New Library Ahead of Schedule

img_0158Panama City Beach has been itching to get into its new, state of the art library and the wait may be shorter than expected.

If you’ve ventured down Hutchison Blvd. you’ve noticed that in a short period of time, the entire frame of the building is erect, giving gawkers the full scope of what the new facility will look like. And that’s not all. Already the plumbing and sewage are in place and the groundwork for the electrical is ready as well.

Groundbreaking on the new library was in April with a completion date set tentatively for February 2010. At this pace, however, that date could be moved up. In fact, Charles Lewis, Director of Construction Operations at the Construct Two Group called that tentative date “more than enough time.”

On Tuesday plans to set the walls are in place. After speaking with an onsite worker, I learned that the once the walls are up the process will accelerate making the date even sooner still. For those who are excited about the new library, you can start practicing your library card picture poses.

City Continues Steps in the Green Direction

If you had not known already, back in March the City of Panama City started a cooking oil recycling program as a part of its Green Initiative.

Basically, the programs works like this: anyone can stop by one of 9 Green Recycling Stations, look for the hard-to-miss neon green shelves, pick up an empty container from the top shelf and fill it with your used “Plant Based Cooking Oil”. All you have to do then is just bring the container back with your used oil and place it on the bottom shelf. You may also bring your used oil in the original container. The oil is collected by the city, which is then converted into Bio-Diesel Fuel and used in city vehicles reducing the city’s expense for diesel fuel. Already, Panama City has produced hundreds of gallons of bio-diesel fuel. This program benefits everyone by providing an easy way to dispose of used oil while keeping cooking oil out of sewer systems. And the bio-diesel fuel is much better for the environment as it significantly reduces engine exhaust emissions.

After seeing this program in action, my immediate reaction was, “what is the beach doing to conserve energy and move in the green direction?”

As of today, Panama City Beach has but two recycling drop off sites for the entire city; one at Pete Edwards field and another on the West End on San Vincent Street, both of which are surprisingly secluded. Such was the case with Panama City, although they have more recycle stations, but local businesses helped out, allowing the city to use their space for pickup and drop offs.

With as many restaurants as there are on Panama City Beach, having a system like this could greatly benefit the city. In fact, as city budget talks continue, having a bio-diesel fuel program could reduce some expenses at little cost.

If Panama City Beach increases the number of recycle drop offs, say by two, put them in less obscure places and provide incentives like a cooking oil recycling program, people would be more inclined to participate. I know I would.

Panama City Beach can become a much greener place, all that’s needed is a little initiative.

If you are interested in taking your used cooking oil, Panama City dropoff/pickup locations are:

Behind the Old Bay County Library next to City Hall.
Texaco Station Jenks & 23rd St Intersection
Texaco Station Harrison Ave & Hwy 231 Intersection
Texaco Station at the Curve on Thomas Dr. PC Beach
Texaco Station at 1138 Beck Ave in St. Andrews
College Texaco Station on 15th St near G.C.C.C
Bay County Health Department on 11th Street
Rege Helletts Auto Body 2014 W.23rd St
Panama Generator & Alternator on 11th St

City Budget Talks Looming

Panama City Beach officials will meet at city hall for a workshop aimed at framing the budget for 2010. While these are somewhat preliminary workshops, it is apparent that hard economic times, which have disturbed budgets everywhere, will muddle Panama City Beach’s budget as well.

As it stands, draft projections for the 2010 city budget forecast recreation expenditures to increase from $2,563,803 to $3,509,428, nearly $1 million. The new library, which broke ground back in April, will cause library expenditures to increase from $889,010 to $1,675,950. On top of that, law enforcement expenditures will increase from $5,301,011 to $5,888,759 more than $500,000. But the plus side to that is police officers will finally get the upgrade in patrol cars which were delayed last year. And as the economy continues to turn around as well as the completion of the new airport, Panama City Beach tourism should see a significant increase amplifying the need for well-equipped officers.

The city’s contingency fund, by the end of the 2010 fiscal year will take an estimated $2.2 million dip.

These continuing workshops should help city officials stamp out what will be a tough budget to manage.

