CLEARWATER — The plans to transform Airco Golf Course into a business park have the Pinellas County Commission's approval.
But it came with a promise to area residents: A buffer of trees will remain separating a Feather Sound neighborhood from the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.
The airport wants to convert the 129-acre golf course off Ulmerton Road into a real estate development with hotels and commercial and aviation businesses. But Feather Sound residents worried that the flag-shaped, 800-foot green buffer between them and the noisy aircraft would be cut down under the airport's plan.
"Every tree that's cut down in that buffer zone is going to ... increase the level of noise I hear in my house, and of course, decrease the property value accordingly," said John Macedo, who lives near the buffer.
As long as the Federal Aviation Administration also approves, the board's 6-1 vote will keep it.
Commissioner John Morroni, a Feather Sound resident, voted against the redevelopment plan.
"I did not want this to leave as a unanimous vote because there still needs to be a lot of work to be done," Morroni said.
Feather Sound Alliance officials lauded the decision to keep the buffer, but warned that no significant development can be done until traffic on overburdened Ulmerton Road is relieved.
Aside from 10 acres for hotels, the plan says development can't take place until traffic is eased nearby. The fix could be more than a decade away from construction.
The changes for Airco still need state regulators' approval and a final vote of approval by the commission, expected this spring.
David DeCamp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8779.