Make us your home page
Instagram

Light plane businesses cause controversy on Dunedin Causeway

DUNEDIN

It seems simple enough: Two men want to run flight instruction businesses from a small county-owned beach off the Dunedin Causeway. But some officials think that area, already crowded with boats, Jet Skis and the like, isn't the place for a business offering lessons on amphibious, light sport planes.

The result is a tangle of questions ranging from which government entity has the right to enforce its laws to which laws apply, where they apply — even when a business is a "business" under the law.

The dispute has been going on for months. One of the instructors, Dave Myers, owner of Amphibian Air, was finally ticketed last month while flying recreationally. Now it's up to a judge to decide.

Myers and Charlie Floyd, owner of Duckwing Triking, have been asking for a citation since they began doing business in north Pinellas in December.

"One department says we're okay, and another says we're breaking an ordinance,'' Myers said. "We needed a judge to look at the facts and make a ruling one way or the other."

The sliver of land in question, on the northeast end of the causeway, is owned by the county and maintained, in an agreement with the county, by Dunedin.

City law bans business on the causeway, except those businesses with a business license. The only business to hold a license with Dunedin is Sail Honeymoon, a kayak and sailboat rental company, located on one of two parcels of city-owned land on the causeway.

In March, Sail Honeymoon owner Glenn Steinke complained about the powered hang glider pilots conducting business without a license, according to a sheriff's office report.

"They want to be able to come and go as they please, but they don't want a contract," Steinke said in an interview. "Well, that's no way to run a business."

While navigable waters are public according to the state Constitution, the pilots still need a place to set up and launch. Myers and Floyd believe that because they operate mostly on the water and in the air and are not staking out on the beach, they do not need a business license, comparing themselves to charter fishermen.

The two went to the Dunedin City Commission in April. County officials had written to the city saying the planes were a safety and liability concern and stating their opinion that private enterprise was not allowed on a public right-of-way. The county has not passed any legislation to support that opinion.

But Vince Gizzi, the city's parks and recreation director, told commissioners that the issue was in the hands of the county because it owns the land.

Yet, commissioners still voted in June to ban the aircraft owners from doing business on the causeway. Recreational flying should still be allowed, they said.

Both men are licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration as sport pilots and flight instructors. Their business offers introductory lessons, which range in length and price.

Though most people take one-hour lessons costing $225 for fun, others come to train to become pilots themselves, sometimes coming from out of state and even as far as Scotland. Myers and Floyd say they flew between 20 to 40 customers a month.

Myers was ticketed for violating a county ordinance that says aircraft cannot "take off from or land in or on any county-owned or managed land or waterway." This section, however, refers to properties managed by the Department of Parks and Conservation Resources. The beach off the causeway is not listed as one of those properties.

The ambiguity of jurisdiction in this area has been a problem for at least a decade, said Diana Carsey, one of the heads of the Waterfront Task Force, a group of Dunedin residents formed last year.

"What you have come across is a new reason for this to be resolved," Carsey said.

As far as whether this is up to the city or county, County Commissioner Susan Latvala said "nobody can seem to agree on that." Latvala said she didn't see a problem with the amphibious planes but said the governments need to come to a collective decision.

A Pinellas County judge will hear the case on Thursday.

Contact Taylor Goldenstein at tgoldenstein@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4155. Follow @taygoldenstein.

Light plane businesses cause controversy on Dunedin Causeway 08/07/14 [Last modified: Thursday, August 7, 2014 5:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming

    Roads

    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  2. A sports rout on Wall Street

    Retail

    NEW YORK — Sporting goods retailers can't shake their losing streak.

  3. Grocery chain Aldi hosting hiring event in Brandon Aug. 24

    Retail

    BRANDON — German grocery chain Aldi is holding a hiring event for its Brandon store Aug. 24. It is looking to fill store associate, shift manager and manager trainee positions.

  4. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik backs film company pursuing global blockbusters

    Corporate

    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik's latest investment might be coming to a theater near you.

    Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner, invested in a new movie company looking to appeal to a global audience. | [Times file photo]
  5. Trigaux: Look to new Inc. 5000 rankings for Tampa Bay's future heavyweights

    Business

    There's a whole lotta fast-growing private companies here in Tampa Bay. Odds are good you have not heard of most of them.

    Yet.

    Kyle Taylor, CEO and founder of The Penny Hoarder, fills a glass for his employees this past Wednesday as the young St. Petersburg personal advice business celebrates its landing at No. 25 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in the country. Taylor, still in his 20s, wins kudos from executive editor Alexis Grant for keeping the firm's culture innovative. The business ranked No. 32 last year. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]