After roughly 75 minutes of uneventfully going about the county’s business, the Board of County Commissioners and a packed meeting room veered toward smack-down.
The board chair expressed resistance to listening to public comment when it came time for, well, public comment.
The chair and the county administrator, at separate junctures over the ensuing 60 difficult-at-times-to-listen-to minutes each became openly hostile toward the audience or individual speakers.
And it was all over an issue that was not even on the agenda and one, several speakers noted, commissioners had done their best to run from over the past couple of years.
That issue was RVs in the tourist corridor and according to board critics, more and more are coming into the county and setting up where the impacts ripple across the county.
And the controversy really began Monday when the Planning Development Review Board found the board had no basis to deny construction of a development comprised of three RVs in the tourist corridor.
The applicant was seeking to place three RVs with full utilities on two 1.8 acre parcels off CR30-E.
Some 50 residents attended the PRDB meeting and the BOCC meeting room Tuesday morning was standing-room-only before the meeting began, with many residents wearing signs around their necks that read, “Vote No on RV Parks.”
And they waited until the end of the meeting and the time set aside for those who wish to speak to have their say.
However, most were not afforded such.
Commissioner Sandy Quinn, Jr. openly questioned why so many, at the time more than 10 had signed up, had to speak to cover the same subject.
He also raised his voice and scolded a man he believed had threatened him (while making an inadvertent case for county-wide voting by noting that nobody in the audience likely voted in his district).
Only three speakers reached the podium, including Dr. Pat Hardman and Kim Miller who raised issues they believe the county has long ignored, such as safety during a hurricane and property values.
“There is a cash cow out there and it is become slaughtered,” said Lissa Dulany, who said her concern was for the budget and the impacts in land depreciation.
Administrator Michael Hammond would have none of it.
In his view, the Coastal Community Association of South Gulf County, whose members likely made up a fair portion of the audience, was responsible for the county not having an ordinance about RVs in the tourist corridor.
They lobbied for it and then “nit-picked” it to death.
And the RV ordinance would have had no impact on the development in question, he said.
There was no feasible way to separate residential from commercial property along the tourist corridor and what the issue boiled to for many was an outright prohibition of RVs from the tourist corridor, he continued.
Hardman made several pleas to return to the drawing board, but Quinn and Hammond each expressed their doubt she could fine one vote on the board to revisit an RV ordinance.
“This is not going to go away,” Hardman said. “This is going to get worse.”
The board approved a resolution asking the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioner to maintain the 2019 scallop season dates next year.
The consensus was that this past season, which spanned from mid-August to mid-September, was ideal, a bumper crop of scallops large enough to warrant any search.
The 2020 dates for St. Joseph Bay have yet to be set the FWC, which has been moving toward more region-specific seasons that past two years.
The board approved a grant proposal from the Gulf Coast State College to expand the nursing program at the Gulf/Franklin Center.
The grant seeks $3.2 million to construct a nursing simulation center.
In five years, the projection would be producing 340 licensed nurses.