Public Hearing on the Future of the Present Airport Site

Under the assumption a new Bay County airport will be built in West Bay, officials want to have a plan in place for replacing the current airport site.

They would sell the 700-acre piece of property to help pay for the new airport, and Thursday night the public got a chance to give its foresight for the area off of State Road 390.

Some say preservation areas and parks are ideal. Others say research facilities and commercial development is key, but all can agree the site should serve the public in some way.

Thursday night, community members told a consulting firm hired by the Airport Authority their ideas for the current airport site if a new airport is built in West Bay.

Some people want to reserve the area near the bay where the runway now lies for parks and preservation areas. One of those is Mary Keith.

“We have not a single soccer field in Panama City. There’s very few places for biking or rollerblading or any of that type of exercise. We need to have a safe area to put in a kayak or canoe."

Others want commercial development along Highway 390 and businesses that would be an investment in our future.

"We have an opportunity here like no other to bring in a research center. A regional university research center."

While many were excited to share their ideas, others, like Lynn Haven Resident Frank Gorham, think it's premature to even have this type of discussion.

"Any talk about redeveloping the existing site is just an arm wave. It's just money in the consultants’ pockets. This is just a way to convince the public, 55 percent of which is against relocation, that this is a done deal and marching on to the end."

Airport Authority members say a plan has to be put in place, so they're not caught unprepared if and when the new airport is built. The consulting firm, PBS and J, will have a master plan for the current airport site by the end of this year.