Broward County Commissioners on Tuesday reluctantly approved land-use plans for a marina and office complex to be built within 300 feet of runways at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Commissioners expressed concern about the proximity of the development to the airport, particularly in the wake of a plane crash last week in which a jet skidded off a runway at Chicago's Midway International Airport, into a street, killing a 6-year-old boy.
But the commissioners said they felt their hands were tied because they had no legal grounds to reject the project because it meets all of their land-development guidelines and has also been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.
A VOTE OF 6-2
The project was approved 6-2, with Mayor Ben Graber and Vice Mayor Josephus Eggelletion voting against allowing the development.
The FAA approval was based on the proposed runway protection zone, an area near the airport that the agency recommends be kept clear of development. Only a small part of the project is within that zone, commissioners learned.
Nearly 300 commercial airports, including Midway in Chicago, lack the 1,000-foot buffer at the end of runways that the federal government considers adequate for safety. Midway, built in 1923 and surrounded by houses and businesses, has long been considered a landing challenge for pilots. Construction was completed about a year ago on the 1,000-foot buffer zone at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood.
The marina project is located near Griffin Road and Interstate 95.
`IT'S NOT LOGICAL'
''Other government agencies that have authority for public safety signed off on it,'' said Commissioner Lois Wexler. ``It doesn't feel right, it's not logical. I'm struggling with this thing. If I was the FAA, I would have said no.''
Developer Bayard Spector plans a 13-story building with 419 condo-hotel units, 80 marina slips, and office and retail space.
Commissioners asked the developer's attorney, Debbie Orshefsky, to honor a pledge not to proceed with building plans until the county learns in January whether the property will be within the airport's runway protection zone, which will be redrawn after they approve plans for expanding the runway.
If the project falls within the zone, commissioners fear they will have to buy the land to make sure they have an adequate buffer zone.
The county may already be forced to buy a hotel just east of Interstate 95 near the airport to make way for the runway. And they would rather buy the land for the proposed marina and hotel before anything is built on it and it becomes even more expensive, said Commissioner Kristin Jacobs.
''We're probably going to need to purchase this property,'' Jacobs said. ``If we need to buy this property, we need to buy it as inexpensively as possible.''
Herald researcher Scott Hutchinson contributed to this report.
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