Avoid Half-Built Projects: Unify Land and Water Permits

An open letter to the St. John CZM Committee and Victor Somme, Director, CZM
and the VI CZM Commission

Re: CZJ-1-07L Pond Bay Club Coastal Zone Management (CZM) application

Dear CZM Commissioners:

At the recent public hearing for this Pond Bay 60-unit time-share hotel to be built on the shoreline of Chocolate Hole, St. John, it became clear during questioning by the commissioners that the developer plans both an RO plant and the disposal of treated waste water into the ocean via inflow and outflow pipes. The developer has been allowed to submit a land permit application only for approval, and, if received, will be able to begin land construction prior to receiving a CZM water permit and needed federal permits for the infrastructure-related water portion of the development. Infrastructure concerns cannot be secondary in the CZM committee’s decisions.

This appears to be an unannounced and major shift in the CZM policy that land and water permit applications for a project must be handled during the same CZM proceeding, to ensure consistency in the process. Fragmenting this permitting is directly contrary to the purpose of the CZM law and practical considerations of ensuring that all aspects of a development are planned and approved before the excavation and multi-year disruption of construction commences. This also helps ensure that the public’s risk of a half-built, ill-planned, bankrupt and abandoned project is diminished.

In the V.I. CZM law, in Sec. 903 (b)(10) the V.I. Legislature required that the CZM program consolidate the existing regulatory controls applicable to land and water in the coastal zone into a single unified process. On this legislative basis, it is completely inappropriate for CZM to allow a developer to separate the land and water permits.

Further backing for a single permit process for land and water portions of a development is found in Sec 906,(b)(5)of the CZM law which mandates that developments in the coastal zone conform with federal water quality criteria, and Secs. 911 (c) and (e) also confirm the required linkages between the land and water CZM permitting processes. Furthermore, 911 (e) says that any development proposed shall not commence until the permittee has complied with the requirements of the United States Army Corps. CZM regulations also address this mandate for a single unifed proceeding.

The possibility that a half-built land project could be denied an Army Corps permit on valid environmental concerns for RO and waste water disposal could leave the people of St. John with an incomplete development without adequate cisterns or water or sewage treatment capacity. Then the developer could threaten to go bankrupt and abandon the half-built white elephant unless their demands were met by the Army Corps and the V.I. government. Surely this is not CZM’s intention.  Please make it clear that this cannot happen by the way that your permit process and written permit documents proceed.

We request that the St. John CZM Committee, the CZM director, and the CZM Commission reaffirm that no construction can commence on this, or any project, unless all land and water, V.I. and Federal permits have been approved. This has been the prior position of the St. John CZM committee. If this position has changed, all of St. John’s people should know about it and be told why.

We request that the land permit process for Pond Bay or any other project not be allowed to proceed without the required single unified process of concurrent linked land and water permits. With the contemplated activity in the written land permit application that would require a water permit, there must be the water permit in place and all the approvals for both land and water permitting done prior to any construction.

Without a clear statement of these linkages, some developer will begin construction before it is legally allowed to do so, claiming they did not know.  This is what the original CZM law was trying to protect us from let’s continue this important process.

It also in the CZM office’s best interest to consider land and water permits for a project at the same time. Otherwise there will be much required duplication of effort by all involved, including the volunteer commissioners. Isn’t CZM’s workload too heavy to allow developers the leisure to submit two separate applications for land and water, on a timeframe that suits them? This puts extra pressure on limited CZM resources.

Furthermore, it is to be regretted that this developer was not required to make a substantive presentation of the Pond Bay Club development’s characteristics at the public hearing. While this left more time under CZM rules for public responses, it limited public knowledge and the CZM committee’s knowledge of the developers’ representations about the project. Every developer should be required to make a clear summary of the project available in writing and in a presentation. This would show respect for both the CZM committee and the public.

Respectfully submitted and may we wish you Happy Holidays,
Mary L. Ladner; Erin L. Scott; Jessica K. Richards, Pastory Resident; B. Greg Miller PE; Erva A. Denham; Mary Lisa Etre; Bonny Corbeil; Thomas Matthias; Georgiann and Barry Evans; Stephanie King; Charles Atkins and Kristin Demong; Catherine Fahy; Kent and Adette Irish; Barry Devine; Jason Budsan; St. Thomas; Philip Strenger; Pam Gaffin; Mary L. Ladner; Erin L. Scott; Susan Mann; Patrick and Beverly Lockett; Gary Ray, Ph.D., Coral Bay, St. John; Stephen and Jean Cottrell, East End, St.John; Stan Rose; Peter Wilder; Michael Baron – St.Croix; David Poole; Bob Malacarne; Christine D. Barbich, 32-A Chocolate Hole; Lisa K. Durgin; Don and Katie Porter; Brian Bell; Sharon Coldren; Paul Devine; Catherine Stephen; Elissa Runyon; Tom Burmeister; Bonnie Hill; Chirag Vyas; Elizabeth Trey; Julie Lonski; Mark Lonski

The individuals above are also members of the St. John Coalition and all can be reached, or address information provided, via stjohncoalition@hotmail.com. Most are  residents and small business owners on St. John. Some are residents of St. Thomas and St. Croix.

Signatures below were received after 12/27/06, the deadline for the CZM public comments.
Rick and Nancy Elmquist; James H. Furneaux; Mike and Pat Whitehead; Mark Shekleton; The following staff and friends of The Tamarind Court would like to be included: Lach McIntosh, Becky Ward, Kate Reed, Jim Weller, Michele Marchetti, Nancy Robinson and Elizabeth Wilder; Rafe Boulon, #2 Trunk Bay, St. John; Eve Boulon Maskell; Greg Maskell; Ben Boulon Maskell; Tony Spitzack; Rev. Charles Crespo, Pastor, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Roman Catholic Church, St. John; Amy Roberts; Dick and Jeri Marston; Cidney A. Hamling; Mary Patricia Brown; Sally Nelson; Keryn Bryan; Jillayne Kemp; Mollie Keuten; Dave Keuten; Vicki Rogers; Thatcher Lord; Carla Joseph; Dalma D. Simon; Michael Beason and Barbara Footer; Emanuel “Mano” Boyd; Kimberly E. Boyd; Glendon G. Cross