'We need to get this issue resolved': City, property owner debate access road at city park

Staff Reporter
The Destin Log
The city of Destin and Dewey Destin, on behalf of BI, Inc., are currently debating who has usage rights for an access road/easement that runs long the city's harborfront property, which will be home to Capt. Royal Melvin Heritage Park.

There is no ease in solving an easement dispute near the city's Capt. Royal Melvin Heritage Park.

"This road has been jointly used for close to 50 years," said Dewey Destin, who owns the property directly to the west of the city's parcel through BI, Inc. "We are trying to be a good neighbor. We hope that we can resolve this issue and that it's satisfactory to both sides."

The roadway (easement) in question currently runs along the city-owned parcel and allows traffic to ingress/egress from U.S. Highway 98 to the businesses located on the bottom of Destin's parcel along the harbor.

Destin said his father had paid members of the Melvin family for access to the road and that the easement was entered into public record in 1990.

If Destin and BI, Inc. lose access to the road, he said the two businesses located on his parcel along the harbor would suffer. Customer's to Destin's restaurant wouldn't be affected.

"If the road is closed, they lose their access to 98," he said.

As for the city, the claim is that BI, Inc. has no stake to the easement as the arrangement was terminated prior the city's acquisition of the property in 2006.

When the parcel was purchased, it was done so through a state grant from the Florida Communities Trust, which City Manager Greg Kisela says can complicate the current dispute.

"We need to get this issue resolved," Kisela said. "It's been around for eight or nine years; it's not getting better with age."

If the city were to grant the easement to BI, Inc. and Destin, Kisela said they would have to re-design the park, which is estimated at between $50,000-$100,000.

With a 5-0 vote, the council agreed it would authorize Kisela to explore the idea of exchanging easements between the city of Destin and BI, Inc., as well as retaining special council to advise the city council on an appropriate course of action moving forward.

If the city and Destin are unable to resolve the easement debate, it could delay the city's ability to fulfill its obligations for grant funding at the park.