Three new people joined the Bay County Commission Tuesday and didn't waste any time jumping feet first into one of the biggest issues facing our area, annexation and managed growth. They seemingly brought one annexation fight to an end, but may have opened the door on another.
The county has never supported Panama City's plan to annex property on Goose Bayou's Pine Island, but any plans to pursue legal opposition are now over. Commissioner Jerry Girvin wanted the county to proceed with a legal battle to stop the annexation.
"In this case the land owner approached the county. We said it was not a good idea to carry out the project and that led the land owner to say to the city, ‘well we want to be annexed into you.’"
The commissioners were more concerned about getting in a battle with the city. Commissioner Mike Thomas doesn't want the county to prohibit any annexations unless they are illegal.
"I hate for us to oppose somebody having the right to annex into another city and I've hated that with every issue, some are good and some are bad. I don't know that as a county we should oppose annexation."
The developer, Fred Webb, says the plan is to build 13 single family luxury homes that will not disrupt the environment. He says this is not a legal issue for the county to decide.
"This is really no more than an attempt to take private property and make a park out of it, and we don't think that's fair.”
Opponents of the development and annexation unsuccessfully tried to convince the commission to step in and fight Panama City. Louise Berry protested that not all activists are against growth.
"It is not true that the environmentalists, who are the people of this community, not just people who are interested in tree hugging, we do not object to development, if it is done legally and correctly."
The county voted 3 to 2, preventing any further action by the county to stop the annexation. However, later in the meeting at the request of the city of Cedar Grove, the commission voted 3 to 2 to pursue legal action against Panama City for a different annexation at the intersection of Highway 231 and 390.