Governor John deJongh and several members of his cabinet were on St. John July 27 for the latest in a series of territory-wide community meetings.
Over the last several months, these meetings have served as a platform for residents to discuss issues that challenge their daily way of life in the Virgin Islands.
“We came to this meeting knowing that residents are irate over a recent permit that was issued for a group dwelling on Bordeaux Mountain,” said deJongh. “At the same time, we are mindful that residents also have other concerns such as road conditions, solid waste management, as well as property taxes, and we are here to address them.”
Joining the governor were St. John Administrator Leona Smith; Department of Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls; Department of Housing, Parks and Recreation Commissioner St. Clair Williams; Tax Assessor Bernadine Williams; Yvonne Milliner of the Housing Finance Authority; V.I. Police Department Deputy Chief Darren Foy and Department of Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Robert Mathes.
Tempers flared as residents spoke out against the issuance of a group-dwelling permit for Bordeaux Mountain Villas. Mathes said he signed the permit on May 21 despite the opposition that has been raised in the community because the project is allowed under the territory’s current zoning code.
Mathes stressed time and again that while the developer has the group-dwelling permit, a storm water permit as well as a building and earth change permit must be secured before work can begin.
“Those that are opposed to the project can speak out again when the developer applies for these permits,” said Mathes.
The governor told the 60 residents gathered at the meeting that his administration’s efforts continue to identify a city planner for St. John.
“We have not been able to identify a person for that position,” said deJongh. “We have advertised with planning organizations as well as locally and nationally. We had two person express interest, but they did not accept the position.”
“Our goal is to have a city planner in place as soon as possible,” said the governor.
Smalls told residents that road striping will begin on St. John as soon as personnel training on the newly acquired striping machines is completed and supplies arrive on island.
“We have the machines, the materials are on order and once the training is complete, DPW will put together a striping schedule for the St. Thomas/St. John district,” said Smalls. “We will advise residents when we will be in their neighborhoods striping roads and in some instances, making road repairs before we stripe.”
Other residents urged the governor to: develop a vendors plaza to accommodate craftspeople on St. John; install guard rails in the George Simmonds Terrace area; make improvements to public bus transportation; address harbor congestion in Coral Bay; and develop a plan to remove a large number of sunken vessels there.
One resident raised concerns about the staffing of the Coral Bay police substation. VIPD Deputy Chief Foy said he hopes to redeploy personnel to staff the facility for two shifts per day.
One resident sought the governor’s intervention in problems she is having with a contractor at a Housing Finance Authority rental unit on St. John, while another raised concerns about the government’s issuance of real property taxes.
In response to a resident’s question, deJongh used the meeting to restate his commitment to developing a school on St. John.
“We have long identified the problems with the location of Sprauve School in the middle of Cruz Bay and this administration has done more than any other in terms of identifying land to build a school,” he said. “I come to the process with no preconceived ideas about whether we need an elementary, junior high or high school. A demographics study will determine what the true needs of St. John are when it comes to the school.”
“I am committed to moving the process along towards the development of a school on St. John,” said deJongh.
Other residents raised concerns about solid waste management, storm water runoff and the need for more land based and sea patrols in and around Coral Bay.