2007 Tax Roll doesn't reflect falling prices

Commissioner George Gainer claims that the new tax rolls don’t reflect the price correction this market has experienced stating that valuations and assessments are still too high. He plans to challenge this in the September 4th commission meeting, although it is uncertain whether he has the authority. Bay County Property Appraiser, Wayne Spitzer encouraged this as he believes that the appraisals were high. The current millage rate was recently lowered from 4.1620 to 3.7915, but Gainer wants to take a closer look at the actual assessments.

The Bay County TDC cut Spring Break Marketing Budget

In a meeting Tuesday the 28th, the Bay County Tourist Development Council slashed the spring break budget in half, from $300,000 to $150,000. In addition they approved a $112,500 budget for a market research study to determine who best to market to instead of college spring breakers. Among other things, a new two year contract with YPartnership in Orlando was approved with an increase in their monthly retainer form $9,500 to $12,500. YPartnership has recomended a partnership with MTV to produce the “college spring break” period. In the past, the 3 to 5 week period of spring break received over a third of the entire marketing budget, but generated only 10% of the annual bed tax collections.

This is all in an effort to get a more family-oriented demographic to our area during peak vacation seasons and ultimately to help change the image of Panama City Beach to that of a more family friendly area and shift away from the images of kids drinking and partying on our beaches.

County Road 388

In January, it was reported that Bay County and FDOT agreed to swap County Road 388 for some local state-owned roads that were more “local” for Bay County with regards to maintenance and upkeep. Bay County was to have its chance to relinquish its responsibility to re-surface the badly worn 388. Now it is being reported that the deal is off the table, with the County bearing the responsibility. Confused, but oh well.

For those of you that don’t know, 388 is a sad description of a road. It has been a couple of years since I’ve driven it and mostly because I fear my little car being literally tossed off the road by the heavy grooving or one of hundreds of potholes.

Those that travel the road daily know that it is just flat out unsafe. The condition is terrible (an understatement) and needs to be dealt with. Commissioner Gainer contends that 388 will be the main artery for the new airport traffic and responsibility for resurfacing should fall on the parties involved in the relocation. However, the resurfacing of 388 has been put off for too long. This road was badly in need of repair several years ago, and its condition has been allowed to get worse.

The bottom line is that regardless of what the road will be used for, County Road, County Responsibility.

Panama City Bay County Airport Relocation in the News

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that the Atlanta Journal Constitution covered a story on the Panama City Bay County Airport relocation. With Atlanta being the largest feeder market for our area, a new airport means the possibility of cheaper fairs and more frequent flights to the beached commonly termed “Atlanta’s Beaches”. (read more)

Realtors, what’s the buzz out there? The 404 permit was announced to have been received on Thursday the 16th of this month and a buddy of mine got a call the very next day from someone that he had been working with in the past that said he heard about the final permit for the airport being issued and is ready to make a move towards purchasing here. I’ve heard at least one other story like this, has anyone else had similar experiences?

Some of the rumors that I’m hearing is that FedEx will be using the new Bay County Airport as a shipping hub and that between that, the staffing at the Bay County Airport and Pier Park, our area will have over 8,000 new jobs. I’ve also heard rumors that Southwest is indeed coming this way and that they are in negotiations with AirTran and JetBlue, to other low cost carriers.

WestBay Florida Blog – Airport Construction "Fraud"?

What is Mitigation

When local environmentalist talk seriously about the airport relocation project and the creation of the West Bay Preservation Area, you hear the term “mitigation land” thrown around. But what is mitigation? If you understand what it means, it helps you understand the environmental value of the West Bay Sector Plan (and by extension, airport relocation). Here’s a brief (and non-expert’s) explanation. . .” (read entire article)

“Fraud” is a Serious Allegation

“A week ago a News Herald headline boldly proclaimed that KBR, the company hired to provide oversight for the construction of the new airport, “has a history of fraud.” But the story didn’t support the headline or charge. The lead in the story refers to “allegations of overbilling and fraud” – but no proof was presented. Perhaps the reporter is saving the proof for presentation to a grand jury. Because when you say a company has “a history of fraud,” you’d better have something more than “allegations.” (read entire post)

An Avalanche of Local Experts

Yesterday a friend told me he was amazed by the sheer number of aviation experts we have in Bay County. We must have more per capita than any other county in the country. Every few days another person writes a letter or a longer piece in the News Herald expressing doubts about the new airport. Strange, though, how they all seem to be working off the same set of discredited arguments and talking points. . .” (read entire post)

