Destin votes to demolish short-term rental homes for more public beach access

Tony Judnich
Northwest Florida Daily News

DESTIN — This spring, motorists, pedestrians and other travelers on Scenic U.S. Highway 98 near the city-owned Shore at Crystal Beach Park could be able to start enjoying an expansive view of the Gulf of Mexico for the first time in decades.

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On Monday, the Destin City Council unanimously approved paying $137,477 to Baker-based Jobe’s Dirt Works to demolish and clear away several short-term rental residential buildings next to the park to provide more public beach for residents and visitors.

The bid from Jobe’s was the lowest of four bids. The contract for the company’s work was a consent-agenda item that received no comment from the council or members of the public at Monday’s session.

The city of Destin's plans to expand the public beach at the Shore at Crystal Beach Park. The City Council on Monday approved a contract for a firm to demolish several short-term rental properties adjacent to the park.

The Shore at Crystal Beach Park is at 2966 Scenic U.S. Highway 98, next to the south end of Hutchinson Street. Destin officials could issue the notice to proceed with the demolition and clearing work the week of Feb. 15, and the work could be completed by April 16, according to city Public Services Director Michael Burgess.

Northwest Florida Daily News

More:Destin makes progress on plan to provide more public beach

Providing more public beach property in tourist-popular Destin has for many years been a top goal of city officials, some of whom have noted that many first-time visitors make their vacation plans only to discover the city's limited amount of accessible beach.

Currently, the existing public beach frontage at the Shore at Crystal Beach Park is about 67 feet. After removing the various buildings planned for demolition, the frontage will increase to 250 feet, according to Burgess.

Toward their goal of expanding public beach access, Destin officials recently closed on the purchase of two parcels next to the park and expect to soon close on the third.

In partnership with Okaloosa County and the nonprofit Trust for Public Land, the city recently closed on the $3.4 million purchase of a parcel with a structure containing five short-term rental town homes at 2942 Scenic U.S. Highway 98 immediately west of the park from a business led by Destin developer Peter Bos.

Funding for the purchase came from a little more than $2 million in county funds and almost $1.4 million in city money.

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Destin officials also recently bought a parcel at 2970 Scenic U.S. Highway 98, containing a large short-term rental residence and adjoining structures east of the Shore at Crystal Beach Park for $3.3 million from an entity in Miramar Beach. County funds paid for more than $1.9 million of this cost, with the remaining amount from city funds.

Beachgoers crowd onto the beach in Destin. The Destin City Council on Monday agreed to a contract to demolish several homes adjacent to the Shore at Crystal Beach Park to expand the public beach. The city has purchased two parcels near the park and is expected to finalize the purchase of a third property soon.

To complete the planned park expansion, city officials plan to soon close on the third parcel, which contains a large short-term rental residence with adjoining structures at 2968 Scenic U.S. Highway 98, immediately east of the park. This property currently is owned by an entity in the Miami-Dade County village of Pinecrest.

Destin officials plan to use a little more than $2.3 million in county funding and almost $1.6 million in city money to pay for this $3.9 million parcel.

The two main funding sources for Destin’s overall public beach initiative are the county’s bed tax and the local option half-cent sales tax.