ST. PETE BEACH — Members of the Historic Preservation Board won’t get to weigh in on or make recommendations to the City Commission regarding a long list of items in the Historic District, but their feelings of being ignored did get attention.
Historic Preservation Board members have said repeatedly they want to review, give their opinion on and make recommendations about more than the fate of certain structures in the Pass-a-Grille Historic District. And in information submitted to the City Commission for its Oct. 25 meeting, they sought the opportunity to make recommendations on jetties and piers in the Historic District, parks and signage improvements, changes to the dog beach or the Pass-a-Grille concession patio, beach walkovers, hexagon-shaped sidewalks, street sign and light fixtures tweaks, improvements to alleys and streets, and landscaping projects.
“They want essentially to review and recommend to the commission (anything) that happens south of 32nd Avenue and the District,” Assistant City Attorney Matthew McConnell said.
The historic board currently is required to review only “contributing structures” in a 2015 historical survey and acts “at the pleasure of the commission,” he noted.
Added McConnell: “They’re just trying to make noise. They’re trying to make themselves aware. They want to be known, is essentially what it is. They’ve kind of been put on the back burner for a little bit with all the changes.”
City Manager Alex Rey said there were two items on the historic preservation board’s wish list that are “questionable” in his mind. He questioned the dog beach as “a historical resource” and said the board “can have a say on (light) poles but not the actual fixtures.”
Mayor Al Johnson said: “Sooner or later we have to trust the staff to keep these things in mind. We want to keep it all historic like it is, so I don’t know that we need to drill down to that kind of detail.”
Commissioner Melinda Pletcher said she would like “the historic board to feel comfortable that they are not the last to know” about certain decisions.
“I think it’s more that they just want to be updated and they don’t want to find out things after the fact,” Pletcher said. “They just want some communication.”
“I don’t think we should be approving (the) list,” commissioner Mark Grill said. “This list tells me that we are on two complete different levels with this board. We don’t need a mini-commission.”
Grill noted that the commission doesn’t update its other advisory boards as to what is going on in the city.
“I think we have said, ‘Hey, I hope the board is watching, so they know what we’re talking about, what’s going on,’” Grill said. “We don’t reach out to the library committee.”
Johnson said the board should have a say in everything south of 32nd Avenue “that pertains to aesthetics or the historic nature of the area and leave it at that.”
He said operational items, such as instillation of parking sensors, have nothing to do with the historic nature of the area.
“I think it they’re wanting more and more control and say over what happens in Pass-a-Grille,” Pletcher said. “I don’t think there’s a huge grasp of knowledge, of understanding, how much responsibilities and what roles they actually do have.”
She added: “They don’t want to be the last to know. I don’t think we have to get super-specific, other than to try to elevate the level of communication that’s going to the historic board.”
Pletcher suggested the board table the historic Preservation Board’s list and commissioners reach out to their board appointees. Commissioners unanimously voted to do so.