Destin City Council Greenlights Boutique Hotel and Digital Billboards

The Destin City Council recently concluded a meeting with approvals for a new boutique hotel and the conversion of billboards to digital formats as the standout actions. Amid a range of discussions, the council also tackled the city’s mobility plan, investment strategies, and initiatives to enhance tourism and public safety.

Panhandle Engineering Inc., representing Ramada LLC, secured a development order for the construction of a 64-unit boutique hotel alongside associated site infrastructure and an overflow parking lot for the Sundestin Condominiums on Highway 98 East. The approval came after the city attorney introduced the quasi-judicial hearing and a detailed examination of the project’s implications by the council. The applicant discussed various upgrades including to the sidewalk and stormwater system, while addressing concerns raised by the Sandestin International Condominium Owners Association regarding the project’s photometric study and parking lot base layer thickness. Conditions were set relating to lighting, base layer thickness, and the recording of a memorandum of understanding before granting approval.

Another major topic was the proposal from Lamar Advertising to convert existing billboards to digital format. The company’s vice president and general manager, Stephen Sanford, presented a plan that included the removal of five billboard structures and the digital conversion of six, offering the city six slots on the digital panels for public use. The council discussed the potential for these digital billboards to facilitate emergency messaging, like Amber Alerts, and the effects on the city’s aesthetic. Concerns about structural integrity were addressed with an independent engineering analysis. The proposal had garnered over 20 letters of support from advertisers, neighboring cities, and landowners. Amid discussions, a conflict of interest was declared by a council member due to having property with a billboard now owned by Lamar.

In addition to these developments, the council addressed the city’s Mobility plan, presented by 32p Ventures. The plan, aiming to enhance transportation networks with a focus on safety and multimodal projects, outlined a phased approach to project prioritization through to 2050. The council engaged in discussions over the mobility fee’s alignment with project timelines and the need for further comparison with the Florida Prime rate for benchmarking purposes.


The city’s investment performance also came under scrutiny. With a presentation by Raymond James group, the council reviewed the city’s bond investments, noting the historical outperformance compared to one-year US treasuries and discussing the impact of interest rate changes. The consultants expressed confidence in the city’s investment strategy, particularly in light of the upcoming election year’s potential market volatility.

Another matter discussed was the request from the Tourist Development Council (TDC) for the city to propose expenditure plans for tourism promotion. The allocation of funds, particularly for additional lifeguard costs and the TDC’s contributions to Public Safety, were debated, with plans to enhance collaboration with the TDC director.

The need to educate residents on waste disposal procedures was emphasized alongside the discussion on trash and debris pickup schedules.


Further discussions included the potential for unincorporated citizens to join the city through a referendum, emphasizing the benefits of diversity and collaboration. The council expressed a willingness to advance this proposal.

Lastly, the meeting concluded with a State of the City address delivered by the Mayor, outlining the city’s progress and achievements in various sectors, including infrastructure, family-friendliness, and technology advancements, as well as celebrating community contributions and the appointment of a new City Attorney.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Bobby Wagner
City Council Officials:
John Stephens, Torey Geile, Dewey Destin, Jim Bagby, Terésa Hebert, Johnny King, Kevin Schmidt

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