By Dan Moffett
For two years, Manalapan officials have been trying to get a Publix built at the town’s Plaza del Mar, and the residents of La Coquille Villas next door have had plenty to say about the plan.
They have commented on the color palette for the Publix facade. They have offered tasteful font options for signage.
They have weighed in on the proper lumen limits for lighting and on environmentally sound choices for landscape buffers.
With the Publix scheduled to open in June, La Coquille residents figured every design detail had been taken care of.
The last thing they expected was to wake up one morning and see a shiny 20-foot metal can looming over their tennis courts.
It turns out the water distribution system at the 30-year-old plaza doesn’t generate enough pressure to meet fire suppression safety standards.
In order for the Publix to comply with fire codes and get inspectors’ approval to open, workers had to hastily construct a water storage tank to raise the pressure to acceptable levels.
And the corrugated steel structure could be there for two or three years, officials say, until the town can upgrade the distribution system and replace pumps for the plaza.
Town Manager Linda Stumpf said the plan was for Kitson & Partners, the plaza’s landlord, to plant dozens of 25-foot palm trees along the property’s southern boundary to conceal the 20-foot tank. Much of that was done by the day after the April 24 Town Commission meeting.
“What I would have much preferred is a short version of that [tank] versus a tall version of that,” Mayor Keith Waters said during the meeting. “We want to make sure that it is not visible in any way, shape or form.”
Waters said the town will try to have the tank painted — color palette to be determined — to make it less visible and promised that the commission would make sure the camouflage efforts satisfy residents.
Herb Newman, a longtime La Coquille homeowner, told commissioners that he and his neighbors understand that their property abuts the back of a shopping mall, and they don’t mind that. Newman said, as far as he is concerned, the tank can stay there forever — as long as he doesn’t know it’s there.
“We want assurance that when development is done, that we do not see the back of Publix and we do not see the water tank,” Newman said. He told the mayor La Coquille wants no more surprises.
Waters said the tank would soon disappear from view.
“Our job is to represent the community, and we’ve heard loud and clear that this is not acceptable,” he said. “So we are not going to rest until everyone is OK with this.”