St. Pete Lens design faces renewed opposition as funding battle continues

20,559: That's how many signed petitions were delivered to St. Pete city hall Wednesday asking for a referendum on the Lens pier project.

The Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg spearheaded the project.

They say today's move was a symbolic one to put the hotly debated Lens project on a primary ballot on August 27th, instead of a separate special election they say will cost the city even more money.

So far several million has gone into the research and infrastructure of the $50 million Lens.

"The citizens want the city to pause the funding of the lens, and not waste their money. The city council needs to listen to the voters," said Fred Whaley, the chairman for the Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg.

While they say they don't necessarily want to keep the current design, they say they want the project to go to the voters to decide on the proposed design.

"This process will succeed. Where the process to build the Lens has failed. The citizens have spoken," Whaley said.

On the other side of the coin, Neil Irwin owns several acres on the waterfront, and says he would be directly affected by whatever would eventually be placed there.

"I think the city should continue the funding, they should build a mock-up of the Lens and show the material that's going to be used, and let people see for themselves," he says.

Irwin also says the voters should leave it to city leaders to make decisions on larger projects such as this.

"Let alone an iconic structure that has difficult engineering aspects thats over water. How could you inform the public properly?" He said.

Thursday, both sides of the pier battle will be back at City Hall.

City council will decide on whether to give another $1.5 million to the design an construction firms to finish up research and get the project underway.

But the alternative is that they could decide not to vote, or shoot it down, and wait for a voter referendum.

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