By Dan Moffett

The 144 property owners on Point Manalapan can expect to receive a survey ballot in the mail this month that asks their opinions about installing natural gas service.
The Town Commission will use the responses to decide if there is enough interest to justify allowing Florida Public Utilities to run gas lines to the point. Commissioners approved language for the ballots at the April 21 meeting, and also agreed on the ground rules for the survey:
• At least 60 percent of the respondents must say yes to gas service for the project to move forward.
• Each property owner will have 60 days to complete the ballot and return it in the stamped envelope. Seasonal residents will receive ballots at their summer addresses as well their Manalapan homes.
• The estimated cost per property owner for installing the gas lines is between $420 and $480 annually for 15 years. Those numbers do not include the cost of connecting each residence to the main lines and converting appliances from electric or propane to natural gas.
• Town Attorney Keith Davis will hold custody of the ballots until they are opened and tallied at a public meeting in July.
“We want this process to be as fair as we can possibly make it,” said Mayor David Cheifetz, “and we want to avoid some of the problems other places have had.”
Hypoluxo Island property owners voted to bring natural gas to their homes in February, but some residents complained that the voting system was unfair and that islanders were pressured into endorsing the project. If Point Manalapan says yes to gas, installation of the lines could be completed sometime next year.
In other business:
• Commissioners gave unanimous approval to a zoning commission recommendation that calls for a 15-foot setback requirement for beach houses on State Road A1A.
The town has had a 35-foot setback requirement since 2011, and for decades before that the standard was 50 feet. Several property owners recently had complained that they didn’t have room to build with the 35-foot limit and would require zoning variances from the town. The state Department of Environmental Protection has encouraged communities to move building boundaries as far from the dune lines as possible.
“DEP would like to have it sit right on A1A if they could,” Town Manager Linda Stumpf said of the setback requirement.
• Mayor Pro Tem Peter Isaac reported a savings of roughly $125,000 in the Audubon Causeway Bridge project by eliminating replacement of the water main to Spoonbill Road.
“That will be replaced at a later date,” Isaac said.
The town also hopes its engineering consultant, Engenuity Group Inc., can squeeze another $100,000 in savings out of the project, bringing the total cost of the new bridge in at around $1.1 million. Drawdy Construction of Lake Worth is scheduled to begin work on the project this month, and commissioners still hope to have the new span completed before the end of the year.

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