Pond Bay Club officials got the green light to further alter the scope of their original permit from the St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee at a Thursday morning, June 11, decision meeting at the Cruz Bay Legislature building.
Under its second modification request, First Development Group Carib, which is developing the luxury fractional ownership resort Pond Bay Club, won’t be extending V.I. Water And Power Authority utilities to its Chocolate Hole Bay site. Instead, the 52-unit development requested permission to construct a reverse osmosis facility and drill three wells for intake and one well for discharge of brine to make potable water.
St. John CZM Committee members Madeline Sewer and Andrew Penn, adopting CZM staff recommendations, approved the modification request, while member Gerry Hills abstained from voting. Member Edmund Roberts was absent.
Hills requested additional information regarding the environmental impact of discharging 100,000 gallons of brine a day into a 150-foot deep well and eventually into the aquifer.
“I’m worried about the impact of brine being discharged in the amount of 100,000 gallons a day into the aquifer in an environmentally-sensitive area,” said Hill. “Your asking me to give approval without any documentation from any agency that says doing this is okay.”
The go-ahead from CZM now allows Pond Bay Club officials to complete applications with both the territorial and federal Environmental Protection Agencies to actually drill and test the wells, explained project architect Tracy Roberts of Springline Architects.
“I’ve been in communication with local and federal EPA and they understand what I’m doing,” said Roberts. “Drillers have looked at the site and everyone believes this will not be a problem.”
Extending WAPA’s water line over Jacob’s Ladder to Pond Bay Club’s Chocolate Hole location was determined to be an “economic burden” for the developer after the Westin — which already has a R/O plant on site — declined to join the project, Roberts explained.
“Originally, we got an estimated cost from Majestic and the Westin was interested in buying in and tapping into the line as well,” said Roberts. “Now the Westin has backed out and Majestic came back and said they made a mistake and doubled the cost. The WAPA plan has become an economic burden on the project.”
The modification request also included several changes to the back of the house and roadways at Pond Bay Club. One of the two planned administration buildings was eliminated, the Pond Bay Club building — which will include a restaurant, pool decks and bar — will be one story instead of two and the planned roadway around the property will now include more permeable materials instead of concrete.
Since Auberge signed on to manage Pond Bay Club, the resort has taken on a more pedestrian feel in order to comply with the company’s strict standards, according to the resort’s request for modification application.
“The permittee states that the main revisions are caused by the redesign of the restaurant and pool,” according to the application. “This occurred as a result of Auberge Resorts being selected as the operator of the hotel and directing changes made in the pool and restaurant to fit within their world class, six-star dining and leisure standards.”
The St. John CZM Committee included several special conditions in its approval of Pond Bay Club’s modification request, including notifying the committee of all work prior to commencing and obtaining all federal and territorial permits before starting construction activities.
This latest modification approval is the last in Pond Bay Club’s years-long process to build a luxury resort on its Chocolate Hole waterfront property. Their original major CZM permit was approved in January 2007.
The developers came back to the committee in August 2007 to request a modification to reduce the number of units and parking spaces and eliminate the planned tennis courts. That modification request was approved in October 2007.
The developers were back in front of the St. John CZM Committee in November 2008 to request beach nourishment activities be allowed at the site. Pond Bay Club’s request to sift the sand and hand clear cobble and stones from the Chocolate Hole Bay beach was approved in January 2009 with the condition that beach nourishment can only occur after a pilot study of the process and its effects on the environment is completed.