Neighbors Serve Up a "No" to Hamilton's Expansion Plans

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It's been a tough fall for Hamilton's owner Steve Stevens. In September a tornado spawned by Hurricane Ivan destroyed his landmark business.

Now it appears his plans to build a high-rise condo on the restaurant site are not going to materialize. The Bay County planning commission has rejected Steve Stevens' application for a zoning change for his property on North Lagoon Drive.

Stevens had planned to build a combination of condominiums, retails shops and another restaurant. The project would have been built on a little more than two acres that used to be his restaurant.

The land sits on the corner of Thomas Drive and North Lagoon Drive. That land is zoned commercial. Stevens was asking the planning commission to change the zoning to a combination of commercial and residential.

That apparently didn't sit well with neighbors, who are opposed to a building that could have been 23 stories with 246 condos. They asked planning board members to reject Stevens’ request, which they did, by a four to nothing vote.

Stevens says this latest setback is disheartening.

"I suffered after Opal, got back on my feet that almost put me out of business. Now, this, this is a hundred times worse. At least I was able to open my doors. Right now the restaurant is totally, basically demolished.”

Stevens says he's a restaurant operator and just wants to reopen Hamilton's, but his biggest obstacle is money. He says his insurance company isn't going to pay him enough to rebuild the damages he suffered during Hurricane Ivan.

He says this condo development is the only way he'll be able to stay in business. Stevens can still take his case to the Bay County commission and ask commissioners to overrule the planning board, granting his zoning change, and he says that's probably what he'll do.