DESTIN, Fla. (WKRG) — The City of Destin and Okaloosa County are teaming up to buy 336 feet of gulf-front property known as Tarpon Beach to be used as public access.

A 6-1 vote Monday night at the city council meeting passed the ordinance on first reading to approve a new agreement with County to purchase three lots on Scenic Highway 98. Okaloosa County Commissioners approved the funds for the agreement at Tuesday’s board meeting.

The land up for sale sits between James Lee Beach and the Shore at Crystal Beach. The county said having this centered park location would increase walkability to local attractions.

The properties at 3310,3321,3330 Scenic HWY 98 is priced at $14,050,000, the total park project is $16,750,000. This comes during another beach purchase project still underway, the Shore at Crystal Beach.

In an agreement started in 2020, the city and county agreed to purchase three pieces of property at Crystal Beach to create 250 feet of beach access for $10 million. After the purchase of two of the properties, the center location chose not to sell, increasing the costs for purchase by $5 million.

The County agreed to take 59% of the project costs, the City would take the remaining 41%. The Trust for Public Land is negotiating that deal, which is now turned into a legal matter over the remaining property.

The new interlocal agreement made by Okaloosa County Monday night allocates $10 million in Tourism Development Council tax funds for the purchase of Tarpon Beach and the completion of Shore at Crystal Beach. The money will be spent from the beach renourishment reserve account. In a 10-year loan, the City of Destin would give $1 million back each year to the county until it’s paid off.

In this new agreement, the Tarpon beach property will be split 50/50. The Shore at Crystal Beach project would remain 59/41. The total for both projects is $32,500,000 gaining nearly 600 feet of public access to the white sand beaches.

Destin revenue for beach projects:

The City of Destin will receive an estimated $1.6 million in TDC funding each year from its 12.5% share of County funds. After the new agreement loan payments and beach maintenance costs estimated at $400,000 each year, the City of Destin will use nearly all of the annual funds for the next 10 years on the two beach parks.

While six of the seven councilmembers voted for the project, councilman Kevin Schmidt spoke out against the idea Monday night.

“I don’t think this is the best use of the TDC allocation funds for the tourists and our residents. Cause yes, I get TDC allocation is all about a tourism-based thing, but it still can benefit our residents which at the end of the day for me is my number one customer,” said Schmidt. “What we could use it for, I am not talking about that tonight, but I don t want to lose the ability to be able to use it for something else besides what is being presented tonight.”

Residents at the meeting were split on the purchase agreement. Some offered insight on the three properties being another sale battle with the Trust for Public Land similar to that of Shore at Crystal Beach. Others pushed the importance to buy back Destin beaches for everyone to enjoy and protect.

The final purchase for Tarpon Beach will be made in October and closing in November. The Shore at Crystal Beach project is working through its eminent domain legal case with the third property owner before the park can move forward.

How will the loan work?

The $10 million loan from Okaloosa County beach renourishment reserves will be interest-free depending on upcoming storm seasons. In the agreement, the City of Destin would be responsible to pay interest on the property to the county if at any point the county is needing to take out a loan for severe storm damage.

The full agreement between the City and the County is available to the public.