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He sells cars, but wants his own helipad
Some of Ernie Haire's neighbors are worried that a helicopter will disrupt the rural feel.
By RODNEY THRASH, Times Staff Writer
Published October 19, 2007
Ernie Haire does not live at the house, but he says he retreats there some weekends.
KEYSTONE - His mother lives on 100 acres in Ocala.
He owns a condo and business in West Palm Beach.
He plays golf at Black Diamond in Lecanto.
For Ernie Haire - a man who has built his fortune selling cars - getting to those places by automobile just won't do.
The Tampa car dealer wants to add a helistop at his home in this Tampa suburb, which has fought to protect its rural feel. But first, he needs Hillsborough County's permission.
"It's a helistop which is limited to stop and go," Haire said. "Not refueling, maintenance, mechanical service issues. Just take off and land on occasion."
Haire does not live at the house, but 13 miles up the road in exclusive Avila. Hillsborough property records list his mother, Mary, and Haire Properties LLP owning the Keystone home at 17909 Crawley Road. "It's a place I retreat for the weekends," Haire said. "Not every weekend."
His petition was to go before the county's land use hearing officer today, but Haire was granted a continuance until Nov. 16.
Some homeowners aren't thrilled to see their neighborhood turn into a mini airport. William and Virginia Klein live five doors down from Haire. In an e-mail to Tom Hiznay, the county's senior planner, the couple wrote: "Helicopters are completely unsuitable for the lake environment because of the noise pollution, especially the effects on the wildlife, and because of the potential danger they create in landing and taking off."
If history is any indicator, Haire might have an uphill battle. On Tuesday, Pinellas County shot down former NBA player Matt Geiger's request to build a helipad to help him sell his 36-acre East Lake estate.
Hillsborough County has not issued its recommendation in Haire's case, but Hiznay said he has some concerns. Helistops must be at least 500 feet away from the nearest home. "There are four to five residences within 500 feet," he said. "We are concerned about the possible adverse impact on those homes."
To mitigate that impact, Haire said he will work with the county and Lake Keystone homeowners on a compromise. For example, he said he will limit use of the helistop to certain hours. "We intend to get their support," Haire said.
There's also confusion over who should issue Haire the necessary permit: the county or the Tampa Port Authority. In another e-mail to Hiznay, the president of the Lake Keystone Property Owners Association said it's the latter. "Lake Keystone in Hillsborough County is managed by the Tampa Port Authority, and has been since 1942," James Swain said.
True, but "the authority does not have enough information to be able to tell if they have jurisdiction over this," Hiznay said in a telephone interview. He said the authority has requested additional information to clarify its role.
So far at least one excited neighbor has asked Haire for a ride in the helicopter. Dr. Alan Felker, who has lived on Crawley Road for 14 years and known Haire for 10, said a landing pad won't diminish his quality of life "any more than someone racing down the road on their Harley Davidson." Felker added that he drives "an Ernie Haire Ford F150" on which he got a great deal.
When and if Felker goes on that helicopter ride, Haire said he won't do the flying.