By Mary Thurwachter
A zoning request that would allow the offices of the Old Key Lime House on Ocean Avenue to be moved next door to a historic home at 110 S. Lake Drive failed to win over the Lantana Town Council.
The home’s owner, Wayne Cordero, also owns the popular waterside restaurant.
Cordero, who appeared at the Oct. 22 council meeting, said business was so good at the restaurant that more space is needed for offices and parking.
“I live in the house now, but I’m planning to move to an apartment across the street,” Cordero said. “We could tear it down and use it for parking, but it’s a historic house (built in the late 1800s) and I don’t want to do that.”
Instead, he wants to use the home for business offices, which are crammed in the restaurant. During daytime hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., up to 10 cars could park at the house, he said. For this to happen, the property would require a zoning change from residential to commercial.
A half dozen people spoke in support of Cordero’s plan, including Dave Arm, president of the Chamber of Commerce.
“This is a no-brainer for me,” Arm said. “You’ve got a property that is adjacent to and contiguous with existing business. They’re not going to change the aspect of the property. It’s a beautiful house. They’ll use it for bookkeepers, so it’s not like it will be a restaurant or a bar. It will add parking, which will definitely help our parking situation on Ocean Avenue.
“For the future as long as we can see, this would be used for the purpose of bookkeepers. There wouldn’t be anybody there after business hours in the evenings. It’ll be quieter even than if it was a residence.”
But next-door neighbor Alfred Brode, whose home was built in 1935, said he had a big objection to a zoning change. Brode said the dock behind Cordero’s house intersects with his property. “If the property becomes commercial, I may have to go to an attorney,” he said.
Brode said that property values would decline if the house was zoned commercial. “The historic home next to it was already torn down for a parking lot and I always thought the area should be a historic district.” If Cordero’s home becomes commercial, Brode said it could be sold and used for any commercial business.
“I don’t think you should be encroaching on South Lake Drive with the commercial district,” Brode said.
Michelle Donahue, of Hypoluxo Island, said she was a huge fan of the Old Key Lime House and a regular customer, but disagreed with the proposed zoning change.
“I have no question in my mind that Wayne Cordero and his family are going to do the right thing with that property,” she said. “I would like to see them keep the house there, maintain it properly and beautify it. However, there’ll be a day when the family will have to sell it and as they sell it, what does that do? What’s the comprehensive plan? I’m afraid that by zoning that commercial you’re opening yourself to a whole different ballgame that could change the dynamic of the center of our town.”
Council members said they understood the need for more parking and office space but were concerned about what would happen to the property in the future. They were also sympathetic to the neighbor’s concern about encroachment.
“We have to make a decision where to start and stop the commercial zoning, and we’re at that point,” council member Phil Aridas said.
Mayor Dave Stewart didn’t doubt Cordero’s sincerity but said “as you know, Wayne, we’re not always going to be around. So we’ve kind of got to be statesmen and look to the future. We can’t condition a piece of commercial property. Once we change it to commercial, you can have a petting zoo in there.”
The council voted 5-0 to deny the request.