Plan To Fish Off the Shore? Bring Your Wallet.

Last Summer, my family and friends decided to enjoy an in-city-vacation and camped out at St. Andrews State Park. The plan was simple, get a nice quiet spot while the post-spring-break-pre-summer-limbo-season kept the beaches empty, hit the shore during the Pompano fish run and spend the nights by the fire eating what we catch and having an all-around good time. We spent only a few bucks for the campsite, even fewer bucks for bait shrimp and sand fleas from Half Hitch Tackle, and within hours we were catching more huge Pompano than we could handle. We just cracked open some fold-out chairs, cast lines, waited and the lines danced like Muhammad Ali. We caught so much fish, we were able to spread the wealth and share some with other campers. It was a near-perfect time and, best of all, the fishing was free, both in cost and in need of a license.

On August 1st, the freedom to fish, as I did casting from the shore, will no longer exist. Starting on said date, a new and much debated shoreline fishing fee will go into effect forcing anglers as well as anyone who wishes to fish from bridges, docks, piers or structures attached to the shore, to pay $9 for the new license to do so. This fee, denounced by the likes of Representative Jimmy Patronis, was approved by the State Fishing and Wildlife Conservation Commission as a countermeasure against a federal license that had the potential to increase saltwater fees up to $25.00. Money generated by the new license, estimated at nearly a million dollars annually, will go towards protecting marine resources, research and law enforcement.

While nearly everyone will fall under the licensing umbrella, there are a few exceptions. If you are a senior, a child, disabled or carry a military license, the fee will be waived. One nice exception, for those who have paid to fish off the newly completed Dan Russell Pier on Front Beach Road, is that all the necessary fees have been paid for you. You pay to fish and the license is included. Also, if you are fishing with a non-mechanical device like a cane pole or are under government assistance you would not be required to pay the fee.

But for most of us, in only a week, gone will be the days of free shore fishing. So next season when the Pompano are running, I suppose I’ll have to run and get my wallet before a cast my line.

Edited by Jason Koertge

———————–

I just got off the phone with Representative Jimmy Patronis, who fought tooth and nail against this “revenue-grab” by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.  A recent News Herald article quotes that he gets “hot under the collar” discussing this topic, and I found this to be very much true, and with great reason.  “Some things people should just not have to pay for,” Patronis said.  I agree, and I also agree that it’s more than that.  This was a shady way for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to generate revenue from people who largely go unheard when it comes to legislature matters, and I commend Jimmy for going to bat for us.

Two things really aggravate me about this.

1.)  Why should I have to pay if I want to go throw a line in the water at a public beach, whether I catch something or not.  I mean, it’s not all about the money.  If I have a passion, I could scrounge up an extra $9, but why should I have to make an extra trip somewhere to make the payment?  I, for example, don’t ever fish, but now if I want to, I have to make a trip somewhere and purchase a license, rather than just walk over to the beach with my son.  This is a hit below the belt, a shady way to make an extra buck.  I know the different agencies are hurting for money, but so is everyone else.  This isn’t the time to start dreaming up new ways of charging citizens money.

2.)  Why should I have to sacrifice my privacy just to go fishing.  Why does the federal or state government need to know my name, address, phone number or email address just because I want to catch some dinner (not that I could catch anything ;-p).  It’s like the whole DNA thing, what if I get caught up in some unfortunate circumstance that results in some felony charge when I didn’t do anything and they end up with MY DNA in THEIR database, then drop all charges.  Why should I have to take a hit when it was someone else’s mistake?  Look, I understand the need for data, I’m in the data collection business, but in my business, I PAY for the data I get, I don’t charge you for it.  Imagine, if you will, if I charged you to sign up for my newsletter; what if I charged a usage fee for everyone that read pcbdaily?  Would you like that?  I would hate to have to justify that argument.  I’m feeling guilty just thinking about it?  But that’s the point, isn’t it?  The government always seems to be doing things with a clear conscience that for the normal person, would inflict a pang of guilt in the center of their gut.

Representative Patronis said that he received a call from pollster the other day asking him about his fishing habits.  I don’t think I should have to endure a phone call from some random pollster just because I want to fish off a public beach.

