Council discusses Parcel B, shortening meeting times

Annie Blanks
The Destin Log

The Destin City Council on Monday night voted to look into possibly re-zoning the highly controversial Parcel B property on Holiday Isle.

The parcel, located on the extreme western edge of Holiday Isle behind Destin Pointe, along the eastern shoreline of the East Pass, is a privately owned piece of land that is currently zoned for HDR (High Density Residential) use. Following a public outcry at a Jan. 19. 2016, Destin City Council meeting, at which concerned citizens and a representative from the Army Corps of Engineers objected to the land’s HDR designation, the city recently directed interim land use attorney Matthew W. Burns to look into the matter.

A portion of Parcel B is currently used by the Emerald Grande as a private beach for its guests.

Councilwoman Prebble Ramswell said residents of Holiday Isle are concerned that developing the property could obstruct their view.

“They bought their properties believing they had a perpetual view,” Ramswell said.

The land is currently encumbered by a spoils easement from the federal government, so even though the land is zoned for HDR, nothing can be built on it unless the spoils easement is released. The Army Corps of Engineers performs dredging and navigation work on the East Pass and places sand from the project on the easement.

“The primary thing I saw was the necessity of keeping the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers involved in the ongoing East Pass project,” Burns told the council. “If the project was to stop, it would go beyond just filling up the channels and possibly closing the mouth of the harbor, which would be terribly detrimental to our city.”

Burns suggested the council look into adding a “conservation” designation to the property, which would require amending the Land Development Code to include both privately- and publicly-owned lands in its conservation designations. He also suggested the council continue keeping a vested interest in the East Pass navigation project.

The council voted 6-1 in favor of looking into both of Burns’ suggestions. Councilman Jim Foreman was the lone “no” vote.

The council also discussed Monday night ways to shorten city council meetings. They talked about potentially placing action items, or items that the public would be the most interested in, at the front of the agenda, and about exercising brevity when discussing certain items.

Erin Peterson, a citizen who spoke on the matter, was in favor of an ordinance that would shorten the cutoff time for considering agenda items.

“The purpose of open city meetings was to foster community development…and I think it’s probably not a surprise to anybody that when these meetings go on till 9, 10, 11 o’clock at night, it discourages community involvement,” she said.

Jim Foreman agreed with Peterson and said that he has seen other city councils who run efficiently by prioritizing action items in agendas.

“I’m not trying to say that what we do here and the order we do it is not right…but I’ve seen a better way,” Foreman said. “I suggest we look at it and I think it would be more helpful to the public. All those things that we’re going to make a decision on are going to be up front first.”