By Dan Moffett
    
    South Palm Beach is appealing to oceanfront condominium owners to allow the town easement access to the beaches during emergencies and renourishment projects.
    Town officials say they have no way of getting vehicles to the beach without the cooperation of private property owners. Public access from Lake Worth is too far north to be feasible and public access from Lantana may not be granted because the town has liability concerns about potential damage.  
    “Lantana is very protective about their sea wall,” Mayor Bonnie Fischer said. “I don’t blame them. They don’t want other people’s heavy equipment going through. We need an easement in this town.”
    Fischer said South Palm Beach had looked at barging in machinery and vehicles by sea but the costs are too high.
    Without easements from the condos, the town can’t go forward with the beach restoration projects it hopes to take on in the coming years. Council members are telling residents that if they want their eroding beaches repaired, they’re going to have to make way for some heavy-duty equipment.
    Fischer and the council on Aug. 25 approved a letter Town Attorney Brad Briggs wrote that will go out to condominium associations along the beachfront. Briggs’ letter makes three requests of the homeowner groups:
    • Allow public service and rescue vehicles “the beach access necessary to aid persons facing serious and imminent injury.”
    • Allow staging and necessary vehicles “so that they may enter onto the beach for repair and maintenance of the many seawalls … which serve to protect so many of the town’s residences from the ocean’s destructive forces.”
    • And “perhaps most importantly, allow such vehicles as are necessary for beach restoration activities to deliver, grade and restore sand to the eroded beach areas.”
    Council members say they want to reassure condo owners that the request for easements does not mean that the town wants to create access for the public. The easements are for the town’s official use only.
    Vice Mayor Joseph Flagello, who is also president of the Palmsea Condominium board of directors, says his association will also need reassurance that the town is fully insured and will cover potential property damage vehicles might cause. “That’s the question I’m going to be hearing,” Flagello said.
    How serious is the town’s request? Very serious.
    Biggs told the council that if negotiation with the condominium owners doesn’t work, then the town might have to consider claiming the easements by eminent domain.
     Officials say that’s a last resort that they hope will not be necessary.
    In other business:
    The council approved hiring Colin Baenziger & Associates to run background checks and screen prospective candidates for the vacant town manager’s job.
    Former Boynton Beach Town Manager Kurt Bressner, who is advising the council on filling the position, recommended the headhunting firm over another company the town used last year in hiring Jim Pascale, who abruptly resigned in June.
    Colin Baenziger will charge $900 for each candidate it screens, and the council hopes to have identified six finalists to choose from before the tourist season begins and the interviewing and hiring completed before the end of the year.

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