George Kirvin Floyd, who wants to develop an RV park, vows to sue
The approval by county commissioners Tuesday morning of an overlay plan for the St. George Island business district will be met with costly legal action, says the man whose property is likely to be the most affected by the change.
St. George Island resident and businessman George Kirvin Floyd, whose initial proposal to restore the island’s former ferry boat basin to a working harbor, and subsequent plan to put in an RV park on the property, were both rebuffed last year by the county commission, is now promising to challenge the overlay plan in court.
County commissioners voted 4-1, with Noah Lockley opposed, Tuesday to approve the overlay plan, which is expected to go into effect shortly.
“The action to remove property ownership rights (that are) currently expressly allowed will create great harm and undue spending on legal fees,” said Floyd. “This is a serious indictment on the integrity of this board. It’s a very serious matter and it’s going to be litigated heavily.”
The seven-page overlay plan would affect such things as billboards, waste containers and landscaping, and restrict the putting in of a variety of businesses, including tattoo parlors and adult entertainment shops. But its most controversial elements would be the banning of RV parks and commercial boat storage.
Both Floyd and St. George Island businessman Walter Armistead have proposed, in separate projects, to put in RV parks in the business district, which ranges from the Apalachicola Bay side to the Gulf of Mexico, and between Third Street East and Third Street West.
In his lengthy presentation prior to the vote, Floyd, a fifth generation county resident, said his 26-acre bayfront parcel on the west side of the entrance to the island would be affected by the change. He stressed that he had invested more than $100,000 in improvements to the property and would like to eventually moor a 107-foot paddlewheeler that is completing a six-year restoration effort.
He said his proposed RV park would bring in increased property and sales tax revenues and jobs, bringing foot traffic to downtown businesses. He disputed that an RV park would decrease island property values.
Floyd argued that the new rules “would remove property ownership rights currently expressed allowed in the C-3 zoning code,” and that the value of his property would be “significantly reduced” by the change to permitted uses.
“The county commission intends to make no financial reparations to the owners thus harmed,” he said. “They have sought and received assurances from their outside legal counsel this will be achieved.”
In making this argument, Floyd was alluding to a possible violation of the 1995 Bert J. Harris, Jr., Private Property Rights Protection Act, which provides relief to private landowners when a law “inordinately burdens, restricts, or limits private property without amounting to a taking under the U.S Constitution.
“It’s frustrating you’re taking away every right from this property,” said Floyd, mentioning too that he is suing over being afforded due process in the discussions surrounding the proposed overlay.
“You don’t want to hear from people being affected? That’s insulting,” he said. “How is it that this county commission violates its own rules? You’re stepping on our heads and we have to spend vast amounts of money to combat these legal affronts.”
Floyd also spent time railing against the inclusion of a ban on “adult sex toy shops” in the overlay language, which he termed a “perverse addition.”
“It’s offensive that this even goes into the code of Franklin County,” he said. “Those wouldn’t be allowed anyway with the existing code. This is not a sex toy shop kind of issue.”
County commissions listened quietly to Floyd’s lengthy recitation of his criticisms, but after Floyd several times referred to the adult sex toy issue, Commissioner William Massey angrily asked him why he was repeatedly bringing up the issue.
“I take it as a great personal insult,” Floyd replied.
While Armistead was not present at the meeting, Floyd repeatedly referred to a recent decision by Circuit Judge Terry Lewis that Armistead was denied due process rights when county commissioners denied his request to put in an RV park, and that he was entitled to a rehearing on the matter.
“Fortunately, I have been blessed enough to challenge this continued practice by Franklin County – on behalf of all of us. Walter (Armistead) had the court require the county to hold now and in the future a quasi-judicial hearing where your rights will be protected and honored,” he said. “I am going forward to ensure that they do not abuse, arbitrarily and capriciously, the real and personal rights of the people of Franklin County by refusing to apply the current law to the current facts for a just and legal determination.”
County Attorney Michael told commissioners the overlay plan would apply only to proposed businesses and not to existing ones. He declined comment, because the matters are in litigation, on what effect the overlay would have on the Floyd’s and Armistead’s RV park proposals.
After St. George Island real estate agent Marilyn Bean spoke out against allowing entirely residential units in the business district, often referred to as “skinny minis,” commissioners agreed to disallow them as well, meaning only residences with a business operating on the first floor will be allowed.
Earlier, Bean’s wife, Mason spoke out against the overlay, objecting to the ban on commercial boat storage that is included.
“I think you’re trying to fix something that isn’t broken,” he said. “I hope you don’t handcuff our future growth and development.
Because the overlay limits to two the number of boats that can be kept on properties, Shannon Hartsfield, president of the Franklin County Seafood Workers Association, asked what effect it would have on those oystermen who are granted permission by property owners to keep boats on vacant lots. Former County Planner Alan Pierce said most of these boats are kept on a state right-of-way and would not be affected, and commissioners made no further change to the overlay.
Also speaking out were St. George Island businesswoman Daphne Evanoff asked that massage parlors be allowed, arguing that such a ban would restrict massage therapists and spas, and that any “foul play” is prohibited under existing laws.
St. George Island resident Jo Pearman spoke in favor of the overlay, arguing that the overlay would put a needed control on the explosive island growth over the past 30 years.
“The more people you bring in, the more garbage, the mere sewage,” she said. “There are more people coming to that island than ever before. There’s got to be a limit
“Let’s use Eastpoint, let’s put some things over there,” she said.
County Coordinator Michael Morón read a letter from the owner of an existing henna tattoo parlor on the island, which drew the distinction between the temporary henna tattoos and the permanent type. Commissioners made no change to the wording “tattoo parlors” which is in the overlay.
Prior to the vote, Commissioner Ricky Jones, who represents the island, took exception to Floyd’s claim that the overlay was targeting him.
“To portray this as this as if it is about one project is a farce,” he said. “Does it make everybody pleased? No, but for it to be portrayed that we are somehow trying to do whatever we do, and it’s bout one or two people, is wrong.”