11009426700?profile=RESIZE_710xOpposition is building to a proposed 4,000-square-foot restaurant at the Moorings at Lantana. Rendering provided

 

By Mary Thurwachter

When it comes to building a waterside restaurant at the Moorings at Lantana, residents say size matters.
Developers planned for a tiki restaurant of 1,500 square feet when the Intracoastal community was built in 2002. But now, a developer is proposing something much larger, and many residents aren’t having it. They have routinely expressed their concerns at Lantana Town Council meetings and have broadcast their complaints on TV, in newspapers and social media.
Gulfstream Hospitality, the firm that opened Atlantic Avenue Yacht Club in Delray Beach last year and is about to open Jupiter Grill in Harbourside Place, wants to construct Lantana Cabana on a man-made island at the Moorings, a 378-unit condominium complex off Dixie Highway in the northern part of the town. The company bought the land two years ago for $1.01 million.
The upscale grill with Intracoastal Waterway views will showcase dishes by Paul Niedermann of Hell’s Kitchen fame, according to Dave Magrogan, a partner in Gulfstream Hospitality and CEO and founder of Harvest Seasonal Grill in Delray Beach.
“We are designing a polished, casual coastal grill with exceptional culinary talent and a creative premium menu,” he says. “We are not designing a ‘burger, hot dog and beer joint,’ we are seeking to create one of the best restaurants in Palm Beach County to attract a premium clientele.”
Be that as it may, residents say the 4,000-square-foot proposal is too big for the .13-acre island connected to the mainland by a dock and bordered by land owned by the homeowners association and surrounded on three sides by moored boats.
It’s not just the size of the eatery that worries residents. It’s noise, traffic, parking and the two 45-foot towers to house restrooms that will block views.
“The main thing is, the residents don’t want it,” says Janet Kozan, a property owner and commercial Realtor. “The thing doesn’t follow the original development order and I think there is a safety issue for building with walls that close to a sea wall, where people have to leave the restaurant and walk around over 200 feet on a 36-inch dock to get to the restroom. It’s dangerous to the restaurant patrons and to the Moorings residents.”
Kozan says fire protection is another concern. “When the fire protection intervention service was first planned for a little, tiny one-story building, it didn’t have to have things like ladder trucks. There’s no way you could get a ladder truck down there now.”
Residents can’t reject a 1,500-square-foot cabana restaurant, Kozan says. “We’re happy with that. But we certainly don’t want towers and we certainly don’t want a 4,000-square-foot building put in that little parcel with a shoehorn. It will be vertical walls to horizontal concrete to the dock.”
Another Moorings resident, Duane Roderick, started a petition on change.org — “Oppose the Lantana Cabana at The Moorings at Lantana” — that collected more than 600 signatures from people who oppose the restaurant. “We have another 250 that do not overlap on paper petitions we did earlier,” he says.
“You go down to the pool here on any given weekend and that’s the chatter,” Roderick said of the restaurant and Magrogan. “This restaurant is horrendous.”
Besides being for restaurant customers, “he is saying those public bathrooms are for the boaters, the marina and residents and their guests, but we have our own bathrooms.”
Parking is one of Roderick’s key concerns.
“He says there are 200 unassigned parking spots in the garage,” Roderick says of the Moorings’ private garage. “That’s not true. You can walk in there any time of the week and it’s packed. And we have only one little street coming into here. He says he’s going to have his own valet and that most people will come by Uber, bicycle or walking, but where the heck are they going to walk from?”
Magrogan, who says the petition is misleading and inaccurate, responded to its allegations by writing a letter/email on March 5 to property owners. He insists plans always called for a 1,500-square-foot building with another 2,500 square feet of covered seating and service area, and says towers are an architectural detail designed to blend the building into the appearance of the rest of the Moorings complex. He wrote that he is considering adjusting the height and location of the towers, based on comments.
Kozan says she gets her information through research. “I’m dealing with the town and public records and black and white. I know how this commercial development approval process works. All arrows point to failure as far as I see approval on this thing,” she says.
Roderick says he can back up everything he put on the petition.
Magrogan maintains the restaurant will increase property values and be a valuable amenity to residents of the Moorings at Lantana, which was developed as a mixed-use community. He wants to organize an event on the property to have residents meet the chef and the management team, sample food and beverages, view renderings, and have constructive conversations.

The neighbors’ view
Neighbors who live on View Street, a mobile home park south of the Moorings, are also worried.
“The first thing I thought about was the noise that would impact my neighbors who are in their 80s and are dealing with various health issues,” says View Street resident Annemarie Joyce. “Having their sleep interrupted by a noisy open-air restaurant with a bar would certainly have a negative impact. And the steady breezes would carry more debris into the waterway and onto the peninsula at the end of View Street, leading to increased rodent population.”
Joyce says increased traffic on Dixie Highway would make the existing congestion much worse.
“There have been numerous accidents at both View Street and the Moorings intersections. Some of my neighbors are concerned that when people cannot access parking at the Moorings, some drivers will come onto View Street to find parking,” Joyce says.
View Street is a private street with no outlet and no guest parking.

Support for project
Although the proposed restaurant has garnered opposition from residents, the Moorings’ seven-member Master Association board supports the developer’s efforts. Magrogan, as the owner of commercial property there, is a member of the Master Association. The association president, John Underwood, who also owns a commercial property there for his appraisal company, didn’t return calls from The Coastal Star. Other board members represent each of the three buildings, the townhomes and the marina. Several board members do not reside on the property.
Ted Cook, who regularly attends town meetings, is a new member of the Master Association but was not on the board when it voted in favor of the restaurant with towers.
“I have no problem with the restaurant that was initially approved by the town for approximately 1,500 square feet,” Cook says. “In fact, I would be open to a small increase if those two towers were lowered, and the bathrooms were inside the restaurant for patrons only.
“The people, not all, that bought here thought there would be a small restaurant, but not the size proposed.” Cook says. “I’ll feel deceived if the larger size is approved by the Town Council, and I doubt I will stay in what will be a circus-type of environment and I’ll be paying almost $1,000 a month for my HOA.”

Council to weigh in
It’s too early to decide on the matter, says Lantana Mayor Karen Lythgoe, who says she has heard from quite a few Moorings residents in favor of the restaurant as well.
“Comments have been made that the restaurant was one of the selling points to buying into the mixed-use development,” she says.
“The council is pleased to hear from so many residents, but since this will likely end up being decided in a quasi-judicial hearing, we will have to decide based on the evidence presented at the time it comes before us and the petitioner has an opportunity to present their evidence and cross-examine witnesses.”
Lythgoe couldn’t estimate when the issue would come before the council.
“It is my understanding that staff is still working with the owner of the property on final plans that can go to the Planning and Zoning Commission for their consideration,” she said.

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