Developers have proposed building a 28-unit East Bay Beach Club on Parcel 6A-1 Estate Hansen Bay on the shore of East Bay, left, facing the British Virgin Islands. A paved road leads from the subdivision to the reminder shoreline lot, below.
Department of Planning and Natural Resources officials are expected to hand down this week a decision on a developer’s Group Dwelling Permit request for a large scale project on the quiet East End of St. John.
East Bay Holding Company LLC requested a Group Dwelling Permit in order to construct the 28-unit East Bay Beach Club on eight acres of land past Privateer Point at Parcel No. Remainder 6A-1 Estate Hansen Bay at East End Bay.
Plans for the development include construction of 16 three-bedroom and 12 four-bedroom units, with several one story units along the beach and the remaining two story units on the hillside, a clubhouse and a pool.
The property is zoned R-1 (residential-1) which allows for the construction of two units per each half-acre. East Bay Beach Club owner Mark Davies requested the Group Dwelling Permit in order to cluster the 28 units on one portion of his eight-acre parcel of land.
Davies owns a total of about 75 acres on the East End which are divided into 35 different lots of various sizes. In order to access the land, the New Jersey-based developer signed an easement agreement with the Privateer Home Owners Association, to the tune of $1 million. That agreement, according to many of the residents who attended a March 11 public hearing on the permit request, prohibited the construction of commercial and large-scale development.
The 60-member Privateer Bay Home Owners Association was represented at the March public hearing by Attorney Ron Pennington of Dudley, Topper and Feuerzeig, LLP, as well as by numerous residents who spoke on their own behalf as well.
“The easement agreement did not contemplate a cluster of homes,” said Pennington. “This will mimic a hotel and condo area which touches on the commercial prohibitions in the easement agreement.”
East End home owner and green architect Doug White was more blunt in his remarks.
“This is a text-book example of greed-driven development led by a proven failed developer,” said White. “This will become Sirenusa East.”
Other residents at that meeting questioned the capability of the East End’s roads, garbage disposal and electrical grid to handle a project on the scale of East Bay Beach Club.
“There is not enough power and we only have two dumpsters for the whole of East End,” said East End resident Jay Swarthly. “What will you do with your garbage? What about fuel and diesel for the generators?”
Other residents voiced concern over the impact the development would have on the sensitive environment on the East End.
“I didn’t hear any mention of water off-shore,” said Philip Stringer. “There are two forms of endangered corals, staghorn and elkhorn, there. The thicket of staghorn coral is the healthiest and largest I’ve seen anywhere in the Caribbean.”
“It’s a treasure,” said Stringer.
Following the March public hearing on the Group Dwelling Permit application, concerned residents had an additional three weeks to submit written testimony about the project.
DPNR officials have been in contact with Davies and expect to announce a decision on the Group Dwelling Permit application this week, according to DPNR Director of Coastal and Comprehensive Zone Planning Stuart Smith.
“We’ve sent the applicants a list of comments and questions to respond to already,” Smith said on Wednesday, April 30. “I suspect we’ll have our final decision next week.”
If DPNR’s CCZP Director denies the Group Dwelling Permit application, that is the end of the road for East Bay Beach Club under its current plans. If the application is approved, the project will then be subject to the St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee process, which the applicant has already started, according to Smith.
“If we deny the application there is no next step for the project the way it is drawn now,” he said. “If we grant the Group Dwelling Permit, they will go through the CZM process. They have gotten a good portion of the way through the CZM process already, but it had to wait for the Group Dwelling Permit decision.”
“If approved, the next step would be to move on to public hearings with the St. John CZM Committee,” said Smith.