Old La Borgata is New Proposed RV Park in West Panama City Beach

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by December 8, 2010 • 37 comments

Do you remember La Borgata, a luxury development resort community that was to be developed on the west end of Panama City Beach?  A few years ago, amid real estate horror stories and a sinking market, Ronnie Gilley Properties cleared the land, installed the infrastructure and bought the support of country music star, Alan Jackson to develop this luxury community across the street of Wild Heron.  This development was to consist of just under 200 luxury town homes and condominiums from 850 to 3,000 square feet, retail shops, salt water pools, heated spas and plenty of other resort fluff.

Well, plans have changed.

Proposed now for that property is an upscale RV park, with over 100 RV pads, individual “cabanas” for each RV and a slew of “staff recommendations” from the Panama City Beach City Planning Board.  An upscale RV park is certainly not a luxury resort development, but I guess it’s better than a full-scale trailer park, right?

The planning board meeting in which it will be discussed publicly is next Monday, December 13 at 2 pm.  At that time, City staff will consider the development, how it’s different from the current development order, how it will impact the area differently than the other planned development and what local residents think.

Here are some of the staff recommendations:

  • Permanent vegetation plan to make property look better during development and eliminate the “eyesore”
  • Fully enclose the site with a 6 foot solid-face fence 25 feet back from all property lines
  • Have 3 canopy trees planted every 20 feet
  • Have one shrub planted every foot
  • Have suitable landscaping with irrigation outside the fencing, along with native vegetation
  • The proposed 250 sf accessory structure shall not be rented or sold independent of specific RV pad
  • Each RV pad should be landscaped according to master plan
  • No onsite sales or storage of RV’s
  • No mobile homes
  • No Tent camping
  • All utilities should be underground
  • All RV pads and roads need to be paved with adequate lighting
  • Each RV pad should be a minimum of 9 x 20
  • All pads should have water, sewer, and electrical connections
  • Should have male and female bathroom and shower facilities
  • Storage of boats, trailers, etc. will be in separate fenced area and landscaped onsite
  • RV pads should located at a minimum distance of 100 feet from perimeter boundary
  • Dumpsters should be enclosed and landscaped and located at a minimum distance of 200 feet from perimeter boundary
  • Project should include complete network of sidewalks
  • Have a maximum duration of stay – e.g. max of 30 days, then must leave for 15 days.

I think if they keep true to their word, and keep it upscale, this could be great for the area.  I totally understand the “transient” issues local residents have, but we’re not talking about trailer trash here, RV’s are expensive, and usually the RV “travelers” that come through are a higher end, more sophisticated visitor.

Currently RV travelers have no destination to visit on the west end of Panama City Beach.  This could be a good tourism draw for our area.  And, if the developer stays true to the staff recommendations, this could be a great addition to our area.

Tell us what you think?  What do you think this proposed RV park would do for our area – good or bad?

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1 L Rinaldo December 8, 2010 at 5:12 pm

I am an RV owner (small class C) AND a property owner on the west end. I would like to suggest that this park should be a RV lots for sale community. We already have a nice RV rental park located off Thomas Dr. by St. Andrews SP. This would reduce the traffic and encourage the truly high end RV owners to come to this area. The area would be better kept up as the owners have an investment in the property. This is not a new concept. There are some RV communities where the lot itself sells for several hundred thousand dollars!! and the rigs that go there can cost as much as a million dollars!!


2 Don and Sandy Meadows December 8, 2010 at 10:23 pm

We have a Class A, new Motor Coach and would love to have an upscale RV park that we could visit, at the beach. We live about 40 mins. north of Auburn on Lake Martin, Al.
Would not be interested in buying a lot. More and more people are buying RV’s. People have small dogs that are not welcome at condos and hotels. RVing is more relaxed and most of the people, that do prefer camping, are friendly and tend to take care of the camp, or lot, sites.


3 Ann December 8, 2010 at 11:10 pm

I do not support an RV Park on the West End of PCB. Especially directly on HWY 98. Looks like accidents waiting to happen with large RV’s turning into an RV Park, directly on such a busy Hwy. And, personally I have never seen an “upscale” RV park, next to a busy Hwy. “Upscale RV Parks are normally in an out of the way spot, surrounded by lots of land and trees. Let’s face it, PCB is going to be growing by leaps and bounds and this property will be worth alot more as commercial property than an RV Park. Thomas Drive by the State Park has a nice out of the way park for RV’s. I say “no” as a resident of the West End of PCB.


