The Coastal Star

Lantana: Cenacle zoning sparks discussion, reversal

By Margie Plunkett

Lantana Council has dubbed the Cenacle property on Dixie Highway commercial, reversing an earlier vote that returned it to residential following a failed deal to sell it to a luxury hotel developer.
Council members reconsidered the issue at their April 11 meeting, in the wake of an administrative action taken by the attorneys of the Intracoastal property’s owner, the Cenacle Sisters. The retreat site had been changed to commercial to prepare for the hotel deal, and the sisters wanted it to keep the designation in place to buoy the value as they market the property.
In October, the council had voted to return the Cenacle to its R3 status. Some council members said at the time they supported R3 because they wanted to keep a promise to neighbors that the 10-acre property would revert if the hotel deal didn’t work out.
The discussion among stakeholders at the April meeting was little different from sentiments spoken in October, when the council first considered the ordinance.
“Making it commercial will make it much more attractive to purchasers, more attractive to you. It affects the value of the property,” said Cenacle Sisters’ attorney Al Malefatto, PA.
Sister Mary Sharon Riley said, “We need to sell the property and with the best remuneration we can receive. But that doesn’t mean we’d sell it mindlessly or irresponsibly.”
Riley said the sale was nec-essary because the group could not afford to rehab and refit the site’s houses that are in need.
The attempt to sell the property has been a battle from the start. Neighbors objected to the hotel, foreseeing noise from an onsite restaurant and delivery vehicles. And they feared big-box retailers — and other merchants they viewed as undesirable for the area — would step in if the planned purchase didn’t go through.
Residents at James Place ultimately settled the hotel issue “as good neighbors” with the expectation that if the hotel purchase didn’t fly, the ordinance changing the comprehensive use plan would be rescinded, according to attorney Gregg Kino.
One thought that was new to this round of action: “I don’t really understand why this is being reconsidered,” said Judy Black, a regular resident participant at council meetings. “To me, that means anytime there is a disagreement with the town, someone can file a suit and have it reconsidered. I think the property should stay R3.”
Lynn Moorhouse said he brought the ordinance back because voting to make it commercial provided control to the council, which can review proposals for the property. As residential, he said, the property was open to community development, single-family homes, group homes, facilities for lease. “If you think your property is in peril now,” he said, “if you don’t have any say in what’s built there, we’re all in trouble. If we go back to R3, you’re out of the ballgame. So are we.”
    The Council supported making the parcel commercial in a 3-2 vote, with Mayor David Stewart and Cindy Austino dissenting.

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