Panama City Looking to Adopt Bed Tax, Commission Wrap up - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Panama City Looking to Adopt Bed Tax, Commission Wrap up

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A proposed bed tax option got heavy support at Tuesday morning's Panama City commission meeting -- from commissioners and attendees.

"The Bay County Chamber is 100 percent in favor of a bed tax for Panama City," said Bill Fenimore, the Chairman of the Chamber.  

He and others made their support known as they took their turn at the podium.

"We get the calls and people who are surprised that we just have six percent tax here," said Harry Patel, a hotel owner in the city. "So, definitely we are leaving a lot of dollars on the table that we should be collecting it and using it for the betterment of Panama City."

"It could enhance revenue for everybody if we are able to market businesses and activities that we have going on this side of the bridge," said Jennifer Jones of the Bay Arts Alliance.

The idea is to put heads in beds with a five percent tax on the table. But, a special act will need approval at the state level to leave the two chairs at the Tourist Development Council to those with the most tourist revenue, not necessarily to the largest city in population. The board will take actions much like Mexico Beach and collect the tax from the TDC without getting directly involved.

"I would like us to see some vision before hand, before we commit to this," said Commissioner John Kady. "How it would be spent, the general direction, and how the board would be made up because I think that's very important."

Also at this mornings meeting the board proposed a special act authorizing the sale of alcohol by licensed establishments that could leave the property during special events.

"This doesn't give a patron the ability to walk out of any establishment that has an alcohol license to walk out on a city street at any time," said Jeff Brown. "They can only walk out if there is a permit holder outside those premise."

Concerns from commissioners addressed where the entertainment district actually lies and if that be easily amended in the future.

"We've got growing communities and they may come up and want to do some similar things in other areas," said Commissioner Kenneth Brown. "Will we have the ability to make provisions without having to go through the whole process again?"

Local delegation meets December 5th to consider bills to be brought before state legislature. From there it will be decided how those bills fit into the legislative process in Tallahassee.

Some residents in the cove community may be getting an early Christmas present. Those using Golf Carts in the Panama City subdivision got initial approval by commissioners to move forward with a pilot program that would allow them to roam on city streets.

For many living in the Cove they say they can go days without every turning on their cars. It saves them gas and they see it as a friendly way to build a sense of community. This morning their concerns were answered with solutions as the board held it's first reading of the ordinance allowing golf carts on certain city streets.

Previous discussion involved Chief of Police Scott Ervin who brought up issues like safety and the likelihood of bodily injury.

The proposed area of the pilot program would run south of 4th street to St. Andrews Bay and east to west from Watson Bayou to Massalina Bayou.

Their was a majority of consensus from the board, but many still have concerns over safety.

"There is going to be some need for discussion and some direction between the first reading and the second reading of the ordinance," said Assistant City Manager Jeff Brown. "But, staff does have some ideas.

"But, we do need to have some criteria developed between now and the second reading."

The second reading will be held at the next commission meeting in December.