No Question About Airport Referendum Question

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Voters now have a question to answer on Election Day regarding the relocation of the Panama City-Bay County International airport.

The Bay County Commission debated how the question should be worded and if more than one was needed before deciding Tuesday on one question to appear on a March 9 ballot.

Voters will be asked: Do you favor the future relocation of the Panama City-Bay County airport at no cost to taxpayers?

County Commissioner George Gainer expects low voter turnout because the airport referendum will be on the democratic presidential preference ballot.

"I think March will not be as good as August or November would be because all we got is a presidential preference and a non-binding referendum. That just doesn't motivate a lot of people to go vote."

The Commission voted 3-1 in favor of the language. Commissioner John Newberry voted against it and Commissioner Mike Ropa was absent for the vote.

Commissioner's also overturned the Bay County Planning Commission's approval for a proposed condominium project in Panama City Beach.

Tesslation Incorporated wants to tear down an existing business and build a mid-rise condo on property at Front Beach Road and Twin Lakes Drive.

The 15-unit condo would require encroachment into a wetlands buffer zone for parking which the planning commission approved.

"I think we need to draw the line somewhere and say unless you have a serious problem, we don't do variances," says Commissioner Jerry Girvin.

Upon an appeal from citizens, Girvin, Gainer and Newberry rejected the planning commission's decision. County Commissioner Cornel Brock voted to approve the decision.

Gainer says, "If the applicant were in good faith, then they would have come before the planning staff and said here's what we want to do here. Will this work?"

Bay County recommended the developer to design a structure, which would not encroach on the wetlands buffer zone.

In other commission news, a tentative deal has been made for the county to take over the operations of the M.B. Miller County Pier.

The county commission was seeking to fire Richard Lipton of Destin as pier manager for serious contract breaches. Lipton says he hasn't been able to make improvements to the pier because the commission won't approve his renovation plans.

Tuesday, commissioners agreed not to take legal action against Lipton if he voluntarily leaves the pier. The county would then begin to run it.

Lipton has until Friday to sign-off on the deal or the county will go to court to remove him as pier manager.