Lakewood Ranch Herald

Bid for Helistop at The Concession heads for county vote

EAST MANATEE -- A helistop is being considered for The Concession Golf Club, but residents in Panther Ridge, an equestrian community, remain adamant in their opposition.

The plan goes before Manatee County planning commissioners Thursday, with a recommendation for approval by county staff. And Panther Ridge residents plan to attend the meeting in force to let their feelings be known.

Cindy and Ronnie Bray, residents of the Foxwood neighborhood in Panther Ridge, say the helistop would be located only about 900 feet from their community.

This week, the Brays rode their bicycles through their community, handing out flyers informing neighbors of next week's meeting.

There are no other heliports in residential communities in Manatee County. Helicopters are currently allowed to fly in and out of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, Manatee Memorial Hospital, Blake Medical Center and the Manatee County Public Safety Center.

The Brays would like to see the helistop request turned down, or at least for Panther Ridge to be declared a no-fly zone so that helicopters "don't spook our horses."

Owners of The Concession Golf Club, east of Lakewood Ranch between State Road 70 and University Parkway, submitted plans for the helistop to Manatee County in March 2015. In October, The Concession's owners amended their application by adding a noise study.

Keane Acoustics visited The Concession on Sept. 1 and measured the sound of a helicopter flown east

from SRQ.

Keane Acoustic's study concluded that passing fixed-wing aircraft, lawn mowers and delivery trucks made more noise than the helicopter.

Cindy Bray disagrees.

"The windows rattled when they did their noise study," Bray said Friday.

A helistop is any designated landing area, but without parking, waiting room, fueling or maintenance equipment, according to the Manatee County Land Development Code.

The helistop would be for the occasional use of one of The Concession Golf Club's members, and would be limited to two daylight landings per month, according to the application.

"We moved here about two years ago from Minnesota to find land close enough to town that we were not too far out. Now, we are in the thick of things," said Letitia Zilar, an LPGA pro living in the Panther Ridge.

"Trump National in New York does not even have a helipad. They have to drive a few miles from the airport. So, even Donald Trump can't fly into his own golf course, and that course has far more rounds and wealth than The Concession Golf Club. Why can't they just fly to the airport and Uber it?" Zilar said. "Also, we have two horses and love the birds and animals in the area. All this would be changed."

Concerns raised by county staff include residential development planned west and northwest of the proposed helistop, including Lakewood National Golf and Country Club and Bridgewater East with 1,999 residential units, and Del Webb with 1,399 residential units.

County staff recommend approval of the helistop with the stipulation that flights be limited to two daylight landings per month, averaging 24 a year.

The helistop request is item No. 9 on the planning commission's meeting that starts at 9 a.m. in the first floor chambers of the Manatee County Government Administration Building, 1112 Manatee Ave. W.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.