Sunday, October 9, 2016

Commentary: Don’t allow taller high-rise in East Naples

By David MacGregor, Naples, President, Experimental Aircraft Association 1067 

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) is a worldwide community of aviation enthusiasts for recreational flying and an advocate of safe aviation practices.

EAA 1067, Naples Chapter, is headquartered at the Naples Municipal Airport. One of the things the EAA is most famous for is the Young Eagles program, during which EAA pilots and supporters provide free airplane rides to youngsters from 8 to 17 years of age. The program introduces them to aviation as a possible career.

Our concern is the recent proposal presented to the members of the Collier County Commission for development of the Gateway Triangle, a 5-acre parcel near the intersection of Davis Boulevard and U.S. 41 in East Naples.

The developers, Real Estate Partners International, proposed to purchase the property for $6.4 million and to build an 11-story hotel with a rooftop restaurant and an 18-story condo high-rise, along with a mix of restaurants, a movie theater and retail spaces.

The towers envisioned would be 160 feet, which raises a major safety concern for pilots taking off or approaching Naples Municipal Airport on runway 23/05. That runway goes northeast to southwest with a flight path over the Gateway Triangle property.

Fortunately, a zoning variance is necessary to construct buildings of that height, as the current zoning maximum height for that property is 112 feet (allowing a nine-story building) as set by the county commissioners.

To obtain a zoning variance, the parties need to prove a hardship. The courts have yet to rule that making less of a profit results in a hardship.

Besides being zoned for a height of 112 feet, common-sense safety would speak against putting tall buildings in the flight path of aircraft.

For the safety of our pilots, visiting pilots and the public, we believe that the proposed Triangle development should adhere to the current 112 feet height zoning allowed for the property.

If developers in the Triangle area apply for a variance, it should be denied by county commissioners.

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