Is Norriego Point for the birds?

Savannah Vasquez
This illustration from the Okaloosa County Appraisers website shows the four acre plot owned by Galic Pointe LLC., which the City of Destin tried to buy 20 years ago for a bird sanctuary.

Norriego Point, that small peninsula that separates the Destin Harbor from the pass into the Gulf of Mexico, has long been a coveted piece of land.

Because of it’s precarious vulnerability to the tides and currents of the Gulf and Choctawhatchee Bay, a constant effort has gone into saving this beautiful piece of property. Over the years, talk of preserving the land from development has led to several ideas, the most rumored of which was turning the land into a bird sanctuary.

“In this 1996 deal, the city was trying to get state funds to buy that piece of property,” said City Public Information Officer Doug Rainer. “Part of the selling point to the state was that we would preserve it to keep it from being developed. In the process of trying to get that grant money there were discussions on how to preserve that area and that’s where the bird sanctuary talk got started.”

Although the city got the deed from the county for the tip portion of Norriego Point in 2010, the lower north portion of property at the start of the peninsula still belongs to a private owner listed as Galic Pointe LLC.

“The property just west of East Pass Towers, which the city currently owns an easement through, is still privately owned. We call this the ‘Galic Property’ in meetings,” said Rainer.

Rainer explained that in 1996 the city received a state grant for $90,000 to purchase the four-acre Galic Property, but the sale with the property owner fell through.

“That purchase of the property through the Florida Trust did not happen,” Rainer said. “The reason why this happened is because the appraisals came back much lower than what the property owner wanted to sell it for.”

As it turned out, the reason the appraiser put a low value on the property is because, according to the deed, it cannot be developed until 2033. In the meantime, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a spoils easement on the property and is allowed to use the land as a dumping site for sand dredged from the Destin Harbor.

In a 1997 Daily News article, Galic Property owner Frank Bailey said he originally hoped the state would offer $300,000 for his land but he couldn’t part with it for $90,000.

City Grants Coordinator Lindey Chabot, who worked on securing this state grant, said that the ironic side of this story is that the state originally awarded up to $460,000 for the land, but once the appraisal came back low the funding dropped down to $90,000.

“In that time period we went to the state and said, ‘We want to buy this property and preserve it,’” said Chabot. “We then went through a grant process, which has requirements and of course appraisals are part of that. It was part of a spoils site, not a place where development was deemed a good place to go at that point in time. Therefore their appraisal was low, it never went through, we never got anywhere with it.”

However, Chabot said talk of the bird sanctuary may have lingered this past 20 years because the city still has hopes to preserve Norriego Point from future development.

“We wanted to preserve as much of Norriego Point as possible, that’s a city goal, it always has been and still is,” said Chabot.