The Department of Planning and Natural Resources has weighed in against a controversial variance included in a request to rezone a St. John shopping center in Estate Adrian, an issue that will be heard by the Senate’s Committee of the Whole when it meets Oct. 10 on St. John.
DPNR Commissioner Dawn Henry published a review of comments submitted after a public hearing held in May. Henry recommends the agency deny a variance for a gas station on the shopping center site.
That review was issued Aug. 17. The agency had granted a permit earlier for construction of the gas station, but revoked it in 2017, saying it was issued in error.
Two items appear on the agenda of the Committee of the Whole meeting scheduled for Oct. 10 in Cruz Bay. One calls for reclassification of Parcel 5-C, Estate Adrian, No. 18, Cruz Bay Quarter. A commercial complex has already been built on the site. The other, a proposed rezoning for two parcels, 14C and 14D Estate Enighed.
The rezoning application to go before lawmakers includes a list of the businesses included in the shopping center permit change request. Businesses listed include a grocery store, an auto parts store, offices, a laundromat and a restaurant.
According to a legal notice recently published, the applicant is still requesting a gas station variance.
Act. No. 6812, approved in 2005, allowed for construction of the grocery store, which now sits on the 1.1-acre site. Owners of the property are Brian A. Smith and Betty A. Smith, who are leasing the land to developer Jerome Lake.
Brian Smith is senator at-large in the 32nd Legislature.
Objections to the plan centered on the gas station. Henry’s report listed a dozen objections expressed by some of the 75 participants attending the May 8 hearing in Cruz Bay. Among the objections were concerns that the development was too large for the surrounding residential area and that the gas tanks would sit 180 feet from the nearest residence and needed more buffering.
Participants also cited lack of enforcement by DPNR on St. John and raised questions about how the proposed laundromat would dispose of wastewater and how many variances ultimately would be allowed on the site.
St. Thomas-St. John Senator Janelle Sarauw was one of the officials attending the May 8 meeting. Sarauw said the thought that DPNR would make a mistake in issuing a gas station permit and what would happen next made her cringe. Some suggested the agency would allow the variance to go through once public focus faded away.
Increased concern for allowing a gas station in that environment came after the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, when persistent rains undermined Centerline Road, which passes by the shopping center.
Whether lawmakers take the concerns already expressed into account as they prepare for the Oct. 10 meeting is uncertain. The legal notice inviting public comments to be submitted to lawmakers has received no response so far.
“(We) have not received any questions or comments from the public,” Legislature’s Assistant Executive Director Denise Hobson said Monday.
The rezoning meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Oct. 10 at the Cruz Bay Legislative Annex.
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