Questions about potential impacts from a proposed moratorium on development near airport land have prompted a delay by the Pasco County Commission, to give stakeholders more time to weigh in on the issue.
A continuance already had been planned, to push the matter back to April 5, but Commissioner Mike Moore called for additional time to study the issue.
“I am getting way too many questions from stakeholders. A lot of questions, a lot of concerns,” Moore told his colleagues.
“I think this needs to be pushed (back) at least another month to give time for the stakeholders to get involved, on both sides,” Moore said at the county board’s March 8 meeting.
The first reading of the proposed moratorium ordinance is now set for April 19 at 1:30 p.m., in New Port Richey, with a final vote scheduled for May 3 at 1:30 p.m., in Dade City.
Concerns about the proposed moratorium initially arose during the Pasco County Planning Commission’s March 3 meeting.
The objections surfaced after Denise Hernandez, the county’s zoning administrator, gave the planning board a presentation on the proposed six-month moratorium.
The moratorium would put a 180-day pause on most development proposals near Zephyrhills Municipal Airport, Pilot Country Airport, Tampa North Aero Park and Hidden Lake Airport.
Hernandez explained that county staff had been directed by the county board on Jan. 11 to do the necessary work to establish the temporary moratorium.
Then, on Feb. 8, the county board applied the pending ordinance doctrine to the airport zoning moratorium, which means that applications must be accepted and processed in their normal course, but applicants must be informed “they are going forward at their own risk and if the moratorium is adopted, their application may be put on hold for the duration of the moratorium.”
Hernandez also noted: “the moratorium ordinance may contain certain exceptions to the moratorium that would allow some applications to proceed, if certain requirements are met.”
The county also has retained a consultant to create noise contour studies around Tampa North Aero Park, Hidden Lake and Pilot Country.
Hernandez explained to the planning board that there is a 20,000-foot area around airports that is deemed to be the height obstruction area.
“Any application that comes in where something is going to be over 200 feet in height, in that area, it’s required by the state that you notify the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration),” she said.
Another part of the moratorium addresses potential applications that could be deemed to be incompatible with airport operations.
“We provide examples of what may be incompatible with airport operations,” Hernandez said.
“For example, residential uses, landfills, wildlife attractants, uses that will cause visual obstructions, such as dust, glare, light emissions, smoke, steam and/or fog.
“It doesn’t mean it’s prohibited,” she said.
It means that the county can use conditions to ensure that incompatible uses do not occur.
There’s also a noise abatement area.
“Typically, in a noise abatement area, state statute says you cannot have residential. It also says that you cannot have an educational facility unless the education facility is an airport school, that you are teaching flying,” Hernandez said.
Barbara Wilhite, a private land use attorney, who has represented clients with projects near airports, raised objections to language within the county’s proposed moratorium.
“I don’t have any issue with the Florida statutes. The Florida statutes require that you implement two types of regulations. One, you check height. And, the second one is you check land use compatibility, based upon noise generation of the airports.
“It’s two things. Pretty straight-forward,” Wilhite said.
But she objects to language in the proposed moratorium that says “uses may be conditioned, so as not to be incompatible with airport operations, such as landfills, wildlife attractants, uses that cause visual obstructions, such as glare, dust, light emissions, smoke, steam and fog.”
Wilhite urged the planning board to require more specific language and to reduce staff’s discretion.
As an applicant, Wilhite said, “You have to figure out, you and your engineers, how to comply with dealing with wildlife attractants, which is a circular that’s like six pages off the internet. You have to figure out what the heck that means.”
She urged the planning board to recommend a moratorium that focuses on the issues of noise and height, as it relates to development around airports.
“I think when we get into a real quagmire is when we go beyond that,” Wilhite said. “Make this more simple to implement. It’s very, very, very cumbersome.
“The way it is being done is not fair, is not reasonable, is not striking a balance that it should,” Wilhite added.
Jeremy Couch, a professional engineer who has handled projects near airports, told the planning board that the proposed moratorium is too broad and gives staff too much latitude.
Hernandez said there are letters of support for the proposed moratorium that have been submitted to the record.
Nectarios Pittos, the county’s director of planning and development, said the proposed moratorium still allows options for development.
Wilhite said she’s worried that the language in the temporary moratorium could be the precursor of the final ordinance, but David Goldstein, chief assistant county attorney, said it is not unusual for the language in a temporary moratorium to be broader in nature.
Published March 23, 2022
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