The rebuilding of the Port St. Joe Marina gained traction Tuesday as Port St. Joe commissioners approved ordinances for a zoning change and a Planned Unit Development on the marina site.
The zoning change approved during the bi-monthly meeting, converting 10 acres at the marina site from industrial to mixed use, was relatively minor as a component of the overall development.
The PUD puts in place at least a tentative look at what St. Joe, which owns the marina site, hoped to accomplish.
“Everything is tentative at this point,” said St. Joe representative Patrick Murphy.
A PUD is the designed grouping of varied and compatible land uses within one contained development or subdivision.
And that definition dovetails perfectly with the broad strokes St. Joe has put forward and already had approved by the city’s Planning Development Review Board.
The rebuild of the marina will include a four-story, 150-room hotel overlooking St. Joseph Bay, a waterfront restaurant, a commercial “village” and expanded parking.
The number of outdoor boat slips and indoor storage slips will be nearly doubled.
A new marina store and club are also part of the plan.
The city has several carrots included.
First, as Commissioner Scott Hoffman, the plan ended debate, if any existed, over ownership of Clifford Sims Park.
The plan stated the park “will remain open to the public” and the entrance will be enhanced as a gateway to Clifford Sims Park and the marina promenade.
In addition, the plan detailed that Marina Drive was also owned by the city, another bit of contention in recent months concerning who owned what at the marina.
The city will take up a second reading and adoption of both ordinances next month.
Commissioners approved a grant application for Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) funds to facilitate stormwater improvements in the city.
“This is something we have been working on for some two years,” said City Manager Jim Anderson. “The main emphasis is on water quality.”
The grant dollars, roughly $800,000, would also allow for stormwater modeling and drafting of a stormwater plan for the entire city proper.
Primarily, the focus is on the stormwater system that threads through the city and deposits into St. Joseph Bay near Sixteenth Street.
One goal is to bolster the existing system of retention ponds (Buck Griffin Lake) to enhance the cleaning of water before it reaches the Bay.
“This is a singular but important step to the long-term goal that is the health of St. Joseph Bay,” said Brett Cyphers from the Northwest Florida Water Management District, which is partnering with the city in urging the grant forward.
“This will be a great project.”
Exactly how to bolster the existing stormwater system will emerge after a series of public workshops are held on the project.
And wording specifically ensuring no link between the stormwater project and the proposed renovation of the 10th Street Ball Park was included in the application to reflect feedback from plaintiffs in litigation pertaining to the park renovation.
As part of a compromise with neighbors to the 10th Street Ball Park, no work will be done that far north, for instance, and wording in the grant application provides a fire wall to co-mingling with funds for the park renovation.
Resident Christy McElroy, also a plaintiff in the litigation, said such wording was essential to ensure transparency in both projects, improving stormwater, the proposed park renovation.
She referenced a recent series of newspaper articles out Tallahassee detailing a corruption investigation which, she noted, has now reached Gulf County, with two businesses operating in the county, Preble Rish Engineering and Waste Pro, involved in the investigation.
“I am looking forward to the workshops,” McElroy said. “This process must be transparent.”
Buzzett assured that the workshops would be held and at a time allowing those who wished to provide input to be present.
A representative from the Paces Foundation, which built the Gateway Apartments on Clifford Sims Blvd., approached the board to gauge interest in adding to the number of units at the complex.
The foundation, he said, still has roughly $8 million or so in state housing funds it could apply to an addition of 26 units at the Port St. Joe apartment complex.
There were hurdles, especially a proposal to maintain the one roadway entrance/exit to the complex and a request the city provide some relief for fees.
Commissioner David Ashbrook noted it would simply be extending an existing project and would help address the most pressing issue in the county, affordable housing.
But, Commissioner Eric Langston said the traffic was already impactful enough on Broad Street, where apartment traffic now empties, and another entrance would be needed to secure his support.
Mayor Rex Buzzett said the city was in no position to provide any relief on fees, given the city’s economic situation after Hurricane Michael.
But, the board also expressed a desire to work through the issues to see if a solution could be found if it meant additional affordable housing.