Community Group Requests Review of Grande Bay

Mr. Robert Mathes                     
February 20, 2007
Commissioner Designate
Department of Planning and Natural Resources

Dear Mr. Mathes,

In the spirit of public/private collaboration, and with the goal of working together to ensure that new projects comply with V.I. laws, the St. John Coalition respectfully requests that an immediate review be conducted by DPNR of the Grande Bay project’s compliance with building code regulations and zoning density requirements, as well as other applicable V.I. regulations. The review should be done prior to any granting of temporary COs by DPNR, which has been reported in the local St. John newspaper as being imminent, although we realize that DPNR may have no intention of doing this.

As you may be aware, this enormous project, by St. John standards, that now dominates the Cruz Bay Harbor area has a record of pushing to maximize its size, scope, and hence, profitability. Many legitimate concerns have been raised by citizens about the project during the course of its construction, including those below.

The primary areas of concern that we feel need to be reviewed are:

• Compliance with number and type of units, community facilities, site density, parking and setbacks on an actual as-built square footage basis.

• Review of compliance with the V.I. Code definitions of Story and Mezzanine. The terms of art in the Zoning law are being stretched to dimensions that if not prevented now, will effectively re-define the Code to allow additional stories the Legislature did not intend. In this case, the developer appears to be creating extra stories and usable/salable areas that are not allowed under the law.

• Sewer, electric and water capacity and connections: If the excess density is allowed to slip through, will St. John’s already overstressed infrastructure be able to handle it?

• Compliance with Drainage, Erosion and Sediment control plan. Permanent controls and site perimeter management in place. As the photographic record shows, considerable runoff has already impacted Cruz Bay, primarily due to poor erosion controls.

• Appropriate retaining walls for protection of surrounding properties, whose lands have been compromised by the boundary line to boundary line excavation work on Grande Bay.

Furthermore, while some aspects of their plans and construction may meet the letter of law, there is substantial community concern that the intention is future subversion of the law.  For instance:

1. Lock-out units have been sold by the developer (and are currently being resold — see realty ads in St. John Tradewinds). These were sold as two units-in-one. There are two exterior entrances. An interior door can be locked, additional kitchen facilities added to the wet bar in the smaller unit, and then it can be rented as a separate unit. The density calculations for zoning, parking, sewer connection, etc. were based on a single 3-bedroom unit, but the intention (and the price to buyer) is based on the reality of two units (a two bedroom and a one bedroom unit).

2. Further, the covered porches with electric lights and outlets on the top mezzanine level appear to be designed so that they can be glass enclosed in the future to create additional rooms in excess of the allowable mezzanine square footage. This erroneous use of the mezzanine definition allows for the creation of an illegal fourth story penthouse that can be a separate  dwelling unit. (Same problem as #1.)

This apparent intention and ability to increase the density beyond the allowed R-3 density has serious implications for parking, water and sewer capacity, and other issues of strong public concern on St. John.

Members of the St. John community are willing to participate, and a number of people are willing to offer technical expertise to help supplement DPNR’s limited staff resources, if needed, in order to expedite this review. The St. John Coalition can help identify and coordinate public involvement, if you wish, as an example of efficient public/private cooperation in our new government.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to working with you.

Alan Smith
Catherine Stephen
Sharon Coldren
Brian Bell
Paul Devine
Kimberly Moore
Brion Morrisette
Elissa Runyon

Members of the St. John Coalition Steering Committee