Safety First

“Is our airport unsafe? No, it is not unsafe. Is our airport as safe as it could be and should be? No, it is not as safe as it could or should be. Is it possible to have an honest discussion about how to make our airport as safe as it could be? If recent events are any indication, probably not. A week or more ago, a member of the Airport Authority raised the “safety issue” at our existing airport – and the danger of taking off and landing on short runways – by raising the example of the recent crash in Brazil. . .” (read entire post)

St. Joe buys Shark's Tooth Golf Course in Wild Heron

There certainly has been a lot of buzz about the acquisition of Shark’s Tooth Golf Course in Wild Heron by St. Joe in the last couple of months. Every since Playground left in January, I’ve been hearing rumors of this very thing taking place. St. Joe closed on Thursday paying $30 million with the acquisition including Shark’s Tooth Golf Course, a 10 acre practice facility, a 21,000 square foot clubhouse, a huge cart storage facility, a 4,000 square foot pro shop, four lighted HydroCourt Har-Tru tennis courts and the private 100′ waterfront beach club property.

Click here for the entire press release.

404 Permit issued for Airport Relocation

This is what we’ve all been waiting for, this is what many have claimed will be the beginning of the end of all their problems. The final federal permit needed for the Panama City Airport Relocation, the 404 Permit, was received as announced today by the Bay County International Airport and Industrial District (Airport Authority).


“In issuing the Section 404 permit, the USACE concurred with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (FDEP) analysis.  In its analysis, FDEP cited a number of net ecosystem benefits that will result from the project, including:

  •  The conservation and permanent protection of significant contiguous portions of the West Bay region, including bay shoreline, wetlands, streams, uplands and the overall watershed;
  • A wetlands function lift significantly in excess of that needed to compensate for functional losses (impacts);
  •  A mitigation plan that significantly exceeds both state and federal requirements for all possible current and future impacts; and
  • An effort to restore a large contiguous tract of uplands and wetlands to approximate historical conditions more suitable for dependent species native to the area. . .

The Airport Authority is nearing completion of a ten-year process to relocate the Panama City – Bay County airport.  In the late 1980s, the Airport Authority began an effort to address significant deficiencies at the existing airport, including non-standard runway safety areas.  When local environmentalists and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection objected to extending the existing runway system into Goose Bayou, a particularly environmentally sensitive part of St. Andrews Bay, the Airport Authority began considering relocating the airport.

After completion of a feasibility study in 2000 and a site selection study in 2001, the Airport Authority identified a new site for the airport in northwestern Bay County (West Bay) on land owned by The St. Joe Company.

Following the FAA’s selection of the site, the Airport Authority partnered with the State of Florida, Bay County and St. Joe in an innovative planning process authorized by Florida law known as “optional sector planning.”  The process included numerous public meetings, data gathering, analysis and visioning for the future.   The plan was approved by Bay County and the State of Florida in 2002 and detailed specific area plans were also approved in 2003.

The sector plan incorporates approximately 78,000 acres and of particular significance is that the boundary of the plan includes an entire bay system (West Bay) thereby allowing unprecedented planning to protect an entire watershed.  The purpose of the plan was to ensure that appropriate land uses were placed near the airport and that appropriate environmental protection measures were built into the plan.  The plan is conceptual and guides future development and conservation. . .”

Read the entire press release here.

Mobile Homes in Laguna Beach

An issue growing warmer every day is the ever decaying presence of mobile homes in Laguna Beach. The half sized lots from blocks 2 and up have been attractive for mobile homes for years, even decades and many of the residents want that to change. I will be the first to agree that not all residents of mobile homes are trash, contrary to what many believe, however, they do have a tendency to attract those of a certain socioeconomic status that often participate in illegal activities and lack the financial capabilities for proper and regular maintenance and upkeep.

With that said, actually, the typical resident in this particular situation, I believe, is a renter, with the owner/landlord actually holding the responsibility to keep these “homes” in good order. A new ordinance proposed by Bay County Commissioners will require newly arrived mobile homes to look more permanent, covering the wheels and axles and kept up to code. In addition, local code enforcement needs to visit the area more frequently.

Personally, I think Laguna Beach is a very charming area, but I think many owners have let their properties become dilapidated over the years in an attempt to minimize cost. I can respect not wanting to spend money, but I think the owners should be expected to keep their properties up.