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Town votes to crimp airport's expansion

A town of only 17,000 residents is taking on the Pinellas County government by becoming the first city to formally oppose expansion of St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.

Safety Harbor commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday night opposing a proposed 10,000-foot runway expansion and expressing concern about plans to spend up to $223-million on enhancements to the airport over the next 20 years.

City commissioners say they want more protection against aircraft noise.

"We feel we need to say something," said Mayor Pam Corbino, one of most outspoken critics against the airport expansion.

Pinellas County officials see the expansion of the airport as an investment that could bring thousands of new jobs and about $780-million annually to the county. The new runway would also mean the airport could accommodate international flights.

County officials have persuaded airlines to cut back on early morning flights and to agree not to schedule any new flights between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., although the Federal Aviation Administration has said the airport runway must remain open 24 hours.

In the resolution, Safety Harbor officials urge the County Commission and the FAA to divert flight patterns from noise-sensitive areas, establish approach paths of at least 1,000 feet above State Road 60, and eliminate all flights between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

County commissioners have yet to formally discuss the master plan. Consultants and airport officials have been busy drafting and adjusting the plan, and it is expected to be presented to commissioners in the coming months.

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