By Dan Moffett
The Manalapan Town Commission’s unanimous approval of a request to build a new cabana on property east of State Road A1A near the town’s southern end drew a pointed warning from Mayor Keith Waters.
“We’re opening ourselves to things unseen — opening a door that we didn’t intend to open,” Waters said. “This was not the intent of our law and not the intent of our zoning. Never.”
Waters opposed allowing the cabana to homeowner Jeffrey Lee, 3070 S. Ocean Blvd., based on Town Attorney Keith Davis’ opinion that it would violate language in the town’s code that prohibits expanding nonconforming structures.
Lee already has a beach house on the property that became an exception to the town’s rules through a 54-year-old court decision, a ruling that permitted two residences on the parcel, one on the west end and another on the ocean.
Lee’s attorney, Ken Kaleel, said denying the cabana would be “unconscionable, unreasonable and arbitrary.” Five commissioners agreed and voted approval on Sept. 25. Commissioner Jack Doyle was absent and Waters had no vote.
With ongoing efforts to sell the Ziff estate and the purchase of property by prominent investors such as billionaire Jeff Greene, the potential development of Manalapan’s southern end is likely to raise important issues for the commission going forward.
Despite Waters’ concerns, Davis said he doubted approving Lee’s cabana would set a precedent because of the property’s “unique” status. The attorney said, however, that there are “glaring inconsistencies” in the town’s code that need fixing.
In other business:
• Commissioners gave unanimous final approval to a proposed tax rate of $3.03 per $1,000 of assessed property value, a hefty increase of 17.15 percent over the rollback rate of $2.58. The tax rate in last year’s budget was $2.80 per $1,000.
The increase in revenue is needed to pay for a major expansion of police and security services. The town intends to hire four more officers, hire private security guards for Point Manalapan and upgrade its network of surveillance cameras.
The $400,000 expansion also includes pay raises for current officers and defined benefits pension plans for the department.
• The roughly 550 Hypoluxo residents who get their water from Manalapan’s utility department will remain the town’s customers for two more years.
Hypoluxo decided last year to switch to Boynton Beach Utilities for water services, though Hypoluxo is under contract with Manalapan until 2020. Town Manager Linda Stumpf said negotiations failed for an early buyout of the contract with Hypoluxo, “so we’ll have them for another two years.” With more than 110,000 customers, the fast-growing Boynton utility is more than 12 times larger than Manalapan’s and offered rates the town couldn’t match, Stumpf said.
• The commission is scaling back plans to renovate the Town Hall chambers because of cost concerns.
Stumpf said two contractors’ estimates for an extensive overhaul of the meeting auditorium came in higher than expected at $336,000 and $292,000. Waters told Stumpf to concentrate on reconfiguring the dais to allow better interaction among officials and forget major reconstruction of the room. Stumpf said she hopes to have estimates for a more modest renovation ready by the Oct. 23 meeting.
• Commissioners have approved a revised meeting schedule to ensure quorums during the holiday season. The commission will meet at 10 a.m. on Nov. 13 and Dec. 11.