A three-layered aggregate system will allow for parking on top of the shallowest portion of dredged materials at Enighed Pond Marine Facility, above.
The St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee gave the go-ahead to two projects on St. John last week, both of which aim to bring relief to residents taxed by a lack of infrastructure and services.
In a decision meeting on Wed-nesday, April 7, at the Cruz Bay legislature building, the four-member board approved the V.I. Port Authority’s request to modify its major land and water use permit in order to create 151 free public parking spaces at Enighed Pond Marine Facility.
In the same meeting, the St. John CZM Committee also gave the G.E. Marsh Legacy Development and Holding Group Inc. the green light to construct a commercial, residential and recreational development in Coral Bay.
Approval of VIPA’s request was hailed by most residents as a relief of the parking problems that have plagued Cruz Bay for years.
While CZM decision meetings are usually devoid of testimony, VIPA contractor Robert deJongh of architecture firm deJongh and Associates Inc., outlined plans for the parking lot since the agency’s permit dates back to 1994.
“We were employed by VIPA for design work at the Cruz Bay Creek when the issue of parking emerged as one of the principle issues on St. John,” said deJongh.
The land where the 151 parking spaces will be constructed consists of dredged materials from Enighed Pond. The surface was deemed too soft to accommodate structures, but with a three-layered aggregate approach engineers can make it safe to support normal vehicular weight, according to deJongh.
“We did subsurface studies and we confirmed that the soft dredged materials are not suitable for normal building loads,” deJongh said. “But parking loads are significantly less than buildings and if we restrict parking to the fringe — the shallowest areas — that material could be made able to support parking loads.”
“We designed an engineering solution to excavate down three feet and then back fill in three alternating layers geo-textile materials and crushed stone,” said deJongh. “That will establish a crust that can sustain a standard parking load and is the basis for the boomerang shape of the parking area parallel to the existing road on the edge of the old pond.”
The area will be 65 feet from the front of one space to the front of the next space and there is an eight to 10 foot section running around the perimeter which can be used for landscaping in the future, deJongh added.
The plans were presented to several St. John residents and groups including St. John Administrator Leona Smith and members of the St. John Chapter of the St. Thomas/St. John Chamber of Commerce, deJongh added.
“This plan has wide support of everyone to whom it was presented,” he said.
Since the material inside the fringe area where parking is going to be located is currently too soft to build on, VIPA is calling the plan temporary, explained VIPA executive director Ken Hobson.
“The material in the center is soft and it has 20 years, according to what the engineers said, for it to get hard enough to put a structure there,” said Hobson. “This plan is temporary for 20 years until we are able to put a structure there.”
Under questioning from the St. John CZM Committee, VIPA engineer Dale Gregory explained that only a temporary parking lot was approved by VIPA’s governing board.
“VIPA had other plans for future development of the interior area,” said Gregory.
The sole point of contention in the plan revolved around how many bathrooms the planned dock master’s building would contain. As a former teacher, St. John CZM Committee Chairperson Madeline Sewer urged VIPA to install more than the planned single male and single female restrooms.
“As a former school teacher I can tell you that when one has to go, they all have to go,” said Sewer. “I ask you to reconsider your plans and add additional restroom facilities.”
Although providing restroom facilities for the public is not VIPA’s responsibility, Gregory said he would bring the St. John CZM Committee’s concerns to the group’s governing board.
The free parking area will be illuminated by solar lights and Hobson pledged the VIPA project also would include landscaping in the area.
“We’re not going to spend $800,000 and not do this right,” said Hobson. “What we do has to be first class for St. John.”
While operational details are still being worked out, the parking lot will be free to use and is not intended for long-term parking.
“Operational plans have to be fully developed in concert with Department of Public Works, the St. John Administrator and V.I. Police Department,” said deJongh. “Many of those details, especially how long the lot will remain open and how long cars can be there, still have to be worked out.”
“Our focus was on getting the permits in place to get started on this and then we’ll work out all the details,” said deJongh.
Residents should be able to start parking in the Enighed lot within a few months, according to deJongh.
“Now we’re going to start issuing requests for bids for the work and that should take about 45 days,” deJongh said. “Then shortly after that we’ll get started on construction. This could be done within three months.”
St. John CZM Committee members Sewer, Gerry Hills, Edmund Roberts and Andrew Penn all voted in favor of the modification request.