When it comes to the proposed Airport Road strip club in Destin, the ball now appears to be in the city's court.


When it comes to the proposed Airport Road strip club in Destin, the ball now appears to be in the city's court.



For months, the city's legal team and planners have been pushing for additional information from those affiliated with The Runway, and now an almost 30 page response is in the city's hands.



In an Aug. 30 letter addressed to city Land Use Attorney Scott Shirley, Gary Edinger, an attorney representing The Runway, addresses the city's questions regarding persons with "influential interest" in Trident Operations LLC and how they obtained a stake in Trident.



As part of the letter, Edinger specifically asked for the communication to remain "confidential and exempt from disclosure" to the media and others. He noted the city's history of immediately releasing "every scrap of information" the applicant has furnished and cited Section 2.5-40(d) of the city's code of ordinances for keeping the information confidential.



Part (d) states "The information provided by the applicant for a license under this chapter shall be maintained by the city manager's office and shall remain confidential, unless the information is required to be disclosed by law."



Edinger wrote that there is a "very real risk" of litigation between the project's applicant and the city of Destin, and his letter is intended in part "as an offer in compromise" to avoid potential litigation.



While Edinger preferred that the information stay confidential, Councilman Tuffy Dixon had other ideas during Tuesday night's City Council meeting.



"I would rather be chastised by our attorneys for saying something than be chastised by the citizens for not saying something," he said. "I want to make sure the public is aware that this material is at City Hall, and as far as I am concerned, is open for inspection..."



 



Influential Interest



The Log requested the documents and poured through them. Edinger first makes the case that city ordinances don’t require the strip club developers to disclose the “influential” individuals behind the development. He then begrudginglyidentifies four entities that are "members" of Destin AR, LLC, which acquired all membership interest in Trident Operations LLC from St. LaCa Holdings, LLC in June 2012, almost two years after then Trident chief Terry Stephenson was killed outside his Georgia strip club, Pinups.



Members of Destin AR, LLC include Galunka Holdings, LLC (10 percent), which is owned by Alex Dali; Dime-In, LLC (40 percent), which is owned by P. Gregory Phifer and Robert Ohayon; Atlanta Ventures, LLC (30 percent), which is owned by Cary Wiggins; and LaAbra, LLC (20 percent), which is owned by James Larry White. Most of the names on the documents are out-of-towners and from Georgia. The only local name tied to the project appears to be local attorney Dana Matthews, who is listed as the registered agent for Destin AR.



Another common objection to the strip club has been that a settlement offer, which both ended a First Amendment lawsuit filed by Stephenson and allowed the strip club to set up shop on Airport Road, was invalid because Stephenson and Trident were the only parties listed in the settlement.



Edinger attempted to scuttle that argument by tracing how Trident transformed into Destin AR, LLC, through a series of meeting minutes and other documents.



 



Review Process



Edinger also suggests the city has been dragging its feet during the review process. He writes that Destin planners didn't have an application form for these types of businesses "for years after the enactment" of their adult ordinance, despite requests from his clients.



"Requiring the disclosure of information on an application which does not exist is an interesting Catch 22 and but one of several roadblocks the city had erected through this permitting process," Edinger wrote.



City planners and the Technical Review Team (TRT) have been thumbing through the application for the proposed 5,000-square foot-plus strip club over the past few months. The TRT is comprised of individuals from the Destin Fire Control District, Okaloosa Gas, Destin Water Users, the engineering team from the city's public services department, and members of the community development and planning department. They are tasked with reviewing the application for any "technical standards" their organization requires.



According to the city's website, the planning department sent out the fourth submittal package from the applicants for the TRT to review on Sept. 9. Once the TRT finishes its review city staff will compile any comments and provide them to the applicant, which must be completed by Sept. 23.



"The review documents of what they submitted will go out later today (Friday)," Community Development Director Ken Gallander said.



The application for the proposed two-story strip club located at 908 Airport Road was originally submitted in January. The application was determined to be "complete" in March, but must still be approved by city planners and building officials before a development order can be issued.



As for the legal side of the review process, Gallander told The Log that there is no timeline on when the city expects to receive an opinion from its attorneys.



"Our legal counsel is still reviewing those documents," he said.