City to seek outside counsel on land use changes along Holiday Isle

Staff Reporter
The Destin Log
This aerial image, courtesy of the Okaloosa County Property Appraiser's website, show the location (outlined in red) of Parcel B along Holiday Isle.

City leaders will turn to outside counsel as they continue to discuss concerns about Parcels B and C along Holiday Isle.

"This is about the muddiest thing that I've ever seen since I've been on council," said Councilman Tuffy Dixon, who was elected to office in 2012.

At issue is the land use designation for Parcel B and C, which is currently zoned as High Density Residential (HDR). Residents along Holiday Isle argue that the parcel,, which are located near the Destin Pointe subdivision, should be zoned conservation land.

Parcel B is owned by Aqua Development LLC, according to the Okaloosa County Property Appraiser's website. Parcel C is owned by BK Properties II.

Under current ordinances, the HDR designation would allow for Tier I, II and III developments. These projects could range in size from 80 foot and seven stories to 170 feet and 16 stories, according to the city's zoning district fact sheet for HDR. The Tier III would only apply to the  East Harbor Planning Area, which is essentially from Grande Harbor to Sandpiper Cove and south of Harbor Boulevard, north of the harbor waterway. Not all areas of the East Harbor Planning Area are zoned HDR, according to Community Development Director Ken Gallander.

Holiday Isle resident Diane Lynn spoke to city leaders during the Jan. 4 city council meeting saying the HDR designation would allow an additional 234 residential homes to be built.

"The zone is in total conflict with your county and Destin Pointe for records showing B as a single family lot with a federal no-build order," she said.

"Without a doubt, regarding rezoning from conservation to HDR over B and C (Parcel C) was made without the proper records of the land use recording," she added.

For his part, City Manager Greg Kisela said the designation change from conservation to HDR dates back to the 1990s.

"This discussion started back in the end of 1995," he said, adding that the change was due to a settlement agreement involving litigation about a development (Summerchase)in Crystal Beach. At issue was the application of a 50-foot conservation zone on private properties located on the Gulf of Mexico, according to city documents.

Based on the settlement agreement, Kisela said the conservation designation was removed from privately owned lands and created a conservation land use category which only applied to public land.

"Parcel B and C were shifted to high density residential and remained high density residential on the 2010 and the current 2020 comp plan," he said.

And while Kisela and Land Use Attorney Scott Shirley provided a chronological history from 1996-2005, there was still some uncertainty about the changes.

"I believe by the stroke of a pen, it just ended up on a map and everybody ran with it," Councilman Rodney Braden said. "Or just somebody took this whole thing, what happened in 96, out of context."

Currently, there are no plans to develop Parcel B, which also has a spoils easement through the United States Army Corps of Engineers, according to local attorney Dana Matthews, who represents the property owners.

"All but six acres is subject to the spoils easement," Matthews said, adding that the easement is merely a "place to put sand."

With questions still remaining, city leaders will wait to hear back from an outside attorney on the history of land use changes along Parcel B and C.

"I don't think anybody disagrees that the original motivation for changing the conservation land didn't have anything to do with B and C," Kisela said. "The original intent was to deal with Crystal Beach."

As of Monday, Public Information Officer Doug Rainer told The Log an attorney has not been secured yet, but the city manager was working through the process.