Lake Worth nixes woman’s plan to turn property into hotel, music, bar

Updated Jan 19, 2018
Mary Sisoian speaks to city commissioners this past week on her request to have her 18 South Palmway property rezoned.

Mary Sisoian went before Lake Worth’s City Commission this past week with a request.

She wanted to rezone her site at 18 S. Palmway Drive, property records show she bought for $525,000 in 2005, from medium density multi-family residential to downtown.

On Oct. 4, the city’s Planning and Zoning Board approved Sisoian running a bed and breakfast from the location.

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But Sisoian now wants to run a 7-room boutique hotel instead, where there will live music, with beer, wine and liquor being sold.

“We’re not looking at a bar, it’s a gathering place,” Sisoian said at the past week’s commission meeting. “We just had an event last week and had 50 people at the house for a benefit of a local musician. It started at 5 and we were done at 9 p.m.”

Commissioners unanimously denied the request, leaving Sisoian dejected.

“I’m disappointed,” she said.

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Commissioner Omari Hardy was the most vocal critic the request.

“It’s a small place, but there is a concern things might go further than what we’ll allow,” Hardy said. “Now we have to be tasked to follow up to make sure this doesn’t occur. This is another can of worms and I don’t see a huge benefit.”

Hardy also worried if the place was sold.

“What if the hotel changes hands and someone is less scrupulous,” he said. “There’s nothing to keep that from occurring. I don’t have confidence that if things got out of hand, we’d be able to reel it back in. I’m all for doing progressive things, but the payoff has to be huge.”

Ultimately, Hardy said passing the request would be like “opening a Pandora’s box.”

“There’s nothing to keep this property from being a nuisance,” he said.

Commissioner Herman Robinson said he didn’t consider the location to be downtown. “This is not appropriate at this point,” he said. “I’m looking for more businesses downtown, but this is not downtown.”

While there have been questions about parking, Sisoian said she’s never heard one complaint. “Everyone parks along Lake Avenue,” she said. “I know it’s hard for people to be respectful, but they can.”

William Waters, Lake Worth’s community sustainability director, said a bed and breakfast has limitations and can only serve breakfast. He added Sisoian was told she could only have special events and serve beer and wine through a hotel or bar.

But it was not to be.

“This is something positive, something happy,” Sisoian said. “We need more of that in Lake Worth.”