September 3, 2005
Dedicated airport supporters, lead by AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Jack Tunstill, have helped negotiate away another threat to Albert Whitted Airport (SPG) in St. Petersburg, Florida.
A developer had planned a 29-story condominium beside the approach path to the airport. But the FAA determined that at that height the building would have been a hazard to air navigation. And that would have necessitated raising instrument approach minimums. (The FAA can't stop construction of a hazard; it can only change air traffic procedures to mitigate the problem.)
Tunstill and other airport supporters met with the city and the developer on several occasions, and at the conclusion of a meeting yesterday, the developer agreed to reduce the height of the building so that it would no longer be a hazard.
"I think this matter was handled in a very professional manner by all parties involved," said Tunstill. "The city was interested in pilots' evaluation of the impact of the building on airport operations. We believe that it's important to work with the city and developers to find ways to allow SPG to continue operations without impacting things like instrument approach or departure minimums or creating more visual distractions for VFR pilots." Tunstill also praised past work by airport supporters in helping secure an effective airport zoning ordinance.
"Because the FAA can't stop obstructions, it falls to local zoning ordinances and effective land-use planning to prevent construction of tall buildings and towers near an airport," said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airports. "That's why AOPA continues to lobby for such regulations in all states that don't already have them."
Jack Tunstill received AOPA's Sharples Award last year for spearheading the effort that rescued the airport from the brink of destruction and guaranteed the people of St. Petersburg much-needed green space by keeping the waterfront airport. (See " Anatomy of a victory - How local advocates and AOPA saved Albert Whitted Airport.")
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