DESTIN — City Attorney Kyle Bauman will help represent the city in court against Destin Fishing Fleet Inc., which claims in a recently filed lawsuit that changes to Destin’s comprehensive plan caused a multi-million dollar decrease in property value for the fleet’s 3.2-acre site.
Bauman told the City Council Feb. 19 that the city was notified of the lawsuit on Feb. 4.
The comprehensive plan amendments at issue pertain to the density and intensity of use of various properties. The fishing fleet’s law firm of Hopping Green & Sams of Tallahassee claims that various amendments, including the most recent ones that took effect last May, led to an almost $14.6 million decrease in the fleet’s property value.
The fleet, which is a for-profit corporation, is seeking a jury trial in Okaloosa County Circuit Court in hopes of being awarded that monetary amount, plus attorney fees and costs. Attorneys for the plaintiff have rejected the city’s settlement offer of $12,000.
The fleet’s property at 210 Harbor Blvd. includes a marina, an office and Brotula’s Seafood House and Steamer.
Fleet President Kelly Windes also serves as the District 5 Okaloosa County commissioner. Destin Mayor Gary Jarvis, who is a partner and owner of Brotula’s, does not have general voting power on the council.
“Since the establishment of the (city’s Community Redevelopment Area) in 2003, the (fleet’s overall) property has been impacted by three different changes to the comprehensive plan,” the plaintiff's lawyers state in court documents.
Under the 2010 plan, the maximum development potential for the fleet’s property included 112 short-term dwelling units, 62 long-term dwelling units and 300 hotel rooms, according to the fleet’s attorneys.
They state that under the 2015 plan, the development potential was reduced to allow either 120 dwelling units or a 350-room hotel, and that under the latest plan, it was further reduced to allow 74 dwelling units and 75 hotel rooms.
At the last council meeting, Bauman said the city’s insurance carrier has hired attorney Bill Warner to represent the city in the lawsuit.
Also at the meeting, the council unanimously agreed to have Bauman serve as the city’s excess legal counsel in the case. In that role, he will be paid at the rate of $145 per hour.
Councilman Skip Overdier was absent from the meeting.