the Harborage Marina charter amendment, the Tampa Bay Times recommends voting Yes.

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