Northwest Florida Roundup
Flood Zone Option
Some flood insurance policyholders in Panama City, seeing their household budgets squeezed by the steady rise in premiums, now have another option.
Under the state’s federally funded Rebuild Florida Voluntary Home Buyout Program, they can sell their homes at fair market value to the city.
Designed to reduce the impact of flooding from hurricanes and other natural disasters, the program has been embraced by Panama City officials.
The city has secured nearly $4 million from the Department of Economic Opportunity to buy 21 residential homes in a high-risk, flood-prone area inundated during Hurricane Michael in 2018.
City officials say the group of homes range from $125,000 to $155,000.
After all 21 homes are purchased, the city plans to demolish the structures and repurpose the land as a retention pond when flooding exists and as a multi-purpose park for athletic and leisure activities when the site is dry.
“One of the reasons that we focused on this specific area is because of its location next to a regional stormwater pond,” says city Commissioner Josh Street. “By purchasing these homes, it gives us the opportunity to expand that stormwater facility and hopefully alleviate flooding for other neighborhoods.”
The 21-home buyout is among a total of 85 local businesses and residences identified in a long-range plan as being highly vulnerable to inundation, often flooding three or four times a year.
- ST Engineering recently opened the second of four planned aircraft maintenance and overhaul hangars at Pensacola International Airport. The 177,000-sq.-ft. hangar is capable of accommodating widebody aircraft and doubles ST Engineering’s existing service capacity. The expansion is expected to generate more than 400 jobs.
- Central Moloney, one of the largest electrical transformer manufacturers in the U.S., has begun production at its new plant in Bay County. The Arkansas-based company announced in early 2022 that it was moving manufacturing facilities to the Panama City area. Longterm plans, say company executives, call for the hiring of between 200 and 250 people.
- Escambia County commissioners have approved Louisiana-based Sigma Consulting Group to develop a master plan for the rapidly growing Beulah area. The plan will encompass the entire Beulah community but will center on a 500-acre site adjacent to the 406-acre Navy Federal Credit Union campus. Cost of the plan is $581,220.
- Inspired Communities of Florida and Emmitt Smith Enterprises recently closed a deal to buy 6½ acres of downtown Pensacola property for $4.5 million. The site was part of a 19-acre plot owned by Studer Properties, the lead developer and owner of the remaining 12½ acres.
- Duke Energy Florida’s 74.9-megawatt Mule Creek solar facility in Bay County recently went online as the company announced plans to break ground on another solar field in Madison County that will produce a similar amount of power.
- The Housing Trust Group, a nonprofit founded by NBA Hall of Famer and South Florida resident Alonzo Mourning, has begun construction of a $23.5-million affordable housing community in Crestview catering to seniors and military veterans. Rents will range from $363 to $1,188 per month. In addition, the developer has committed a minimum of five apartments for veterans who meet the same household income and age criteria. The property is scheduled to open in the fall of 2024.
- The National Academy of Sciences has honored a pair of Florida State University researchers for their 2022 study that found childhood exposure to lead has robbed Americans an average of 2.6 IQ points per person. Associate professor of sociology Michael McFarland and assistant professor of sociology Matt Hauer are the lead authors of the study published in the academy’s journal. Their research showed that vast amount of the lead exposure the researchers examined came primarily through automotive exhaust, due to the use of leaded gasoline, which began in 1923 and ceased in 1996. McFarland and Hauer found that estimated lead-linked deficits were greatest for people born between 1966 and 1970 — about 20.8 million people.
- Pensacola businessman, philanthropist and political powerbroker Lewis Bear Jr., died March 3. He was 82. Bear was president and CEO of Lewis Bear Co., a beverage wholesaler started in 1876 by his great-grand-father and still the oldest privately held corporation in Florida. The Bear Family Foundation has donated tens of millions of dollars to more than 118 non-profit or charitable causes.