DESTIN — The first reading of a controversial ordinance providing for the abandonment of a 0.05-acre portion of public right of way received the City Council’s majority approval Monday.
The 2,001-square-foot right of way is in front of 604 Harbor Lane, which is in the Moreno Acres subdivision and adjacent to Joe’s Bayou.
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Many people, who for years have used the right of way to get to and from the waterfront, walk their dogs, fish and enjoy the sunset, expressed concern at Monday’s meeting about losing that access if the council approved the vacation request.
The applicant, Tim Krueger, is seeking the vacation to have better access to his property.
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William Ketchersid, an attorney in Destin representing Krueger, showed the council photos of various vehicles that have blocked Krueger’s driveway and were parked there by bayou visitors despite a nearby city "no parking" sign.
While many residents at Monday’s meeting opposed vacating the right of way, many others supported Krueger’s request.
One "big misconception is that this is a city park," Ketchersid said of the 2,001-square-foot area. "It is not. It has been used as a park for years, but it is not a park."
The city staff agreed with that assessment.
Earlier, the city Local Planning Agency determined the proposed vacation will not impede or block public access to Joe’s Bayou, according to city information.
Some residents in the packed council chamber complained that Krueger has put up cables with locks to prevent people from using the right of way and also has put up cameras next to the site.
But later in the meeting, Krueger said he and his family are not taking away anyone’s access to anything.
"We want people to (be able to access the water)," he said.
Krueger’s wife, Jill, said through sobs that she has to look at a camera before leaving the family’s house because she and her loved ones have been threatened by people upset with their request.
Councilman Cyron Marler lamented the drama.
"I hate that we’ve become a community of neighbor against neighbor," Marler said. "In a perfect world, people wouldn’t go down there and park and go down there and do things they shouldn’t do. But we don’t live in a perfect world."
After about four hours of debate, the council voted 4-2 to approve the first reading of the ordinance to abandon the right of way.
Councilmen Rodney Braden and Parker Destin cast the two "no" votes. Councilman Chatham Morgan did not attend the meeting.
One of the conditions of the proposed ordinance prohibits the placement of a fence or other type of barrier that could create a vision impediment to the remaining right of way.
The council plans to consider final approval of the ordinance at an upcoming meeting.