Boardwalk Beach Resort to be Joined by an RV Park?

Jason Koertge has an awesome vacation rental business in Panama City Beach that focuses on remarkable properties right on the gulf.  They range from 1 to 4 bedrooms, they’re clean, and amazing.  He can be found lurking at

There seems to be some popularity with the concept of using a motor-coach RV park as a last ditch effort to generate revenue on a vacant piece of land. This is a topic that’s come up before with the community standing up in opposition.

Well, it’s come up again.

The land that’s being proposed.

The subject land in the limelight is owned by Royal American Development and is the current home to the welcome center for Royal American Hospitality (same principal owners). The land is adjacent to the gulf front resort, Boardwalk Beach Resort and was originally intended to be phase II of the Boardwalk Condominium development.

The actual parcel itself is about 400 feet on the gulf and rests between the Top of the Gulf condominium resort and the Boardwalk Condominium tower.

A need to generate revenue.

The story here seems to be the same. The market tanked before they could sell the other building so it has sat pretty much vacant every sense.

As with the LaBorgata piece of land, you probably have a developer who spend a lot of money on the land, pre-development costs and is badly in need of a way to stop the bleeding.  I assume there are monthly costs associated with holding the land, an annual tax bill, etc.  Of course, this is just an assumption.

But the desire to turn a non-revenue generating parcel into something that makes money is honest enough, right?  But at what expense?

The plan.

On paper, the plan is to turn this into an RV park, although no conceptual plans were turned in with the rezoning request.  The land owner is requesting the approximately 5.6 acres be rezoned from T-2 to T-M.

As noted in the application Data and Analysis document, the reason for the request reads as follows:

The applicants have indicated that they intend to develop the site into an RV park.  However, if the rezoning were approved the site could be used for mobile homes, travel trailers, motor homes, motels, hotels, condos, town homes, apartments, churches, clubs, lodges, parking lots, parking garages and mobile home sales.  

It is the breadth of possibilities that seems to have local property owners up in arms.  The potential for developing anything that could adversely effect their property values in an already depressed real estate market is being reported as unnerving.

The document then goes on to read:

A plan amendment is not required for this request.  As such, the request is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan since the T-2 zoning district and the T-M zoning district are both part of the Tourist Future Land Use Map designation of the Comprehensive Plan.  This means the City must provide competent substantial evidence in the record of the meeting if it is to deny the request. 

Continuing later in the document:

Surrounding parcels are zoned T-M, T-3A and T-2.  Condominiums are located to the east (Top of the Gulf) and west (Boardwalk) of the subject site and an RV Park/Campground, T-shirt shop, and golf course are located across South Thomas Drive to the north.  A proposed RV Park on the subject property is compatible with the uses to the north. . . [With] adjacent property owners. . . the impact on property values of the condominiums is the potential issue.  As with all properties, if an adjoining property is not maintained and kept in a clean and neat condition; properties in the area can be adversely impacted. . . However, the applicant manages several units within the Boardwalk Condominium and will likely manage the subject property such that their values are not adversely impacted.  Whether an RV park in this area will diminish property values of adjacent condominiums is very difficult, if not impossible to determine. . . The RV Park/Campground across South Thomas Drive did not prevent the construction and increase in property values of the Boardwalk condominium. . .  For these reasons, staff cannot determine that the presence of an RV park on the subject property will cause an adverse impact to adjoining property values especially if the use is well maintained and managed. 

The document concludes:

Because the quest is consistent with the adopted Comprehensive Plan, the burden of proof is not with the owner but rather the City to base a decision on competent substantial evidence especially if the request is denied.  Based upon information gathered to date, Staff is unable to identify a substantial reason to deny the request.  However, judicial decisions have indicated that direct testimony of nearby property owners at a public hearing can be considered by a Board and used as competent substantial evidence in denying a request if such evidence indicated the owners will likely be adversely impacted by the approval of the request. 

What all this means and what to do (IMPORTANT).

I’ve been to a few of these meetings and the board is reasonable in hearing the opinions of the audience.  The developer should be amicable regarding the proposed development and how it will effect property owners, but if you’re an owner and you want your voice heard, you need to be at the meeting.

The document reads that there is no reason to deny the request unless the local property owners have substantial evidence that they’ll be negatively effected.

