Destin wins $15M lawsuit brought by Destin Fishing Fleet over building heights

Destin Log

The City of Destin has won a nearly five-year legal battle against the Destin Fishing Fleet Inc. over the city's comprehensive plan that restricted the heights of buildings to six stories or less.

The city announced the ruling in a news release Wednesday.

The Destin Fishing Fleet was seeking nearly $15 million from the city under the Bert J. Harris Private Property Act, which allows private entities to sue if government regulations diminish the value of their property.

But a First Circuit judge found the city “did not take any action which constituted an inordinate burden or precluded the [Fleet] from attaining ‘any reasonable, investment-backed expectation’ on the property.”

In a news release this week, the city called it a "a landmark private property rights case that will shape the Destin Harbor for years to come."

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In the lawsuit, the fleet claimed its rights were violated and its property value diminished when the city adopted comprehensive plan amendments in May 2018 to restrict the heights of buildings in the city to no more than six stories. The public later voted to put the height limit in the city’s charter.

The fleet said that before the comprehensive plan amendments took effect, it intended to build a 16-story mixed-use development largely consisting of hotel rooms. The city, in its news release, noted that the amendments applied citywide, and no action was taken on the fleet’s property specifically.

The city may seek costs and attorneys’ fees from the fleet. The fleet has 30 days to appeal the court’s decision.