City facing potential legal action over easement at Royal Melvin Heritage Park

Matt Algarin
This driveway between Dewey Destin's Harborside Restaurant and the city's Royal Melvin Heritage Park is at the center of an easement debate.

Temporary improvements at Royal Melvin Heritage Park are on hold after questions about an easement at the harbor front park have come to light.

"If we proceed with the temporary improvements that were recommended by the Harbor Advisory Committee CRA that may potentially prejudice the city's position in working through this issue with the adjacent property owner," City Manager Maryann Ustick told Community Redevelopment Agency board members during their June 3 meeting.

Originally, the city had planned to place sod, a sign and fencing along the property that is situated between The Fisherman's Wharf and Dewey Destin's. The fencing would have been placed on the western edge of the park, which shares a property line with Dewey Destin's Harborside restaurant.

Along the property line is an 8-foot ingress/egress (driveway) that is used by vehicles to travel from U.S. Hwy. 98 to the harbor. If the fence is placed on the western edge of the park, it would be on the opposite side of the driveway, blocking traffic.

"It's the staff's recommendation that they (the city) notify the property owner of their intent to develop the park and to cut off cross access of that easement," City Engineer David

Campbell said during a May 8 CRA Advisory Committee meeting.

Dewey Destin, who was in attendance May 8, wasn't keen on the idea of blocking off the driveway and restricting access to the business that leases the lot on the waterfront.

While he was willing to work with the city, Destin said he would like to do so without getting lawyers involved. But, if it was necessary, he wouldn't shy away.

"If we get a notice that says the easement is going to be cut off, then game on then," he said. "I'm sure our attorneys, who are quite confident that we will prevail in using this road, will be happy to take action."

"I would sure hope to negotiate without being under the gun like that, but that's a decision that's going to be made by the city," he added. "This has been the only access there for a very, very long time; it's been the only access since I was a little bitty boy."

While the city looks into the issues with the easement, they did agree to place some mulch on the property and add a sign acknowledging the park.

Ustick told The Log Wednesday that "it would be best" for the city to work with its consultant, Tetra Tech, on a concept plan for the park as they move forward.