City to discuss high-rises at Thursday workshop

Matt Algarin

The future of Tier III development standards in Destin will be up for debate when city leaders meet for a Tier III workshop Oct. 10 at 5:30 p.m. in the City Hall Annex.

"We're going to bring in some of the interested parties and landowners and talk about this," Councilman Larry Williges said. "I've not been happy with Tier III, it's been somewhat subjective, not objective."

To date, there have been no Tier III developments built in Destin, but there are currently three approved Tier III projects on the city's books. They include Beach Pointe Condominiums, Harbor Reflections, Caretta Dunes — which all secured development orders in 2008. Henderson Beach Resort was issued a preliminary development order in 2009.

For the better part of the year, city staffers have been working toward creating "quantifiable and objective" criteria for Tier III developments, as it relates to what is considered a "public benefit."

When developers aim to construct a Tier III development — the highest density and intensity developments allowed in the city — they are required to provide public benefit as part of the project. As the system currently stands, the public benefit is negotiated between the city manager and the proposed developers.

Based on a variety of factors, city leaders will consider what is being called a tiered land use system. Under the proposed process, there are six criteria that range from implementing a Tier III contribution payment system to determining an increase in intensity/density based on the difference between a Tier II and Tier III development for each future land use designation and zoning district in the city.

City leaders will also be discussing amendments to the comprehensive plan that governs future land use, recreation and open space, and glossary items as they relate to the tiered land use system.

Another part of the proposed changes include the creation of a new future land use designation — Henderson Beach Resort, which would allow for hotels/motels, residential construction and "limited" non-residential uses. The HBR is considered a transition zone between the higher density commercial area along U.S. Hwy. 98 and areas around Crystal Beach.

Memphis, TN-based developers Dunavant has plans in place for a 13-acre project, which will be called the Henderson Beach Resort. It would be anchored by a 150- to 200-room luxury hotel and feature more than 300 condo units. The project would be located adjacent to Henderson Beach State Park.

There is currently pending litigation in relation to the project based on the plaintiffs (Coral Reef Club Owners Association) challenge of the city's Tier III regulations. The motion for a summary judgment notes that the regulations should be ruled "null and void" because they lack "sufficient objective criteria and grant the city unbridled discretion to determine whether a proposed Tier III project provides significant 'public benefits' to warrant approval."

In addition to Thursday's meeting, city leaders will also meet to discuss Tier III standards again Oct. 14 at 5:30 p.m. at the City Hall Annex. The public is welcome to attend both workshops.

For more information call City Hall at 837-4242.

“The City Council workshop on Thursday is to discuss a proposal, based on the city council’s direction, to finalize a process of utilizing quantifiable/objective criteria for determining public benefits under the Tiered Land Use System," Community Development Director Ken Gallander said.