By Dan Moffett
Manalapan has its own version of the building boom that is raging throughout Florida, and it comes with its own rather special complications.
People who are moving to the town are intent on building bigger homes, which necessitates the need for bigger boats to park behind them, which in turn necessitates the need for bigger docks to accommodate the bigger boats.
This is where a problem begins for Manalapan’s Town Commission.
Building permit requests for boat docks are backing up in Town Hall while commissioners and officials wrestle with old code restrictions that new homeowners hope to circumvent.
During their meeting on May 25, commissioners considered the case brought by Charles M. Adams, a tech entrepreneur from Waldorf, Maryland. Adams bought a property on Churchill Way on Point Manalapan four years ago and started building on it two years later.
The town’s code allows Adams to build a 5-foot dock into the Intracoastal cove behind his house. His attorney and engineer told the commission that in order to reach water deep enough to float his boat, the dock would have to go out about 34 feet — about 29 feet beyond the current limit.
Because of protected mangroves along the property, the dock can be located in only one spot.
Adams asked commissioners to give him a variance, an exception from the code restriction. They unanimously rejected the request, with no shortage of reasons why.
Mayor Keith Waters said a variance would be “a special privilege that would set a precedent,” opening the door for more variance requests and disruption of the town’s building rules.
Mayor Pro Tem Stewart Satter said the homeowner should have known about the cove’s shallow water when he bought the property and should have known about the 5-foot dock limit.
“The people who bought the lot should have done their due diligence,” Commissioner John Deese said, echoing Satter.
“It’s extremely shallow back there,” said Vice Mayor Simone Bonutti. “I don’t know if you can even get a boat back there.”
Waters said he had received correspondence from about 15 residents in the neighborhood, all of them opposed to allowing the variance. He said a longer dock would obstruct the neighbors’ views of the waterfront.
“We’re not getting one person who says, ‘Yeah, this is a good idea,’” the mayor said.
Manalapan residents figure to hear a lot about dock-building regulations in the months ahead. Waters wants the commission to look at the code to see what changes might be necessary for the town to respond to evolving boating and building trends.
The mayor said the town wants to be as amenable as possible to what homeowners want.
“We’re all neighbors,” Waters told Adams’ representatives.