4 Steve December 9, 2010 at 8:31 am

Suggest developers look at Heritage RV Resort in Orange Beach, AL.


5 Greg December 9, 2010 at 9:34 am

I have to concur with Ann. “Upscale” is the whole issue. It may start out that way but in time it will become an eyesore. This property has so much potential as a prime commercial project. It may take a little more time to get there. Please do not make a rush decision on the RV park approval. Let the community be heard.


6 Lorenzo Faciane December 9, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Generally I would agree “against” such proposals as the one stated above, but in todays economy I would consider it progress for this town.

Eyesore? Maybe but giving someone a chance is what business is all about for the most part. After reading the staff recommendations, I say they throw a pretty good pitch. I would give them the benefit of a doubt.

For a lack of better words, “Sometimes taking a few steps back, can help you get ten steps forward.”

-Lorenzo Faciane


7 Denise December 9, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Thank you for posting this article. I am an owner of four properties in the local area where this RV Park is potentially going to be developed. I believe this park will devalue the local real estate even further than it already is devalued, and is, as Ann said above, not the highest and best use of this land……it IS more valuable as commercial real estate, which is what is already on Back Beach Road in that area. Take a look at the Sandestin Area….their “Back Beach Road” is quite upscale, even posh, with a host of upscale restaurants, swanky hotels and exclusive shopping and NO RV parks in sight. The idea of an “UPSCALE” RV park is an oxymoron. It might “look better than average” but the population is STILL transient, with all the issues associated with a transient population. Just take a look at the RV park down by the entrance to St. Andrew’s State Park……that’s a beautiful thing, alright, and very upscale! Quite a site to behold! And the idea of actually “selling” these sites to people? How, then, to police them into actually taking care of the property? We all know that despite our best efforts, some homeowners just do whatever they want to do with their investments. No amount of special assessments or threats of lawyer action moves them improve their surroundings or, for that matter, to care about the investment their neighbors also made in the community when they bought into it. When the visitors of this RV park want to go to the beach, are they going WALK to the beach or DRIVE their cars AND park their cars along Front Beach Road in Laguna Beach, Sunnyside, Santa Monica? Those parking areas are for the residents of those areas. They pay their annual taxes on this property every year for THEIR use. Panama City Beach has long had a shady, less than glamorous image in the eyes of people far and wide. It was called the “Redneck Riviera” for a very long time, and still is by many, unfortunately. If it is trying to get away from the “image” issue it has, attracting permanent homeowners/businesses with actual, real cash in their pockets to add to the city and county coffers should be the City’s aim. An RV park, “upscale” or otherwise, is not in its best interest to build. I bet if you canvassed any of the real estate sales agents in the area, they would tell you that NO person with any serious cash and a true wish to invest in Panama City Beach would buy ANY property near ANY RV Park. Thank you for the forum to express our views.


8 Jo Morgan December 9, 2010 at 6:33 pm

This area at the west end of PCB is part of the corridor from the new airport to 30A/Sandestin. Arguably, the people currently vacationing in 30A/Sandestin are the demographic the Tourism Development Council has been trying to attract to Panama City Beach in the last few years with more upscale, family friendly advertising campaigns. Somehow, having an RV park as one of their first impressions of Panama City Beach as they drive from the airport to Walton county doesn’t seem like it would be “on message” for our TDC. The west end isn’t plagued by the high rise beach towers like the other end of the beach, there’s such potential, and an RV park no matter how expensive they initially plan to sell the lots for, is still an RV park. Also, who’s going to hold this group accountable for their plans if they can’t sell sites for $100,000 and decide to go the bargain basement route in an effort to recoup some of their expenses. Remember this was initially going to be a luxury condo development and now we’re talking about RV’s. Feels like a slippery slope to me!


