Parking in Cruz Bay might finally get a bit easier, but it won’t be where residents might have expected.
Gov. Charles Turnbull recently signed the V.I. Senate-approved 2007 budget which included a $4 million appropriation for a multi-level parking garage to be constructed near the Inspection Lane, according to Senator at Large Craig Barshinger.
“The $4 million is in the budget and the governor signed the budget,” Barshinger said. “We are getting $4 million free and clear for the parking structure.”
Vendor’s Plaza Questioned
Although most residents agree parking in Cruz Bay amounts to a nightmare, there was controversy over whether to construct a small vendors’ plaza and parking structure, which was altered earlier this year to include a new U.S. Post Office location, across from the Cruz Bay Creek; or a larger multi-level parking structure near the Inspection Lane.
The addition of the post office to the creek parking facility brought into question how much space there would be for vendors and how many additional parking spaces would be created.
Turnbull’s assistant for capital projects, Keith Richards, has repeatedly lauded the vendors’ plaza and post office parking facility. He did not return repeated calls from St. John Trade-winds requesting comment.
U.S. Postal Service spokesperson for the Caribbean Division, Mildred Diaz, did not have any new information regarding the relocation of the Cruz Bay post office.
U.S. Post Office Moving To Vendor’s Plaza
“The last I heard, officials were planning on moving to the vendors’ plaza site,” she said. “I have no other information.”
Substantial funds were appropriated for the creek parking facility last year, but since then there has been no information about plans for the structure. There is no mention of the facility in the 2007 budget, explained Barshinger.
“We left the other plan alone,” he said. “I’ve written to Senator Roosevelt David, who is the head of government operations, and asked him to convene a hearing on what is happening with the vendors’ plaza.”
Richards has not been straightforward with the public, according to Barshinger.
“We haven’t gotten a straight story from Keith Richards,” he said. “His story changes every time we talk to him.”
When Richards announced last year that a parking facility near the creek would be built, a petition against the structure was circulated and garnered more than 1,000 signatures.
“Richards and (St. John Administrator) Julien Harley attempted to ignore the petition because their view was real St. Johnians weren’t signing it,” said the Senator at Large. “I looked at the petition and it was a real petition. We’ve seen fake petitions before and this was not one.”
The senator is not against a vendors’ plaza, he said.
Subsidized Vendor’s Space
“If people are selling things that are caught, made, or grown here, I favor offering subsidized market space in order to encourage culturally valuable activities,” said Barshinger. “How else are local people going to compete against goods from Indo-nesia or Mexico? They can’t spend $2,000 a month in rent, but they can spend $200 a month.”
“If people are selling locally made, caught or grown goods, that would make Cruz Bay strong,” he continued. “People would remember that vendors’ plaza forever — people would talk about all the local crafts they saw on St. John. It is a high public purpose for which we can allocate public funds.”
Barshinger will meet with Department of Property and Procurement and Division of Motor Vehicles personnel about the Inspection Lane parking facility and will then host a town meeting.
“The next step is for my office to meet with personnel from Property and Procurement and the Division of Motor Vehicles and get a feeling for what the ground rules are,” the senator said. “I will report back to the public and set up a town meeting. We want to envision just how this will work and where everything will go.”
Chance for Activism
“Any time that we have a major thing like this, we should have a meeting so that the people can be aware that we have the money and we have to envision what exactly we want to be there,” Barshinger added.
The senator urged anyone excited about the Inspection Lane parking facility to contact his office.
“Anyone who signed the petition should be really excited about this — their wish has come true,” said Barshinger. “I encourage these people to contact my office. This is an excellent opportunity for activism and they can help this situation along.”
Barshinger’s Parking Plan
The parking facility is step three in Barshinger’s five point plan to solve the Cruz Bay parking problem.
Step one was to tow away all derelict cars parked around Cruz Bay, which was completed by Department of Public Works St. John Deputy Director Ira Wade, Barshinger explained.
“Ira Wade did that a long time ago,” he said. “He didn’t wait around for anything — he implemented step one a long time ago.”
Step two of Barshinger’s plan was the formation of a Parking Spot Verification Committee.
“We communicated to the Department of Planning and Natural Resources that we no longer wanted to violate Title 29, Section 230 of the V.I. Code which specifies how much off-street parking a business is required to have,” said the senator at large. “We formed the Verification Committee so anytime DPNR has a business building application, they are supposed to submit it to us. As island residents, we will help the inspector determine if there is real parking.”
The multi-level parking facility is step three in Barshinger’s plan.
Meet Needs for Next 25 Years
“We need to build a large multi-level parking structure that will meet our needs for the next 25 years,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking at right now.”
Setting up a free shuttle through Cruz Bay is step four in the senator’s plan.
“The businesses of Cruz Bay have agreed to an in-town free shuttle that will go around in a circle for easy step on and step off,” said Barshinger. “We’re thinking of a stretch golf cart or something that would move slowly and safely and have baskets for people’s supplies and purchases.”
The shuttle, which has the support of local taxi drivers, would not go beyond Jacob’s Ladder, according to Barshinger.
“The businesses would foot the bill for this,” he said. “It’s my job to promote and facilitate this project and it’s up to them to come up with the nuts and bolts details of how it’s going to work,” he said.
Enjoy Cruz Bay Again
The final step of Barshinger’s plan is to enjoy Cruz Bay.
“When you’ve worked so hard to do these things, you should just enjoy it,” he said. “This is a very difficult problem to solve, but we can do it together.”