Does public have a say in Destin development?
When news of the proposed nine-story, multi-use HarborWalk Village expansion project hit the stands Wednesday, the public began voicing their opinions on the building.
Although some were supportive of the amenities and jobs the Emerald Grande and HarborWalk Village have brought to the area, most were concerned with the news that this project is already approved and the public, and city council, have no say in the pending development.
“It should go before city council, that’s what angers me,” said Destin native Retha Shreve. “We have a city council for that purpose, so that people can get up and say what they want. We are not going to win every fight, but I don’t see the purpose of another (high-rise).”
Shreve said she has been following the development on the harbor since the Emerald Grande was first opened nine years ago, and she feels the citizens of Destin should be allowed input on what is built in the city.
“I think they should have to take it before the city council and get the public’s input on it,” she said. “This is our city, this is our town, it’s already way overgrown. Before they break ground, I think the new comprehen-sive plan should be in place and the city council should have a say.”
According to the city law, citizens do have a say in developments. However, input must be given when the origi-nal development order is submitted.
“Citizens have an opportunity to provide input on developments in the city when the city receives a complete application for a development,” said Public Information Officer Doug Rainer. “At that time, staff notifies all property owners within 300 feet of the proposed development by direct mail, and the developer is required to place a sign on the property with the development application and contact information.”
The original development order for phase two of the HarborWalk Village project was submitted back in December 2009 and has since been approved by city staff; therefore public and city council input are no longer applicable to amend work on this particular project.
“From my understanding, the original order should never have been able to go this long,” Shreve said of the 2009 development order. “There needs to be a moratorium to get some citizen input on the comprehensive plan.”
Rainer explained that a moratorium on development is achieved by establishing a temporary suspension of the de-velopment permitting process.
“The council can institute a moratorium on this project,” Rainer said. “However, because this is a project that is in process, approved and currently on the books, there may be issues with stopping that development.”
Although it is possible to pause the project in this manner, Rainer added that doing so could raise legal and economic consequences.
As for the Comprehensive Plan, which establishes policies on what development is allowable within the city, both citizens and city council members take part in forming that on a 10-year basis.
“We as the city are required to review and update our Comprehensive Plan every 10 years,” said Rainer. “But it takes several years to do it, so we are in the process right now of updating our 2020 plan.”
For those citizens who truly want a say in what development can and cannot be built in Destin, Shreve urges participation in the upcoming comprehensive plan meeting.
“There is a meeting on June 9th regarding the comprehensive plan and this is one of the issues that we want ad-dressed,” she said of the HarborWalk Village project. “I grew up here, this is my hometown. My problem with that is we don’t like the original building that is there. That was something that I never thought would happen, but putting another one there when no body likes the first one is insane.”