36-Unit Fish Bay Condo Project for Sale at $9.95M – Without Permission of DPNR

Atlantic Northstar officials, center, met with concerned residents last summer at the site of the proposed “Eagle’s Perch”.

After purchasing several properties on St. John and battling to get a group dwelling permit for one of those parcels, Atlantic Northstar LLC is leavng island and selling its properties.

The company will pursue gaming interests in Asia, and, as a result, the owners do not feel that it can adequately develop its properties on St. John, according to a source who wished to remain anonymous.

Atlantic Northstar secured permits for a controversial condominium project on Parcel K in Estate Gift and Regenback near Fish Bay and for a 15-unit condominium tower above Gallows Point in Cruz Bay.

The 36-unit Fish Bay project is listed for sale by Calabash Real Estate of St. Croix for $9,950,000.

“This developed parcel has permits and planning work for 36 luxury condominiums, plus over five acres of prime land, complete with roads and underground utilities,” according to the real estate company’s Web site, www.honnie.com.

The 15-unit Lantern project above Cruz Bay is on the market for $3,500,000, and is advertised as a “half acre with gorgeous sea view… a site map, floor plans, elevations and permits available for developers to build 15 luxury condominiums.”

A Monday morning, Jan. 23, phone call to Calabash Real Estate was not returned, and the listings were removed from the company’s Web site by Thursday morning, Jan. 26.

The offering for the Fish Bay project raised concerns among V.I. government officials.

DPNR Not Notified
The company is required to notify the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) of its intent to sell the Parcel K property, if the group dwelling permit is included in the listing, according to Marjorie Emmanuel, Director of DPNR’s Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning.

She said that she was unaware that the property was for sale until it was brought to her attention by DPNR spokesperson Jamal Nielsen, who was investigating the issue for St. John Tradewinds.

“Before it can be listed for sale, the commissioner would have to consent to the transfer of the permit,” she said. According to the permit, “this permit may not be transferred or assigned without prior written notification to the commissioner of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.”

Controversial Permit
Parcel K’s group dwelling permit was a source of controversy on St. John. A petition against the permit, signed by 700 St. John residents, was handed to DPNR officials by Senator at Large Craig Barshinger.

“That was probably one of the biggest petitions ever garnered on St. John—almost a fifth of the island,” said St. John resident Frank Cummings, who has publicly spoken out against the development.

The petition did not stop DPNR’s approval of the group dwelling permit; however, several restrictions were placed on the condo development, including a reduction of the number of units, from 44 to 36.

Other restrictions included protection of cultural resources, and the mitigation of the destruction of endangered St. Thomas prickly ash plants.

$850,000 Public Housing Promise
Emannuel said she was most concerned about the affordable housing stipulation of the permit, which requires Atlantic Northstar to provide the V.I. Affordable Housing Program, through the V.I. Housing Finance Authority (HFA), with $850,000 for affordable housing on St. John.

According to the permit’s payment schedule, the first payment of $350,000 is due on or before June 30; $250,000 is due on or before Dec. 31; and the remaining $250,000 is due on or before June 30, 2007.

None of this money has been paid out yet.

If the permits are transferred to the buyers of Parcel K, this could cause an uproar among the hundreds of residents who breathed a sigh of relief at a town meeting on Nov. 29, when DPNR Commissioner Dean Plaskett stated that the group dwelling permit is not transferable.

“I feel great,” said Cummings, after hearing Plaskett’s statement. “I feel like the democratic process worked. We saved part of St. John; we won the battle.”

Senator at Large Craig Barshinger said that Plaskett should reexamine the permit upon the sale of the property.

“I believe the commissioner should start from scratch, given the challenging climate on St. John caused by our pell mell, and often frightening, pace of development,” he said.

“Hounded” to Approve
“If Atlantic Northstar sells the property and no longer holds the permit, can we get the new permit holder to commit to the agreement with HFA?” said Emannuel. “After all that we went through with this permit, and on the heels of it being approved, they are selling it with no notification to us. We have been hounded to get this permit approved, and we worked diligently.”

As of Friday afternoon, Jan. 27, Emannuel was still trying to contact Atlantic Northstar.

“We have to look more closely at what is going on,” she said. “Using the permit to market this property is not right.”