Better code enforcement and an alternative to Hwy. 98 are on the must-do list

Matt Algarin

Norriego Point is a top priority going into 2014 for some city leaders, but it depends on how you look at it.

"It's imperative that we stabilize Norriego Point," Mayor Sam Seevers said. "We would really like to see it started, at least, this year — we've already got our permits in place."

"It's important to me and I could call it No. 1," Councilman Jim Wood said of his top priorities for the upcoming year. "When I put on my transportation hat though, safe pedestrian crossings are very important to me."

As part of the city's annual Visioning Session, city leaders are tasked with creating a list of major projects they would like to see completed in the upcoming year, as they map out goals for the next five years.

Seevers said the Visioning Session is one of the only opportunities city leaders have to sit down together and discuss where they are going as a city.

With the help of Lyle Sumek Associates Inc., city leaders narrowed their list of priority policy agenda items down into a list of 14 items, split into two categories — top priority and high priority.

Top priorities include (in no particular order): getting a pay increase (COLA or merit) for city employees; planning safe pedestrian crossings for U.S. Hwy. 98; developing a cross town connector (Hwy. 98 alternative); enacting a Norriego Point restoration plan; planning for a Restore Act windfall; creating a tax abatement program (for economic development); and improving code enforcement/compliance.

The high priority projects include: the Royal Melvin Heritage Park on the harbor; Morgan Sports Park improvements; recreation fees; millage rate; recreation fees; improvements to Kelly Street (Benning to Calhoun); and the completion of a Harbor Master Plan (Phase II).

As for the millage rate, City Manager Maryann Ustick told The Log that city leaders had discussed whether or not the current millage rate is "appropriate based on the demand for services." She said they will also look at the current recreation fees as it relates to cost recovery.

The Harbor Master Plan would look at other potential projects in the city's harbor district, such as expanding the harbor boardwalk underneath the Marler Bridge to connect to the north side of the road. This plan builds off of Phase 1, which includes the harbor boardwalk and the Marler Street parking lot.

On the management side, top priorities include IT upgrades, plans to boost employee morale, an economic impact study and a Blue Ribbon Panel to study development process improvements.

Ustick told The Log that one key item Councilman Jim Bagby wanted to address was changes to Coastal Barrier Resource  Act flood zones. She said there are certain areas of the city that currently cannot obtain flood insurance.

City leaders are also working to update a study that was conducted in 2002 by the Haas Center at the University of West Florida looking at the economic impact of the city of Destin. The study looks at everything from tourism-related activities to the charter fishing fleet.

"This is just good information to have," Ustick said.

High priorities are expansion of a sports tourism plan, implementation and recommendations for a harbormaster, evaluation of water quality testing program in the harbor, a flood plain management ordinance, and the creation of a commercial/multi-family recycling program.

Major projects city leaders identified for the upcoming year are a mixed bag. They include annual street resurfacing projects, sidewalk installation and repair, design and construction of the Hutchinson Street project; replacement of the Community Center roof, the design of Royal Melvin Heritage Park, pedestrian crossings for Marler Street and Harbor Boulevard and the engineering and design of a cross-town connector.

Ustick said the city is currently waiting for a final version of their strategic plan to arrive, which should happen sometime this week.

"We've got a lot to do," she said. "It (the plan) gives us a good guide as to what we need to focus on."


As part of the visioning session, city leaders looked far into the future. They produced this vision statement for the years 2017 and 2027.

"Destin 2017 is a world-class beach and world-class fishing community providing a unique resort experience. Destin 2027 has an authentic historic harbor and quality residential choices with easy mobility. Residents take pride in Destin."

Goals for 2018:

•Financially sound city providing service excellence

•Improved mobility and connectivity

•Expanded community amenities for residents and guests

•Quality development and revitalization

•World class beach and fishing