Panama City denies appeal for Suzuki development

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB)–Some local residents are once again protesting the plans for a new boat testing facility in Panama City. They appealed the city planning board’s development order approval for the Suzuki Motor of America motor test center on Robinson Bayou.

The proposed development is a marine technical institute.

“Yesterday at the Gulf Power symposium, the number one project in the region for economic development was Suzuki in Panama City,” said Greg Brudnicki, Panama City’s Mayor.

But some people living near the site are opposing the project. David Chapman appealed the development order Friday.

“How far it protrudes into the bayou, how much of usable recreational waterbody it takes up, safety, environmental concern,” Chapman said.

Suzuki officials contend they’ll be preserving more than 50% of the land which is more than the 10% required by Panama City’s land codes.

“My opinion is the neighbors should be thanking us for the proposed use of that site. It could be far more intensive than what’s being proposed,” said Gary Hunter, with Suzuki.

Opponents also have issues with the nature of the project, saying the docks resemble a marina and may be used as one.

“If they have no intentions of using that as a marina in any type of aspect or respect to a marina then let’s put that in writing too,” Chapman said.

Despite concerns, city commissioners approved the planning board’s decision unanimously. They say it’s compliant with the city’s code.

“Based on not emotion, just looking at the facts. I mean to me there’s no question it’s a marine facility. I appreciate the concessions that Suzuki has made,” said Jenna Haligas, a Panama City Commissioner.

The city’s approval is contingent upon the following: The Florida D.E.P must approve their permit, the developer must remove a part of the dock from their plans, their boats must operate at a no-wake zone speed, and if they ever attempt to use the property for commercial or private use, they must come back before the board.

The Department of Environmental Protection still needs to approve the docks. Opponents will have the opportunity to appeal the decision again and then file a lawsuit in circuit court.

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