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MacDill, Tampa to begin study of encroaching development

by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt staff writer

Area land developers have a tendency to develop land wherever there is demand, and with South Tampa being one of the booming sectors of the city, the undeveloped land around the northern end of MacDill is being eyed for new condos, apartments or single-family homes.

But if MacDill and city officials have their way, the only thing booming in this part of town will be the KC-135s overhead.

Last week Mayor Pam Iorio asked the Tampa City Council members to support a freeze on any zoning changes that would impact the density of housing or commercial development in the areas near MacDill that make up the Accident Potential Zone, which is the area of most concern in the event of a plane crash during take off or landing at MacDill. The City Council obliged.

The move by the mayor was "a big deal," said Tony Rodriquez, base community planner with the 6th Civil Engineer Squadron. He is working hand in hand with the city on a study to begin soon that will analyze development around the base. Expected to take about a year to complete, the study results will help guide the city and MacDill to minimize the danger to lives and property should a plane accident occur.

"We expect that upon completion of the JLUS study there will likely be long-term measures recommended to prevent encroachment near the base. We seek your approval to move forward with the writing of an ordinance for this temporary abatement and will bring it to you as quickly as possible," Mayor Iorio wrote.

Mr. Rodriguez said May 3 marks the kickoff of the study, even though Tampa officials have been gathering data for about a year in preparation for the study. Col. Margaret Woodward, 6th Air Mobility wing commander, is a member of the committee that will meet that date. The study costs are being divided between the city and the Air Force, with Tampa covering 25 percent and the remaining 75 percent picked up by the Air Force. The development areas to be studied have been designated Accident Prevention Zones 1 and 2 covering the runway approaches from the east and the Clear Zone, which is the area immediately around the Dale Mabry Gate.

Mr. Rodriguez is hopeful the study will provide a template for the future and help minimize development in areas of concern along the flight path of the KC-135, or future planes, that may regularly land and take off from MacDill. He said while normally the land close to a military runway is undesirable for living to anyone but perhaps former Air Force people or others used to the sound of jet engines passing overhead, there has been more interest in living just off base since quieter KC-135s replaced the F-16s that were based at MacDill in 1992.

"The quieter the air frame the more developers want to develop and believe they can market the area," said Mr. Rodriguez.

But so far MacDill has been fortunate in that with the exception of development up Bayshore Boulevard, where housing has been located well before MacDill was built, the area just south of the base has remained thinly developed. It is not the case at many other bases, which are dealing with potential disaster should there be a crash.

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