Downtown Chipley business owners fight for parking

Downtown Chipley business owners came out in force to the Chipley City Council meeting Dec. 13 to voice their concerns over the possible sale or lease of the parking lot at the old KCÂ’s Pizza.

Wolfpack Alliance, LLC submitted a request to the council for the parking spaces adjacent to the structure in order to build what they call “Chipley Station,” which would primarily be a tap house, food truck pad and community hub. The parking spaces would be used as a permanent home for five to seven food trucks, complete with power, water and any potential drainage needs.

However, surrounding business owners, churches and citizens were concerned with the parking issues the community would face should the council decide to sell or lease those spots.

SisterÂ’s Sweets, Eats and More Co-owner Gina Pippin said it would limit parking not only for businesses but accessing handicapped parking spaces.

“We encourage our customers to park in the back because of the safety aspect,” Pippin said. “If the parking in the back is eliminated or lessened that will place more traffic on Highway 77, causing an even more dangerous situation to those parking there. All of the handicapped accessible parking is in the back and that will essentially be wiped out. Another business will lose their parking altogether. Does the city not have available parking spaces for this business to use across the street? This would save the parking for their future customers and for the businesses that have survived a pandemic and are trying to better downtown.”

Steve Storlie, one of the owners of Wolfpack Alliance, said the goal is to be a part of the community.

“We don’t want to come in and commandeer the whole parking lot,” Storlie said. “The goal is to be a partner in the community. We want to bring something that Chipley has never had before. You will be the first in the Panhandle with something like this.There are at least 150 parking spots in the nearby area. If we go too far away from our building for power and such, it messes with the whole concept of the business.”

Jerry Lenz, owner of Louis and Nash Mercantile said it is not the business people are against; it is the parking spaces that are the issue.

“We all believe it would be a phenomenal business for our city, we aren’t arguing that fact,” Lenz said. “We cannot sell or lease the parking lot because then we have not only lost our parking, we have lost our bargaining chip. If there are 150 other parking spots, they can find them and use those and not shut down the parking of the businesses that have been here.”

Council members all agreed that progress was a top priority and the growth this business would bring would be great but not at the cost of existing businesses.

“We welcome any new business that wants to come to Chipley,” said Councilman Tommy Sasser. “But we cannot allow it to the detriment of our existing businesses.”

Councilman Kevin Russell said he hears the concerns of the business owners but not any recommendations for a solution to the issue.

“We have a business that wants to come to our town, and that is a great thing,” Russell said. “I want growth and progress to come here, I think we all do. While I hear your concerns and I agree with them, I don’t hear anyone offering any solutions that will allow this business to come and be successful. We have to offer solutions that will allow this business to come in.”

The time came for the matter to be acted on by the council, however, the request died due to lack of a motion making the councilÂ’s voice heard on the matter; they would not be selling or leasing the parking lot to Wolfpack Alliance, LLC.

The Washington County News will continue to follow this story should anything else develop in the matter.