DPNR Issues Partial Cease and Desist Order to Sirenusa Over Plan Changes

Citing unapproved modifications to plans, the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) issued a partial cease and desist order to Sirenusa developers on Thursday, March 30, halting construction of several large buildings at the 40-unit luxury condominium project on a hillside site above Cruz Bay.

Letter Not Received, Then Found
DPNR Commissioner Dean Plaskett issued full cease and desist order on the project on Monday, March 27, after he had agreed to hold off on a stop work order pending receipt of a letter from Sirenusa representatives acknowledging the problems and voluntarily curtailing work at the site.

After DPNR’s official receipt of the letter was delayed, Plaskett determined the letter had in fact been received and partially lifted the cease and desist order allowing work on some portions of the project to proceed.

By Thursday, March 30, a cease and desist order remained in place for the two “Type A” buildings which would violate height restrictions in the R-2 zone in which the project is located. Sirenusa developers were allowed to continue work on the 11 other buildings at the five acre site.

Plans Modified Without Approval
Developers of Sirenusa had modified their plans without getting approval from DPNR, according to DPNR spokesperson Jamal Nielsen.

“It has been determined that the plans which were approved for the group dwelling permit were substantially different to those submitted for the building permits for the project,” he said. “No approval was given by DPNR for any modifications, and, or alterations made to the plans submitted for approval of the building permits.”

Sirenusa developers contended they had requested a modification, but DPNR officials disagreed.

No Modification Request Received
“They claimed that they had requested a modification, but our position is that we never received it,” said Plaskett. “Even if we did receive it though, the statute says that it has to be acted upon within 60 days.”

“If it is not, it does not mean that it was automatically approved,” Plaskett explained.

“They can’t just determine that the modification request was granted,” he added. “But that is what they presented to the building permit inspectors.”

Sirenusa is located in an area zoned R-2, which only allows for two-story buildings with a loft. Building specifications for the project, however, clearly show three- and four-story “Type A” buildings.

Buildings Violate Zoning Regulations
“Plans submitted were indisputably three and four stories,” said Nielsen. “The area is R-2 and three-story and four-story buildings will violate the zoning requirements.”

The modified plans decreased the number of buildings on the site, but not the density, Nielsen explained.

“Buildings were reduced from 29 to 13, but the scope of the project remained the same,” he said. “They were trying to consolidate these buildings, but they had no modifications. You can’t do that.”

Initially there were 18 “Type A” buildings, which were consolidated into two buildings. These are the buildings for which the cease and desist order was issued.

There were also significant changes to the planned clubhouse and gym, Nielsen added.

No Permit for Clubhouse Building
“The original approved plans called for the clubhouse and gym to be placed in multiple buildings along the lowest level of the site,” he said. “The developer consolidated those and put the clubhouse and gym into one building on another portion of the land.”

“There was no building permit issued for the clubhouse and gym,” Plaskett said.

Sirenusa developers have not begun construction of the gym and clubhouse building.

“They don’t have a permit for the gym building,” said Plaskett. “When they apply for the modifications to their group dwelling permit, they will include the gym building as well.”

Less Than Required Cistern Capacity
Cistern capacity at the site was also questioned by DPNR officials.

“The structure design may provide less than the required cistern capacity,” said Nielsen.

Sirenusa developers, however, allege that the V.I. Water and Power Authority will supply potable water to the multi-million dollar luxury-condominium project.

DPNR sent inspectors to the Sirenusa site after being alerted of problems from the Love City community, Nielsen added.

“They were doing things that the permit didn’t allow,” he said. “We were investigating thanks to concerned citizens and St. John Tradewinds. We went out and investigated and found that they were doing things that weren’t allowed by their permit.”

Further Modifications Possible
“There is a process for modifications and they didn’t follow the process,” Nielsen said. “They are aware that they may be required to further modify their plans and, or submit to the zoning change procedure.”

A zoning change request would require Sirenusa representatives to appear before the V.I. Senate for approval.