Thursday evening at St. Petersburg City Hall, the St. Petersburg City Council pushed ahead an ordinance amending the definitions of active park uses and passive park uses.
The ordinance arose from discussions about the proposed Janet Echelman sculpture at Spa Beach Park. If changes to the definition of a “passive park” are approved, Spa Beach Park – a passive park – would be able to accommodate the sculpture (and other public art).
The ordinance will move ahead to a second reading on July 26 at a meeting of the Public Services & Infrastructure Committee. If approved, the ordinance will then move ahead to a public hearing on August 2.
Council members Gina Driscoll, Amy Foster, Brandi Gabbard, Ed Montanari, Darden Rice and Lisa Wheeler-Bowman all voted to move the ordinance ahead to a second reading. Council member Steve Kornell was the only council member opposed. Council member Charlie Gerdes was absent.
Many citizens expressed reservations about the sculpture that could ultimately be erected at Spa Beach Park.
“Everybody’s angry,” said Velva Lee Heraty, administrator of the Save Spa Beach Park Facebook page. “This is a fundamental issue about a sense of place.”
Hal Friedman echoed her sentiments, saying, “It’s a great piece of art; it’s the wrong location.”
Other citizens and council members expressed concern about the speed at which the project is moving.
“It still seems like we are rushing this,” Montanari said.
Resident Terence Okus commented, “[There is] no need to rush on this.”
Citizens and council members also worried about the unintended consequences of rushed decisions.
“I think that we have a history, as a people…of making changes without thinking about where those changes are going to lead us,” said Willi Rudowsky.
Kornell worried about the precedent that the ordinance would set for future development at St. Petersburg’s waterfront parks.
“I believe that approving this today takes a procedural step away…procedurally, there would be one less step that you would have to go through,” he said. “There is a broader issue here, which is the protection of our waterfront parks.”