Sunday, April 22, 2018
Business

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 [email protected] or (727) 445-4155. Follow @taygoldenstein.

   
Comments
Some people are paying for cuddles. And it’s not what you might think.

Some people are paying for cuddles. And it’s not what you might think.

When Samantha Hess’s marriage ended five years ago, she felt she was lacking a basic human need: Physical touch. As a woman in her late 20s living in Portland, Oregon, she found plenty of men interested in dating, but sexual contact was not what she ...
Published: 04/21/18
Judge: Foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa violated numerous rules of conduct

Judge: Foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa violated numerous rules of conduct

Tampa Bay foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa has violated numerous rules of professional conduct and caused two clients to nearly lose their homes because he failed to tell them about settlement offers from their banks. Those were among the prelim...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Times staffThe greater Brandon area will celebrate the grand opening of its second Goodwill store beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday (April 28) at 1407 U.S. 301. The new store will add another 12,000 square feet to the complex, which includes a 200,000-...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

State regulators Friday determined that one of the country’s largest residential solar companies, San Francisco-based Sunrun, is allowed to lease solar energy equipment for homes in Florida. The decision, solar energy advocates say, could open the do...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

For the sixth month running, Florida’s unemployment rate held at a nearly 11-year low of 3.9 percent in March as steady job gains continued. While many factors kept Florida’s economy chugging along, three industries stand out for leading year-over-ye...
Published: 04/20/18
Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

ST. PETERSBURG --- Stretched across the front of Tim and Hyun Kims’ two-year-old house is a big banner with the name of a developer and the words: "I have to fix my new house."Some of what needs fixing is instantly apparent. The front steps are too ...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida has hit a milestone of sorts as it slowly moves toward wider availability of medical marijuana.The number of patients in the state who are registered to use the substance has surpassed 100,000 for the first time, according to Florida Departme...
Published: 04/20/18
Q&A: Walmart leader chats about Florida stores, and the chain’s latest retail strategy

Q&A: Walmart leader chats about Florida stores, and the chain’s latest retail strategy

The Tampa Bay Times recently sat down with Walmart director of corporate communications Phillip Keene to chat about the retail giant’s latest retail strategies and how the company is winning over customers in a competitive market.Already, two of the ...
Published: 04/20/18
SunTrust warns 1.5 million clients of potential data breach

SunTrust warns 1.5 million clients of potential data breach

Associated PressNEW YORK — SunTrust Banks Inc. says accounts for 1.5 million clients could be compromised following a potential data breach. The Atlanta bank says that it became aware of the potential theft by a former employee and that the investiga...
Published: 04/20/18
Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

The Tampa Bay area’s hotel occupancy rate rose to 87.5 percent in March, the highest level in three years. The rise was fueled by spring break vacationers as well as insurance adjusters and hurricane cleanup crews flooding the state to restore it aft...
Published: 04/20/18