‘Move this ball forward’: City leaders, Holiday Isle residents make progress on comp plan changes

Matt Algarin
This picture, captured from the Okaloosa County Property Appraisers website, shows an undeveloped parcel of land along Holiday Isle that could be the site of a Tier III development based on the current comprehensive plan.

The vocal majority of residents along Holiday Isle do not want Tier III developments, based on discussions during Monday night’s City Council workshop.

“Right now we are kind of stretched to our limits,” said Guy Tadlock, an outspoken Holiday Isle resident. “I’m concerned that right now, we don’t need to build higher densities…”

As part of the ongoing talks surrounding Chapter One of the city’s proposed Comprehensive Plan 2020, city leaders and staff have had ongoing dialogue with residents that are not in favor of language that would allow for Tier III developments, the highest intensity and density allowable in the city, to be built on Holiday Isle.

Based on previous information provided by Save Our Island Group, members of the Holiday Isle Improvement Association and others, the HDR future land use, which encompasses a large portion of Holiday Isle is more than 85 percent built out and during the “100 Days of Summer,” the current infrastructure is “burdened to a critical level.”

The group specifically requested that new developments in the HDR be limited to Tier I; all above-grade parking floors counted in height calculations; density does not exceed 19.9 units per acre; and for all habitable areas to be included in height calculations, such as sloped roof areas.

Looking at the HIMU (Holiday Isle Mixed Use) district there is essentially a single lot available to be developed. The lot is surrounded by high density residential units.

The group is requesting that new developments be limited to Tier II; above-grade parking be counted in height calculations; density not exceed 19.9 units per acre; and consideration given to re-zoning this area as HDR.

Part of the debate along Holiday Isle is the fact that the Improvement Association has its own set of guidelines and restrictions that were put in place before the city was incorporated. But not all of the areas along Holiday Isle fall under these guidelines.

Steve Bennett is part of the ownership group that owns the single lot on Holiday Isle and he told city leaders that “we’ve got rights that were attributed back to us in the 2010 comp plan” and changes to the proposed plan could alter those rights.

“We are not part of the boundaries that have been subjected over the years… to the Holiday Isle boundaries,” he said. “We basically want to retain our rights.”

The 3.25-acre parcel in question sits on the north side of Gulf Shore Drive, directly across from the Oceania condominium. It’s owned by BDM Destin Holdings LLC, according to the Okaloosa County Property Appraiser’s website.

John Burns, who represents the Destin Sands condominium association, told city leaders that the addition of a Tier III project near his property would have a tremendous impact.

“The new Tier III structure… that now allows for  No.1, increasing the elevation for flood plain; then we get two levels for parking that are not included,” he said. “Now all of a sudden we have a 175-180-foot tower next to our little property.”

For Councilman Jim Wood, it was time to take action, not continue “spinning our wheels.”

“Right now, chapter one is the law — we don’t change chapter one in the workshop, we change chapter one in the council with two votes,” he said. “We’ve got to keep going forward or we are never going to get there.”

And while Councilman Jim Foreman echoed Woods’ sentiments by saying, “no more workshops,” Councilman Rodney Braden said the city should hold as many workshops as needed to get things right.

“I would like to have another workshop myself,” he said. “Let’s get together and get this thing done.”

Since Monday’s meeting was a workshop, no motions could be put forth and no votes taken. The next step is for the city’s land use attorney Scott Shirley and former city attorney David Theriaque, who is representing Holiday Isle owners, to work on some proposed language changes, before brining the document back to the city council for review.

“We’d like to move this ball forward,” Theriaque said.