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Historic Downtown Apalachicola vacant Commercial property owners and planners have a dilemma on their hands when it comes to developing in this designated Historic District. The Riverfront streets, which were once proudly fronted by 3-story brick, antebellum cotton warehouses, now contain up to 23 vacant lots, due to the buildings having been burned, torn down, or relocated during the town’s nearly 200 year old history as a center of commerce. Originally platted in 1834, the lots are only 30 by 80 feet each. Although zero lot line construction has always been permitted, the realities are that in the 21st century, building owners must accommodate Americans with Disabilities access, automobile parking for employees and visitors, utility easements such as garbage and gas tanks for restaurants, off-street delivery and loading zones, emergency services access, and last, but not least, storm water management conduits within the very small footprint of a lot. Planning for shoehorning all that onto a parcel with narrow street frontage is a challenge, to say the least. But that does not even address the latest, and most formidable challenge now faced by nearly all property owners in this historic business district: both a FEMA Flood Zone Map Revision, and a MAJOR insurance rate restructuring which are being implemented over the next year. This will translate into as much as a four-fold increase in flood insurance rates in next couple of years for existing building owners, many of whom are now in the highest risk zone for flooding. In addition, any significant renovation work on their structures could trigger the new elevation requirements soon to be instituted for all new construction in this zone. The result, if some exemption for Historic Districts cannot be found, is that Apalachicola’s pedestrian-friendly downtown may become a hodge-podge of buildings with a labyrinth of entrances at different levels, effectively ruining the small-town retail appeal of this economically vital, as well as historical, business district. The Planning and Zoning Committee for the town is investigating the availability of potential exemptions, and a Visioning Process, planned months ago by Historic Apalachicola Mainstreet, will most certainly be marshaling resources to tackle this head-on. Stay tuned if you love Historic Apalachicola, because our future as a business district may be on the line.