Army Corps: No development in easement area of Parcel B

MATT ALGARIN 315-4462 | @DestinlogMatt

Large portions of Holiday Isle near the existing east jetty, as well as the Air Force property which houses the west jetty were once blanketed by easements, but now only one remains — Tract 101-E-6.

This particular easement — a t-shaped sand dike — through the Army Corps of Engineers runs across Parcel B, which is a privately owned piece of property near the Destin Pointe subdivision. Parcel B has been at the center of much debate between property owners and the city of Destin, as questions of how the land use designation on the parcel was changed from conservation to High Density Residential (HDR) and whether the property could be developed.

"Your citizens have concerns for this land," Diana Lynn told city leaders during Tuesday night's Destin City Council meeting.

Patrick Robbins, chief of legislative and public affairs for the Mobile District of the Army Corps of Engineers, told The Log the easement allowed for the corps to operate and maintain the jetty system and sand dike.

"We will not allow any development on this parcel beyond that allowed under the terms of the agreement," he wrote in an email.

The agreement Robbins referred to relates to the types of development that can and cannot take place along the easement area. The property owner is allowed to construct a fence, boardwalk, walking/jogging paths, camp sites, unpaved parking areas and material/equipment storage.

However, they are not allowed to build structures, docks/piers, light poles, install utilities or perform any use that would increase operations and maintenance costs to the Corps of Engineers.

So could the easement eventually be lifted from Parcel B, Sure, but it's not likely.

Waylon Register, a site manager for the Corps of Engineers out of the Panama City office, told city leaders the easement would "remain in place as long as the jetty is there."

Councilwoman Prebble Ramswell, who had this item on the agenda under her name, said the most important takeaway from Tuesday's meeting -- where Register presented city leaders with a history of East Pass and the corps role -- was that the easement and sand dike system not only encompass all parcels in the vicinity, but navigational servitude over the area. She said this adds a "more protective" layer of land protection.

"The Corps made it crystal clear that no permanent structures or paving are allowed in these areas," she wrote in an email. "This underscores the need for the city to ensure the zoning in this area is conservation/conservation-private so as to be compatible with its lawful allowable use."

As for the zoning of Parcel B, when The Log asked Robbins about the change from conservation to HDR, he said it wasn't the Corps place to get into zoning regulations.

There was no action taken on this item Tuesday. The city is still in the process of securing legal counsel to independently explore the land use change from conservation to HDR.