July 30, 2008

Redevelopment Plans Still on Track for Harbor, Mountain Drive

By Fraser Sherman, Destin Log, Fla.

Jul. 30--Despite dwindling property values, Destin's Community Redevelopment Agency has enough property-tax revenue to begin its Mountain Drive and Destin harbor plans on schedule, city officials say.

The CRA receives a share of city and Okaloosa County property taxes from the town center and Destin harbor redevelopment districts. Destin Finance Director Bragg Farmer told The Log that while the town center revenue will drop $150,000 in the coming fiscal year, the harbor district's take will go up about $66,000.

In April, City Manager Greg Kisela told The Log that the designs for a planned harbor boardwalk, a renovated Mountain Drive and Captain Royal Melvin Heritage Park on the waterfront could be finished by next spring, with construction beginning after Labor Day 2009.

Earlier this month, the city mailed out letters to Mountain Drive and harborfront property owners showing images of what the boardwalk and Mountain Drive will look like after redevelopment wraps up. The improvements on Mountain would include a resurfaced road, new drainage, bike lanes, a south side pedestrian pathway, new landscaping, street lights and burying some overhead power lines.

The letters encouraged property owners to contact City Hall and participate in the design process.

One big obstacle remains: A Florida Supreme Court's September ruling requiring a public referendum whenever future property-tax revenues are used as backing for municipal bonds. The decision didn't make it clear whether a referendum on the CRA issuing bonds would include CRA district property owners or if it would have to include the entire count. The court is reconsidering the ruling.

"If it's the whole county, I don't know if we'd have much luck," CRA Director Hank Woollard said last year. "Most people around the county don't have much stake in the harbor CRA."


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