9 Rob N December 9, 2010 at 6:54 pm

I have several properties on the West end. Including my beach house that I use personally and dont rent out. I have seen some very nice Rv parks. Disney has one of the nicer ones. The 30 day limit could be a problem as Snowbirds would like to stay 3 or even 4 months. The west end is Quiet now. Just want to make sure it stays that way…


10 Penny December 10, 2010 at 7:53 am

I agree with Denise. Not a good use of prime commercial property in a more upscale area.


11 Barbara Ellis December 10, 2010 at 10:43 am

The deed does not permit them to create an RV park on that property. There is a covenant against that and nuisances. They are only allowed to build apartments, condos and townhouses. The request also violates Florida State Law of what a single family home is. The wheels would have to be taken off for it to be considered a single family homes. It is also against the original planning development. This will decrease property value and make homes behind it will not be able to be sold. Used RV’s even, class A, can be bought from 10- 50,000. These parks are now at auction, even in Naples, Fl with no minumin bids. You can actually have a van and buy one. The by-laws go out the window.


12 Denise December 10, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Excellent information, Barbara. Are you a real estate agent that you know this info? Thanks for your post.


13 Bob Dobolina December 10, 2010 at 11:14 am

This concerns me. I’m considering purchasing a home in Wild Heron and have to wonder what it would be like to pass a trailer park on the way home each day.

Been digging around for a map of the proposed development. I can only hope that the city council will consider this issue carefully.


14 Rob N December 10, 2010 at 1:42 pm

This piece is in the county not the city.


15 Joanna Banks-Morgan December 10, 2010 at 2:01 pm

I believe, Kelly Street is where the city limit ends, so this would be within the city.


16 Hank Rutherford December 12, 2010 at 3:40 pm

I have been involved with talking to residents as well as out of town homeowners from the time the city put the sign on Kelly street 2 weeks ago. I personally have not spoken to a single person that would agree that this bus parking lot on the west end would benifit anybody but the devolopers. This project would do nothing to improve property values in an already suppressed economy. I agree with the others about the beach also, where will these visiters go to the beach. As a property owner and tax payer in bay county I find it hard to find a place to park myself. I was carefull to find just the right place for me and my family to live in Bay County. Had I wanted to live in a noisey busy conjested area I would have purchased a home on Thomas Drive where all of this typr of thing goes on.


17 Nancy December 14, 2010 at 8:37 am

What a terrible idea. I don’t care how you dress it up, it needs to be on the north side of the road behind many trees and out of sight from the highway. Just like a bunch of rednecks to think if they make it look pretty they can justify it being right across from the nicest housing community on the West End. Land values will go up higher than you think and then you will all be complaining about having it there as highest and best use will not be served any more. Take a trip down 30A and make a mental note guys.


18 Craig Baranowski December 14, 2010 at 8:40 am

Some great discussion points. I do see a need for more infrastructure to accommodate the RV demographic. I believe from a business model it will work…aesthetically it must be done right to or it could be a disaster.

Camping on the Gulf is barely noticeable off Hwy 98 in Sandestin. However it is a major visual eyesore if you look at from an aerial photo.

Currently La Borgata is horrendous to look at as is any of the numerous “pipe farms” along the coast. I am not saying an RV Park is the answer but an upscale Townhome community will never sell. We can’t give away gorgeous condos/townhomes in Wild Heron. We also have a fair amount of affordable housing with communities of Whisper Dunes and soon to be St. Joe’s Breakfast Point and their West Bay Sector plan of 20,000 residences.

From a commercial standpoint how long will it take for us to absorb all of the available land in Pier Park and existing vacant commercial units from the west end to the east end before there is a need for commercial units there?


