Helipad sought for mansion
Retired NBA player Matt Geiger expects the pad to improve the home's sales appeal.
By EILEEN SCHULTE
Published July 4, 2007
EAST LAKE – Some people go to great lengths to sell their homes.
They apply a fresh coat of paint.
They trim the bushes.
They caulk the tub.
Matt Geiger is going a step further, a big step: He wants to put in a helicopter landing pad.
The former NBA player is asking Pinellas County to allow him to build a helipad, allowing whoever buys his North Pinellas estate, priced at nearly $20-million, to hop in their whirlybird and fly over that pesky Tampa Bay area traffic to get to their destination more quickly than the rest of us.
"If you have to get downtown, it's going to be much easier if you have a helicopter, " said Geiger's Realtor, Toni Everett, who said she encouraged him to build it.
Geiger, 37, already has a hangar for a chopper, but has "been using it for something else, " she said.
Geiger could not be reached for comment.
If approved, the new amenity could be the only residential helicopter pad in Pinellas County.
"In my 27 years here, this is only the third request I've seen, " said John Cueva, county development review services manager. "The other two were denied."
But it's not completely unprecedented. In the early 1980s, actor Burt Reynolds bought a condominium in Indian Shores and sought permission for a helipad on the roof so he could land his Jet Bell Ranger helicopter.
In 1983, the town of Indian Shores and the state Department of Transportation okayed Reynolds' request over neighbors' protests.
In other cases, Cueva said, previous applications have been rejected because neighbors feared a helicopter would make a lot of noise, stir up debris and leak gas into the environment.
Cueva said he knows of no private residential helicopter pads in Pinellas County.
"Hospitals have them, " he said.
So far, Cueva said the county has not received any complaints about the project, but it's still early in the process.
Geiger's application to the county said the use of the helipad would be "very limited" and proposes a condition limiting the number of trips to six per week.
Residents who live near Geiger's 36-acre compound on the northwest corner of Keystone Road and Old Keystone Road can express their views at public hearings on July 12 and Oct. 16.
Josephine Robinson, who lives near Geiger on Keystone Road, said she, her husband and a handful of neighbors oppose the project.
She fears a helicopter could have a problem and drop from the sky into one of their houses.
"We're concerned about the safety factor, " she said, adding that her husband and son-in-law plan to attend the hearings.
Among the issues officials may discuss is the location of Geiger's property, and whether an accidental fuel spill could jeopardize the environment or underground supplies of freshwater.
The 7-foot-1 Geiger formerly played for the NBA's Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets and Philadelphia 76ers.
His 28, 000-square-foot house was completed in 2003.
A new father with another baby on the way, Geiger is selling the home because he does not consider it child-friendly. He plans to move to Bison Creek Estates, a nearby gated community he is developing.
Everett said she has shown the house, which boasts several bars, a DJ station and dance floor, hot tubs, a pizza oven and a cigar room, to three qualified potential buyers.
You "have to be worth $50-million minimum" to be able to purchase such an estate, she said.
Although rumors have circulated for years that Geiger was building a home for actor Tom Cruise, a Scientologist and occasional visitor to Pinellas County, Everett said no celebrities have looked at the property yet.
"I wish they would, " she said.
As for the well-heeled people who have toured it, "they think it's fabulous, " said Everett.
None own helicopters, she said, but one potential buyer is thinking about getting one.
Times researchers Angie Drobnic Holan and Mary Mellstrom contributed to this report.