Destin Mayor Gary Jarvis gave a round-up of accomplishments from last year and set future goals with the State of the City Tuesday evening.
“2020 has certainly been a challenging year,” he said. “I’m extremely proud of the strong leadership and resiliency of our staff to work hard during difficult times.”
In January of last year, the city council formally adopted their 2020 strategic plan with an extensive to-do list. Jarvis proudly announced city staff was “well on their way” to accomplishing many of the objectives.
At the top of the list was public beach acquisition. Destin’s public beach access has long been an issue as most of the beaches in city limits are privately-owned.
“The city council’s No. 1 goal has been an extremely bold beach acquisition initiative,” said Jarvis.
The council started their initiative with a $2 million commitment. That has now grown to more than $22 million with $13.5 million of the funds coming from external sources, such as tourist tax dollars. The city has purchased two parcels of land, with a third under contract to expand the Crystal Beach area.
“The most exciting news is we are not done,” Jarvis said. “We continue to work with the Trust for Public Land with external funding sources for future acquisitions that will forever be entrusted for public use.”
Another accomplishment high on the list was recruiting a project and grants manager. Jeffrey Cozadd took that role in March 2020 and is overseeing $41 million to help fund city projects.
The year 2020 was big for getting creative with technology. Like other local governments, City of Destin staff implemented new safety guidelines and telecommunication policies which not only kept staff safe, but kept medical costs low, said Jarvis.
The Mayor highlighted the creativity from the city library, which found a way to serve patrons through curbside service and virtual story times. The library was also awarded a $75,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to provide more technology upgrades such as self-serve kiosks and tablets.
In 2020, the city added a new self-service online portal called COMPASS (Community Permitting and Support System) to allow for the permits to be completed and submitted online, which will officially launch in early 2021. The City also launched a new website.
Jarvis also listed the accomplishments of the community development department, which processed a total of 41 major plan reviews, 2,932 permits, 1,977 business tax receipts, and 4,482 inspections. All with a total evaluation of over $98 million.
“That’s not chump change in my book,” the mayor said.
In 2021, the mayor said the department will have two major initiatives.
“First, they will be implementing the automation of the community project review and permitting processes,” he said. “(And) undertaking a complete update of the city land development code aimed at updating city development standards and requirements so they match with city’s development vision in the comprehensive plan.”
The city’s code compliance team was also busy in 2020 responding to a total of 13,000 calls. A night shift officer was added to the team last year. Currently, the city has a 90% compliance rate on all ordinances, Jarvis said.
Looking ahead, the city will be undergrounding utility lines and work to create a “walkable and bikeable” community with widened sidewalks. Mayor Jarvis said he was also excited about new park developments such as the Captain Leonard Destin Park, which was postponed after Hurricane Michael with contractors working in Panama City.
“We look forward to the redevelopment of Joe’s Bayou, the development of Captain Royal Melvin Heritage Park and Clement Taylor park and a recreational component to Norriego Point— stay tuned,” he said.
Mayor Jarvis also teased future opportunities such as a city center and the viability for a city marina.
“Through perseverance, teamwork, fresh out-of-the-box concepts and ideas, and new technology, Destin is continually striving to move forward,” he said.