Commissioner, Tourism Director Spar Over Special Events - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Commissioner, Tourism Director Spar Over Special Events

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Is too much of a good thing bad for business?

Bay County Commissioner Mike Thomas suggested it could be at Tuesday's board meeting.  Thomas wasn't complaining about the number of special events held at the west end of Panama City Beach, just the location of some of them.

The commissioner made his comments in response to a Tourist Development Council (TDC) request to close the eastbound lane of Front Beach Road for a half marathon run on December 30.  Dan Rowe, TDC Executive Director, asked the commission to request that the Florida Department of Transportation close the road from the city limits to the Ramsgate Condominiums for the morning event.

Thomas said too many events take place at the west end of the beach, disrupting businesses and inconveniencing residents.  That led to a lively exchange between the commissioner and TDC official, who said the impact on businesses during the upcoming event would be "relatively small."

"Did you talk to the businesses to the west [of Pier Park] to evaluate this? asked Thomas.

"I have spoken to one of the businesses to the west and he is speaking to me right now and he was not in favor of this," responded Rowe, referring to Thomas, who owns restaurants at the beach.

Thomas favors special events that bring visitors, but wants to see them spread to other areas of the beach.  "The fact is that when you race or run or walk or whatever you do down the same area every time... you affect the businesses and the lives of the residents that live in that area," he said.

Rowe said he's open to alternatives.  "We'll take a look at how we participate in those races and then ultimately what the routes are," said Rowe.  "We'll work with the county and the city on developing a plan to address all those concerns."

The board approved the lane closure, with Thomas casting the lone dissenting vote, but commissioners Mike Nelson and George Gainer told the TDC executive director not to count on approval next time, unless some alternate routes are identified.