Panama City residents speak out about commercial use boat ramp ordinance

Published: Aug. 4, 2022 at 9:18 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Back in April, nearly a dozen Bay County boat ramps changed to neighborhood use only, after water tours caused parking overflow onto streets. But all that commercial activity had to go somewhere else. Panama City leaders said they are tired of hearing about the backup at some of their ramps and they’re doing something about it.

City leaders are talking about ways to regulate commercial activity at five of the city’s seven boat ramps. But they didn’t want to do anything without hearing from the community first. They held a public workshop Thursday at City Hall to do just that.

Panama City residents are making their voices heard after the idea of cutting commercial use at some popular boat ramps was put on the table.

“If we knew the instance that caused all of this to come on. Right now it just kind of looks like it literally poofed out of the middle of nowhere and hey let’s see what we can regulate and let’s do it,” one Panama City resident said.

City leaders are looking at ways to handle crowds and cars that some residents have complained are taking up all the space.

“We had some complaints from citizens who couldn’t park and didn’t have access because of all this commercial activity going on so we’ll deal with it,” Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki said.

Officials said it only got worse when Bay County cut commercial use on eleven ramps.

“That kind of led to some issues we had in Carl Gray with unlicensed commercial operations,” Panama City Commissioner Josh Street said.

Charter captains argued they don’t see the parking problem, as most of them are in and out before the lunch rush starts.

“Now I don’t know about the kayaks and I don’t know about the jet skis and all those other things. That’s a whole different ball game than the charter captains. We’re in and out. If I’m there for more than 30 minutes, it’s cutting into my time and I’m starting to get a little agitated,” a second Panama City resident said.

It’s something city leaders said they’re taking into consideration.

“I knew that most of the problems that we were having were probably not coming from the fisherman,” Brudnicki said. “You didn’t see too many kayakers here today did you?”

Commissioners agreed the original ordinance proposed, only allowing commercial activity at St. Andrews and Downtown Panama City Marinas, was too strict.

“We’re looking for something a little more workable for the general public,” Street said.

City lawyers are looking to completely redraft the potential ordinance and it will go back in for a first reading whenever it’s complete. City officials said they aren’t sure when that new draft will come in, but they are not expecting this to be ready in time for the next commission meeting.

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