Deal aims to protect MacDill, but does it go far enough?
The state will spend $1.3 million to protect MacDill Air Force Base from residential growth encroaching on it, but the land acquisition is leaving state officials frustrated that they couldn't do more to block plans for a potential hotel that could threaten the base's future.
Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet agreed to the land purchase Tuesday because it would bar residential development over 25.2 acres owned by Florida Rock & Tank Lines next to MacDill.
But enthusiasm over that deal soured when state officials learned from MacDill officials that Florida Rock will continue to have the right to build a hotel or motel on nearly 15 acres on the property's north end, a proximity they deem too close to airfields.
That hotel or motel would be in "accident potential zone" and would be "incompatible" with the base's needs, Col. Pat Miller of the 6th Mission Support Group at MacDill told Scott and the Cabinet before the Tuesday vote.
Cabinet members expressed alarm over the state's inability to prevent a motel that could hinder base operations in the future.
"I have reticence that we were unable to negotiate away a future hotel at the end of a runway," Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said. "I'm not sure why it's such a hot idea anyway."
Florida's Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said he worried that the Air Force's needs were being "run over" in the process.