Carrabelle city commissioners last Thursday voted against granting a special exception to a lot owner who asked to be able to put three RV lots on property he owns south of U.S. 98, on the eastern edge of town.
By a 4-1 votes, with Keith Walden voting no, the commissioners approved a motion to deny Jamie Thomas the option of putting in lots that he said would be for three recreational vehicles to be used on a transient basis by clients of his charter boat business.
“I have to pick up my fishermen at RV lots,” said Thomas, whose 50-foot by 100-foot property at 1001 U. S. 98 East s the site of the former Folks Real Estate office, just past the Nice Cars used auto dealership. “I drive to pick people up, and then go fishing with them.”
Mayor Brenda La Paz, noting Thomas had sought a special exception a month prior, in order to put a studio apartment on the second floor of the building he purchased, opposed from the outset what she called “spot RV zoning.”
“I don’t feel that use is compatible there,” she said. “We’re building a new City Hall across from there. I hate to see that area become spotted with small RV lots.”
Commissioner Cal Allen was concerned about recent fill dirt, and Thomas said he hadn’t hauled any there. Allen also mentioned a deep embankment on the property, and later Rod Gasche referred to the need for stabilizing the ground, as his primary concern in remarks supportive of Thomas’ proposal.
“You have a lot of folks who want to come down,” he said. “Think positively, folks. This will get revenue into town.
“We need all we can get,” said Gasche. “This town is dying.”
Commissioner Tony Millender’s concern was with spot zoning, which would lead to more requests, which could not be voted down fairly, given this precedent.
Real estate agent Beth Barber had more concerns, she had a handout that showed 94 vacant commercial lots in the C-1 district, each of which, in theory, could give way to four smaller RV lots, for a total of 376.
Barber said she was speaking out as a citizen, not on behalf of Coastal Realty Group, where she works. She mentioned that she had fought hard the last time the issue of campers came before the commission, to have them banned from lots where they are not a permitted use.
“I don’t have a problem with it,” said Commissioner Keith Walden, drawing a difference between those who have invested in the community, and those who just pull a trailer on to a lot.
Both he and Commissioner Frank Mathes expressed fear that granting this exception would open up a can of worms, and would lead to others asking for them, and that it would be hard to say no. “I’m going to vote for them to do that also,” said Mathes.
“I already have a building there, I have a business,” said Thomas. “I do a lot of guide hunting and fishing.”
City Attorney Dan Hartman said conditions could be stipulated in a development order, including a time limit on how long transient residents could stay in the RV.
“A time limit would be difficult to enforce,” said La Paz. “You’d have to put someone out there (to investigate).”
Millender moved, and Mathes seconded, a motion to not allow the special exception.
“It’s nothing personal,” said Millender. “I wish you the best in the world. I’ll do anything I could to help you.”