PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. — The Panama City Beach City Council has voted to reopen the beaches for limited times and use.
The council passed the ordinance unanimously at this first meeting for newly elected mayor, Mark Sheldon and new councilman Michael Jarman.
“Obviously this was a hot topic during our campaign season and for Michel and I both, and I know Councilman Chester dealt with it as well and no one wants to see Panama City Beach closed. We live in the world’s most beautiful beaches,” Mayor Sheldon said.
This comes after the Bay County Commission voted Tuesday to reopen their portion of Panama City Beach that is under their authority in a limited capacity.
“I see this as a baby step, it’s not a giant step. I think it’s a reasonable step, it’s a trial run and I’d like to put the caveat in there with the understanding if we have some flare ups and there’s other issues that we don’t see coming, we can shut this thing down,” said councilman Paul Casto.
Even though the vote was unanimous, council members did voice some concerns.
“I am a little concerned with our surrounding states and our state not having any decline in new cases. I’m a little concerned with Georgia still increasing. However, I think this is probably the time to look at it and open it up for people,” said councilman Geoff McConnell.
Councilman Phil Chester was also re-sworn into office at the meeting, winning re-election for his seat.
He made it a point to let residents know, this is not a move to welcome visitors to the area.
“The TDC is not going to be advertising for people to come down here by no means. They’re actually going to be flying a banner plane twice a day I think, twice a day warning people so I assure you, they’re not advertising and opening up the flood gates for people to come down,” said Chester.
While Thursday was Jarman’s first meeting as a councilman, he says he feels confident in the move because of the caliber of the city’s employees.
“I know we have the best police department, fire department in the area and they will be relied upon heavily to make sure that everything is going smooth,” Jarman said.
Starting Friday, April 24, Panama City Beach will be following the county and reopening from 6 a.m. until 9 a.m. and then again from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. for limited use.
The ordinance prohibits groups larger than 10 and any commercial activity to encourage social distancing.
Other than these times, the beaches are still closed.