Boardwalk RV Park Zone Change Application Withdrawn

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 PCBLP.com.

In what could seem like a temporary victory to the current (and concerned) property owners at Boardwalk Beach Resort, the developer requesting a zone change to allow an RV park has withdrawn his application.  Whether you love RV’s or hate them, allowing them on a gulf front property such as this was a potential precedence that was concerning to local property owners.

The application would have changed the zoning from T-2 to T-M, allowing the property to 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.

Working through the education of this matter, it was made clear how concerned people were about this.  While there were some that believed this was a great idea, there were many that were in opposition of this change.

Here were some of the comments we saw.

The Developer had a vision in 2003 – 4 Luxury hi-rise condo buildings with world class amenities. . . Now the same Developer – Royal American Development Inc. . . has a new vision – let’s put a low investment mobile / RV park and trailer storage facility next to this luxury condo to at least generate some income.  The obvious result will be lower property values in this “mixed use” scenario resulting in lower property taxes collected and lower sales tax revenues for the governmental entities. . . The developer also owns most of the amenities seaward of the building’s footprint, the fitness center and the condo commercial space on the 1st floor of Boardwalk Central. How will the Boardwalk owner keep the “trailer people” from over-running our amenities? ~ Jim Vider

There is no distinction for a “high end” luxury motorhome park in the licensing application for travel trailer parks. Any size or type of trailer can and will be allowed in here. The market will decide that. Once the zoning is changed the parcel can be sold or leased (it’s more valuable now) and all the slick marketing materials and promises won’t prevent it from turning into a field of BBQs, barking dogs, lawn chairs and clotheslines. ~ STL

The area the developer wants rezoned was to be phase 2 of the project. I certainly can understand the cash pinch the developer has, but lowering the value of properties owed in Boardwalk Central as well as Top of the Gulf through the creation of a “campground” is outrageous. ~ Bill

Excellent use for this parcel of land, as homeowners a luxury RV resort adds more value than a vacant construction lot and puts more occupancy tax into town too! Great idea, move forward without delay! ~ Cat

I think this is a fabulous idea. It seems to me that some of the people commenting on here and the one owner that was interviewed on TV have no concept of a luxury motorcoach or RV. . .  I applaud this development group for actually trying to go down another avenue that is a win win for both them and our local economy. . . Are we really going to argue that this developer SHOULD build another condo. . .  Have we learned nothing from the past 4 years? ~ Gilly

Update – First Family Visit to Panama City Beach Confirmed

It’s official – President Barack Obama, wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha will be vacationing here in Panama City Beach from Saturday August 14th to Monday, August 16th 2010.

This will only be the third time that the whole first family has come to the area on vacation – so like him or not, this is set to be a significant event in Panama City Beach history! Confirmed by the white house, the presidential visit is a personal trip with no business or public events planned. There’s some speculation about accommodations but a source states that the Obamas will be staying at the Bay Point Marriott Golf Resort & Spa. Another source says the hotel location will not be within Panama City Beach limits.

We’ll have to wait and see what happens next weekend once the first family touches down in Panama City Beach, but PCBDaily.com will keep you updated with details as they come in.

Panama City Beach Oil Spill UPDATE: No Oil Here Yet

As of today, there is no oil in Panama City Beach.  There is no smell, there has not been any tar balls, oil sheen, tar mats, or oil foam reported on the beaches of the Florida Panhandle.  Right now, our beaches are just as beautiful as ever. That’s the good news.  The bad news is that oil has been reported 10 miles offshore of Pensacola.  In fact, quoting the noon report of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, “?Areas of tarballs, tar patties, and sheen have been confirmed approximately 10 miles from the Escambia County shoreline and 6 miles from Navarre Beach.”  Again, nothing on the beaches, yet.

