City leaders digest proposed changes to Harbor district

Staff Reporter
The Destin Log
Based on recommendations from Canin Associates, developments in the North Harbor Mixed Use district would look quite a bit different than what we see today.

As part of the city's Envision Destin process, a variety of recommendations have been made along the harbor and Calhoun Avenue.

The Envision Destin process, conducted by Orlando-based Canin Associate, was designed to garner public input as the city plans for future growth as part of its comprehensive plan. A series of workshops, related to specific areas of the city, were held and an Aug. 11 workshop was the first opportunity for city leaders to publicly discuss the process.

As discussions shifted toward the city's Harbor District, Eliza Juliano, director of urbanism for Canin, told the crowd that much like in other areas of the city, Canin Associates was recommending to do away with the current Tier System, which guides the intensity and density of developments in the city, in the North (NHMU) and South (SHMU) Harbor mixed use areas.

Instead, a system based on floor area ratio (FAR) would be used, allowing for more "predictability" when it comes to proposed projects.

FAR is "the total square feet of a building divided by the total square feet of the lot the building is located on."

Developments in the NHMU and SHMU would have a maximum height of 10 stories and 110 feet, based on Canin's recommendations, and would have a maximum total FAR of 3.0. A bonus FAR of 0.5 could be achieved in the SHMU for having "active frontage" along Hwy. 98. A 0.5 bonus could be achieved in the NHMU for implementing "publically accessible structured parking or open space."

Changes were also recommended along Calhoun Avenue. Juliano said the city should enable and encourage planned developments in certain areas, which would "present an opportunity for lower intensity, family-oriented development with high pedestrian connectivity."

A FAR of 2.0 would be implemented in the Calhoun Mixed Use district, which would allow developments a maximum of six stories and 70 feet.

Juliano suggested creating a Calhoun Mixed Use Village for "interior" properties currently zoned ROI where a maximum height for developments would be three stories and 40 feet, and would have a FAR of 1.0. Requirements for green space and tree preservation would be included.

Overall, the majority of the crowd favored the proposal.

“I just want to say that I hope we don’t pick and choose parts of this plan. We have a really good opportunity," Mary Ann Windes said. “We are all going to have parts of this plan we don’t like and parts of this plan we do like, and we can nit-pick it to death.”

“Let’s take the whole plan and put it together,” she added. “I’m just thrilled to death that we have the opportunity with this. We have an opportunity for our entire city.”

Leigh Moore, who represents the Howard Group, urged city leaders to promote "stronger and better" development standards.

“We just don’t feel there is the infrastructure or capacity to handle high-rise development," she said. "We’d love to see those Calhoun requirements throughout the entire city, but we realize that’s not realistic. We must maximize open space and green space. We feel the need to raise our standards when it comes to development.”

As for city leaders, they were on board with the recommendations from Canin Associates. Given the workshop setting, the city council was not able to make any official motions.

Any changes to the comprehensive plan would have to be reviewed by the city's local planning agency and approved, during two public hearings, by the city council.