Lantana stands firm on beach access costs

By Margie Plunkett Lantana council members took a hard stand against helping the neighboring Imperial House condominium building at taxpayers’ expense and said it would charge $213,500 to allow the co-op to stage equipment to fix its rapidly deteriorating temporary sea wall. The figure equals the added expense Lantana has incurred to rebuild its weather-damaged sea wall because the Imperial House had not made repairs on its sea wall at the time of construction, according to Lantana officials. Lantana has completed the $1.6 million sea wall, but still must build a wall that will connect with the Imperial House’s. “It would be a tragedy to lose their building, but I don’t want to do it at our taxpayers’ expense,” Mayor David Stewart said at the council meeting early in November. “I don’t want to see their building go into the water. But I don’t want to set a precedent.” Imperial House residents made a plea to Lantana at the town’s Nov. 9 and Nov. 23 council meetings, asking for permission for beach access to stage the equipment at a less costly sum than the initial $253,500 price tag the town initially set. The building is in peril of falling into the sea: The ocean is lapping at the base of the building and the temporary sea wall has sunk four feet in the last two months, residents said Nov. 9. The east portion of the building was temporarily evacuated and boulders placed at its base to stabilize deterioration. Lantana council members reduced the price by $40,000 because the park facilities and parking lot wouldn’t be impacted as much as initially thought. But they stuck to their guns on the balance, even as Imperial House countered that it would be willing to pay $35,000 over the course of a year, and listing projected savings for Lantana in memos between Imperial House Board President Art Pile and Town Manager Mike Bornstein. Mayfair House, a neighbor to Imperial House, also attended the Nov. 23 meeting because it is preparing to start its own sea wall repairs Dec. 1. Lantana had estimated a $75,000 access fee for Mayfair, which will be able to get a crane onto the beach from its property, but not off. The Mayfair House suggested the crane could be used for all three sea wall projects — at Mayfair House, Imperial House and Lantana. But Lantana council said it would accept a total $213,500 from Imperial House and Mayfair House, and instructed the two to get together to work it out. Vice Mayor Cindy Austino pointed out that Lantana was actually granting access for free, but recouping the taxpayer money that had to be spent unnecessarily because of the condition of Imperial House’s sea wall. At its Nov. 9 meeting, council had mentioned additional reasons it was reluctant to grant access, including that it wanted to protect the beach for residents, who find solace there come season. But they also said they believed the Imperial House was a South Palm Beach problem that that municipality wasn’t addressing. “South Palm Beach is going to be facing this over and over again,” said council member Elizabeth Tennyson. “We want to be a good neighbor, but we can’t give our assets away because your town is not taking care of you.”
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