By Dan Moffett
Manalapan commissioners are more than a little interested in moving the town’s Police Department into the vacant bank building in the northeast corner of Plaza del Mar.
Commissioners are so interested, in fact, that they unanimously approved authorizing Town Manager Linda Stumpf to negotiate a deal to buy the property, which was formerly occupied by BB&T and is now listed for $1.6 million.
The decision to pursue a purchase came after the town received two appraisals of the site. Mayor Keith Waters proposed offering up to 80 percent of the lower appraisal, and the commission agreed during its March 26 meeting.
The appraisal amounts are exempted from Sunshine Law disclosure, Town Attorney Keith Davis said, because state statutes allow municipalities to negotiate real estate deals without public disclosure. Davis said details of negotiations and terms of a deal are not required to be made public until a contract is signed.
Newly seated Commissioner Stewart Satter said one of the appraisals came in significantly higher than the other, and the lower number could offer the prospect of getting “a hefty discount from $1.6 million.”
Late last year, the commission passed a moratorium on business development at the plaza, in part to deal with the bank parcel.
“We don’t want to see a convenience store there,” Waters joked. “The thought of having a Subway drive-thru at the corner is not something that appeals to me.”
The mayor said the property, which covers about two-thirds of an acre, could still end up “being a parking lot forever,” if a sale falls through or if moving the Police Department isn’t feasible.
A service station stood on the site decades ago, and officials are uncertain whether environmental issues such as the removal of buried gas tanks might complicate a deal.
Police Chief Carmen Mattox is optimistic, however. “I got plans for that building,” he told commissioners.
The old bank would give Mattox’s growing department roughly three times the space it now has at Town Hall. Last year, the commission authorized expanding the police force from eight full-time officers to 12, so more space would be useful.
In other business:
• The commission unanimously approved the appointment of Commissioners Simone Bonutti as vice mayor and Jack Doyle as mayor pro tem. Bonutti replaces Peter Isaac, who was required to leave the commission as of the March 12 election because of term limits. Satter, who qualified for the election but was unopposed, fills the vacant at-large seat left by Isaac’s departure.
In February, commissioners appointed Richard Granara to serve out the remaining year on the Point seat of Monica Oberting, who moved out of town.
Waters, Doyle and Commissioner Hank Siemon also were unopposed in the election.
• Commissioners want the town’s Zoning Commission to take a more detailed look at the building code changes needed to allow construction of primary residences on the east side of A1A at the town’s southern entrance.
The proposed changes would apply only to the seven lots that are immediately north of the Boynton Beach Inlet. Palm Beach developer Jeff Greene owns three of the lots and wants to flip the zone’s housing pattern and build residences on the ocean side.
Waters said the zoning board needs to give the commission specifics on setbacks, building heights and architectural requirements before com-missioners can change the code. “We need the technical details,” the mayor said, and predicted the zoning changes would take months to complete. Ú