Meridian Live Turned Down for Conditional Use Permit - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Meridian Live Turned Down for Conditional Use Permit

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The old Publix sitting on the corner of R. Jackson Boulevard and Hutchison Boulevard sits on more than three acres of land. That's why the Panama City Beach City Council Members must make the final decision on whether or not to allow a "House of Blues" type project a conditional use permit for the property.

The 80,000 square foot property has sat vacant for more than four years.

Chris Pitts, the owner and creator of Meridian Live, brought a proposal to the planning board in December of 2013. The idea? A jazz venue with a "Southern Chic" style restaurant with a convention space for concerts and other events. Max capacity about 2500 people, according to Pitts.

He was met with strong opposition from neighborhood residents close by the Publix location back in December. Wednesday, not much changed.

"Unless there are stringent forcible conditions included in any agreement with Meridian the owners at Edgewater don't see this proposal as an asset to the neighborhood atmosphere that surrounds the Publix complex," said Jim Bailey of the Homeowner's Association at Edgewater. "But, rather a detriment to the peace and security that we all appreciate under our current situation."

After speaking to the Planning Board late last year Pitts backed away from the concert idea for the convention hall, aiming the space more toward trade shows and -- possibly in the future -- sporting events.

However, the board was concerned with the vagueness of the proposal and denied a conditional use permit for the space. They suggested Pitts go back and tighten up the application and make it more specific and add restrictions.

"We are going to look into proceeding with that and we might look into revisiting this conditional use request based on restrictions that I mentioned earlier to see if that is able to move forward possibly," said Pitts. "But, like I said, we've got a couple of things to look at, a couple of different areas to look at, and we will move forward with something."

Pitts told News13 he's planning to take a couple weeks off and get with investors for future plans. The conditional use permit does not prevent him from opening the restaurant portion of the project, just the convention hall usage.

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