By Steve Plunkett
The gatehouse at Point Manalapan may be rescued by an unlikely knight: the man whose request to remove Australian pines along A1A prompted a review of town policy on exotic vegetation.
Point residents came to the Town Commission’s meeting in April to protest Stewart Satter’s plan to take out Australian pines across from 1400 S. Ocean Blvd., which Satter is demolishing. The neighbors west of the waterway feared that without the trees they would see and hear more traffic and birds would lose habitat.
When Satter heard commissioners and Daryl Cheifetz of the town’s landscape committee go back and forth in May over how to repair a mud hole at the gatehouse, he offered a solution.
“It sounds like it’s like so many things, about money,’’ Satter said. “I will make my landscape architect available to the landscape committee, and I will fund that project where the landscape architect will, at their direction, provide maybe three, four, five, six different options from the simplest option to the most complicated option.
“You can look at those options, and they can look at those options and perhaps maybe even the residents of the Point can vote on those options,’’ Satter said. “And perhaps, depending on the expense of those options, I may even fund the ultimate project.’’
Commissioners first had been asked to approve spending $3,124 to extend pavers and asphalt on the exit side of the gatehouse. An adjacent hedge was removed and now vehicles, particularly trucks, tend to go off the road, Mayor Basil Diamond said.
“It’s a mess and something needs to be done to maintain that property,” Diamond said.
But Cheifetz said she was tired of Manalapan spending $5,000 here and $3,000 there on gatehouse remedies.
“It seems that we keep patch-working a cure for this very important area that has an impact on the aesthetics of the town and also property values, looking at it big-picture,’’ she said.
Cheifetz said she wanted authorization and money to rebuild the paver entrance and put new landscaping in.
“I don’t really see any way to correct that road area unless you redo it,” she said. “It’s going to be obvious where this patch is being placed. Now I don’t know how you’re going to get around that.”
Commissioners asked her to bring them a rendering before they approved spending money, but Cheifetz said she would need money to have a sketch developed.
“I don’t have the exposure to this as much as the folks that live there, but … I’m very sympathetic to this,” Commissioner Donald Brennan said. “It’s taking on the character of a military base that has got the word that they’re going to close it … because it would almost look better without it, because it’s majorly offensive.”
The landscape committee investigated putting concrete bollards along the road, but learned the town would be liable for any damage done to vehicles. It explored lowering the speed limit to 5 mph, but was told the current 20 mph is the lowest allowed.
Commissioners also considered putting in a speed bump (possible, Police Chief Clay Walker said) or posting weight limits on the Audubon Bridge (no limits allowed).
They also discussed the building’s history.
“Are there pictures of what that guardhouse originally looked like?” Cheifetz asked. “I imagine that it had a lovely concept that has sort of gone by the wayside due to lack of maintenance, lack of interest, whatever.”
Diamond said he wasn’t here at the start, but said the gatehouse originally had sliding glass doors and just asphalt, no pavers.
He also said the structure has a significant deterrent effect.
“Right now you see a lot of people that are just wandering around, driving around the island. They see that gatehouse; often they will turn and not even come in Manalapan,” he said.