Continue reading “Panama City Beach Oil Spill UPDATE: No Oil Here Yet”

Wonder No More: Update on WonderWorks/The Upside Down House

If you’ve been driving on Front Beach Road close to Wal-Mart recently, you will have no doubt noticed a rather large, oddly-shaped structure located next to Walgreen’s and opposite Ripley’s Believe it or not Museum. In case you were wondering, this imposing building is actually going to be an awesome family attraction by the name of WonderWorks, and is scheduled to be open this summer. Continue reading “Wonder No More: Update on WonderWorks/The Upside Down House”

8 Reasons You'll LOVE Reading the NEW PCBDaily

Many of you have noticed that Monday morning you came to an all new pcbdaily.com!  A change has been a long time coming and in the works, so we bit the bullet, stayed up late and hammered it out.  Web site design trends change often and we try hard to stay on top of it by keeping the look fresh and being sure the content is where it is supposed to be – in front of you and easy to find.

Hit the read more link for a break down of the changes we made and the new features of the NEW PCBDaily.com.

As always, we love talking about news and information as it relates to Panama City Beach.

Continue reading “8 Reasons You'll LOVE Reading the NEW PCBDaily”

Why we Still Need the News Herald

The News Herald is and has been for a long time the locals medium for obtaining the “news”.  Chances are, if you read pcbdaily.com, you are familiar with the “local rag,” and many of you probably read it on a daily basis.  I know I do.

It’s funny, if you ask most of our readers what our main competition is, you don’t hear the likes of TripSmarter.com, pcbeach.com, or any of the other numerous blogs and web sites about our area; people will tell you that the News Herald is our biggest competition.  I don’t see it that way, and I never have.

You see, I read the News Herald each day because they do a job that I (I as in pcbdaily) can’t do, nor do I want to do.  Furthermore, I don’t think you would want me to do that job here either.  You never see crime stats, crime reports, car crashes, who died or pictures of Obama photoshopped up like The Joker with “why so serious” marked across his forehead on pcbdaily.  We focus on a specific niche that is targeted, and frankly commands a smaller audience.  But, we have a sophisticated reader.  You read that right, if you read pcbdaily.com with regularity, you are probably educated, somewhat financially stable (if not well-off), and there is a good chance you own a small or medium business.

While we talk about what is happening specific to real estate, growth and tourism in Panama City Beach, the News Herald covers the more generic side of the news world.  They cater to a much larger audience that craves that information.  Only some care about what we talk about here at pcbdaily.  We talk about real estate, growth and tourism because that is what drives the Panama City Beach area and that is what people that are vested in this area care about.

“You guys do a great job, and you’ve become a great value to the community,” said a gentleman I had lunch with today.  I hear that all the time, and it is kind words like that that keep me going.  I often say that makes it all worth while.  I love that people use this as a resource.  I hear from people frequently that they spend numerous hours each week reading through content and I’ve found a fairly healthy shelf life on old content as well. Keep scouring those archives.

Recently the News Herald’s parent company, Freedom Communications filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a Delaware court so that they could keep operating regardless of their immense debt load (a whopping $770 million).  Running 33 dailies, 70 weeklies, various other publications and 8 television stations, has a huge overhead cost and with media ad sales down across the country, they aren’t generating revenue like they used to.

That’s the thing I always said was great about pcbdaily, being all online.  We have virtually no overhead.  Hosting costs, employee costs and equipment costs are about it, and it’s great.  When times are tough, I can just find some freelance work to make ends meet, but everything else keeps moving.  Of course, many of you know that I started pcbdaily and ran it for a long time while working a full time job somewhere else.

So many people complain about the News Herald.  But, them, along with many media companies, battle political inclinations that motivate them to lean one way or another.  I suppose I’ve been influenced in the like from time to time.  But, the News Herald is mostly a good read.  I read it daily, and personally, enjoy the ink on my fingers.

I’m thankful for our loyal readers who read us daily, and I always hope that we are meeting up to your expectations.  Please use the comments section below to tell us your suggestions for what you want to hear about.

