Last night the Pinellas County Commission held a workshop to discuss the rezoning that will allow the expansion of the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport. It didn’t exactly go as planned. Kim Farley reports:

The workshop began simply enough. A small room at the Holiday Inn Select on Ulmerton Road held tables with charts, maps, and graphs to explain the proposed rezoning. At each chart stood a person with whom a few people at a time could speak. Before too long, the room was filled to capacity with hardly any room to move and too loud to be easily understood. The County Commission clearly had not expected so many people to come.

Safety Harbor Mayor, Pam Corbino is against the plan. She fears what the effects of added flights would be and what it could do for the reputation of Pinellas. (SB 2: OQ, …Tampa Bay area)

Community members had concerns that include noise from the added flights, including cargo flights and more helicopters, and destruction of green space, notably Airco golf course.

Feathersound resident Randy Stiggleman is someone who is concerned about the noise from the helicopters, (SB 4: OQ …area at all)

Another resident of Feathersound and member of NOPE, Neighbors Opposed to Pinellas Excesses, pointed out what she sees as a contradiction in the plan of expanding the airport while destroying the golf course. (SB 8: OQ… to fly in).

County Commission John Moroni is also a resident of Feathersound, one of the neighborhoods that will be affected by the airport expansion. He explains why there was such a large turnout when previous meetings had hardly any people attend. (SB 3; OQ …in the past)

The chaos started when people began to should “What’s the plan John?� referring to Commissioner Maroni. He went to try and calm the crowd down and bring order. It didn’t quite work.

While a microphone was sent for, the residents took over the meeting. David Meade stood on a chair and spoke about what mattered to him. He said the benefit of an airport is a mystery to him. He also said that if the money were to come from federal dollars, notably from the FAA, congressional funds, or from the Florida Dept of Transportation, it wouldn’t be that the people of Pinellas wouldn’t pay for it because (SB 6; OQ …the first place).

When a microphone was found, Richard Gehring, a consultant hired by the county to sell the idea of the rezoning, tried to change the focus from the residents back to the organizers and experts. (something from #7) He evidently wasn’t too happy about the residents taking over the meeting. He went into an unprepared presentation about what the rezoning would entail.

The meeting ended with the decision that more discussion between residents and commissioners was needed.

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