At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, members discussed creating an ordinance that would require the collection of fees at the exit instead of the entrance to HarborWalk Village and other privately-owned pay-to-park businesses.
Such a rule could ease traffic congestion during the peak season, according to Destin City Councilman Parker Destin.
The ordinance would affect property owners including HarborWalk, Brotulas and AJ’s on the Harbor.
In June, HarborWalk began charging a parking fee at their entrance, which led to traffic backing up on U.S. Highway 98.
The Emerald Grande and HarborWalk’s head of security, Greg Featherston spoke to the council on HarborWalk’s behalf.
He said HarborWalk does not agree with the idea of paying as you exit, but is “willing to remain open minded to try to find out and look at all the alternatives that may be available to work on our parking lots.”
Featherston also said that management felt they had cooperated with the city so far and worked collaboratively on the issue.
“We’ve met with city representatives this past summer regarding the parking. We also met with DOT most recently on Jan 3,” he said.
When questioned why HarborWalk didn’t think the ordinance was a good idea, Featherston said it would create a gridlock inside of their parking lot, which would have a “domino effect” that would end up spilling onto Highway 98 anyway.
According to Featherson, there are some alternatives they are considering, including opening up two lanes for traffic entering the lot and evaluating the parking lot configuration.
He asked the council to allow HarborWalk officials to meet with the city manager and staff, to look at all possible options and then report their findings back to the City Council.
At Tuesday’s meeting, all council members except Cyron Marler supported the motion to create the ordinance. Marler said the council should wait to discuss the issue until after they had settled the issues concerning the city-owned pay-to-park lots.
“If we’re gonna do this, if it’s gonna go this way, then the city should be the first to do it and then go from there,” Marler said.
Daily News Staff Writer Tony Judnich contributed to this report.