Panama City Beach TDC Meeting Notes – Sea Turtle Lighting Ordinance – cont.

Notes from the December 21, 2007 TDC Turtle Lighting Ordinance Workshop

The December 19th meeting reconvened with 8 board members present.  Gary Walsingham was absent.

Board attorney Doug Sale advised the board he felt they had three possible courses of action.  The first option was to approve draft ordinance 12.20-1 that is a refined version of his 2.18.2007 draft.  12.20-1 provides for some limited grandfathering of existing light sources for economic reasons regardless of whether they meet the public safety exceptions in the draft. However, Sale advised that U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service communicated to him that the limited grandfathering proposal included in this version is unacceptable.  The second option was to approve draft ordinance 12.20-2 which is acceptable to the Service.  12.20-2 removes the limited grandfathering clause and instead provides for a extended compliance period until May 1, 2013.  Sale advised that the third option was to do nothing.

Sale also reiterated that not recommending an ordinance acceptable to the Service would likely put further beach renourishment projects (including the scheduled 2008 program) in jeopardy. However, Sale explained that there is some uncertainty about whether the Service has the statutory authority to require a lighting ordinance as a condition of our beach renourishment.

Yanni Patronis expressed concern about whether passing a lighting ordinance for beachfront property would result in further revisions that include non-beachfront property that may be found to have an effect on the turtles. Sale responded that he did not feel this was the case because the Service would not be able to make a connection between non-beachfront lights and renourishment.

Mike Bennett asked why the board was not also considering including nest relocation in the ordinance.  Lorna Patrick, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, advised that they no longer considered relocation an acceptable solution for lighting issues.  Patronis explained that he felt that PCB was an excellent location for relocations since our tourist season coincides with the nesting season.  Patrick stated that relocation would not be needed if ordinance 12.20-2 passed.

Marty McDaniel asked Patrick whether the Service will agree to look at other options(e.g. relocation), rather than non-beachfront lighting, in the event that regulation of beachfront lighting was found to not be enough to protect the turtles.  Patrick advised that she could not speak for Service but expressed confidence that no further action would be required if 12.20-2 passed.

Gayle Oberst explained that she was worried about the costs of compliance for all beachfront property owners, not just commercial businesses.

Buddy Wilkes asked whether it was possible to increase the bed tax to help cost-share compliance costs with private property owners.  Sale explained that this would be possible.  CVB resident Dan Rowe also suggested that the proceeds of the current 3rd beach renourishment cent could also be used.

The floor was then opened up for public comment.  Julian Bennett discussed other alternatives that could be explored instead of passing a lighting ordinance.

Julie Hilton expressed her belief that the proposed ordinances would not meet the goal of helping the turtles.  She referenced Wednesday’s testimony of the wildlife and lighting experts whose appearance her company facilitated.  She reported that the compliance cost of draft 12.20-1 for her four hotels would be $5 million which would be economically disastrous for her company.  She did, however, express that she could agree with draft 12.20-2 or her own draft that she then distributed to the board.

Charles Hilton expressed that the 5 year compliance period in draft 12.20-1 could not be met for his properties since the problems were unfixable.  He stated that rebuilding was the only option.  Hilton also advised against the board passing an ordinance for appearance purposes that they did not expect to be enforced.

Betty Briard, a property owner in Aquavista, suggested that the board either postpone the issue for further study(especially due to the fact that new drafts were just distributed today) or decide to challenge the Service.  She also expressed her opinion that the individual owners in Aquavista would likely ignore any ordinance that passed just like they ignore rules passed by their own property owner’s association.  Briard also questioned how much the TDC was spending  on this process of considering a lighting ordinance.

Doug Gilmore from the Driftwood Lodge and Osprey Motel discussed the nests that were located behind his properties this past season.  He explained that he believed that 100% of the hatchlings successfully reached the water.

