Commissioner-Charles-Justice-web
Charles Justice
Pinellas County Commission Chairman

My topic this month is your neighbor. Yes, that neighbor. Big things are happening right now with St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, and I’m hoping to get your input.

The airport we often affectionately refer to by its code PIE and the Board of County Commissioners are preparing a comprehensive Airport Master Plan. The last master plan update for PIE was completed in 2004, and because of the numerous changes we’ve seen at the airport and in the aviation industry prompts, a new one is needed.

That’s where you come in. An important part of the process is to obtain input from key stakeholders, including the public at large and the surrounding community. One way you can do that is through www.piemasterplan.com. There you’ll find working documents, information about the Master Plan study and a link for public participation. Another way is by attending the next public information workshop set for Nov. 5 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park, 950 Lake Carillon Drive, St. Petersburg.

In an open house format, you’ll receive updates about the most recent sections of the Airport Master Plan study and be able to present your thoughts and ideas. The workshops are important for our community to understand the economic impact of PIE, the condition of the facilities, and future opportunities for the airport and economic growth in Pinellas County.

I can’t overstate the importance of PIE to our local economy. According to a 2017 study, the economic impact from runway dependent activity at PIE is an estimated $1.044 billion. Direct, indirect and induced impact from the airport is estimated to be generate 7,020 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs. Allegiant Air is PIE’s economic driver and the major reason why the airport has experienced double-digit growth for six consecutive years and surpassed two million passengers in 2017 for the first time. The airline has recently converted all of its PIE-based aircraft to an Airbus fleet.

Between Allegiant, Sun Country Airlines Sunwing Airlines, and newcomer Flair Airlines, PIE serves 59 domestic and international destinations nonstop.

PIE also boasts one of the largest general aviation operations in west-central Florida. Activities include flight training schools, an aircraft maintenance academy, the Army Reserve and the busiest U.S. Coast Guard Air Station in the world. The airport’s 2,000-acre property also includes the Airport Business Center, the Criminal Justice Complex, restaurants, a hotel and significant development opportunities on a 127-acre tract that is commonly known as the Airco property.

If you’ve been to PIE recently, you know that it has numerous capital improvement projects underway. The Terminal Renovation Phase 3 project is expected to be completed this fall. Other projects include a customs facility upgrade, new inline automated checked baggage inspection system to accommodate growth, and a security access control system. Parking and roadway projects are ongoing and several other projects will start soon, including runway and ramp improvements.

Ongoing noise abatement is important to the neighboring community, and PIE continues to work with the aviation community to reduce noise impacts with a voluntary quiet window from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. and noise-friendly flight paths. As part of the Airco property development, the airport has committed to a green buffer zone to separate development from Feather Sound.

I’m excited about the growth and the improvements we are seeing at PIE, but I’d like to know what you think. Please try to attend the upcoming workshop to express your views. And as always, if you have questions or comments, you can call my office at (727) 464-3363 or email me at cjustice@pinellascounty.org.