Clarification: In a March story, “Sides agree to plan for crowded property line landscaping,” it may not have been clear that although Manalapan resident E. Peter McLean was asked to serve as an alternate on both the architectural and zoning commissions, he was not able to and was never sworn in as a member of either board.
By Steve Plunkett
Good fences may make good neighbors, but traveler palms and black olive trees competing with a 12-foot ficus hedge do not, at least along one part of Curlew Road.
A nasty dispute between Manalapan neighbors E. Peter McLean and Nives Montero — a member of the town’s Architectural Commission — splashed into public view Feb. 8 when Montero belatedly asked ARCOM to approve a new landscaping plan for her house at 60 Curlew.
Commissioners were torn over the merits of the plan.
“It is a grotesque mess,’’ Commissioner Joan Bernstein said, counting 17 traveler palms and six pitch-apples on the 160-foot border between the houses. “They’re already touching each other. There’s no room for growth.”
“I don’t mind Ms. Montero’s jungle theme. I think it’s great — wild and wooly,” countered alternate Commissioner Peter Isaac, filling in for absent Commissioners Montero, Daryl Cheifetz and Renny Reynolds.
McLean, who lives at 70 Curlew, passed out two binders detailing the feud, a 41-page “Presentation” with key dates of calls to police and correspondence with town officials along with Google Earth photos of the landscape changing over time. His 35-page “Attachments” binder held copies of the letters as well as the police reports.
Montero’s lawyer, Tara Duhy, said her client admitted making a mistake.
“She does make all apologies. She is willing to work with you and the town in any way possible,” Duhy said.
McLean objected, saying Montero’s plan labeled “Existing” landscape should be relabeled “Register of Observed Plantings” to acknowledge plantings never officially authorized.
Montero and McLean even dispute where their lot line is, each one claiming to have a survey showing it’s 4 inches east or west of the other’s survey.
ARCOM Chairman Keith Waters steered the discussion back to resolving the issue. “We want to approve what’s in the best interests of the town,” he said.
After a more than 3½-hour meeting, both sides agreed that:
• Montero will move new and existing plants 5 feet from the disputed property line.
• She will maintain and manage the plantings.
• She will replace areca palms on her plan with small leaf clusia.
• Plants will be maintained according to Florida Power & Light Co. and Manalapan guidelines.
• The clusia hedge will be positioned next to a proposed privacy wall between the neighbors.
Bernstein complained that Montero, being an ARCOM commissioner, should have known to get permission before planting the new palms.
“She needs to be held to a standard,” Bernstein said.
McLean was nominated an alternate ARCOM member over Montero on April 6, 2010, by Bernstein’s husband, then-Town Commissioner Bill Bernstein. McLean missed the panel’s April 14 and May 12 meetings, resigned May 18 and was replaced by Montero.
Montero became a full ARCOM member March 22, 2011, the same day McLean was named an alternate on the Zoning Board.
The ARCOM meeting was not McLean’s first appearance before the board. He was there Dec. 8, 2010, for approval to revise a previously approved landscape plan. Joan Bernstein made a motion to approve the plan. Montero seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.