The point is that this was a senseless revenue grab by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.  But, Representative Jimmy Patronis said this isn’t the end of the fight.  He’s got some ideas to help solve this issue in the future.

Did you win 5 tickets to the Rockwell Exhibit?

In promotion of the exhibit at the Visual Arts Center, Kevin Rivoli’s In Search of Norman Rockwell’s America, we’re giving away 20 tickets.  We did a drawing today, and we’re doing one more next week.

There are two ways to win.

  1. Sign up for the newsletter – If you aren’t already signed up for the pcbdaily weekly newsletter, you can sign up now and your name will be entered for a chance to win 5 tickets ($50 value) to see the exhibit.
  2. Fan our Facebook Page – If you are already signed up for the newsletter, “fan” our Facebook Fan Page for a chance to win.  The newsletter drawing will only be from those NEW subscribers, but the Facebook drawing will be from ALL our fans.

Did you win this week?  Watch the video to find out!

Click here for more information on the exhibit.

Panama City Beach Stimulus – $30 on the 30th

Panama City Beach doesn’t need a billion dollar package in order to stimulate our local economy, although a few bils would be nice, all we need is our community to take a little initiative and have that initiative met with incentive. On July 30th, the incentive will be in place with the $30 on the 30th program sponsored by the News Herald. All it needs is your initiative.

The idea behind the $30 on the 30th program is to encourage residents of Panama City Beach to get out and spend $30 on local good or services that they wouldn’t normally use. Say, for example, if you frequent a place like Flamingo Joe’s on the East End of Panama City Beach, head to the West End and try a place like Bayou Bill’s or vice versa. All over the beach, participating businesses will have great deals and specials in place. Businesses throughout the beach intend to show you there very best side and you can find a myriad of things on which to spend your $30.00 from restaurants, grocery stores and even florists.

So, next Thursday on the 30th grab $30.00 and hit the town. You get to try all sorts of new stuff, the businesses get a economic stimulus and everyone’s happy.

If you are a local business that is participating in this initiative, please post who you are and what specials you are running in the comments below.

Our Beach Erosion – 12 Answers to the Latest Project

As part of keeping our beaches the way they are, large and wide, the Tourist Development Council is making an investment that will help sustain the millions in beach renourishment spent in years past and help beautify our white sand.  A huge aid in keeping the sand in place is vegetation and Lisa Armbruster with the Beach Renourishment efforts has a plan to plant our beach with fresh vegetation, and she’s starting this fall.

Q. How much of the beach will receive new vegetation?
A. Nearly all of the beach from Pinnacle Port to St. Andrews State Park (but not including the park) has vegetation proposed. Areas that do not have vegetation proposed are those areas undergoing apparent redevelopment, although if those property owners wish to have vegetation installed, they will be included.

Q. Approximately how many plants will be planted?
A. Approximately 1.5-1.7 million plants.

Q. Will there be plants other than sea oats planted?
A. The bid documents define that 70% of the vegetation will be sea oats, and 15% will be dune panic grass; the other three species suggested are beach elder (5%), sea purslane (5%), and beach morning glory (5%) – although, notably, the bid documents offer that the bidder may propose a substitute for one of the three smaller quantity plants.

Q. What is the expected cost of the entire project?
A. The cost estimate (and I stress estimate) is $1.5 to 2.0 million.

Q. Where will the funds for the project be appropriated from?
A. The funding will come from the Third Cent bed tax (dedicated beach nourishment fund). We also have a state match already secured in a grant, so approximately 28.5% will be paid by the state.

Q. What is the objective, meaning, are there areas that have historical erosion points that this will prevent or reduce the erosion?
A. The planting project will enhance the existing dune system, and in some areas, lack of existing dune system, and over time should help build up dunes along the landward portions of the Panama City Beach beaches; this serves as additional protection from storms to upland structures and infrastructure and complements the beach nourishment activities completed for the beaches.

Q. When will bids go out for the project?
A. End of July or early August.

Q. Who is expecting to bid, meaning, landscape architects?  contractors?
A. The bidders should be capable of handling the work/size of the project.

