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Team assembled to assess land use around MacDill

by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt staff writer

The team is in place and in the coming weeks members of a 14-person panel will be surveying, taking notes and otherwise examining how the land along the MacDill perimeter is being used.

Made up of local residents and experts, the group was put together by the City of Tampa over the last two months to help develop a land-use plan that serves Tampa, its residents and MacDill. The panel was divided into subcommittees last week and will begin work very shortly, said Tony Rodriguez, base community planner with the 6th Civil Engineer Squadron and MacDill's point main in working with the city in its quest to determine how land adjacent to the base will be used in the future.

The primary purpose is to minimize safety risks to residents who live in the flight path of aircraft landing and taking off at MacDill. With so much of the area in those paths already populated, the real question now is "intensification" of the population, said Mr. Rodriguez.

"South Tampa is pretty well built out but what we are seeing now is a single-family home being sold and developers putting in four townhouses in its place," said Mr. Rodriguez. "That means instead of having one family (in a flight path) at risk, you have four."

That may or may not be acceptable, said Mr. Rodriguez but he notes the Air Force has an interest in reducing the risks to residents around its bases and more people in what is known as the Accident Potential Zone equates to more risk.

While the Bayshore area is densely populated and the focus likely will be on maintaining or stabilizing density there, MacDill's north border from Bayshore heading west remains sparsely populated. Just what developers may do with this land in the future will be determined by the results of the study.

Information gathering, which will include committee members "driving around and doing a lot of looking and note taking," will be carried out into October. Select members of the group will analyze emergency response issues including access in the event of an accident, as well as transportation and roads around the base. The info gathered will be turned over to a consulting company, which will analyze it and make recommendations to city planners, who in turn will advise the City Council.

Mr. Rodriguez said his primary job is to advise the city on Air Force and Department of Defense matters as it relates to base needs and issues. MacDill doesn't have a role in making policy decisions regarding use of surrounding lands but being a major player in the local community and a valued neighbor, the city has an interest in ensuring MacDill is not hampered by excessive safety concerns.

Money to conduct the land-use plan is provided through a joint grant, with 75 percent of the cost covered by the office of the secretary of defense and 25 percent being picked up by the city. The report and recommendations from the consulting company are expected about this time in 2006, when the one-year grant expires.

Rodriguez said population density around MacDill has become more of an issue since its conversion from an F-16 fighter base to home of quieter, KC-135 tankers, which are easier to tolerate around residential areas and have made development more attractive.

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