The Coastal Star

Manalapan: Commission seek solution to fee-refund lawsuit

By Tim O’Meilia
The Manalapan Town Commission will try to settle a lawsuit over $158,000 in building permit fees for an oceanfront mansion that was never built.
    Commissioners indicated they would likely return the bulk of the fees paid by the owners of 1020 S. Ocean Blvd, listed as Cielo Madera Land Trust, after Town Manager Linda Stumpf calculates the town’s building and legal expenses on the project.
    The trust is seeking a $120,000 refund after rejecting an offer from the town for a $130,000 credit on any new project or the transfer of the credit to a new owner.
    “Give them the money they’re requesting so long as we’re not losing on the deal,” Commissioner John Murphy said.
    The commission will consider a settlement at the June meeting.
    Commissioners also said they will consider changing the town building code to allow permit fees to be refunded if a project is abandoned, as long as a refund is requested within a few weeks after the permit is issued.
    Other cities, including Boca Raton, Palm Beach, Wellington and Jupiter, allow for 70 to 80 percent of the fees to be refunded if the owner applies within 30 days of the permit being issued. Manalapan’s building code forbids refunds.
    Cielo Madera bought the 2.4-acre estate once owned by Manalapan pioneer LeRoy Paisley in 2007 for $10.5 million. Permits for an oceanfront home were issued in June and August 2010. An older residence was demolished and land cleared, requiring several inspections, before the owners stopped the project.
    The owners sought a refund in July 2011 and the commission asked the owners’ attorney for more information in October 2011. Cielo Madera sued in July 2012.
In other business, Commissioner Howard Roder insisted the March meeting minutes be changed to show that he did not accuse the town manager of taking both a car allowance and using a town car at the same time. After a lengthy discussion, commissioners agreed to delete the paragraph in question and replace it with a transcript of the discussion.
    Roder repeated his earlier opinion that the manager should not have a choice between using a car or taking the allowance. He said the town attorney’s opinion that the manager had the choice was wrong.
    Commissioner Chauncey Johnstone urged the commission to drop the matter. “This has got to be stopped. This is silly. We need to move ahead on issues that are important to the town,” he said.
    • Commissioners approved an $11,500 contract with South Palm Beach and Palm Beach for the installation of a sewage interconnection in case of an emergency. Manalapan and South Palm Beach sewage is treated through the Lake Worth regional plant.
    • Commissioners gave final approval to limiting the use of portable storage units to seven days with one seven-day extension and exceptions for bad weather.
    • Commissioners set a town budget workshop for 9:30 a.m. June 24, the day before the Town Commission meeting.  Ú

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