Council approves beach rental changes

Annie Blanks | 315-4450 | @DestinLogAnnie | ablanks@thedestinlog.com

The Destin City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve a second reading of an ordinance that alters the Land Development Codes (LDC) regarding short-term housing units in neighborhoods south of U.S. Highway 98.

The measure is aimed at vacation rentals that cater to the beach wedding, family reunion and corporate retreat events. Discussion of the need for amendments to the LDC first arose back in June after residents and council members expressed concerns about the “changing character” of the Crystal Beach and Holiday Isle neighborhoods.

The new amendments include reducing the maximum building height for single family homes from 35 feet to 30 feet; increasing the minimum open space requirement from 25 to 30 percent; and requiring one parking space per bedroom.

“The increase in the parking requirement will have a positive impact on eliminating many of the parking-related issues that have arisen in the past,” said Karen Haynes, community development director for the city of Destin.

Many residents spoke at Monday night’s council meeting both for and against the ordinance.

“I’ve got customers that are not going to build their houses in Destin anymore because we’re changing the rules halfway throughout the process,” Frank Janssen, owner of Janssen Construction Management, told the council. “I feel like the precedents have already been set in the houses that have already been built.”

Jeffery Robinson, community association manager for CrystalShores, was in favor of the ordinance.

“This particular ordinance pleases some of our board members and residents who have been concerned about these big box houses being built, also called ‘mini hotels,' ” Robinson at the meeting. “So I urge that you continue to support this. What I worry about is the fact that if we don’t control this in some way, it is going to continue on and on.” 

The council voted 6-0 to approve the ordinance. Councilman Tuffy Dixon was not at the meeting because of an excused absence.

“I understand the property rights issue, what I ‘m really concerned about here is the property rights of the … speakers tonight, and the quality of life issues that they face as the result of living next to a ‘mini mansion’ or a ‘mini hotel’ that is sleeping 30 people,” councilman Chatham Morgan said. “We spend enough time focusing on tourism, I want to look inward and see what can we do to protect our best neighborhoods and make Destin a nicer place to live. I think this is a first step.”