Regional Corridor Update

Tallahassee Business Journal  May-June 2008


Regional Corridor Update

Compiled by Jason Dehart

SPOTLIGHT Federal Judges Lift Airport Stay

A panel of federal appellate judges in New York City has decided to let construction proceed, but an environmental watchdog group says a lawsuit pertaining to the Panama City-Bay County International Airport isn’t over yet.

“They lifted the stay, but it’s not over until there is a final ruling,” says Julia Bovey, spokeswoman for the National Resources Defense Council, which sought to stop construction on a 4,000-acre tract of land near the 40,000-acre West Bay Preservation Area.

The powerful environmental action group filed suit against the Federal Aviation Administration in November 2006 after the FAA decided two months earlier that it was ready to begin construction of the new airport. It is this FAA Record of Decision, or ROD, that the council is challenging.

Fearing irreparable harm to the environment and hoping to put a stop to the work until the appeals court could make a final ruling, the council asked for and was granted a stay on Nov. 30, 2007. The court’s decision was modified a short time later to allow some limited work on the site and was lifted completely following a Jan. 23 hearing.

Bovey says the court didn’t specifically explain why it lifted the stay, but Panama City-Bay County International Airport Executive Director Randy Curtis says the court simply saw the merits of the FAA’s case.

However, as of press time the National Resources Defense Council’s original lawsuit had not been resolved.

“It’s not over until the actual arguments are made and there is a ruling from the court,” Bovey says. “We have to remain hopeful because we care so much about this area and what it means not only to the people who live there but for all America to have one last unspoiled estuary. It’s very, very valuable.”

Meanwhile, Curtis says the lifting of the stay was a positive development for supporters of the new airport.

“Based on the order that came out (of the Jan. 23 hearing), it’s pretty evident the court is going to rule in our favor,” he says.

The latest developments happened in February, when a federal judge in Jacksonville handed down another ruling. Opponents of the new airport had sought to suspend a special permit needed by the Army. But U.S. District Court Judge Timothy J. Corrigan denied the request, allowing unrestricted construction to proceed.

“This court decision is the most significant yet,” says Peter S. Rummell, chairman and CEO of St. Joe Company, which donated the 4,000-acre site. “The opportunities for opponents to stop construction are rapidly dwindling.”

Destin Commons Offers Free Wireless

Break out the laptop! Destin Commons, located at Mid-Bay Bridge Road and U.S. Highway 98, recently announced that all retail and restaurant outlets and offices will feature free wireless technology. … Zampieri’s Harbor Grille in Destin Harbor recently was honored with a Golden Spoon Award, which is presented annually by Florida Trend magazine.

Kids Get a Safe Haven

Children in Crisis has a new home for abused and neglected kids. The charitable, nonprofit organization opened Children’s Neighborhood on Hurlburt Field in January.

The Neighborhood is a safe haven for kids in the community who have been abandoned or neglected, according to Ken Hair, executive director of Children in Crisis. It has been a long-anticipated opening, he says.

“We are very excited to see the first steps of our vision become a reality,” Hair says. “Our founders, board members, staff, volunteers, donors and supporters have worked very hard to open the emergency shelter and the first of many foster homes.”

Green Home Earns Award

The American Institute of Architects recently recognized a courtyard home in Alys Beach, a New Urbanism development on County Highway 30A, with the Chicago Design Excellence Award for Environmental Sustainability. The home was designed by Farr Associates of Chicago.

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