So, if you don’t like this, do your research on how this can be detrimental to your property, show up to the meeting with the facts, and be ready to present.  But, planning on coming to yell at the board, yell at the developer (or his engineer) or cite emotional turmoil won’t strengthen your argument.

The meeting will be held at Beach City Hall on February 13 at 2 pm cst.

So, what do you think, should they put an RV park next to Boardwalk Condominiums?

Sell Your House, Live on the Water – Literally

Here’s something cool:  ditch your condo on the beach and buy a condo on a giant riverboat.  Imagine living on the water all the time, whenever you look out your window or lounge on your balcony, you have waterviews in perfect weather, you’re always traveling, around the country.  Enter River Cities’ The Marquette.

Continue reading “Sell Your House, Live on the Water – Literally”

New Dollar General on Thomas Drive

Some of you might have noticed the excavating and construction going on at Thomas Drive and Luff Street. We took it upon ourselves to find out for you.

It is going to be a new Dollar General! It is being developed by Concept Construction and Development, and is the newest Dollar General in Panama City Beach. Concept Construction and Development has also built the Dollar General on 15th Street, 22nd Street and the one in Lynn Haven on Highway 390.

Continue reading “New Dollar General on Thomas Drive”

Limerick’s Irish Pub Plans to Stay Up By Keeping it Down

img_8466You may not know of Limerick’s Irish Pub by name, but you know the address: 6628 Thomas Drive, home to several previous businesses, the most recent being Buckwild Saloon and The Shaggy Marlin both closed due to complaints from nearby residential area. You see, Limerick’s sits on what may be the most ambivalent location on all of Panama City Beach, perfect for drawing big crowds on Thomas Drive with very little adjacent competition while facing a row of seasonally-packed condos. At the same time the location is smack-dab in the middle of a quiet and easily angered residential area.

The stories behind the location have been many. You may remember when the property was known as Buckwild Saloon the establishment was sued Bay County and had its owners arrested on charges of violating a revamped noise ordinance. Residents in the area complained that the bar was too loud and its patrons overly raucous. There were also complaints of overflowing parking making it difficult, if not dangerous, getting in and out of the street. Buckwild owners agreed to renovate the property and change it to Shaggy Marlin by adding parking lot noise barriers and changing the building focus from a bar to a restaurant (although they still charged for cover). While loved by locals who didn’t live in the Thomas Drive area, the Shaggy Marlin was sent to court a second time during Spring Break. Officials said the Shaggy Marlin violated the prior agreement being both noisy and not operating primarily as a restaurant. Needless to say the place was put up for sale with Counts Real Estate Group, Inc and tagged with a stern warning from Bay County Commissioner Mike Thomas that whoever purchased the property must live by the guidelines set in the agreements with its previous owner.

All that bring us to now, the property has since been sold to a bank, leased to its current proprietors and dubbed Limerick’s Irish Pub. The name change has only been a part of an honest-to-goodness transformation. Since the property has been in opened, February 09, there have been no complaints. That time period includes Spring Break and Thunder Beach. Limerick’s, like its predecessor, still offers live music, only on the weekends, but the chosen bands are not quite as mosh-pit-inspiring. The bands also play only indoors. I personally spoke to several patrons and employees who all felt that the newly name and updated venue has serious potential or longevity. For one, the food is great; Limerick’s may very well have positioned itself as the best place on the beach for icy Appalachian oysters and a mojito. They’ve added security and decided to close its doors by 2 AM. In order to help drive business, instead of using the upper floor bar as another music-driven area, they’ve changed it into PCB’s only venue for the amateur poker league, free to the public. On top of all that, the proprietors have been in negotiations about purchasing the next door parking lot for added safety. One gentleman I talked to, who happened to be one of the complainers during the Buckwild-Shaggy Marlin era, said he now enjoys walking down the street to the Irish spot for the Beef and Guiness soup and a few oysters.

I’m glad to see such a great location for locals not go to waste. What do you think?

Panama City Beach Adopts Improved Planning Codes

Imagine hidden parking garages, not of the Batman variant, but of the variant of being hidden behind facades or landscaped walkways.  Think beautified pedestrian walkways and shop entrance ingress and egress without risk of being mowed over by an auto.  Pretend you are one of those developers that don’t do any work and make tons of money (please note the sarcasm here).  Imagine reaping the rewards of not only high density, but planning codes that allow you to achieve that high density in a way that is very asthetically pleasing and doesn’t hack off the neighbors with behemoth towers.  Enter the new Form-Based Code Building Regulations.

