Councilman Jim Wood says an out-of-the-box approach could help city leaders tackle the Norriego Point beach chair debate once and for all.
"I've been talking about this for two years and the hard-line approach I've been taking hasn't gotten me anywhere," he told The Log Tuesday morning. "If the goal is public use, there are other ways to get this done besides kicking people's chairs off of the point."
The topic of beach chairs is nothing new to city leaders in Destin, and during Monday night's City Council workshop they debated their options for addressing the somewhat controversial subject. Under an initial proposal, options included outsourcing beach service to a private entity, creating a city owned and operated service or drafting an ordinance to regulate chairs and umbrellas in city parks.
At primary issue is Legendary Inc, which sets up chairs on the point and regularly ferries guests to the spit of land which juts into East Pass.
For Wood, there was an alternative option that he had discussed with Peter Bos, CEO of Legendary Inc. The proposal would allow the Emerald Grande’s three homeowners associations to continue their services, while also offering 10 percent of the chairs placed on the point to be open for public use.
"I'm sure I will take plenty of heat from folks in the public for even proposing this," Wood said. "If you keep doing the same thing over and over without different results, it's time to try something different."
"I don't want the city to be the chair monitors anymore," he added.
As it stands now, the three homeowners associations have about 170 chairs total, but they only place a portion of those on Norriego Point, according to Bruce Craul, president of the three associations.
Bos told the city that at first, they were a little overzealous placing chairs, but they have cut back on the quantity as of late.
"I think we did have a situation where we set out a lot of chairs and it did cause a lot of concern," he told the council. "I think it looked like we were dominating the beach, but that wasn't the intention."
While the beach chair-sharing option was favorable to most of the councilors, the amount of chairs that would be available to the public was up for debate, especially since Norriego Point officially became a city park in the last couple of years.
Councilmen Jim Bagby and Tuffy Dixon both said that 10 percent was too low, suggesting either 15 percent or possibly a fixed number of chairs instead of a percentage.
"My position has been that we want to protect the point," Bagby said. "As long as we keep everyone off the northern half, I don't care if it's wall to wall umbrellas."
On a typical day, Bos told city leaders that there are roughly 20-25 chairs out on the point at any given time.
For Dixon, the public should have access to 20 percent of those chairs.
"If they are not utilized, then you can use them," he said. "We've taken so much criticism over this one issue."
"Our goal here is to make everyone happy," Bos replied.
Since Monday's meeting was a workshop, city leaders were not able to make any motions, but Mayor Sam Seevers told them to come prepared to make a motion when the city council meets in the coming weeks. For now, city staff will look into applying this new regulation only to Norriego Point as a trial run and come back with a potential plan to implement for all the city’s parks.
As for the chair-sharing proposal, Wood told The Log that it might be the best way to go, but he would wait to see what happens moving forward.
"It's potentially a win-win situation for everybody," he said. "Nobody wants to fail, whatever we do."