By Tim O’Meilia


For the second month in a row, the South Palm Beach Town Council rejected a request by the Palm Beach Oceanfront Inn by the same 3-2 vote.


In July, the request was to operate watercraft. On Aug. 25, it was to extend bar hours on Friday and Saturday nights from midnight until 2 a.m.


And the for the second month in a row, a lawyer for the hotel “strongly requested” that two council members not vote, saying Councilwomen Stella Jordan and Susan Lillybeck are personally affected by the motel’s presence next door to their condominium apartments.


But Town Attorney Brad Biggs ruled that because they had no financial gain or loss on the issue, that they were obligated to vote.


Attorney Eric Christu said the hotel lounge needed the extra hours to compete with those in neighboring towns. “It’s not just a revenue-based request, but a matter of satisfying our clientele,” who are often vacationers from out-of-town.


Councilman Donald Clayman suggested the later hours might lead to more noise and problems and suggested a test of extended hours on several holidays to gauge the impact.


Christu said the inn had already operated later on several special occasions without incident. “To deny us outright on the possibility it might happen is fundamentally unfair,” he said.


Mayor Martin Millar said the town had the resources to handle any problem that could arise with later hours.


When no one offered a motion, Millar stepped aside temporarily and moved to extend the hours. No one seconded.


Finally, Jordan moved that the hours remain the same and that was approved 3-2, with Millar and Councilman Brian Merbler opposed.


“The outcome doesn’t come as a surprise,” inn co-owner Pjeter Paloka said in a statement. “We have two council members that live in the building next door who clearly have a personal interest in the outcome of their own vote.”


The council also gave final approval — by the familiar 3-2 vote — to placing two charter amendments on the March 8 Town Council election ballot.


Both affect the inn, the only commercial operation in town. One charter change would limit all non-residential buildings east of A1A — the inn — to a maximum height of 60 feet with a one-story parking garage. The other change would forbid any new — or the expansion of any existing — non-residential buildings except public buildings; affecting only the inn.


Both items already are in the town’s comprehensive plan, but a charter change would prevent a future council from changing the regulations without another townwide vote.


“Both are a colossal waste of time,” Merbler said. “And as I stare at our legal expenditures, I’m curious what we’re spending drafting and researching these ordinances.”


Biggs estimated the legal cost as $2,000 to $2,400.


The hotel has been turned down twice in recent years on requests for 14- and 10-story condo-hotels. Merbler has favored leaving the height limits more open-ended.

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