Before last week’s Panama City Beach City Council meeting, there was a public workshop held at Beach City Hall discussing the future of land planning for our area’s beach community.  Attended mostly by City employees and a few developers and architects, the only other people there were media and the land owner of one of the example properties used for the analysis.

So, what are Form-Based Codes, you say?  Straight out of the 11×17 color printed packet I received at the workshop:

The Form-Based Codes Institute defines form-based codes as a “method of regulating development to achieve a specific urban form. Form-based codes create a predictable public realm primarily by controlling physical form, with a lesser focus on land use, through city or county regulations.”2 While conventional zoning tends to focus on uses, intensities and setbacks, form-based codes focus on building scale and character. The key distinctions between form-based codes and design guidelines are that guidelines are advisory and often subjective, which frequently result in the need for design review boards. Form-based codes establish specific, measurable standards that require little discretion and limited architectural knowledge.

The best form-based regulations address site-specific challenges and conditions that are ignored by conventional zoning. They promote compatibility between adjacent uses through context-sensitive design. They also tend to do a much better job of addressing the interface between the public and private realms (streets and buildings). They also are better suited to addressing scale and building orientation in ways that improve compatibility between adjacent public and private uses.

Rather than focusing exclusively on “one-size-fits-all” setbacks and building heights, form-based codes may include different standards for different situations. For instance, height limitations and setbacks may depend on the proximity to lower intensity zoning districts. Conventional zoning commonly ignores the orientation of a building, allowing entries, garage openings and mechanical equipment to be located on any side. Form-based codes typically require entries to face the street, while garage openings and mechanical equipment are hidden from main streets.

Reference page 6 of the code packet available for download below.

Now, I know what you are thinking:  Where was this five years ago?  Well, my friend, I don’t have the answer to that, but it was conveyed by many of the council members that they had wished we had something like this in place years ago, and that if it wasn’t adopted, they would regret it in the future.

Some of the advantages outlines in the proposal are:

  • They describe what is allowed, in addition to setting limits and focusing on prohibited designs. This gives project designers a clearer picture of desired outcomes.
  • They better accommodate infill and redevelopment because of their focus on scale, orientation and other critical design elements.
  • They may specify specific architectural styles, materials and uses, which provides greater design predictability for property owners and neighbors.
  • They can be adapted to ensure compatibility in widely varying settings.
  • They are easy to apply in small communities because they do not require architectural expertise to use, interpret or administer.
  • They are more readily defensible than design guidelines and architectural review processes that involve more subjective decisions.

As part of the proposal, three independent site studies were conducted named Back Beach, Long Beach and Tidewater.  The Back Beach study is located on Back Beach Road, between Colina Drive and Pearl Avenue.  The Long Beach study is located on the north side of Front Beach Road, between Gulfside Drive and Henley Drive.  The Tidewater study is located north of and across Front Beach Road from the Tidewater Condominium Resort.  The study sites were used purely as examples with no necessary intention of this actually happening to these properties.

The Back Beach Road study sample currently consists of  24,000 sf of commercial space, 22,500 sf of manufacturing space and 0 sf of residential units.  Based on the Form-Based Code, the future development possibilities could include over 54,000 total square feet of commercial space and 14 residential units.  The actual building layout would be such that the parking would be in the back, away from pedestrian walkways with limited access.  This would enhance beautification and create a more pedestrian-friendly area.

The Long Beach study currently allows for 131,200 sf of commercial space and 27 residential units.  Based on the Form-Based Code, a over 249,000 sf of commercial space would be possible, with over 145 residential units.

The whole process would work on a tiered system.  Developers would be allowed greater density the more emphasis they put on beautification towards concealing that density.  One of the greatest examples of this in action is the way the Village of Baytowne Wharf was developed and the proposed plans for the Towne of Seahaven.  In Baytowne, the main parking garage is hidden on all sides and the top with walls, landscaping and residential units.  The side of the parking garage that is facing the “towne” part of the village is where retail is located and above that is residential.  In the center, which is actually the roof of the parking garage is the amenity area for the residential component, including lush landscaping, fitness center and the pool.

Look at Pier Park.  Notice the huge open parking areas in the back but where people congregate is beautified?  This is all intentional and is the direction the City of Panama City Beach is going.  This is an exciting step and much and long needed for our area.

Download the full Analysis of Opportunities here (7.3 mb)