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Island residents discuss proposed rezoning for Woodstock Airport

By Staff | Jul 5, 2017

Lee County Mosquito Control District officials met with residents last Tuesday evening at Fire House #1 to discuss rezoning the Wood-stock Airport from “Agricultural” to “Community Facilities” zoning. The zoning change is necessary to allow Mosquito Control helicopters to use the airport.

The LCMCD has a purchase contract with the owners of the 35-acre property for $1.5 million and the meeting Tuesday night was a preliminary session to present the zoning change to local residents. The airport would serve as an ancillary facility to support operations on Pine Island and surrounding areas, including western Cape Coral.

“Community Facilities” zoning is something Lee County uses for most public buildings such as libraries and fire stations.

Currently the Mosquito Control helicopters that service Pine Island and the surrounding areas use Buckingham Field in Fort Myers as a base of operations.

“The reason we’d like to purchase Woodstock Airport is because 70 percent of the area we service is Pine Island and surrounding land,” Wayne Gale, director of Lee County Mosquito Control District, said. “None of our existing facilities outside Buckingham are able to permanently station a helicopter, so we spend a great deal of time ferrying helicopters back and forth from Buckingham and Pine Island. The time and fuel all add up and over the long term this will be a cost savings.”

Ken Gallander, an architect for Morris-Depew Associates Inc., the firm working with Mosquito Control on the project, detailed how the airport would be used.

“This is not going to be a commercial airport but used only for Mosquito Control,” Gallander said. “We will also make this site available to Lee County Sheriff’s Department for emergency flights.”

Gallander stated that all helicopter take-offs and landings will be done at the eastern end of the airport as far away as possible from homes located close to the airport.

“When taking off, the helicopters will head east out over the mangroves and when landing approach from the east.” Gallander said.

LCMCD plans to use the current access road, Woodstock Road, to enter and exit the airport. Several residents that live near the airport were present to voice their concerns.

Dave Grueser, a Woodstock Road resident, said he is concerned about the access road.

“It’s been in terrible shape for many years and I’m concerned that the trucks and other equipment will make the road even worse than it is,” Grueser said.

“We will do what we do at our other facility,” Gale said. “While we’re not going to pave the road we will help maintain the road. We want to be good neighbors, just like at Buckingham Airport.”

Resident Will Peratino said he is concerned about the disruption in the neighborhood.

“We spent 2 1/2 years looking for a property and found one on a dead end road with nothing behind us,” Peratino said. “The community would like to see what your real plans are, as well as the cost analysis to see if this is cost effective.”

“I have a pool in my backyard and I don’t want a helicopter flying over my pool every day,” Jamie Saunders said.

Hearings have not been scheduled. The process begins with the review of the application by the county staff and preparation of a staff report. This is followed by a hearing before the Lee County Hearing Examiner and then the Board of County Commissioners.

“There will be plenty of notice of the hearings with a letter mailed to every property owner within 500 feet of the airport property. There will also be signs posted on the property,” Gale said.

LCMCD plans to base two helicopters at the Woodstock Airport location and hours of operation are scheduled to be between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m.

LCMCD will have 4 employees working on the property – one pilot, one office worker and two others. The airport would be used for fueling as well as loading and mixing chemicals.

Woodstock Airport is located about 1 mile south of The Center at 4370 Woodstock Road, St. James City.