The Coastal Star

Gulf Stream: Town agrees dock rules apply to ‘promenade’ over canal

By Steve Plunkett

Town commissioners rejected an appeal by resident Martin O’Boyle to let him build a “promenade” 30 to 36 inches higher than his sea wall and extending 12 feet into the canal behind his yard, unanimously agreeing that the structure should comply with the building code for docks.
At the outset of a June 14 hearing by commissioners sitting as Gulf Stream’s Board of Adjustment, O’Boyle attorney Scott Weires challenged Town Manager Greg Dunham over the definitions of “dock” and “promenade.”
“You believe that that [promenade] is still similar to a dock for some reason. You’re indicating that it looks like a dock and that’s why you believe the promenade section should also be defined as a dock?” Weires asked.
“That’s correct. It is possible that a boat could dock there,” Dunham said.
O’Boyle began applying “informally and formally” for a permit to build over the water in April 2017, Dunham told commissioners. Previous applications referred to the proposed structure as a “dock,” but the most recent one, dated March 11, 2019, elevated it over the sea wall and called it a “promenade” with “no boat docking.” A small section at the eastern end was 5 feet wide and labeled “boat dock.”
“We really wanted to expand the backyard,” O’Boyle’s architect, Robert Currie of Delray Beach, told commissioners.
Weires argued during the almost three-hour hearing that the town code does not define “promenade” or prohibit building one.
“We have constitutional protections to do what we want with our property subject to reasonable zoning regulations,” Weires said. “So I can build it unless you specifically tell me that what I want to build is caught within the definition that prohibits what it is that I want to build.”
Part of O’Boyle’s reasoning that he could build the structure was based on a 2013 dispute he had with the Board of Adjustment over a front entry feature he planned for his house, at 23 Hidden Harbour Drive. After he was denied a building permit, he filed approximately 400 requests for public records and 16 lawsuits against the town in a six-month period. He also painted signs and cartoons on his house criticizing town officials.
In July 2013 the town and O’Boyle settled their differences over the entryway and records requests up until that time, with Gulf Stream agreeing to pay its litigious resident $180,000 for his legal costs and O’Boyle withdrawing his lawsuits. Both sides also promised to reach a development agreement granting permission for the home’s 25-foot-tall front entry.
O’Boyle contended he could construct a promenade because the settlement agreement references the town code as it was in 1981, the year he built his home and before Gulf Stream made rules for docks.
But the town said the agreement applied only to a “building envelope” defined as the area “between the Intracoastal Waterway, the private roads, and the common property line to the west.”
The settlement “does not apply to structures in the water,” Town Clerk Rita Taylor wrote O’Boyle in March, denying his application because the proposed dock was wider than 5 feet and lacked setbacks from neighboring properties.
In other business:
• Dunham said about two dozen homeowners still have stakes to keep traffic off their yards after Mayor Scott Morgan sent a letter asking residents to remove them. Dunham said he would send a follow-up letter seeking compliance.
• Commissioners awarded an $8,450 contract to low bidder C Knowles Construction to make repairs inside the Place Au Soleil gatehouse following mold remediation.
• The next Town Commission meeting will be July 9, a Tuesday, instead of the usual second Friday of the month. Commissioners will discuss the town’s proposed budget for 2019-20.

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