The Council rejected the bid, which included more than 15,000 people signing a petition to save The Pier. But those people group didn't go quietly, filing a lawsuit — shortly after they were rebuked by the Council — that finally had its day in court on Wednesday.
Today, Circuit Judge Amy Williams ruled that the city of St. Petersburg and Kathleen Ford, who represents VoteOnThePier.com, have to meet with a mediator within 60 days to come up with ballot language for a referendum on The Pier's future.
The decision comes a day after the St. Pete City Council held a three-and-a-half hour workshop about the latest design revisions from architect Michael Maltzan, who is being paid to put together The Lens — the new Pier concept the city establishment has rallied around. This Thursday, the Council is scheduled to approve $5.4 million in funding to continue the design and pre-construction phase.
Patch.com's William Mansell quoted Kathleen Ford after the ruling:
"We look forward to working with the city attorneys on (a) proposal for ballot language that we can all agree on rather than going forward with (litigation). I think the court was certainly directing the parties to come up with ballot language. That’s how in interpreted that order. That is what the mediation would be about."
For those of you who have been following this saga, you know Safety Harbor resident Tom Lambdon, not Ford, has lead the initial charge to put a referendum on the ballot to "Save the Pier." But Lambdon does not have legal standing to file a suit, since he is not a resident of St. Pete. Ford is, and gladly took on the role.
This effort should not be confused with the activists from StopTheLens.com, another group trying to get a different referendum on the ballot that would allow St. Pete citizens to put a halt to The Lens concept and start over.
UPDATE: Tom Lambdon tells CL that "it looks excellent right now, I feel so good about it. It's not over until it's over."
What's next? The court ruled that Ford must refile the suit by next week. But what does the council do on Thursday, with two potential referendums competing against each other to allow people to stop The Lens project from going forward? Tom Lambdon says that he's been informed that City Councilman Wengay Newton, who has been the one consistent voice against tearing down the current structure, will make a motion calling for a delay in the vote to authorize an additional $5.4 million to spend on Michael Maltzan's continuing designs, as well as Skanska's pre-construction work.