Clifford Graham’s Judgement Unfair, Incorrect

Dear Editor:

I was very disappointed with the comments made by V.I. Housing Finance Authority, Clifford Graham in St. John Tradewinds, where he was quoted as saying: “It’s sad to see that people would use environmental issues as a smoke screen to block affordable housing development” in regards to the Calabash Boom Housing Development.

This is an absolutely incorrect as well as unfair judgment made by Mr. Graham. I can’t help but wonder whether he has even been to Coral Bay or is familiar with our wonderful community of concerned citizens? I live in Calabash Boom. I care deeply about affordable housing here for people. I also care deeply about our environment.

I have witnessed the worst planning — more accurately, no planning — in regards to overall development on St. John for many years now. Many citizens have done everything possible to have their voices heard in regards to having both of these needs addressed.

The Friends of Coral Bay are great people who support affordable housing and for you to paint them otherwise, I believe, is sad. This project is almost right on Johnson’s beach area. This 72-unit housing development will impact that bay and consequently the entire Coral Bay area.

There are passionate testimonies by environmental experts who live in our community who say that this impact will be far greater than what has been ever discussed or considered. All they want is a scaled down, lower-impact project. Why aren’t we listening to them?

There are so many issues that have never been addressed like: one island road  for 300-plus people at this intersection; a lack of sidewalks; the fragile infrastructure in Coral Bay, already stressed to the limit.

These facts cannot be ignored! Why do we continue to operate in crisis mode as opposed to intelligent, thought through planning? In fact, research affordable housing and you will find that there are more creative ways to build with less impact or labeling groups of people as “low-income.”

This project could have been completed by now if it had been planned better from day one. That is the real issue here — poor planning based on getting as many units on a piece of land to make the project “financially viable.”

We have got to stop basing everything on how much money can be made on a project. Though that is a realistic consideration, our priorities should be how we best meet the needs of our citizens for much-needed housing, particularly our native population who have been shut out of the high-cost of housing on their island, as well as how our fragile environment is impacted.

There is a “win-win” approach that our past administration didn’t seem to recognize, understand or implement. Thank God we have a new Governor who is conscious and thinks outside of the box in terms of problem solving and planning.

Until then, please do not make the Friends of Coral Bay the bad guys here, Mr. Graham. It simply is not true.

Bonny Corbeil