News Column

City to decide fate of amusement park Thursday

June 26, 2014

By John Henderson, The News Herald, Panama City, Fla.



June 26--PANAMA CITY BEACH -- The City Council is slated Thursday to make a final decision on whether to allow a small amusement park in Pier Park.

The council is scheduled to conduct a rehearing at 12:30 p.m. in the council chambers at 110 S. Arnold Road on the city's decision to issue a notice of intent for a development order paving the way for the 10-ride park.

Miracle Strip Carousel was operating a small amusement park in the same location where Pier Park Rides wants to open one. Miracle Strip is contending the proposed Pier Park Rides attraction would not conform with the city's land development code and the Pier Park Development of Regional Impact (DRI).

"The developer is not in compliance with the DRI Development order," a letter from Miracle Strip's attorney, Michael S. Burke, to the city in June states.

Burke also is arguing the square footage of the specific commercial zone within Pier Park exceeds the permitted square footage outlined in the DRI.

City Manager Mario Gisbert said Tuesday that Burke's opinion is not shared by everyone.

"We have a land planner who feels differently," Gisbert said.

The Planning Board approved issuance of the order for the new amusement park June 9.

"The city has requested a rehearing before the City Council as the ultimate governing body of the city," a public notice of Thursday's meeting states. Attorney Robert Hughes, representing Pier Park Rides, told the Planning Board on June 9 that the appeal was ultimately an attempt by Miracle Strip Carousel to impede competition and delay the process during the peak tourist season.

According to a report submitted to the city by a consultant for Simon Property Group, which owns Pier Park, the new amusement park would have 10 rides, including kids' rides, family rides, thrill rides, and covered and outdoor seating. Bathroom facilities also would be constructed on the site.

"By comparison, Miracle Strip Carousel had 12 rides/attractions and no bathroom," the report to the city from Second Tar Group states.

At its June 12 meeting, the City Council debated whether it was appropriate to expedite the appeal process and hold the hearing Thursday. Prior to the meeting, Gisbert said in a letter to the council it was in the "public interest to resolve this matter as quickly as possible."

But Burke told the council he didn't see the need for the hurry.

"No, my clients are not satisfied with this expedited process," he told council members. "It is outside of the strictures of your code. We believe that it may be permitted, perhaps, because it is not exactly prohibited by the code."

The regularly scheduled City Council meeting is slated to start at 2 p.m. Thursday. Gisbert said the agenda was made intentionally light. He said he expects the hearing on the amusement park to break before the short council meeting, and then resume after it.

At the regularly scheduled meeting, the council is being asked to approve a $202,850 bid to resurface all or portions of the following roads: Youpon Street, Lyndell Lane, Azalea Street, Wisteria Street, Dogwood Street, Alf Coleman Road, Lullwater Drive and Fernwood Street.

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(c)2014 The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.)

Visit The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.) at www.newsherald.com

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Source: News Herald (Panama City, FL)


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