Q. When is actual work expected to begin?
A. Until we get the bids in, including their proposed schedules, we can’t say for sure. It is expected to start by winter of this year and be complete by early spring.

Q. How long will the work take place?
A. Again, until we see proposed schedules, we don’t know. At this point, the bid documents give the bidder 165 days to complete the work from the time the contract is awarded. A portion of this time will likely be devoted to growing the plants, so folks wouldn’t see work being done on the beach, although the project would be moving forward.

Q. Will there be anything in place to keep beach goers off the new plants?
A. The project includes post and rope fencing along the seaward edge of the planting for the entire length of the project, and includes perpendicular post and rope fencing through the approximately 100 public accesses on the beach. Also, signs will be placed within the planting areas indicating that folks should keep out of the vegetation. This post and rope fencing also speaks a little to your question below regarding aesthetics.

Q. Will the plants be planted in a pattern to help be aesthetically pleasing?
A. The planting pattern has been designed by our coastal engineering firm, Coastal Planning & Engineering, based on the existing topography of the beach; the planting should blend in nicely with the existing beach and vegetation.

Episode #15 – Waterfront Townhome with 2 Boat Slips and Xtra Lot

The Beach Show is your ONLY internet TV show all about Real Estate on Panama City Beach.

This week we feature three waterfront DEALS that are phenomenal. Folks, there are so many great deals right now in Panama City Beach, if you’re on the fence, now’s the time to hop off on the Beach Side. Give us a call and we’ll get you in something special.

Remember, it doesn’t cost anything to work with us if you are a buyer.

Click the “more” tag for show notes and pictures.

Call us at 850-527-5651 to see these properties or for anything else you need regarding real estate in Panama City Beach.

Show Notes

Deal 1 – Waterfront Townhome with extra lot and 2 Boat Slips – Only $199,000

  • List Price: $199,000
  • Square Feet: 1,475
  • Price/SqFt: $134.92
  • 3 Bedrooms, 2.5 Bath
  • Built in 1986
  • This townhome has been completely redone and looks fabulous. You need to do nothing to start using this perfect piece of paradise. Included in the price is an extra lot and two boat slips, one of which is covered with a boat lift. The entrance to the waterway this property is on is only 12 minutes from Shell Island. The owners own Lighting Etc. so all the lighting fixtures are high-end and look awesome. I never realized how much this dresses a place up. This place is an absolute steal at this price.

Deal 2 – Huge 3,600 sf Tri-plex Set on a Lake with Gulf Views – $83 per foot

  • List Price: $299,000
  • Square Feet: 3,600
  • Price/SqFt: $83.06
  • 5 Bedrooms, 3 Bath
  • Built in 1987
  • This is a huge detached single family home that splits into three separate units. The first floor needs some work, but the unit on the second floor and the unit on the third floor looks ready to use. This place is at the end of a dead-end street that is only accessible by driving by our wonderful Gulf of Mexico, which you have great views from the back porch of this home. This place also sits on a little lake with a huge deck right on the water with plenty of room to store your canoes.

Deal 3 – Gulf Front Condo in Celadon for only $299,500

  • List Price: $299,500
  • Square Feet: 1,157
  • Price/SqFt: 258.86
  • 2 Bedrooms, 2 Bath
  • Built in 2007
  • Celadon is one of the most beautiful condo resorts on Panama City Beach. With a solid rental history and a premier location on the west end of Panama City Beach, Celadon is perfect if you’re looking for something sophisticated, yet fun. We weren’t able to get in this unit today, but we got some good footage of the property. Please call us if you want to get into this beautiful condo.

Call us at 850-527-5651 to see these properties or for anything else you need regarding real estate in Panama City Beach.

4 Common Questions About Short Sales

Not only have I gotten phone calls about short sales this week but I find myself struggling over interpretation of short sale protocol. So many questions and so many varying answers it is hard to determine what the exact course of action should be. A customer called me tonight concerned that her short sale offer was going to be bumped by a higher offer, but according to all that I am reading and studying her offer should be the only offer on the table at the time. Any other offers that come in should be considered back up offers and will only be addressed when the first signed offer is disposed of. This week I am going to answer some pressing questions that I have been presented with and will do so with the help of our good ole FAR guidelines and MLS rules which I need to add are still our benchmark.

