Who should pay? 'Long and difficult' process to force owners to pay for Regions Way repairs

Staff Reporter
The Destin Log
Regions Way, which has fallen into serious disrepair, stretches from U.S. Highway 98 to Crystal Beach Drive.

As city officials work toward implementing a special assessment process to improve and acquire Regions Way, the answer to a simple question has a very complex answer.

For those along the private roadway who will have to fund the project, the common question is "why doesn't the owner pay for this?"

Well, it's not that easy, according to Steve Schmidt, the city's development manager.

"There really isn't a way to force them to pay for it," he told The Log. "If there is a way, it would be a very long and difficult process."

Not to mention expensive, as it would involve litigation.

The roadway, which stretches from U.S. Highway 98 to Crystal Beach Drive is currently owned by Regions Way of Destin, LLC. Michael Hewitt and Lovencie Gambarella, as well as a KSL, Inc. are listed as management entities, according to the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations website.

Kelly Lewis is listed on the division of corporations website for KSL, Inc.

Both Regions Way of Destin, LLC (administrative dissolution) and KSL, Inc. (administrative dissolution) are listed as inactive corporations.

Administrative dissolution is the process by which the state administrator overseeing business entities takes away the rights, powers and authority of a corporation, LLC or other business entity, due to the entity's failure to comply with certain obligations, such as filing an annual return of paying its taxes.

Schmidt said Regions Way of Destin, LLC was dissolved due to failure to file its annual report.

According to the Okaloosa County Tax Collectors website, Regions Way of Destin, LLC failed to pay its 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, 2014 and 2015 (pending) taxes and was administratively dissolved in 2013. The entity currently owes $4,718.81 in taxes.

The roadway has fallen into disrepair over the years, which has given the city a proverbial black eye, as motorists along the roadway would assume the city has failed to maintain the road.

"It's been deteriorated pretty bad," Schmidt said.

The condition of the road led property owners and businesses to approach the city and ask for help, which is where the assessment proposal came into play.

Once taxes and fees are paid on the roadway, the actual improvements can begin. Improvements include demolishing and reconstructing a substantial portion of the road and ribbon curbing, milling and resurfacing the least degraded sections and incorporating roadside swales for stormwater treatment and control.

The project is expected to cost $202,853.84, although the final price tag can vary based on a variety of factors.

Property owners along Regions Way will be responsible for repaying the project costs to the city at an annual amount of $51,488.05 through a non-ad valorem assessment for five years at 5 percent interest. Individual payment amounts will vary based on a specific formula that takes into account trips generated on the roadway.

As for the actual owners of the road, Gambarella will actually have to pay for some of the repair costs as he owns property in the Villages of Crystal Beach, which lies along Regions Way.

Hewitt, Gambarella and Lewis could not be reached for comment.

Given the deteriorated condition of the road and the need to make repairs, Schmidt said the special assessment process makes the most sense as a final solution to return the roadway to a serviceable condition.

"This is the best, fairest way to do this," he said. "This process is very difficult though."