Dewey Destin files lawsuit against city over Royal Melvin Park

Annie Blanks | 315-4450 | @DestinLogAnnie |
Dewey Destin is sueing the City of Destin for their plans to build Capt. Royal Melvin Heritage Park adjacent to his restaurant. NICK TOMECEK/THE LOG

Dewey Destin has filed a lawsuit against the City of Destin over the city’s installation of a fence around Royal Melvin Park which blocks an easement from Highway 98 to the harbor waterfront. 

The park, which is adjacent to Dewey Destin’s Harborside Restaurant, has been the center of years of debate between Destin and the city. Destin’s company, BI. Inc., uses the easement on the east side of his property, which is the west side of the park property, to access the lower end of his parcel. He says that the easement alongside the park is the only public access road on the Destin Harbor from Highway 98 to the waterfront. The new fence blocks that easement.

“We’ve been in mediation with the city for over a year and had come up with a number of solutions,” Destin said. “The council a few months ago decided to take this action (of installing the fence).

“We would like to go back and pursue the alternatives that us and the city attorneys had come to,” he added.

The city voted 3-2 in July to move forward with cordoning off the park boundaries so it could begin the process of constructing Royal Melvin Park, for which it received $3 million in state funds in 2006 and was awarded a $1.25 million RESTORE Act grant in 2015.

The city must begin building the park soon, or else risk losing the expected $1.5 million in RESTORE Act funds and be forced to pay back $3 million to the state.

“It is too early to say anything about this pending litigation,” said Destin City Manager Carisse LeJeune. 

Destin is seeking use of the easement as well as damages exceeding $15,000 in his lawsuit. He said he hopes his attorneys and the city can come up with a solution.

"Our intent all along has been to work with (the city) to make the park better," he said. "If we can do the things we agreed, moving the road on to our property, at least 70 percent of it, so that's there's still a guaranteed publicly owned vehicle access ramp to our boardwalk, that's a win."