As the current administration winds down its eight-year tenure, a few long-discussed St. John projects are actually being addressed.
Gov. Charles Turnbull recently signed the 2007 budget which included a $4 million appropriation to construct a multi-level parking structure near Inspection Lane (see related story) and $75,000 for a St. John planner, according to Senator at Large Craig Barshinger.
“We have $75,000 plus benefits for a planner for St. John,” Barshinger said. “We thought it through and increased the Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ personnel budget with a note attached that it’s for a planner for St. John.”
Kept the Pressure On
Barshinger and his colleagues fought to ensure there was enough funding to hire a proper island planner, the Senator at Large explained.
“The governor promised us this and I kept up the pressure to find out where this was in the budget,” he said. “When we looked at the budget there was $35,000 for a planner for both St. John and St. Thomas, which was not adequate. This is a high level position and we weren’t going to get someone to do a good job with that little money.”
“It didn’t make sense,” Barshinger continued. “If they thought we were going to get a planner with $35,000, they were in a dream world.”
The legislature, and especially Senator Louis Hill, supported Barshinger in his plea for increased funding for a St. John-only planner, he added.
The planner will be paid by DPNR, and work closely with the St. John Administrator, Barshinger explained.
“The person will be hired by the governor’s office, but I don’t think it will be a political position,” he said. “Once a person is in, they will last as long as they are being productive.”
Although the exact powers of the position have not been spelled out, because the legislature did not want to “micro-manage,” the right candidate will be highly trained and have a strong vision, according to Barshinger.
Expert Individual Needed
“We must have a person who is highly trained in how the various services and needs in a community are met,” he said. “The person must have expertise in integrating all the different constraints that a town is confronted with.”
The natural landscape of the island makes planning challenging, the senator said.
“Cruz Bay is a particularly difficult challenge because of our limited space,” he said. “We are bound on all sides by steep hills.”
Despite years of unplanned development, there is still hope for the future, Barshinger added.
“St. John still has the possibility of rescue, so we don’t want to just allow unconsidered development any longer,” he said. “When you don’t plan, you do it to yourself. When you get a town that no longer works in terms of sufficient parking, signage and access to services, then you have done it to yourself.”
“These things don’t happen by accident,” the senator continued. “When you see a community that just seems to work, that’s no accident. We are laid back here, but things like a gracious town don’t just happen by themselves.”
Architect for Town
The same basic principles come into play when planning a house and a town, Barshinger explained.
“A wonderful house doesn’t just happen, it’s planned,” he said. “Houses that are made by first time builders almost always have awkwardness in them and things that could have been done better. When a house is planned by an architect, it just works better.”
“We need an architect for our town and that architect is called a planner,” Barshinger said.