19 Thom Bachelder December 14, 2010 at 9:18 am

My wife and I have enjoyed the motor homing lifestyle for almost 15 years. I recently sold my 3rd motorhome, a 38′ Monoco which I paid in the low $100k’s for. The RV’ers [and 5th wheeler’s] we have met over the years are friendly, conscientious, and enjoy life. I can’t remember every hearing of any crime taking place on site at any park we ever stayed at for any length of time. RV’ers are no longer exclusively a group of older retired people, but also include young professional with families, who find a weekend away in a nice RV park like being proposed here a treat. My wife and I would take our motorhome to Destin for the weekend to stay at Camping on the Gulf, which is located about a 1/2 mile from Silver Sands outlets. It is a Gulf Front park with many of the amenities purposed by LaBorgata. This short Motorhome weekend away was good for local business when you figure the $100 per night we paid for our Space Rent and the hundreds of dollars my wife spent at the outlets and on dinners out at local restaurants. Also the average Class A motorhome can easily run anywhere from $100k to $225K. [Luxury 5th wheels with truck slightly less] This segment of people are for the most part, educated and well funded. Many are retired and will bring lots of tourism dollars to the area. Fears of bums and gypsies moving in are completely unwarranted. Approximately 8.2 million American households now own an RV. It is a $32 billion per year business in the US. The RV dealers in Panama City would certainly benefit from the additional Sales and Service dollars generated, as well as, resturants and other segements of the tourism industry locally. I agree, Access in and out of any RV park with a big rig can be a challenge. I have been in and out of Camping on the Gulf in Destin onto the very busy 4 lane HWY 98 during rush hour with a 38 ft motorhome towing a car many many time without even a close call. RV’s are built with Visibility and Safety in mind. There are numerours upscale Motorhome parks accross the nation like the one purposed here that are thriving and positivily impacting the communities around them. The location of this purposed site is excellent for both the short term and long term RV’er. We had to make reservations on average of 3-6 months ahead during the summer month to get a RV spot and a year in advance to stay at St. Andrews State Park with a big rig. I think LaBorgata will be a great boon for the tourism industry on Panama City Beach. If the city commits to help with ingress and egress issues, the new LaBorgata RV Park is going to be a winner!


20 Ron December 14, 2010 at 9:54 am

I guess I couldn’t help but throw in my 2 cents worth here which is all its worth really.
An RV park is a commercial interest to all that are looking at the commercial corridor thing. I know I have an RV park out west (and a business license) and I have an RV. I consider mine upscale although not “snooty”.
The thing I find about RV’ers is they come from all levels of prosperity. Transient is not a term that comes to mind. They are a friendly bunch for the most part. I see many times a $200k unit parked next to a $15k unit and they’re sharing the same campfire and enjoying each others company and I seldom see the arrogance displayed in some of the postings here. I have some that are one night and gone, weekly, monthly and snowbirds that come for 6 months or so.
Most have a balance sheet that I envy. Maybe they didn’t sink all their money in real estate. Some of my long term campers have been ex-teachers and teach classes at the YMCA, libraries or senior centers. Some just kick back and see where the next fork in the road takes them.
I would think most of the business would be in the cooler months since most campers shun the high humidity areas in hot weather, I know I do. I don’t think I would worry too much about being inundated with campers. There’s only going to be 100 pads maximum and most campers are twosomes. And quite frankly, people don’t do the lay on the beach and cook thing like they use too. They go for a casual walk and dip in the water for the most part and then retreat to the pool, or restaurant or shop.
As I said, as an owner, I’m bias. I love the whole atmosphere of the RV/camping thing. Neighborhoods have privacy fences and for the most part each owner does their own thing. RV’ers socialize. They carry on conversations. They share adventures. I laugh more with strangers than I ever did living full time at the beach. And, I learn more in the process.
I’m not sure and RV park is the best thing for that parcel. I tend to like lakes, rivers, beaches, trees or the panorama of the west. I would probably choose one of the state parks or St. Andrews myself. But there are lot worse things that could be on that property. It could be sitting full of derelict townhomes and apartments right now. Now we’re talking transients.


21 Judie December 14, 2010 at 10:11 am

I feel this is a very bad idea.. We need to believe we are a upscale area and use Destins and Sandestins main hwy as an example. There are so many other areas than that prime area on the west end. Travel from 30A to our area and see a RV park, no matter how upscale is not what we want to project. We need to be an extension of 30A. Please rethink this and do not try and change what the area was designed for in the first place.


22 Maureen December 14, 2010 at 10:33 am

Gosh Jason. You had me at “trailer trash.” Since when do you get to refer to anyone, or any area in that way? Many good, clean, upstanding people live in trailer parks. Granted, there are people of questionable repute living in trailers, but there are just as many who live in houses. Perhaps in deciding what should and should not be built in this area, it would be best if all those exercising their rights to free speech also exercise a bit of restraint in their verbage, starting with the author of this article.