Q. What is the short sale addendum and what is the ruling force? And, furthermore, this form or our MLS and FAR guidelines?
A. If you have done a short sale or if you know someone who has then you know you will be asked to sign a FAR Short Sale Addendum that says the seller may “accept other offers and submit them to the lender.” This does not mean that all offers are presented at the same time and the bank chooses the best one. According to FAR the addendum is designed so that the seller may continue to solicit offers and hold them in a a back-up position. The contract on the table is considered complete other than the contingency of lender approval with seller acceptance. Another important protection in the addendum is the pronouncement that the sale is contingent on the seller agreeing to the lenders conditions.

Q. Why does a potential sale show up as contingent instead of pending in the MLS?
A. Although the contract has been signed by the seller and the buyer it is considered contingent upon lender approval. It will become pending once the bank has accepted the short sale and the usual closing procedures such as appraisals and inspections begin. Our MLS rules and not the addendum give us Realtors our direction in this matter. There is still debate among Realtor sometimes on how to apply this rule.

Q. What is the purpose of a back up offer and are they worthwhile?
A. There was a time in the market that people would fight over a property so back up offers were used quite frequently and now they are used again but with a different end in mind. Because of the precarious nature of short sales a back up is a great idea because many times the buyer gets leery of waiting and decides to move on to something more reliable. I have had more sales fall out in the last 2 months than I have had in all my years of being a realtor. For this reason I love a back up offer and so does your seller and the new buyer is delighted as well.

Q. How reliable are the Realtor Remarks in determining what a lender will take for a short sale?
A. I will say a big hardy NO to that one. Keep in mind that Realtor remarks are put in when the listing was taken and many things can change in the course of a listing especially a short sale listing. It is almost impossible to know up front what a bank will take until they have already gone through the process with another offer. Your best bet is to call the Realtor and ask her questions about her ideas of what a reasonable offer would be based on offers turned down and her assessment of the market value. Many times you do not have a handle on the price that a bank will take until they do their own BPO (brokers price opinion). Many times prices on Short sales are really abstract in that no one really knows what the “loss mitigation “department will take.

I love how real life keeps throwing me curve balls and challenges to be met each week. Please be patient with your Realtor as she helps you wade these waters for they are uncharted for all of us and we are learning as we GROW!!! I am grateful that I am surrounded by some really smart Realtors that keep me on my toes so know that we are NO experts….. just hard working folks looking for the best way to serve our community and each other.

Mortgage Rates Hold Steady at 5.5%

Mortgage rates have managed to hold steady despite renewed optimism in the stock market spurred by better than expected corporate earnings reports and evidence the recession is nearing an end. The benchmark thirty-year, fixed-rate is right at 5.50% with no points and we are seeing more parity with other mortgage programs lately as both FHA and VA thirty-year rates are also at 5.50%. The rate on the fifteen-year, fixed-rate stands at 5.00%.

Mortgage rates have benefited from reassuring remarks from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke who on Tuesday told lawmakers at his semi-annual address before congress that he plans to keep monetary policy “extremely accommodative” for some time meaning no rate increases are likely for the foreseeable future. I do not expect to see rates rise over the next week unless the stock market gets on an exceptional run of gain. Many analysts still feel the market exuberance seen of late is still premature as investors continue to cheer less than expected losses instead of actual increases in net profits.

We had some great news on the housing front last Friday as the government reported that initial construction of homes as well as new applications for building permits surged more than economists had expected. Housing starts rose to as seasonally adjusted annual rate of 562,000 in June, up 3.6% from May. The consensus estimate was for an annual rate of 524,000. Single-family housing starts were up a whopping 14.4%. Building permits rose 8.7% in June to an annually adjusted 563,000 while economists had expected only 530,000. This was the highest number of new permits since December and the second straight month of increases since the all-time low set in April. All this is just more evidence that the battered housing market has bottomed and finally on the upswing despite a continuing rise in unemployment.