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Clearwater to enter negotiations for airpark

Veronica Brezina



A rendering of the proposed reimagined Clearwater Airpark. Image provided by Paradise Ventures.

The City of Clearwater will enter negotiations with FlyUSA and Paradise Ventures on potentially becoming the new fixed-base operator of the Clearwater Airpark. 

During a Thursday city council meeting, the council unanimously voted to approve the selection committee’s recommendation to engage with the vying group while confronting issues and concerns from residents and pilots. 

The approval comes after the city garnered interest from multiple firms seeking to become the new FBO of the 47-acre facility. There was an offer from Clearwater Airpark Inc., which is connected to David King, the current operator, and one from FlyUSA and Paradise Ventures, the owners of the Sundial shopping complex in St. Petersburg

The airpark at 1000 N. Hercules Ave. currently houses Tampa Bay Flight School, Vertical Flight and Tampa Bay Aviation, maintenance and operation services, and aircraft from private owners. Over time with a tight budget, the 80-year-old facility has fallen into a state of disrepair, according to council members. 

King, who has operated the Clearwater Airpark for the past 22 years, said there are limited funding resources for needed improvement projects, creating a gap.

King said he still holds a vested interest in operations if the council desires to extend the lease for the due diligence process, or if he is ultimately selected to continue operating the airpark. The current lease expires at the end of November. 

The premise of the city’s RFP outlines how the city wants to “support aviation activity at a higher value, but less intense activities.” However, several public speakers voiced how FlyUSA and Paradise Ventures’ plans would reestablish the facility as a commercial airpark. 

One public speaker, a pilot, said that the group’s intent to replace the existing hangars with T-hangars, which are enclosed hangars, could displace current tenants, and new safety issues could take shape as larger planes would arrive and depart while new pilots from the flight school would also be in the skies. 

“My biggest concern is if you’re going to make this change, we owe it to the community to bring in an expert and get professional opinions about mixing small and large airplanes,” added King, the current operator. 

“The airpark has always been difficult,” Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard said. 

Additionally, citizens stated the noise has increased, as countless planes are seen flying over residential communities throughout the day. 

“It seems like what we have operationally now has gone out of hand,” councilmember Kathleen Beckman said during the meeting. 

She and other fellow councilmembers said the airpark, which was once thought of as a community and family-oriented destination, needs improvements, but balance is the key here – creating more economic stability while making upgrades, not displacing people, addressing neighborhoods’ concerns and most notably, ensuring the skies are safe for all operators.  

“This kind of reminded me of what we went through with the Bluff properties. You know, we had to make a decision on who we were going to pick, but we didn’t know the details of it, that came in the next phase of negotiations,” councilmember David Allbritton said, noting he would like to see the financial projections of the plans for the airpark.   

Hibbard said it may be due time to discuss how Penny for Pinellas dollars could be allocated toward improvements for the Clearwater Airpark. 

FlyUSA and Paradise Ventures will be meeting with the Florida Department of Transportation this week, along with other important parties and stakeholders regarding their plans and funding efforts, according to a representative of FlyUSA. 

The group is expected to go before the city next month regarding the lease. 

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1 Comment

1 Comment

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    Carol Jones Hexel

    September 19, 2022at4:51 pm

    My guess is this will benefit the Scientologists. Everything Clearwater does is to appease them. Our property costs go up to make up for there lack of taxes. Church cult status.

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