Growing Pains: Part II

In part two of our special report we see just how valuable the land is to locals and newcomers.

It's one of Florida's smallest counties with a population of merely 10,000 people, but it's one of the most desirable markets for developers. They call it the forgotten coast, where fishing villages once thrived on Florida's seafood industry.

Fuzzy Lively, a shrimper, says, “Used to do the community good because all the shrimp houses was booming; can't do it no more, it's over!”

Friends call him Fuzzy, a shrimper on the Pirate's Lady, one of the last shrimp boats able to dock in Carrabelle.

Fuzzy says, “You see them boats down yonder; the man who owns it let's them tie up there.”

Anywhere else would be impossible. Condominiums are taking over the river front.

Jim McInnis, a Carrabelle city administrator, says the biggest obstacle is, “Coming up with a compromise between growth and the people who live here most their life.”

Jim McInnis wants to preserve the past and improve the future, a tough job for a man who represents Carrabelle but doesn't live there.

The Mexico City resident says property values have skyrocketed. Take for instance a plot of land in an area that can barely fit a single-wide trailer. A profit of $1 million is possible by following city laws and building condos.

Construction has become big business in Franklin County.

Rhonda Skipper, Chief Deputy Property Appraiser, says, “Values in the county have more than doubled in the last year.”

It’s a trend stemming back half a decade when the St. Joe Company took notice.

Billy Buzzett, VP of Strategic Planning for St. Joe Company, says, “The ability to be on the beach or rivers, it's so dramatically different from one end of the county to the other.”

As the county's largest private landowner, St. Joe has big plans on the drawing board, over half a dozen projects targeting vacationers from Tallahassee and across the nation. Some locals call the growth on the coast progress; others believe it's the beginning of the end.

Jim Sullivan, a Carrabelle resident, says, “This is about the last frontier. Now there's nowhere else in Florida to go.”

While many locals disagree with developments along the coast, others believe change is good, saying the county could use the economic boost of millions and millions of dollars.