Annexation Wars

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Panama City Beach officials hope to use a long-forgotten law to keep Panama City from coming over the bridge and possibly build a beach airport.

The beach city council dealt with several major issues involving more than just beach residents Thursday night, including a community pool, the possibility of a beach airport and another pipeline debate thanks to plans out of Panama City.

The Holiday Lodge property at the base of the Hathaway Bridge is causing some friction between the two cities. Last week Panama City commissioners recommended annexing the property. The problem for the beach is that they'll have to provide sewer and water to the area, and if they refuse Panama City officials say they'll run a pipeline along the new bridge or under the water to bring the services there.

Beach Mayor Lee Sullivan says that is just unacceptable.

"It's like the devil and the deep blue sea, well I'll take the devil and leave the deep blue sea alone. In my opinion, running a sewer line under our bay is not an option."

A 15-year-old law may allow Panama City Beach to keep Panama City on its own side of the bridge. Chapter 89-490 says the city of Panama City Beach is authorized to plan, acquire, and develop recreational or industrial development facilities within 12 miles of the city limit.

Beach city attorney Douglas Sale says purchasing the property is an option under the special provision in Florida state law. He says the city would most likely have to pay fair market value for the Holiday Lodge property.

The Holiday Lodge property owner is planning a high-rise condo and is hoping to build a 22 to 32-story condominium complex on the site. A building like that would look right into the Navy base's back yard and could expose the base to BRAC closures next time around. That could give the beach more leverage to take over the property.