Helipad headed for approval

The county staff favors Matt Geiger's plan if he avoids birds, late-night rides and other concerns.

By ELENA LESLEY, Times Staff Writer
Published September 25, 2007

TARPON SPRINGS - Former NBA player Matt Geiger can have his helipad as long as he agrees to avoid colliding with migratory birds, shuns late-night joyrides and adheres to a variety of conditions set by the county.

The Pinellas County staff issued a recommendation Monday for conditional approval of Geiger's proposed helicopter landing pad. Geiger wants to build the pad at his East Lake mansion, which is on the market for $20-million.

The recommendation will go before county commissioners Oct. 16 for a vote.

In addition to outlining the county's requirements, the recommendation took into account a number of concessions Geiger promised to neighbors.

"We talked to as many residents as we could," said Geiger's representative, Todd Pressman. "We incorporated all their feedback."

When news spread in July that Geiger wanted to build a helipad, neighbors were nervous. They had visions of helicopters crashing into nearby properties, stampeding ponies on area farms and propellers slashing migratory birds.

Such requests are rare in Pinellas County, said county development review services manager John Cueva. In 27 years, there have only been one or two others, he said.

Since the issue of Geiger's pad first arose, the county has received 19 letters and a petition with 288 signatures in opposition, the staff report said.

About 30 people turned out to debate the proposal during a July public meeting, Pressman said.

But after Geiger amended his plans, some of the opposition waned.

Only three people showed up at the subsequent planning and zoning examiner's hearing: two in opposition and one with concerns.

Geiger "went above and beyond" county requirements to accommodate residents, Cueva said.

In examining Geiger's application, the county staff went point by point through the land development code and determined the project met all criteria. Under county rules, Geiger must not disturb traffic flow, store fuel on the property or use the pad for any kind of commercial activity, along with other conditions, Cueva said.

At the request of residents, Geiger agreed to additional stipulations. He altered his flight plan and will fly only during the day. He also will avoid flying on the day before Christmas and a few days in May, to be determined by the Audubon Society, so as not to affect migratory birds, according to the recommendation.

Pressman said Geiger plans to use the helipad, even though he wants to sell the mansion.

With a second baby on the way, he plans to build a more child-friendly house for his family in Bison Creek Estates, a nearby gated community he is developing.

Elena Lesley can be reached at elesley@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4167.