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GEIGER HAS NEW FLIGHT PLAN

The folks who ride horses on the forest trails could relax. The deer could live in peace. And the bunnies wouldn't be stressed by a strange, noisy bird hovering over them.

Brooker Creek Preserve would be a no-fly zone for helicopters headed in and out of former NBA player Matt Geiger's proposed helipad.

After meeting with neighbors last month, Geiger and his representative, Todd Pressman, drew up a list of concessions they will present to county officials at 9 a.m. Thursday in hopes of being permitted to build a heliport at Geiger's mansion, which is on the market for $20-million.

Geiger's proposed helipad is unusual - the last such request came from actor Burt Reynolds for a beachfront condo in the 1980s - and it has stirred up neighbors.

Among other things, North Pinellas residents have raised concerns about noise, the effect on wildlife and the Brooker Creek Preserve, and whether spilled fuel could contaminate drinking water wells.

In response, Geiger now proposes to:

-Withdraw the previously proposed flight path to the northeast, over the preserve; the only route into and out of the estate would be to the northwest. Pilots would be able to fly at or under 500 feet only over the 36-acre property owned by Geiger. A tiny portion of the route would take choppers over a house in the Bison Creek community, but Pressman said the man who owns the property is a friend of Geiger, so it's a nonissue.

-Reduce the number of round-trip flights per week from six to four.

-Limit flights to daylight hours only, and no flights would take place within one hour of sunrise.

-Agree not to store fuel on the property.

-Agree not to fly when migratory birds are being counted. Those days include Christmas Eve and several days in May.

The last concession was offered to satisfy a request by Barbara Walker, who is a member of the Clearwater Audubon Society.

"I'm encouraged Mr. Geiger seems willing to listen to concerns from various groups of citizens," Walker wrote in an e-mail to the Times.

"Avoiding times when people are counting birds for surveys, such as the Christmas bird count and the migratory bird count, is an excellent first step."

It was not clear Monday whether county officials think the latest plan will sufficiently protect the preserve. Bruce Rinker, director of Pinellas County's Environmental Lands Division, did not respond to requests from the Times for comment on Geiger's latest plan.

In an e-mail, Pressman told neighbors that his client "wants to do all that he can" to make them "as comfortable as possible.''

But in an interview last week, Pressman said there's no guarantee everyone will support the project with the changes.

"I can pave the roads in gold," he said, "and somebody would complain about the glare.''

Eileen Schulte can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or schulte@sptimes.com.

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