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St. Pete voters approve two charter amendments and a referendum

The referendum allows the St. Petersburg Sailing Center to enter into a long-term lease.

St. Petersburg voters approved two charter amendments and a referendum Tuesday night.

The first charter amendment allows the city to accept grants from government agencies that include a stipulation that the property be restricted to preservation of conservation uses without having to get voter approval first, which is currently required.

The second charter amendment changes the date Mayors and members of City Council take office after they’re elected.

The referendum allows a long-term operating agreement between the city and the St. Petersburg Sailing Center.

None of the measures were controversial.

Charter Amendment No. 1 landed on the ballot after the city faced a conflict in its existing charter over a $900,000 preservation grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District that hinged on the city’s agreement to provide a conservation easement and that the money, earmarked for Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, be used permanently for conservation efforts.

The city’s current charter blocks the city from selling, donating or leasing waterfront or park property. But exemptions already exist for things like utility easements or restricted recreational or airport uses. The charter simply provides another exception.

The charter passed with 78 percent of the vote.

Charter Amendment No. 2 provides efficiency to the process by which elected City Council members or Mayors take office. Under the current charter elected officials take office on Jan. 2 regardless of which day of the week that falls on. Under the new charter, those officials would take office on either the first or second Thursday of January when City Council is already scheduled to meet.

Eighty-four percent of voters approved that charter amendment.

The referendum provides a 20-year lease agreement between the city and the  St. Petersburg Yacht Club’s St. Petersburg Sailing Center that would run through 2040.

Under that agreement, the yacht club will pay the city at least $800,000 for upgrades to its sailing facility. The referendum is necessary because the city charter requires voter approval over any leases on city-owned waterfront or park property that is commercially zoned.

The sailing center wanted a longer-term lease to protect its investment in the facility.

Voters approved that referendum with 84 percent of the vote.

“We thank all the citizens who took the time to insure that the children and adults in St. Petersburg have a place where they can take part in sailing which is rich in our city’s history,” said Mario Farias, a consultant who worked to pass the Sailing Center referendum.

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 Patch.com 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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