By Mary Thurwachter

    After a prickly reception from Lantana Town Council on Oct. 12, Eau Palm Beach Resort’s project construction manager Damian Presiga won the resort the temporary beach easement it sought — but not without a swap. In this case, Eau Palm Beach will rebuild the south stairs at the town’s beach, which washed away in a storm.
    Presiga told council members that the five-star resort was renovating its outdoor Breeze restaurant and pool deck and needed the easement for loading pavers and other construction materials. He assured the town that the sea wall would not be affected and that the resort would reimburse the town for attorney’s fees and costs to draft and record the easement.
    “We’re just, as neighbors, asking for this,” Presiga said. “If things get damaged, we’ll take care of it.” Eau Palm Beach (formerly the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach) and the town of Lantana have been beach neighbors for years but the relationship hasn’t always been genial.
    “They consistently park on our lot, they turn tractor trailers around in the (beach) parking lot and they consistently haven’t been the most ideal neighbors,” said Mayor Dave Stewart. “They have blocked our access to the beach by blocking our road.”
    Councilman Lynn Moorhouse said he remembers a time when residents weren’t allowed walk on “their” beach. “When the spa was being built the (town’s beach) parking lot was abused,” council member Tom Deringer added.
    “They haven’t been nice and now they want us to play nice,” Stewart said. “We’re kidding about this, but it’s a serious problem. You haven’t been good to us. If we wanted to be hard-nosed we’d make you bring pavers through the lobby. Our beach is our crown jewel and you can’t abuse it.”
    Stewart asked for strict regulation and Presiga said the resort would hire someone to police the project to handle any problems.
“I want some assurances this isn’t going to screw up,” Stewart said. “We need to make sure the road stays open.”
    “You have my assurance,” Presiga said. He also said that employees were told not to park on the town’s beach lot at night and that they could be fined.
    “We’re aware of problems and we’re trying to alleviate them,” he said.
    The temporary easement is good through Nov. 30 and work is underway. If the work extends beyond Nov. 30, the resort has to pay $1,000 a day, according to the agreement it has with the town.
    Construction of the beach stairs needs to be completed within two weeks after the town receives approval from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and after sea turtle nesting season.
    Councilman Phil Aridas offered his own form of payback if work wasn’t completed as stipulated by the council.
“The mayor and I will walk through the lobby in our bathrobes every day,” he joked.

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