Developers laud a proposed Tier III development in Crystal Beach as a job creator, but nearby homeowners say the project would ruin the neighborhood's character.
"We bought here thinking that's what we had, and we know things change, and I respect the man's use of his land, but I don't respect it when it affects others in the community," said Stan Evans, who owns a unit at the nearby Coral Reef Club. "We ask that you keep it the same, require the developer to keep it in line with what's already there."
Local developer Shannon Howell is part of the proposed Henderson project and told the council that they have no desire to ruin the character of Crystal Beach or Destin.
"We are looking at creating jobs. We absolutely want to create the character of Destin, he said of the project. We love Destin, that's why we are here."
The proposed Tier III project, which would be developed by Dunavant Gulf LLC, received its preliminary development order in 2009. It calls for the construction of a mixed-use development that features a resort hotel, convention center, water park, and multiple multi-density residential units at 2700 Scenic Hwy. 98. In order to receive a final development order the applicants must file a complete application, complete with technical drawings.
As part of an overhaul of the tiering system, which regulates macro-developments in Destin, city planners would create a land use called Henderson Beach Resort, which would be located south of Hurricane Lanes and west of Matthew Boulevard and the Henderson Beach Inn property near the state park. Essentially this land use designation would accommodate the Henderson Beach Resort project.
The project is currently tied up in litigation from nearby property owners that are opposed to the city's development standards.
While Monday's meeting was supposed to focus on Tier III projects in general, a majority of the night was spent discussing this particular project and its "impacts" in the Crystal Beach neighborhood.
As a resident of Crystal Beach, Councilman Jim Bagby challenged his colleagues as to whether or not they would want a massive development built across the street from their homes.
"I just want everybody to think what it would be like living next door to two 100-feet buildings out of your front door," he said. "I guarantee you, nobody up here would vote to put 100-foot structures in front of their house."
Bagby has long been outspoken about Tier III projects in Destin, which are macro developments that maximize intensity and density.
"There is a calmness to Crystal Beach," Bagby said. "It is analogous to 30A it provides another, or a choice product that doesn't exist in a whole lot of Destin."
And that calmness is exactly why part-time resident Barbara LaRose purchased her condominium at Coral Reef Club.
"We have seen drawings of the proposed project, which represents 20-pounds of sugar in a 5-pound bag," she said. "We feel as though this is too much for that little area."
"Please consider not rezoning this," she added. "This is really going to ruin the character of our beautiful area of Crystal Beach."
For developer Peter Bos, the project represents a greater need for the city hotel units that he has said in the past are "much needed" to grow and attract an offseason population.
"This is a very, very important site for the city," he said. "Dunavant is a first-class developer; it's an asset for the town."
When it came time to vote, city leaders moved forward with a recommendation that would incorporate the proposed changes to the city's land development code. The final vote was 5-1, with Bagby voting against and Councilman Larry Williges absent.
The item will be reviewed by the Local Planning Agency before coming back to the city council.