Destin looks to raise fees to park and launch a boat, mostly affecting nonresidents

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

The temperature is not the only thing on the rise in Destin. Parking and boat launch fees may be going up in the near future.

After much discussion at Monday’s Destin City Council meeting, the council tentatively agreed to raise the rates in their Pay-to-Park areas in the harbor district as well as on the beach side to $20. The vote is not final, and the new fee schedule will have to be formally approved by the council at a later meeting.

The current rate is $5 to park all day in the harbor district areas, and $5 for five hours in the beach parking spots.

There are more than 100 parking spaces in the Pay-to-Park area at the corner of Marler Street and Harbor Boulevard. The city is looking to increase the cost from $5 to $20 for non-residents.

Under the plan, the new rate would be $20 per day in the harbor district, and $20 for five hours in the beach area. A fine of $100 would be imposed for those not complying.

Before the vote, City Manager Lance Johnson said most of the businesses around the harbor are charging $15 to $20.

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“It wouldn’t be out of line if we doubled,” Johnson said.

"I don’t think we should look at doubling it,” said Councilman Torey Geile. His suggestion was much higher, around $50 to $60.

Councilwoman Teresa Hebert agreed that they needed to increase the rate. She said that in such places as Nashville and Atlanta, the rate is $35 for a lot less time. She first suggested a flat-rate of $30 for the harbor and beach zone. 

HarborWalk Village on Destin harbor has already upped their rate to $20.

Johnson explained the reason for the shorter time on the beach side was that the city wanted to have turnover for visitors and residents because of the limited spots. 

Councilman Dewey Destin, who owns a business on Harbor Boulevard across from one of the Pay-to-Park parking lots in the harbor district, had concerns about raising the fees. 

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“I’m afraid by raising it too high they won't use it,” Destin said, noting they’ll be using his restaurant parking lot.

“I don’t have a problem with doubling it … but $30 is way too much,” he said.

They tossed around the idea of $10 for both zones before landing on $20.

This city parking lot is at the corner of Zerbe and Sibert Avenue.

Councilman Jim Bagby expressed concerns about parking in the Crystal Beach area.

“If we chase them out of the parking lot, now they’ll be in the right of way,” Bagby said of those not wanting to pay the higher fees.

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He also asked if he parked in the harbor district and decided to leave and come back, was his $20 still good or would he have to pay again?

Parking spaces are on a first come, first served basis, and if you leave, you’re not guaranteed a spot. But if there is one available, a person would not have to pay again.

The cost to park at the beach parks is currently $5 for five hours. The city is looking to go up to $20 for five hours for non-residents.

Vehicles are registered by their license plates.

Pay-to-park lots in the harbor district include the Marler Street parking lot at U.S. 98 and Marler Street and the Zerbe parking lot at Zerbe Street and Sibert Avenue. The Destin Community Center is a permit and pay-to-park lot. Permits are for patrons of the community center and can be obtained at the front desk of the center. 

Destin is looking to raise the fees for non-residents to park and launch a boat.

However, if you’re a Destin resident who lives within the incorporated area of Destin, you are eligible for two free annual parking passes per household for use in paid parking areas along Scenic Highway 98 in Crystal Beach, Gulf Shore Drive on Holiday Isle and the Destin harbor district areas. Passes can be obtained at Destin City Hall, according the city’s website.

The council decided to test the fee increase throughout the summer and have staff come back in August with a report as to usage. 

From 2022:Annual parking passes available for Henderson Beach and Joe’s Bayou Boat Launch to Destin residents

As for the boat launch at Joe’s Bayou, currently there is no charge for Destin residents to use the launch, however, for non-residents the cost is $20 per launch. Again, they looked at raising the rate to $30 per launch and charging the residents $30 per year to use the launch. 

Destin voted to up the rate for daily boat launches at Joe's Bayou to $25 and charge residents a flat $20 for the year.

“There needs to be some benefit here for residents. Citizens should take precedence,” Geile said. 

Destin talked of how Destin Marina, the only other boat launch in Destin, upped its rate last year to $20. 

“Thirty dollars is too much … it’s above the commercial rate,” Destin said. 

Hebert made the motion for $20 per calendar year for residents and $25 per launch for non-residents.  

The vote was tied at 3-3. Mayor Bobby Wagner broke the tie and passed the motion.