I haven’t seen as lively a topic as this since spring break discussions of years past. At this week’s planning board meeting, it was stated that it had been years since they had a turnout like that, with the chairman of the board saying, “I hope your church has this good of an attendance on Sunday.” I’m no expert on crowd estimations, but I’d say there was at least two hundred people in attendance. The board room at the City building in Panama City Beach was packed full with standing persons lining the walls and wannabe attendees clamoring for a listen in the foyer.
I’ll get right to the point: the RV park will not be developed on this property, not now, and probably not ever. After heavy opposition from the surrounding community, the developer withdrew their application to change their Planned Unit Development stating that at this point, they had no idea what they were going to do with the property.
Here is what happened.
This property was originally intended to be an upscale townhome/condo community with upscale amenities, landscaping and a sidewalk to the beach. With Alan Jackson’s name on it, there seemed to be credibility. The development renderings looked great and prosperity seemed promising, then the real estate market tanked; it literally fell through the floor.
The developer had cash and took a leap of faith by started installing infrastructure. They put in all the underground utilities and curbing for the roads. Dirt was moving, then one day, it just stopped. And that’s the way the property has been sitting every since – for almost three years. Vacant, crushed dreams, derelict.
What the developer wanted
Think about it. You’re a developer, you buy a sweet piece of land with a great plan on development. You want to make money, you have to make money, that’s what you do when you develop land, you’re not doing it for your health. Everything’s going great, then demand for your product just vanishes, like a morning fog under the hot summer sun.
You’ve spent buckets of money on infrastructure, marketing, ahem: land costs. What do you do? No one wants what you were originally going to sell. You have to come up with a new plan, or give the property back to the bank, risking your entire financial reputation.
After planning on what could be accomplished on the property and research into what could still be in demand, the developer came up with an entirely new concept for the area: an upscale motor coach community. I saw the vision, but I’ve always been pro-development, an optimist if you will. I envisioned high-end tour-bus sized motor coaches rolling into a well manicured, well insulated community, tucked behind large, decorative walls enjoying luxury amenities.
I think what the developer wanted was something that would be mutually beneficial for everyone: a productive use of the land that’s protective of the surrounding community and profitable for him. What I envisioned would bring in high-end people to the area, offer a new amenity that’s not available to these high-end consumers and would not be intrusive to the surrounding area.
But, again, I’m an optimist, glass is half-full kind of guy. I see the good in things, and I like my rose-colored glasses. The surrounding community saw something different. Perhaps they are more wise then me, or perhaps they were just bored. Never the less, they certainly have more merit to argue their wants than me, I don’t live or own there.
What the surrounding community envisioned.
The surrounding community, led by “Luby” Woroch was irate about this change. Stating that the developer was playing the oldest trick in the book. The developer, at the meeting, asked for a continuance. Woroch was the first to comment saying that he firmly objected to a continuance being granted.
“If you give them a continuance today, all the work, all the money we spend on travel expenses to come here, all the effort we put into coming down to fight, we’ll have to do again. We came here, ready to fight, and this needs to be settled today,” Woroch passionately explained.
With a petition of 455 names in hand and 50 more names being added while he was on the stand from La Valencia, Woroch was able to clearly show the communities discontent with this proposal.
Following Woroch’s comments a young woman stood up and asked the audience to raise their hand if they wanted a continuance granted. In the crowded room, one person raised their hand. When asked who did not want the continuance granted, everyone in the audience, except that one man raised their hand. It was pretty apparent what the community wanted, regardless of how fluffy the marketing vision was or could have been.
Woroch has already been active on here in explaining his point of view:
This is not about being for or against RV’ers. It is simply a matter that an RV park belongs “in an off the main road location “. La Borgata is not the right location for an RV park, be it a Class A, B, C, etc.
The developer keeps pointing to Heritage Resort in Orange Beach, Al. Well , that resort is WATERFRONT with it’s own beach and a marina.
It is off the main road and the property around the compound is not with pre-existing single family homes. The developers of the Orange Beach resort gave forethought into the project and found the right location for their project.
The developers of La Borgata have no business plan. They are trying to fit a business into a substructure. This type of scrambling is destined to a high probability of failure. They have already failed once, scrambling now will lead them to fail again.
They ought to look to Signature Resort in Naples , FL. They have been there 3 years and have 184 slots. When speaking to a sales person there, I was informed that they have had ZERO sales since their inception. Now, they are putting 20 slots up for auction on Feb. 26, 2011, with no reserve, no minimum bid. If you bid $100.00, and there is no higher bidder, it is yours.
The proposal for a RV park has been withdrawn by Nashyork,LLC, for the time being. But they better realize that the community has been awakened and we will continue to organize and mobilize to get more home owners on board from the west end to the east end to speak with one voice . We, the people, will have a voice in what, where, when and how things are being decided by the Planning Board and / or the City Council.
We will not allow for slip shod tactics to go unnoticed. We will bring it to the forefront any and every time they try to pull a fast one. Business as usual is over.
Not all investments are winners. Some win, some lose. We all know that you should never invest money if you cannot afford to lose it all.
When asked, the engineer representing the developer, Robert Carol, said he wasn’t sure what they were going to do with the property now. But, one thing was sure, they weren’t going to be developing a motor coach community.