No headwinds for the huge Tradewinds redev – St. Pete Beach unelected city commissioners expected to be seals of approval

Four unelected St. Pete Beach city commissioners took to the dais just as the city was deciding on whether to grant conditional use permits (CUPs) for three huge redevelopment projects, each around $500 million in size. They ended up there after a staggered resignation scheme last December in which the four then-commissioners resigned one a time in a process that insured that their preferred choices for appointed commissioners took their places.

How they arrived on the dais, and whether they are there lawfully, is the subject of a much-watched lawsuit (case 24-000041-CI) brought by the Protect St. Pete Beach (PSPB) advocacy group. We have previously covered some bizarre reasoning, and lack of reason or consistency, among the Unelected Four and their predecessors.

Mayor Adrian Petrila (center) in currently the only elected member of the St. Pete Beach City Commission (picture is from a recent meeting)

Opposition to the CUPs among residents is almost unanimous, yet unelecteds voted through the first CUP. It is widely expected that, after a show of weighing this against that, it is a foregone conclusion the next CUP (Tradewinds) will also be approved.

The city commission approved the first project (involving the Sirata Beach Resort) in late February in a 3-2 vote, with unelected Commissioner Nick Filtz voting no for what many viewed as a finicky and persnickety reason. If the vote on the Tradewinds CUP on April 15th is also a 3-2 approval with Filtz voting no, suspicions that Filtz is placing show votes will only increase.

If a different unelected commissioner were to vote no for an equally overly fussy or (or fuzzy) reason, but the Tradewinds CUP is still approved 3-2, the suspicions that the Unelected Four are unlawfully coordinating their votes will only increase.

And finally: if the Tradewinds CUP is voted down, Tradewinds itself may cry foul for reasons that they can best formulate themselves.

Like seals at a circus balancing a ball on their nose, the Unelected Four have to carry out what appears to be a very difficult balancing act if they ever hope to actually be elected again. This because the opposition to the CUP:s among residents is almost unanimous, as evidenced by public comment in the city’s public records.

However, the balancing act may only appear to be difficult, just as the seal in a circus doesn’t actually have any great difficulty balancing the ball.

PCPSB has a petition against both the Sirata and Tradewinds CUP:s, but it failed to prevent a approval of the former and is unlikely to prevent approval of the latter.

Over 400 public comments, with over 95% against, were submitted before the Sirata CUP was approved. Yet City staff did not include them in the agenda packet for commissioner to see when they voted on February 27.

For the Tradewinds CUP, the number of public comment appears to have been fewer. “What difference would it make?” is one sentiment that has been expressed to our publication by residents who wish to remain anonymous. Many city residents feel deflated and a sense of inevitability, and perhaps that is what proponents of the project want them to feel.

This letter received in support of the Tradewinds CUP came from the CEO of the property’s previous owner Tim Bogott, who “strongly urged” approval of the CUP. Bogott did disclose his past role, and covered some of the past history leading up to the city’s current comprehensive plan. We also wish to disclose that the Tradewinds under Bogott was a client of the author of this article for twenty years ending in 2020.

In his letter, Bogott called himself “a long-term stakeholder who worked for years to do what’s right for the community.”

However, Bogott did not give his address or city in his letter — he is homesteaded in a $5 million waterfront home on Brightwaters Blvd NE in St. Peterburg (not St. Pete Beach) that he purchased in 1999.

With his home being 10 miles from the entrance of St. Pete Beach, neither Bogott nor his neighbors will ever have to deal with any problems that a sharply increased number of hotel rooms may cause, such a traffic, noise and other social issues.

Local residents (and visitors) already had to suffer the effects of PSTA’s free Sunrunner bus line: the transportation of criminal elements in to their city. The Sunrunner was a project that local residents also overwhelmingly opposed, yet they received a bitter dose of it anyway.

Many residents might find this coming Monday April 15th a taxing day – and not just because federal tax returns of individuals are due that day. If things go as expected, a sufficient majority of the Unelected Four will also approve the Tradewinds CUP. What is already circus could become even more of a circus.

“Residents overwhelmingly expressed their opinions against the Sirata CUP, citing the City Comprehensive Plan and Land Use Code,” said Colonel Mike Greiger, USAFR, (Ret.) and a St. Pete Beach resident. “Yet unelected individuals, some who admit they had limited knowledge of those guiding documents, voted against the residents. Is there any doubt as to why residents feel that representative government is dead in St Pete Beach, and self interest reigns supreme?”

Will that sufficient majority of the Unelected Four lay flat on their back and be seals of approval for yet another impactful project that residents oppose?

On such projects, should the input of non-residents like Bogott and the author of this article cum opinion piece be ignored?

As always….the Guardian reports and the readers decide. Please like our Facebook page to find out when we publish new stories.

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