Work continues on a major new expansion to a Panama City Beach shopping and entertainment center. But some nearby residents are up in arms over the construction site. News 13 checks their issues in this report.
Pier Park North continues to go up off of U.S. Highway 98. Immediately at the north end of that property lies Palmetto Trace. Residents say they are tired of the noise, the dirt and more. There are approximately 400 homes in all in this neighborhood.
Deborah Tainsh says in 2008, she and her husband built their home and moved in. Tainsh went on to say, "Of course, we knew there would be commercial building out there...but we were told that there would be not coming up so close and wiping out all of our trees due to it being wetlands." Joanne Demarest says she can't fight the dust, "I have a pool in my backyard and it is unusual at this point."
Dust in the air is a constant issue from huge mounds of dirt that is being used in the construction process. The work won't be over soon. The target date for completion of Pier Park North is early spring 2014.
Panama City Beach building officials tell us, they have heard concerns from residents and have passed those complaints on to the contractor, Hoar Construction, based in Birmingham, Alabama. PCB Building official Ken Thorndyke says, "we met with the contractor and walked the site last week and they have agreed and are on board with putting up the permanent final fencing around that whole site...which usually doesn't come until the end of the project. They've put flotation devices around the retention ponds in case, God forbid, any kind of accident would happen. So they are trying to be a good neighbor."
The contractor says preparations are already underway this week to install that six-foot high permanent fence. Hopefully, it will be up with the next couple weeks.
As for the zoning questions, I spoke with Mel Leonard, PCB Director of Planning and Building. He tells me only a small portion of the property has been designated as wetlands and will remain so. The remainder, now under development, has always been zoned either as commercial or mixed use.