Florida Panhandle RV Resort Up in Air
Plans for a beachside RV park in Panama City Beach, Fla., have riled up a bunch of condo owners at Boardwalk Beach Resort.
“They caught everybody off guard,” condo owner John Bienkowski told the Panama City News Herald. “I think a lot of people felt blindsided by this.”
A rezoning request by Resort Hospitality Enterprises placed on the Feb. 13 agenda of the city Planning Board would allow the development of a park for recreational vehicles on 5.6 acres at 9400 S. Thomas Drive.
The original zoning and plans for the beachside plot had called for 298 condo units at the site, located between Boardwalk on the west and Top of the Gulf on the east. If granted, the rezoning would lead to the only beachside RV park in Panama City Beach.
Bienkowski, who lives on the 19th floor of the Boardwalk just west of the location, said he was concerned that opening up beachfront property to an RV park would set a bad precedent for the beaches of Bay County. He also worried the value of the condos in his 233-unit building would diminish.
Currently, there are other empty sites along the beach where condos were planned before the economic downturn, he said. He painted a scenario of “condos, trailer parks, condos, trailer parks, all down the beach. Do we really want that?”
City Planning Director Mel Leonard said the city may have no choice because both the current and requested zoning designations are part of the city’s Tourist Future Land Use Map. In such a case, the burden falls on the city to provide a credible reason to deny the rezoning request, he said.
“It’s a tourist-related use,” Leonard said of the motorcoach park. “It is in a tourist corridor.”
In a report prepared by his office for Planning Board members, Leonard said his staff was unable to identify “a substantial reason to deny the request” but that property owners speaking at a public hearing could be used by the board to turn down the rezoning.
“It is recommended that the planning board hear all evidence presented at the (Monday) hearing and decide if there is sufficient evidence to deny the request,” the report stated.
David Chapman, spokesman for Resort Hospitality Enterprises, said Wednesday there were plans to pull the request from Monday’s agenda. Leonard said late Wednesday that his office had received a written request to remove the rezoning application in order to address concerns.
Leonard said the City Council eventually would have to either deny or approve the Planning Board’s decision, and another condo owner, Sal Lamantia, said he already had received an e-mail from Mayor Gayle Oberst stating she opposed the rezoning. Lamantia, speaking by phone from his home in New Jersey, said he was concerned the RV park “would bring downward pressure on rentals.”
“There are no other (Bay County) coastal parcels zoned for this,” Lamantia said. “Our property values would go down.”
Bienkowski said he had contacted 40 condo owners so far and 39 opposed the new plans.
Leonard said it was beyond the scope of his office to make decisions on whether values of specific condos would rise or fall. Decisions were made on whether zoning requests were consistent with the city’s Comprehensive Plan, he said.
The recommendation provided to Planning Board members included a list of design standards for the site the developer would have to observe, however, such as the number of vehicles per acre, the types and widths of internal streets and the amount of recreational area, Leonard said.