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St. Pete waterfront lease extensions get OK from voters

Two ballot measures in St. Petersburg sailed to easy victory Tuesday: Both would extend lease terms on city-owned waterfront land.

They both passed with nearly 70 percent of the vote.

The pier amendment allows Tampa Bay Watch, the nonprofit group that will operate the pier marine education center, a better guarantee on its investment in the pier. The group requested the change to protect its $2 million investment and provide some longer-term assurances for potential donors to fund the project.

The other charter amendment allows Harborage Marina to reset the clock on its current lease that has just five years remaining to a 30-year lease over submerged lands at the property. The change would allow the marina to build a 200-foot dock, update its electrical system and increase the number of boat slips available for public use.

The charter amendment change would not cost the city. Supporters say the change is necessary to accommodate more boaters in a marina that is currently over capacity, which would result in more economic development for the city.

The lease extension would add additional boat slips to the marina for use by visitors and residents.

A St. Pete Polls survey predicted the referenda would easily win. More than half of those surveyed in that poll indicated they supported the Harborage Marina referendum while 47 percent indicated support for the pier lease extension. Nearly 30 percent of those asked who had already or planned to vote on the issue were still undecided.

The St. Petersburg City Council approved ballot language for both measures earlier this year, noting the need for continued economic development opportunities along the downtown waterfront.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Dan McAuliffe, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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