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Eastpoint steps up planning for its future
There’s a lot about to happen in Eastpoint and it’s about a lot more than the upcoming dredging of the channel.
The discussion on future plans for the area, particularly for the U.S. 98 downtown corridor between Second Street, which is Barber’s Seafood. and the causeway, began with the county commission hosting an Aug. 9 public workshop on a possible zoning overlay district for that area.
Such an overlay could create “stricter or additional standards” for the affected area, perhaps by protecting special features such as historic buildings, wetlands and waterfronts, or used to promote specific development involving mixed-use, waterfront or affordable housing.
“It is not set in stone by any stretch,” County Attorney Michael Shuler told the workshop.”Bigger, smaller, now would be the time to let us know what you’re thinking.”
The workshop heard from a number of individuals, including Rex Pennycuff, a leader of the Eastpoint Civic Association; Gail Riegelmayer, a civic activist from St. George Island; and Olivier Monod, a local real estate broker.
Discussion regarding density, the unique characteristics of the Eastpoint waterfront, and other issues were discussed.
Pennycuff, speaking informally on behalf of the civic association, said the planning thoughts have included limits on the growth of storage units in this prime commercial space, concern over allowing residential growth to hamper the vitality of a limited supply of commercial property, and the creation of a contiguous boardwalk, as yet undefined, along the Eastpoint waterfront.
“We have some personal ideas but we want to hear what people’s public perception is,” said Pennycuff. “Our true goal is to represent the citizens of Eastpoint. We have our own ideas but we want to see how they line up with the citizens of Eastpoint.”
The county commission plans to hire Allara Mills Gutcher, a veteran land planner from Panama City, to consult on the Eastpoint overlay.
The workshop served as a precursor to the unveiling last week of an Eastpoint feasibility study. Held at the Eastpoint firehouse, the Aug. 25 meeting was conducted by Betty Taylor Webb and Cindy Clark, who led an Eastpoint Civic Association team that put together a first draft of the study.
The study was funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business Development Grant, which stemmed from earlier work by the Apalachee Regional Planning Council.
The meeting featured a detailed examination of the range of regulatory and environmental variables, as well as economic opportunities, for the Eastpoint Business Corridor. Included was a treasure trove of data, charts, maps and graphs on the 218 parcels and 167 acres that form the Eastpoint Business District.
“This study provides the base data needed to show funding agencies and contributors that the Eastpoint community is planning for their future and is invested in best practices,” reads the study. “Here are the tools you need to help monitor development of your Highway 98 corridor to assure new ventures meet code requirements and are compatible with your working waterfront community, as well as build your capacity to speak up for your community.
“As Eastpoint follows a county trend which has, in recent years, seen a blending of commercial seafood production with an increase with tourism and development activities, business leaders realize the need for long term planning as it
relates to land use, infrastructure and accessibility,” it reads.
For a copy of the feasibility study, or to reach out for more information, contact Betty Taylor Webb at [email protected]