Lake Powell Drive development approved

An 80-unit townhome project in the Lake Powell area got the green light from Bay County commissioners Tuesday to the dismay of nearby residents.

“It’s an abomination,” one resident yelled out as she was leaving the meeting.

The commission approved the planned unit development (PUD) request for the project, which is slated to be built on an almost 6-acre site at the southwest corner of Lake Powell Drive and Lakeview Drive. The site is behind and to the east of the Publix store at 23026 Back Beach Road.

The PUD request called for reducing the right of way within the development from the usual 60 feet to 40 feet. The developer also agreed to put in an access road with an adjoining multi-use path from Lake Powell Drive up to Publix so residents don’t have to go onto U.S. 98 to access the store.

Lake Powell area residents urged the commission to find a way to quash the project, saying development going around the scenic lake is ruining their neighborhood.

They also complained that they only found out about the proposal at the last minute and urged the commission to reschedule the hearing so more Lake Powell area residents could make their concerns known.

“The whole neighborhood is extremely concerned about this PUD, large, high density (development), the congestion,” said Sandy Mandigo, who lives on Ann Miller Drive on the lake. “Everyone in the neighborhood is terrified of this. It is too much. It is too big.”

Residents said the land clearing to pave the way for new homes is causing everything from road backups to interruption of utilities, and the new townhome development would make that bad situation worse.

Emily Morris, who lives at 22912 Ann Miller Road on the lake, said she is all for responsible development, but that is not what is happening.

“It’s like a bulldozer has come through and completely destroyed our beautiful neighborhood,” she said.

But Ian Crelling, the community development manager for Bay County, explained that the property already has zoning that allows 80 townhomes. He said the developer was simply asking for a planned unit development approval that allows for some flexibility in the internal design of the project.

“They are not asking for any changes regarding density,” Crelling said.

Commissioners explained to the residents that the current zoning on the property could allow a lot more dense development than the townhome project.

Commissioner Robert Carroll said the current C-3 zoning allows a long list of commercial uses.

“It could be another shopping center, another Publix,” he said. “It could be retail. It could be warehouses. It could be a 10-story hotel. The allowable density is 15 units per acre, so they could put more (units) than what they are asking for. They could do this project without this PUD.”

Carroll, an engineer who works on development plans, said he is concerned about the parking and it is something the developer will have to work out.

“I know that they could do this project without being here, without asking for our approval,” he said. “They are asking for just some details at how the interconnectivity is.”

He said the developer will have to design the stormwater system for a 100-year flood because Lake Powell is a protected waterway.

“So any runoff that leaves that way they’ll have to put extra protections on it,” Carroll said.

Carroll also said the developer will have to do a detailed traffic analysis.

Crelling said a development order still must be issued before building can begin, which involves traffic and other studies.

Commissioner Philip “Griff” Griffitts said if the landowner built on all of the 7 acres he owns under current zoning there, he could build 108 single-family homes at the site.

“They could go to 230-foot height, versus 30 foot, which is what we are allowing them,” he said.

Source:  Panama City News Herald

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