23 G December 14, 2010 at 11:24 am

I don’t want a recreational vehicle lot on the West End – especially next to Wild Heron. I own property in Wild Heron and can’t sell it now – I can’t even imagine the added difficulty if potential buyers pass by a (and I don’t care how you dress it up, it is still just putting rouge on a corpse at this stage of the economy) TRAILER PARK! Please, for the love of all who value the peace of the West End and for any pity for current property owners, DON’T put in an RV park.

Holy shomoly, what are you thinking?! Look for something that will bring value to the area, not decrease it…


24 Luby December 14, 2010 at 11:46 am

This is not about being for or against RV’ers. It is simply a matter that an RV park belongs “in an off the main road location “. La Borgata is not the right location for an RV park, be it a Class A, B, C, etc.
The developer keeps pointing to Heritage Resort in Orange Beach, Al.
Well , that resort is WATERFRONT with it’s own beach and a marina.
It is off the main road and the property around the compound is not with pre-existing single family homes. The developers of the Orange Beach resort gave forethought into the project and found the right location for their project.
The developers of La Borgata have no business plan. They are trying to fit a business into a substructure. This type of scrambling is destined to a high probablity of failure. They have already failed once , scranbling now will lead them to fail again.
They ought to look to Signature Resort in Naples , FL. They have been there 3 years and have 184 slots. When speaking to a sales person there, I was informed that they have had ZERO sales since their inception. Now, they are putting 20 slots up for auction on Feb. 26,2011, with no reserve, no minimum bid. If you bid $100.00, and there is no higher bidder ,it is yours.

The proposal for a RV park has been withdrawn by Nashyork,LLC, for the time being. But they better reaize that the community has been awakened and we will continue to organize and mobilize to get more home owners onboard from the west end to the east end to speak with one voice . We, the people , will have a voice in what , where, when and how things are being decided by the Planning Board and / or the City Council.

We will not allow for slip shod tactics to go unnoticed. We will bring it to the forefront any and every time they try to pull a fast one. Business as usal is over.
Not all investments are winners. Some win , some lose. We all know hat you should never invest money if you cannot afford to lose it all.


25 Jeff December 14, 2010 at 1:35 pm

I would have gone to the meeting but I just read about this today. Did anyone attend the meeting?


26 Barbara Ellis December 14, 2010 at 2:22 pm

If you read the paper, then you know it was a tremendous success for the residents. Dr. Woroch really hammered them down. There is only one way for the property value on the upper west end of the beach to go and that is up. We are not going to take any old business that comes our way.


27 Denise December 14, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Go, Barbara!!! That’s the way to say it!


28 Denise December 14, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Yes…I am also curious to know if anyone attended the meeting about this proposed development. I live out of state and was not able to attend. Please, EVERYBODY!!!…..post your comments about the meeting if you went! We want to know what is going on! Thank you very much for keeping us informed!


29 Luby December 16, 2010 at 8:52 am

The meeting room was filled to capacity as was the hallway. If you watched News Views with Lee Sullivan , Fox 28, this was the largest response of citizens with such short notice, mobilized to speak with one voice in Panama City Beach’ s history.
Besides the people present, a petition in opposition with 455 signatures plus another 50 signatures were added at the meeting, by the president of La Valencia homeowners association. In addition, there were approx. 55 e-mails sent directly to the Planning Board , opposing this attempted modification .
This petition in opposition was entered into the record and then the Board approved to make it a continuing opposition ,if and whenever another proposal for an RV park at this site is ever proposed.Meaning ,
if a proposal ever comes in front of the Board, this petition in opposition must be instantly included.


30 Denise December 18, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Thank you, Luby, for updating us. Much appreciated!


31 Betty December 14, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Remember when the La Borgata site first went under? Some quick thinking individual changed the name on the sign to “La Forgata” — hope it stays that way.


32 Steven Sapp December 15, 2010 at 10:43 am

I live about 1 mile from the proposed location, I have to drive by this site twice a day. I would rather look at it, the way it stands now, rather than add large white buses to the scene. I truly hope this idea doesn’t go very far!!


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