‘In a holding pattern’: City to explore more options for pedestrian crossing

Matt Algarin
This conceptual drawing shows one of the designs that was presented as part of the Marler Street and U.S. Hwy. 98 traffic signal talks.

Plans for a fully signalized traffic light at the Marler Street and U.S. Hwy. 98 intersection may have stalled after Monday night’s Destin City Council meeting.

“We, the property owners, don’t agree with the full traffic signal,” said Mike Buckingham, who owns Buck’s BBQ, a restaurant that sits just a few hundred feet from the intersection.

With a 6-0 vote, city leaders decided to take a step back from the full traffic signal and consider other options, such as pedestrian activated systems. But the decision didn’t come lightly or without plenty of conversation.

Councilman Tuffy Dixon brought up the traffic signal under his designated time on the agenda, telling his colleagues that the city used have the “support” of the majority of property owners in the harbor district, but that has changed recently.

“My issue is that we’ve been told by the DOT (Department of Transportation), Sen. (Don) Gaetz, that this project will not happen without the surrounding property owners coming on board with it,” he said. “We are in a holding pattern — I don’t care what anybody says.”

As part of early discussions about a traffic signal at the intersection, a group of property owners had pledged financially to support a signal. The group included Ray Watson ($5,000), Alan Laird ($25,000), Keith Howard ($25,000), Claude Perry ($25,000), and Dewey Destin ($5,000).

Speaking to the council Monday, Perry urged them not to stray away from their initial plans, saying this is a “serious” issue that “deals with lives.”

“We’ve got a problem and we’ve got to deal with it,” he said. “You voted 7-0 to go forward with the light.”

A group of six property owners drafted a letter to city officials back in March, which voices displeasure for the current state of the project.

The letter, which was signed by Nancy Birchett, Mike Buckingham, Becky Destin, Tim and Wendy Krieg, Alan Laird, and Mary Anne Windes, reads: “We the property owners in the Harbor District would like to go on record opposing the latest traffic signal design. It unduly burdens certain property owners and furthermore does not promote the city’s Melvin property as the gateway to Destin HarborWalk District.”

For his part, Buckingham told city leaders that after meeting with DOT officials about alternate options, “their number one choice is to get pedestrians across the street, not the traffic signal.”

“We feel that we’ve come up with a good plan,” Buckingham said.

And city leaders will have the opportunity to see what those plans may be during an upcoming city council meeting.

“I’m willing to look at all the options…” Councilwoman Sandy Trammell said. “I’m telling you, no matter what the entities up here want, it’s really what the transportation experts at DOT tell us works, and they know all the situations.”