St. Pete proposes referendum to privatize downtown marina operations
Image via city of St. Pete.

St. Pete Marina
The referendum for a 25-year lease would go before voters Nov. 2.

St. Petersburg City Council members will consider whether to take the first step in privatizing management of its downtown marina at a meeting on Aug. 5.

The St. Petersburg Municipal Marina has been publicly owned and operated since it was constructed in the 1970s. Now, the city wants to hand off management of the 650 boat slip property to a private contractor, Safe Harbor Development, which, if approved, would take on a 25-year lease under the entity St. Pete Marina, LLC.

Because the property, located within Demens Landing, is considered a waterfront city park, any lease exceeding five years requires voter approval, a move made decades ago to preserve the quality of St. Pete’s downtown waterfront park system.

City Council is required to sign off on the ballot question in two readings.

The first on Aug. 5 will take place at 9 a.m. The second reading would occur on Aug. 12 at 3 p.m. If approved, the question of whether to allow Safe Harbor Development to take on the marina management lease would go before voters on the Nov. 2 ballot, concurrent with the city’s municipal General Election.

Voter approval requires a simple majority vote of 50% plus one vote.

Safe Harbor Development’s lease would include renovations to the half-century-old marina. A master plan of the marina adopted in 2017 found that structural elements were nearing the end of their useful life and would require renovation or replacement.

As a result of that finding, the city received an unsolicited proposal from a private marina development entity for the lease, which prompted the city to invite alternative developers to submit proposals. The city ultimately selected Safe Harbor Development, according to a document obtained by Florida Politics.

Under the proposed lease, Safe Harbor Development would be required to manage and operate the marina and fund capital improvements identified in the 2017 master plan. It would include a series of benchmarks, including sustainability and resiliency requirements. Safe Harbor Development would also have to pay an undisclosed amount in rent to the city.

Some prescribed improvements include dock replacement, support facilities replacement or remodeling, and installation of wave attenuation systems — breakwater devices that prevent coastal erosion.

The lease would also include a requirement for Safe Harbor Development to coordinate and contract for repairs or replacement of sea walls, to be funded by the city.

Marina Public Notice 00569325 by Janelle Taylor on Scribd

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]


One comment

  • Michele Kosmitis

    June 29, 2021 at 10:27 pm

    The seawalls are a HUGE expense why would the city allow a developer to choose the contractor and then the city has to fund it? I don’t understand… that’s like letting a teenager pick out your new house and then you have to pay for it.

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