Article Courtesy of The Panama City News Herald
By Ed Offley
Published November 12, 2018
PANAMA CITY BEACH — The era of the 22-story high-rise condominium is ending.
The City Council on Thursday evening held the first of two public hearings
on a proposed amendment that would cap the height of beachfront condominiums
at 150 feet, or 15 stories. Ordinance No. 1475 would replace a six-year-old
provision in the city’s land development code that provided the opportunity
for developers to build up to 220 feet by guaranteeing various “height
incentives” such as public parking and restrooms, access driveways, and/or
beach access points and special “Florida friendly” landscaping requiring
The ordinance states that “the public benefit arising
from the height incentive options (in the current land development code) no
longer outweighs the benefits of strict compliance with the city’s height
design guidelines .... ”
The new ordinance also requires the incorporation of four design elements as
mandatory features that were optional in the current code, City Planning
Director Mel Leonard said Thursday.
These are creation of a distinct roof design to the top of the structure;
incorporation of a “recognizable” base to the building; addition of
customized lighting to illuminate the building and its landscaping, and
enhanced entryway design.
“This is good” for the city, Mayor Mike Thomas said after the meeting.
“Under the current code, we were picking winners and losers (by granting or
declining height incentives), and that’s not right.”
The Panama City Beach City Council meets on April 25
at Panama City Beach City Hall.
While council members previously have expressed a dislike
for the current ordinance’s lack of clarity over waiving the 150-foot
building height for beachfront condos, they also favor curtailing the higher
buildings to mitigate street traffic and congestion on the sandy beach,
In the two decades since Panama City Beach in the early 2000s began its
massive growth from a mid-sized tourist town to a major resort destination,
various iterations of the land development code have resulted in the
construction of 25 condominiums of 22 stories, and one (Tidewater Beach) of
The beachfront in unincorporated Bay County currently is zoned to allow a
maximum height of 22 stories.
In a special meeting on Sept. 27, city council members voted on requests by
developers to obtain height incentives on five proposed condominium towers
to enable them to gain the full 22 stories. Voicing the same concerns over
traffic and beach congestion, the council unanimous rejected one of the
proposals because of its potential impact on an adjacent neighborhood.
Council members then approved the others but limited the heights to 185 feet
in three of the projects and 190 feet in the fourth.
With scant public comments and the briefest of discussions, the council
voted 4-0 Thursday, with Councilman Geoff McConnell absent, to approve the
ordinance. A second public hearing and final vote will be held at its next
meeting on Dec. 13.