City, property owner agree to mediation over easement dispute (VIDEO)

MATT ALGARIN 315-4462 | @DestinlogMatt
This file photo shows the roadway in question in the easement dispute between the city of Destin and Dewey Destin/BI Inc.

The city of Destin will go to the mediation table to try and resolve an easement issue at it's harbor-front Capt. Royal Melvin Heritage Park.

"We need to find a way to get this off of dead center so we can start construction (on the park)," City Manager Greg Kisela said.

At the heart of the issue is an access road that runs north-south between Dewey Destins Harborside restaurant and the city-owned park. The roadway allows traffic to ingress/egress from U.S. Highway 98 to the businesses on the harbor.

After debating the issue back in December, the city opted to hire Tallahassee-based attorney Joseph Boyd to offer an independent opinion regarding the easement questions. Boyd's compensation was topped at $15,000.

During the city's Jan. 19 council meeting, Boyd presented his findings, which stated Destin and his company BI Inc. has no interest in the city park property. In Boyd's conclusion, he writes that the claimant (Destin/BI Inc.) has had, at most, a revocable license, not an easement, and it is gone.

"Claimant is highly unlikely in court to establish the existence of an easement on the city park property," he wrote.

For his part, Destin told city leaders he was ready to come to an agreement and put this issue behind him.

Destin's attorney, Lisa Minshew, said her client has done "everything possible" to try and resolve the easement debate.

"My research tells me there are at least six different reasons BI and Dewey Destins has use of that road," she said.

"The public has been using it for at least 50 years," Minshew added. "There are at least 200-300 cars a day using this road."

In the spirit of compromise, Destin said he would "sweeten the pot" by offering up a portion of the boardwalk along his property for the city to use as a dock, which is something it doesn't have on the harbor.

"There's gotta be a way to make a compromise," Councilman Cyron Marler said. "Mr. Destin has served this city since we became a city."

A motion to go to mediation was approved unanimously. The mediation has been set for Feb. 19.