By Margie Plunkett
Lantana isn’t obligated to provide beach access to its neighbors, as far as the county’s concerned, and an increasingly obstinate Mayor David Stewart said he told the county that Lantana won’t allow it for anything less than a six-digit fee. Mayor and council also planned to send a letter to South Palm Beach to set it straight on the facts in that town’s correspondence with the county.
The saga of beach access started late last year as the ocean rolled up to Imperial House’s door and threatened to topple the co-op, undaunted by the failed seawall, which needed repairs from earlier storm damage. When Imperial House of South Palm Beach sought beach access to stage equipment and materials to repair the wall, Lantana put up a $250,000 fee to cover beachgoers’ inconvenience as well as costs the town said it incurred because of the unrepaired wall. Lantana also said it didn’t want its taxpayers paying for South Palm Beach’s responsibilities.
The latest correspondence included a Jan. 7 letter from County Attorney Howard Falcon, responding to South Palm Beach’s inquiry to County Commissioner Steve Abrams about use restrictions on Dorothy Rissler Drive that would allow beach access. The attorney said he didn’t believe Lantana had violated use restrictions set by the county, and therefore the property would not revert to Palm Beach County.
Falcon also wrote he didn’t believe the use restrictions gave South Palm Beach or Palm Beach County any rights to access the beach. And the county itself had to enter an interlocal agreement with Lantana giving it access for beach management. The county has no legal reason to require Lantana to allow South Palm Beach access, the attorney wrote.
Mayor Stewart and council agreed to send South Palm Beach a letter setting straight facts in that town’s inquiry to the county. In December, Town Manager Michael Bornstein wrote similarly to Imperial House’s attorney to address earlier contentions he had made.
Meanwhile, during the early January council meeting Lantana Mayor Stewart got counsel consensus to investigate whether an area of South Palm Beach docks that is actually in Lantana waters is being properly assessed in Lantana’s tax rolls. The mayor says if Lantana isn't getting money from them, it should be. Bornstein requests — and gets — a pay cut
The Lantana council approved Town Manager Mike Bornstein’s annual evaluation and accepted Bornstein’s proposal to reduce his salary of $102,000 to $97,000 and to extend his contract through 2012. Council approved it despite sentiment voiced by several members that Bornstein was worth his salary — and that they would only support the proposal because he asked them to. Bornstein, who also drew praise from residents attending the meeting, said later that over the last couple of years he has often read about bankrupt companies laying off the rank-and-file, but he never reads about leadership making sacrifices themselves. The town manager said he believed it was the right thing to do.