County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a proposed settlement agreement that allows the use of "Tampa Bay" in the rebranding of the local airport.
Now it's up to the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority to vote on the agreement, which would end monthslong litigation over naming rights.
Representatives of Hernando County and the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority signed a tentative agreement last week allowing the use of Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.
Hernando County officials hope the new regional moniker will better describe the airport's location in the Tampa Bay area and allow economic development staffers to better market the airport and adjacent industrial park.
The settlement comes with several stipulations, including one that makes sure Hernando County "has no intention of offering regularly scheduled passenger service in the future."
Commission Chairman Dave Russell told Hernando Today a major concern from Hillsborough County was that Hernando County would encroach on its passenger service.
Russell stressed that Hernando County is probably years away from providing passenger service so there was nothing to fear on that front.
"We will not give up future passenger service but what we did indicate is that we don't currently have that service," Russell said. "We don't have the infrastructure to provide that nor do we presently have plans to have passenger service."
The agreement also asks that a liaison from Hernando County and the HCAA be appointed to address potential confusion and partnership issues in the future.
The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority last year voted to spend up to $400,000 to fight the name change, saying in a lawsuit that it would be a "false designation of origin, false advertising, Florida common law trademark infringement and Florida trademark dilution."
Hernando County officials were adamant about rebranding the airport to take advantage of the "Tampa" name to attract out-of-state companies.
Russell said there was much posturing on both sides but a one-on-one discussion with the aviation chairman last week showed there were more benefits to working together.
For example, he said both agreed to support the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority's plan to create a seamless transit service from the Hernando County airport, south on the Suncoast Parkway, to Tampa International Airport.
That would allow air passengers to board a bus in Brooksville and leave their bags and suitcases on the bus when they reached TIA without having to go through an additional check-in process.
Passengers would pick up their luggage when they reach their final traveling destination.
Tampa International would benefit because it would recapture some of the business it is losing to the Orlando International Airport, Russell said.
In exchange, the Hillsborough Aviation Authority has agreed to funnel potential airport companies looking for airside property to Hernando County.
Being landlocked, TIA cannot always accommodate many of these airside businesses and there may be potential for them in Hernando County, Russell said.
The tax replaces the current system of charging permit fees to communications services providers who use or occupy roads or rights of way.
The tax is expected to generate some $400,000 for Hernando County, according to Budget Manager George Zoettlein.
The typical telephone user who pays $100 per month would likely see a 44-cent increase, Zoettlein said.
But Commissioner Rowden said most people's telephone bills are smaller than that and may see only about a dime increase.