The Swap Stopped

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A developer's plans to swap property to build on the downtown marina were shot down in a unanimous vote at the Panama City Commission Tuesday night. It was standing room only with support divided for and against the Bob Blackerby proposed land swap.

Commissioner John Pilcher said he added this issue to the agenda last week because it was not fair to anyone to wait any longer. Pilcher said he opposed the project, but would look at selling the property to the highest bidder.

Pilcher made the motion to stop the swap immediately; Commissioner Katherine Hanline seconded the proposal. Before the decision was made, Blackerby spoke up once again trying to unravel some of the myths brought up against his project by Pilcher and others.

"Every time I've made a statement to this commission I've said I'm in full support of an appraisal, that if we don't meet and exceed any value of this land we shouldn't do the project or we should have to make adjustments to it."

Supporters on both sides were allowed the chance to speak to the commission as well. June Lloyd was against the swap and wanted the entire marina property to stay the same.

"Just this past weekend, a regular weekend in the life of the marina, there were 8,533 people that came here either for concerts or just enjoy the day."

Jim Barton works at the Warehouse Cafe on Harrison Avenue and has enjoyed the activity just starting to come to the area with more residents living downtown.

"I live down here. I work down here and I hate having to leave my residence or my local area to spend my money. I'd like to see it be down here."

Before the vote Mayor Gerry Clemons apologized to Blackerby for all his effort. Clemons said it was his fault for allowing Blackerby to think he would have until December to garner support, but he could not control the actions of his fellow commissioners. He agreed Blackerby was a visionary, but now is not the time to support such a project with such a public outcry of mistrust.