Thomas Drive Rezoning

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Residents and business owners living along Thomas Drive in Panama City Beach were outraged to hear developers had requested a zoning change to allow condominiums in their neighborhood, which sits across the street from the Gulf.

"The community is pretty enraged by the predatory action of these developers," says Sparky Thorne, a Thomas Drive business owner.

The developers don't think they're being predatory. One had plans for a mid-size condominium on two parcels of land under an acre each, but the only zoning that would allow anything over six stories was Seasonal Resort 2, which allows up to 23 stories.

Now, the developer is postponing his rezoning request until the county votes on a new zoning category with a height limit of 12 stories.

"It's becoming apparent that the gap between the high 230 feet, and low 60 feet is too wide. We had to come up with something in the middle height-wise and use-wise," says Dan Shaw of the Bay County Planning Department.

Residents say the proposed zoning category is still too high for their neighborhood. They plan to fight any rezoning change over the current four-story limit.

"They've come back to the table with a 100-foot limit. I don't agree with that. They need to stay with what we got," says Al Davis, who lives on South Lagoon Drive.

The new proposed zoning category would be called Seasonal Resort 1A.

County staff are drafted the guidelines right now, but it will have to go to planning board for a vote before county commissioners take up the issue.