Controversial waterfront development stalled commercial construction on St. George Island this year.
In 2015, Apalachicola Maritime Museum (AMM) founder George Kirvin Floyd announced plans to restore the St. George Island ferry boat basin to the working harborage it was in the mid-20th century. After two years of negotiations with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and other parties, Floyd received a green light from the state to proceed with restoration of the basin and he approached the county for final approval of his plans.
The basin, which lies directly in front of Harry A’s to the west of the causeway, was bought by Floyd in July 2013 as a new venue for the AMM and to provide harborage for the Jean Mary, a small paddlewheel boat, now in Jacksonville, that Floyd has been working since 2012 to refit for river cruises,
County commissioners first discussed alterations to the ferry basin in January 2017 when Floyd requested a variance to construct an eight-foot vertical retaining wall within 50 feet of Critical Habitat Zone (CHZ) to contain spoil from a future project. Commissioners balked at the idea after County Planner Mark Curenton told them that placing spoil in the CHZ would effectively do away with the buffer intended to protect the bay. Commissioners Noah Lockley and Cheryl Sanders both expressed concerns about the legality of Floyd’s project.
Floyd was asked to return in February with alternative plans but did not appear again before the county board until May when he presented a proposal for construction that still included the wall. When commissioners failed to approve the new plan, Floyd threatened to build an RV park on the site.
St. George Island businessman Walter Armistead was also disappointed by a decision of county commissioners concerning an RV park he proposed to build. At his request, in 2016, commissioners rezoned 11 lots on an undeveloped parcel of land across Franklin Boulevard from Floyd’s proposed boat basin and adjacent to the old Eddy Teach’s Raw Bar, from C-2 commercial business to C3, commercial recreational.
Armistead said he had plans to build an RV park on the site. When he returned in April 2017 to request final permission to begin construction, his proposal met with strong protest from island residents.
Commissioners tabled Armistead’s request and voted to hold a public hearing to discuss creating an overlay zone on the island to control the type of construction allowed.
At the September hearing, commissioners engaged consulting attorney David Theriaque to draft an ordinance creating the zone. They also ordered a halt to new construction in the commercial district at island center for at least six months.
Residential properties in the affected area were exempted from the moratorium, and repairs to mitigate attrition due to fire, storms or other natural occurrences are allowed.