Local developers and some city leaders say trashing Tier III developments would be a mistake.
"The thing that gets me is that we are talking about tier three, and nothing's got off the ground," Councilman Cyron Marler said. "To drop the tier system without seeing one built is kind of going backward to me."
During a workshop Monday night, city leaders once again debated what to do about the future of high rises and macro developments in Destin as they worked through the comprehensive plan 2020.
At the heart of the debate is the tiering system, which guides the heights, intensity and density of development throughout the city. As of late, there has been plenty of discussion on the dais about what Destin's skyline should look like in the future.
Councilman Jim Bagby has told his colleagues that he would like to "kill" all future Tier III developments in Destin.
"I'm not against tall buildings necessarily, but they shouldn't be down on the harbor, and they shouldn't be in Crystal Beach," he said Monday night.
The Crystal Beach area is a popular destination for proposed developments, as three out of the four approved Tier III developments in the city are in the Crystal Beach area. This includes Beach Pointe Condominium II, Caretta Dunes and Henderson Beach Resort.
William Hagerman from Dunavant Enterprises, which represents the Henderson Beach Resort project, told city leaders that putting a specific standard on what would qualify as a "significant" public benefit as part of the Tier III approval process would go a long way in helping developers decide if they could afford to construct a project or not.
"We think Destin is a very unique opportunity," he said. "I would have gladly provided, paid into a capital fund so we can fix some of the things that Destin needs."
The Henderson Beach Resort project received a preliminary development order in April 2009, would sit on 13-acres, rise 60-feet-tall and contain 313-units in Crystal Beach.
Killing Tier III projects would hurt property owners will smaller parcels, said local developer Peter Bos. He urged city leaders not to rush toward a decision.
"As you limit height, you really are hurting the small property owner big time," he said, noting that since their parcels are smaller, the only option they have for redevelopment would be to build upward. "Reality is that as we balance the aesthetics and balance the needs, we need to be fair to the property owners."
Local Attorney Dana Matthews also told city leaders to be cautious, as redevelopment might be the best way to cure a "stagnant" downtown district that is in need of revitalization.
"Unfortunately we got caught up in a terrible economy and there is no money to do that," he said. "HarborWalk still has significant land along the harbor, Olin Marler has a piece of property out there and you have Dunavant."
"I would ask you not to vote to throw out Tier Three tonight," he added.
But not everyone was convinced that Tier III developments should stay on the books.
Destin resident Walter Woo said he wanted the city to develop a plan for what the city should look like in the future.
"I think the number of high rises should be limited," he said.
Councilman Jim Foreman agreed, telling his colleagues that they should scrap the tiering system until they can get a grasp on it.
"The tier system has been in place long enough to show some results," he said. "The only results I have seen are negative."
Given the mixed bag of opinions, city leaders agreed that they needed to discuss the tiering system at further length before making a decision. They will hold a series of "workshops" with developers and interested parties, much like they did during the boardwalk negotiations, to try and find a solution that works for everyone.
As they move forward, there are still questions remaining.
"What do we do if we drop Tier Three?" Councilman Marler said. "Where are you going to go from there?"