Diane Brown asked the board to ignore Wednesday’s assertions by Dr. Fletemeyer and lighting designer Robert Laughlin that the Service was relying on untruths.  Brown disagreed with any assertion that the public would be disappointed with an ordinance being passed.  In support, she referred to the 2002 West End Pilot Turtle Protection Ordinance which she claimed continues to be supported by the community at large.  Brown also stated that it was her belief that the costs of compliance being quoted by some property owners were exaggerated.  She also suggested that if the Board decides to allow compliance through May 2013 that they require property owners to submit a plan of compliance no later than May 2009.  She also suggested that any discussion about the option of nest relocation be discontinued.

Lighting contractor Terry Selders explained that many older buildings on the beach could not possibly be retrofitted to comply with the proposed ordinances.

Robert Winston suggested that the Board not recommend a new lighting ordinance.  He expressed concerns about public safety, especially involving our spring break visitors.

After the public comments, Gayle Oberst expressed her support of draft 12.20-1.  Oberst made a motion providing that the board agrees to recommend that the Bay County Commission and the  Panama City Beach City Council enact ordinances based on draft 12.20-1.  The motion was seconded by Mike Nelson and passed by a vote of 5-2.  Chairman Phillips departed prior to the vote
and the Patronis and Rick Russell cast the dissenting votes.  Neither Patronis, nor Russell, made any comments concerning the motion.

Audience member Diana Brown then asked what the effect would be on the 2002 Pilot Ordinance.  Attorney Sale directed the question to Bay County Attorney Terrell Arline who advised that that decision would be up to the County Commission.

Editorial by Bryan J. Durta:

It is my opinion that the Bay County Commission and the Panama City Beach City Council should reject the TDC’s recommendation and instead enact Turtle Protection Lighting Ordinances based on draft 12.20-2.  This draft was prepared by TDC’s own attorney after considering both the needs of the community and the desires of the federal government.

Are the Hiltons, Julian Bennett, and their experts correct that the lighting ordinance desired by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would result in few additional turtles reaching maturity and that better alternatives exist?  Probably, but is it really wise for Bay County to take on the state and federal government which fund the majority of our beach renourishment costs?  And what will be the costs of this legal battle?  Are the property owners who oppose a complying ordinance going to form a co-op to pay the county’s legal expenses?  Will the national press brand us as a environmentally unfriendly community?  If so, how will this effect tourism?

Does this community really want to put our beach renourishment project at risk based on financial concerns expressed by just a few property owners? More property owners expressed concern when cutting Spring Break funding was on that table than expressed concern over the lighting ordinance.  And are these financial concerns being exaggerated?  Phillip Griffits, Jr. of the Sugar Sands Beach Resort explained to the Board that his property spent $30,000 bringing his 70 beachfront rooms and public facilities in complying with the West End Pilot Ordinance.  While he acknowledges that he is probably not in 100% compliance due to conflicting public safety laws, he believes that the Service considers him to be a model property that has sufficiently complied.

While every property is unique, I believe that further investigation is needed before accepting the assertion of Paradise Found Resorts that they would need to spend over 14 times more per room to comply than the Sugar Sands did.  And what will be the financial loss to the community if the Service does succeed in preventing any future beach renourishment on Panama City Beach?  We need to remember that the Service potentially has the ability to prevent any renourishment even if we have the financial means to pay for it ourselves.  And are the concerns about public safety valid?  Are turtle-friendly communities such as Rosemary Beach and Watercolor having crime and safety issues that are just not being reported in the media?  And what about all of the new accommodations on Panama City Beach that have been built over the last 10 years in compliance with the turtle-friendly lighting requirements?  Are they having more public safety problems than the older properties?

While I agree that government regulation is getting out of hand, it is just not wise for Bay County to take on the responsibility for fighting the federal government on this issue.  It is in our best economic interest to follow the lead of vast majority of Florida’s beachfront counties and enact a turtle lighting ordinance that has the support of the federal government.