A divided Carrabelle Planning and Zoning board last week approved sending over to the city commission revised plans for a Family Dollar store in the heart of the city
The 4-2 decision sets about a high-profile vote at the May 5 regular meeting whether to support the company’s more than two-year-long effort to construct a roughly 10,500 square foot Family Dollar at 204 St. James Avenue, on vacant acreage just to the northwest of the intersection of U.S. 98 and Tallahassee.
That acreage, between the post office and the former Gulf State Community Bank, is owned by Cliff Butler, the former head of the bank.
P and Z board members Chester Reese, Vance Pedrick, Jim Newton and Patty Lee voted for approving the proposal, while Thomas Hummel and Mark Melcher voted nay in an effort to require further review. Susan Usher was absent.
The meeting pitted representatives of Twin Rivers Capital, a real estate developer based in Charleston, South Carolina who is pursuing the project, and representatives of Vision Carrabelle LLC, the non-profit organization formed to oppose the project on the grounds it was unsuitable as a centerpiece for downtown and that its infrastructure poses environmental problems in the sensitive area near the coastline.
The attorney for Twin Rivers argued that Vision Carrabelle and its engineer Ken Jones, from Rhumbline, had delayed the project, implying the group submitted its more recent analysis purposefully late to stymie it.
Vision Carrabelle attorney Ian Waldick countered the group was just responding to the company’s latest revisions received by the city April 4 and sent to Jones just a week prior to the P and Z meeting.
Waldick has also lodged a formal complaint to the city. Another non-profit is seeking additional public documents from the city of Carrabelle.
Twin Rivers has sought to comply with all the zoning requirements set forth in the city’s laws, particularly regarding stormwater, parking, traffic flow and other infrastructure considerations.
“They finally have done the analysis to fit that cookie cutter,” said David Printiss, a spokesman for Vision Carrabelle. “But their playbook is based on an uplands site, with reasonable drainage, not one next to a river. This is in the flood plain, the last parcel in the lowest place in the city.”
Documents from Vision Carrabelle outline their position the Family Dollar’s engineering consultant is arguing compliance with a permit removes liability for impact or harm outside the limited criteria of the permit.
“Filling in the floodplain is always difficult and the analysis should be rigorous,” wrote Jones.
“The finding should be No Adverse Impact,” wrote Vision Carrabelle. “The permit only requires the consultant to look at the 25-year storm event, being in the 100-year floodplain should mean that they should acknowledge impacts at the 100-year level and be able to make a statement of no impact for the 100-year event or 1 percent chance of occurrence event.”
Printiss said he expects that the May 5 city commission will be significant if the project is to move forward.
“There has been nowhere where anyone has claimed any responsibility if this all goes badly,” he said. “It needs to have a rigorous review and somebody needs to be on the hook.”