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Mickey's No-Fly Zone- Central- July 2003

When Walt Disney World decided it wanted a no-fly zone over its parks in Orlando and California -- ostensibly for security purposes in the wake of terrorist alerts -- it lobbied Congress, which ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to create the zone.

The FAA complied, prohibiting aircraft to fly lower than 3,000 feet within a three-mile radius of the center of Disney property. Disney now joins a handful of military sites with such restrictions, including nerve gas labs and nuclear submarine bases.

But the central Florida theme parks are near the edges of the restricted area, and the flight restriction would provide only a few seconds of protection from a hostile aircraft. Moreover, pilots can fly through the area if they are being routed to nearby Kissimmee Municipal Airport by air traffic controllers.

Critics question Disney's motives, pointing out that the company has been trying to get aerial advertisers away from its California properties for 40 years and away from Disney World for nearly 30. And they say Disney's method of lobbying a senator to insert a 65-word order into the 3,000-page, $400-billion national security bill that authorized the move violated Congress' own rules of engagement.

"Political maneuvering for corporate gain in the name of security undermines the efforts of the federal government to address legitimate security concerns and identifiable threats, raises unnecessary public concern and usurps the public asset of airspace over our country for private gain without the benefit of due process," says Doug Macnair, vice president of government relations at the Experimental Aircraft Association.

Even Disney has not cited security as a major concern since the restricted area was installed. Spokeswoman Marilyn Waters says the welfare of animals at Disney's Animal Kingdom was a primary concern. But the FAA had already been requesting pilots to fly above 2,000 feet around Animal Kingdom, and at the time the restrictions were put into place, the FAA was in the process of raising the limit to 3,000 feet.

With those requests now a formal restriction, pilots who violate the space face serious consequences, including license revocation. For student pilots, a violation essentially disqualifies them from future employment as a commercial pilot.

"Both Disney and the National Football League have been pushing for these flight restrictions for some time now," says Jimmy Stevenson, owner of Rosie O'Grady's Aerial Advertising in Orlando.

"It's not about terrorism; they've admitted that," Stevenson says. His banner-towing business made about half of its money from flying over Tampa Bay Buccaneers home games last season, he says -- money that will likely dry up if the current block of restrictions expands.


Altamonte Springs -- Emerson International announced a 70-acre residential project on the Butler Chain of Lakes, with 22 lakefront lots on Lake Tibit in a gated community of 71 upscale homes.

Haines City -- Technology Research Consultants of Huntsville, Ala., will open a gyroscope-production facility for military helicopters, employing 35 by the end of the year and up to 60 within three years.

Lake Mary -- AT&T Corp. planned to cut 194 information technology jobs by the end of June as part of a previously announced consolidation program.

Leesburg -- One day after a self-imposed moratorium on property rezonings expired, Lake County commissioners approved rezonings for seven tracts that could lead to 669 homes. Officials tabled the most controversial request, one by LPG Urban and Regional Planners to develop 226 homes south of Clermont.

Melbourne -- Harris Corp. (NYSE-HRS) has won a $22-million contract with Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control to produce control electronics for mobile rocket launchers for the Army. The contract is an extension to a series of contracts that have run for nearly 10 years.

Orlando -- Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide will shut down its hotel reservations center, laying off 93. The move will not affect the nearly 300 employed in Starwood's timeshare call center, also in Orlando.

CNL Hospitality Properties announced a $688-million deal to acquire RFS Hotel Investors of Memphis, Tenn., a purchase that would add 57 properties to its portfolio. The deal would cost CNL $383 million in cash. It will also assume $305 million in RFS debt.

Lockheed Martin landed a $53-million, five-year contract to integrate a long-range missile with the Navy's F/A-18 attack aircraft. The missile has been in the Air Force's inventory for more than a decade but is now being added to the Navy's arsenal. The design work for the program is done in Orlando, while production takes place in Troy, Ala.

SemperCare of Plano, Texas, is opening a 35-bed long-term care hospital on the campus of Florida Hospital. The facility is for patients who require hospital stays of more than 25 days or who cannot be taken off life-support systems. SemperCare will lease space from Florida Hospital and will buy some medical services from the hospital.

The parent company of Signature Flight Support, BBA Aviation, has signed a 10-year lease for nearly 45,000 square feet of space at the company's present location in the Signature Plaza building downtown. One interesting result of the deal is that Signature loses the right to have its name on the landmark building, where it has been located for a decade.

Former SurgiLight CEO Jui-Teng Lin was sentenced to five years and 10 months in federal prison for his role in a pump-and-dump scheme involving SurgiLight stock (OTCBB-SRGLE.OB).

Florida Mall is losing its Eddie Bauer store but gaining 10 specialty retailers. The Eddie Bauer closing is part of the chain's decision to shut 60 underperforming stores nationwide, with the south Orlando location the only closure in Florida. Four of the new specialty retailers are new to the market while two others have locations at Florida Mall's new upscale competitor, Mall at Millenia.

Osceola -- Sun Media of Toronto has sold the Osceola News-Gazette, Osceola Shopper and South Orange News to Independent Newspapers of Bryn Mawr, Pa., as part of a larger transaction. Terms of the deal were not released.

The U.S. Specialty Sports Association will relocate its national headquarters from Virginia to Osceola County, landing in leased space in Celebration while it builds a facility at the Osceola County Stadium. USSSA coordinates amateur sporting events such as slow-pitch softball, basketball, flag football and golf and claims more than 2 million participants annually.

Port Orange -- Publix Supermarkets has expanded its distribution agreement with Christopher Bean Coffee Co., selling the Port Orange-based company's products in all 750 of its stores now.

Sanford -- Universal Luxury Coaches will buy 20 luxury motor homes from Featherlite of Iowa in the next year to add to its fleet of rental recreational vehicles. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Tavares -- City officials annexed and rezoned two tracts of land that could add more than 1,100 dwellings, despite objections from school officials that the developments would further burden overcrowded schools. A 352-acre tract was rezoned for 999 units, of which no more than 400 could be apartments. Another 40-acre tract was approved for 122 units. No development is scheduled for either site.


DELAND -- Stetson University has opened the Lynn Business Center, a rehabbed bank building that's the first in the state to be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. Designed by SchenkelShultz Architecture and TLC Engineering for Architecture, the building features a number of environmentally sensitive design components and building systems. In addition, about 80% of the material taken out of the building when it was gutted was recycled. The building is the home of the university's School of Business Administration. Project cost was $12.6 million.