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Pasco finds compromise in airport moratorium details

The moratorium won’t affect Zephyrhills airport or several developments already on the books.
The West Pasco Government Center, at 8731 Citizens Dr in New Port Richey, houses the County Commission Chambers.
The West Pasco Government Center, at 8731 Citizens Dr in New Port Richey, houses the County Commission Chambers. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published May 20

NEW PORT RICHEY — Local pilots concerned that Pasco County hasn’t moved quickly enough to enact required rules to protect both aviators and those who live around airports have vocally supported a six-month moratorium on new development.

But when the proposed pause on new applications around airports came to the County Commission for review several weeks ago, commissioners passed. They spoke about turning the idea down and said they didn’t think problems with noise were enough to slow new applications.

This week, after local pilots and airport representatives met with county and development interests, commissioners passed a compromise version of the moratorium.

It exempts development around the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport, allows several development plans that are already approved to continue and fine-tunes other conditions. County officials said it will give Pasco development staff time to build new rules that will meet the state requirement for airport protection zones, which local aviators have pointed out were supposed to be in place by July 2017.

Zephyrhills Municipal Airport would be excluded from the county's moratorium.
Zephyrhills Municipal Airport would be excluded from the county's moratorium. [ City of Zephyrhills ]

One of the most vocal advocates for adopting the moratorium and creating zoning protections around airports has been Mark Twaalfhoven, owner of Pilot Country Airport in Central Pasco. He and his neighbors told commissioners that previously approved residential communities around the airport pose safety concerns. But this week he was happy to see that developers with plans near airports would be required to talk to airport officials about their plans.

“I’m glad to see Pasco finally addressing what has been in Florida statute for quite some time,” he said.

Spencer Brass, chairperson of the airport zoning committee that Pasco formed in response to another part of the state requirement, said he was happy that all the interested parties came to the table to reach common ground. “I appreciate everyone’s time,” he said.

Development attorney Barbara Wilhite said the compromise will follow state law, provide clear and easy-to-implement protections and be fair to nearby property owners.

Other moratorium changes include prohibiting any development inside specified runway protection zones and renaming the “noise abatement areas” to “airport protection zones.”

Special conditions inside those zones include notifying airports of any proposed development there and allowing an opportunity to comment. Also, there must be either a final determination letter from the Federal Aviation Administration that there is no hazard to air navigation or a mitigation plan for any development.

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It also requires a noise study for building residential and educational facilities and that future owners and renters be notified of the nearby airport and waive any future claims regarding airport operations.

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