Seafood businesses in Franklin County are asking for more options to keep their doors open. Several requests for land use changes are coming before Franklin County commissioners this month and it's creating a firestorm of criticism.
They're talking about turning old seafood processing plants into restaurants, fish camps, even cottages. The idea comes from a handful of property owners who say their commercial seafood business is sinking fast.
Tim Saunders says it's been rough seas at his shrimp house in Carrabelle, with imports crowding the market. His two-boat fleet remains tied up. Their only savior is a tiki hut serving the freshest catch to locals and tourists, an idea he wants to expand upon if given permission.
“We envision a fish camp, have a restaurant, park boats, we want to change with the times,” says Tim.
So do several other property owners who say the current commercial seafood zoning is too restrictive. Like Saunders, they also have plans of expanding their seafood houses in Eastpoint and Apalachicola.
“Others want a unit on top of their business, but the most controversial is residential uses. Do we want them on the waterfront?” says Alan Pierce, Franklin County Director of Administrative Services.
Pierce says the issue is creating a buzz in the oystering community where many oystermen say the waterfront is their livelihood, their only means of making money, but Pierce says the ultimate decision will only come after careful consideration from all sides.
People will be able to voice their opinions on the waterfront zoning next Tuesday. That's when a public hearing is scheduled to be held at the Franklin County Courthouse annex at 5:30 p.m.