A look at governmental action from around the Gulf Coast.
Pier's fate discussed
ST. PETERSBURG — The St. Petersburg Pier's fate may be decided in coming weeks after final public hearings and a citizen task force's recommendations go to the city council next month. The 700-foot pier needs major repairs as does the inverted pyramid-shaped building at the end of it.
The cost estimate for the pier alone is $50 million. A city icon for nearly four decades, the pier costs taxpayers $1.5 million a year in operating costs plus another $300,000 to $500,000 in capital improvements. The city anticipates a $14 million budget deficit next year.
A number of redevelopment options are being considered, including shortening the length of the pier by 600 feet and constructing a new building on land with a pedestrian-only pier extending behind the new structure. Pinellas County also wants more say in the project's financing in exchange for advancing tax increment financing funds to pay for consultant work. That turn of events has Mayor Bill Foster suggesting the county should just handle the project itself.
Grant runs for House
TAMPA — James Grant, a 27-year-old attorney and son of former state Sen. John Grant, is running on a pro-business, conservative platform for the Florida House District 47 seat being vacated by Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa.
The district includes much of northwest Hillsborough County.
At a campaign kick-off event in Carrollwood Feb. 11, Grant pledged to uphold core conservative values of lower taxes, less government and more personal freedom, and said he aspires to be a statesman, not a politician. Grant enters a crowded field in the Republican primary.
He will face Tom Aderhold, former Hillsborough County Commissioner Brian Blair, Irene Guy, and Richard Reidy in the Republican primary. Two Democrats and one Independent are also seeking the seat.
Impact fee law challenged
FLORIDA — Apparently fearful that it may be too daunting a task to prove that impact fee rate calculations are reasonably accurate if challenged, Collier, Lee, Sarasota and Pasco counties have joined with five other counties, the Florida Association of Counties, the Florida League of Cities and the Florida School Boards Association to sue the state for overwhelmingly passing impact fee reform legislation last year. Collier, Lee and Sarasota counties have some of the highest impact fees in the state, with Collier traditionally being the highest.
Filed in Leon County Circuit Court, the suit claims the law amounted to an unfunded mandate on local government, improperly imposed by the state. The plaintiffs argue the statute also violates the separation of powers provisions of the Constitution and that the Legislature “failed to find that this law fulfills an important state interest” justifying its effect on local revenues.
House Bill 227 shifted the burden of proof for fee calculations from challengers to local governments adopting the fees. The law, sponsored by Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, passed 107-10 in the House and 26-11 in the Senate.
Associated Industries of Florida responded to news of the suit with a press release stating, in part, “It is actions like this that continue to scare aware new businesses and new jobs from Florida.”
A key provision of the law changes the burden of proof from a deferential standard, meaning that the courts give local governments a presumption of correctness, to a preponderance of the evidence standard, thus requiring more proof from local governments that fee calculations are justified.
The case could hinge on the fact that the Senate vote falls one-third of a vote short of a two-thirds majority because the suit says the Florida Constitution requires that any law repealing a court rule must pass by “a two-thirds vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature,” not two-thirds of those present and voting.
Osprey expansion funded
SARASOTA COUNTY — County commissioners approved a request from the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County Feb. 10 allowing Osprey Biotechnics to continue with its plans for expansion. The company will use $140,000 from the county's economic development fund to expand, adding roughly 35 new jobs over the next three years. The company develops, manufactures and sells environmentally-friendly bacterial products — which replace conventional chemicals — to a national and international base of clients.
The Transportation Task Force meets at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23, at University Area Community Center at 14013 N. 22nd St. For more information, call Steve Valdez, public works department, at (813) 307-8386.
The Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission will hold the final two of four scheduled public workshops in February to receive public input for the redistricting of Tampa City Council's four single-member districts. The next meeting is at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23, at the New Tampa Regional Library, 10010 Cross Creek Blvd. The second meeting is at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24, at the College Hill Library, 2607 E. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. The same information will be presented at each workshop. The Planning Commission will recommend and approve a revised Tampa City Council District Plan to the Supervisor of Elections Office at a public hearing on March 8. For more information, contact Suzi Dieringer at (813) 273-3774, ext. 348.
State Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, and Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa, have scheduled open-forum Town Hall meetings. The first meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23 in the theater of the Carrollwood Cultural Center, 4537 Lowell Rd. The second meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24 in the performing arts center of Wesley Chapel High School, 30651 Wells Rd., Wesley Chapel. Both meetings are free and open to the public. For planning purposes, those planning to attend are encouraged, but not required, to contact Jennifer Wilson by email at [email protected], or by telephone at (813) 975-6658.
The Tourist Development Council meets at 9 a.m. Monday, Feb. 22, at the Crosley Estate, One Seagate Drive, 8374 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.