CHIPLEY — A Panama City company has big plans for Washington County.

CHIPLEY — A Panama City company has big plans for Washington County.

Scott Bowman of Prudential Shimmering Sands Realty in Panama City is promoting a 1,100-acre site just south of Interstate 10 as a potential large scale development.

“Originally we started with a 239 acre parcel we had listed a couple of years ago,” Bowman said. “We started gathering adjacent properties, and now we have over 1,000 acres.”

The Chipley/Washington County Development Site is an undeveloped, 1,100 acre assemblage of multiple parcels located on the southwest corner of I-10 and Highway 77 in Washington County, according to Bowman’s listing. The site is mostly wooded with planted Pines and various elevation changes across the different parcels and is currently designated and zoned for residential and/or agricultural use.

However, it is prime for development due to its location along Interstate 10 and in the Washington County Enterprise Zone and proximity to Port of Panama City and the Panama City Beaches International Airport.

“The site has significant future potential for large scale retail development, distribution warehouse development, Industrial manufacturing, and many other uses including medium to high density residential development,” Bowman said.

Bowman said the original plan for the development was to submit the land as a potential mega-site location, but due to a lack of rail access, the property was not considered as a feasible mega-site location.

“It definitely has proximity to rail,” Bowman said, “and I think that proximity to rail is a very strong benefit of the location, along with access to Interstate 10.”

The city of Chipley is currently working with a consultant to find grant money to extend water lines south of I-10. A lack of water and sewer lines is another factor limiting development along the interstate, said Jim Town of Chipley, a licensed real estate broker.

“Sewer and water services from Chipley are not developed south of I-10 at this time, but a large industrial, commercial, or residential development might opt to have its own sewer and water facilities rather than deal with municipal plant capacities in Chipley,” Town said. “Having access to the Chipley wastewater pipe that crosses the property en route to the spray field might be a positive factor for actual site planning.”

Town said the amount of wetlands found in the proposed 1,100 acre-site could limit the amount of development.

The plans distributed by Simmering Sands Realty show water lines existing south of I-10.

“To the best of my knowledge, the preliminary environment studies have not been completed, so the actual number of acres usable is probably significantly less when adjusted for wetlands, flood plains, or underlying karst issues, so without knowing the actual usable acres, it’s impossible to determine how large a plant could be built,” Town said. 

“For comparison, the Kia car plant in West Point, Ga., is on a 2,200 acre site, so something less than 1,100 net usable acres may not attract a car plant, or similar use, but there are many smaller industrial facilities that might be attracted and create local jobs,” Town said.

“While industrial plant development was exempted in 2011 from planning requirements for a Development of Regional Impact, a large land area industrial development would still be handled as a “large scale land use amendment” at the county and state levels, as well as all the agencies involved such as environmental considerations, so approvals could take many months to perhaps years,” Town said. 

“Since Washington County is designated a Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern, that would speed the process, but approvals are not quick under the best of circumstances due to all the engineering and site studies required with development order approvals.”

Bowman said that the proximity of the regional airport, the Port of Panama City, and the interstate make Washington County a prime location for development. Bowman said the expansion of the Panama Canal will increase port traffic along the Gulf Coast, and that increase of shipping can mean growth throughout the region in the future.

“Washington County is primed to be at the middle of any economic development, due to I-10 and the north-south corridors of Highway 77 and Highway 79,” Bowman said. Between the increase in port activity and the possibility of a mega-site coming to fruition in nearby Jackson County, future growth looks good for the area.

“It’s all good news for Washington County,” Bowman said.