DPNR’s Coral Bay Marina Permit Hearing Postponed Due to Heavy Rains

Wet weather last week resulted in rough seas for mariners, dangerous driving conditions and the cancellation of a much-anticipated public hearing concerning Coral Bay Marina LLC’s proposed marina project on Wednesday, June 20.

The St. John Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Committee public hearing was cancelled due to inclement weather, according to Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) spokesperson Jamal Nielsen.

“The hearing was canceled because of the weather,” said Nielsen. “CZM staff were unable to make it from St. Croix to St. John.”

No New Hearing Date Set
DPNR officials have not scheduled a new date for the public hearing yet. Once they do, however, officials are required to advertise that date in a newspaper of general circulation twice before the meeting.

The CZM committee’s decision meeting for the project, originally scheduled for July 20, will most likely be delayed as well. Usually decision meetings are 30 days after the public hearing. Once a new date is set for the hearing, DPNR officials will announce the date for the decision meeting, according to Nielsen.

Coral Bay Marina, headed by managing partner Robert O’Connor and represented by St. John attorney Brion Morrisette, has spent the past half-year attempting to complete their CZM major application.

After repeated requests to the developers for additional information, CZM deemed the application complete in April. The marina proposal calls for construction of buildings with office and retail space, a 116-slip marina, a reverse osmosis plant and a sewage treatment plant.

20-Year Lease Negotiated
The company has negotiated a 20-year lease for the property on which the development will be located, according to a published report.

When contacted, Morrisette refused to comment to St. John Tradewinds. There have also been rumors the planned marine sewage treatment facility is located on private property not zoned for such development.

CZM Commissioner Victor Somme did not return phone calls from St. John Tradewinds regarding zoning questions.

Renderings of the project, designed by Springline Architects LLC, show three buildings located on the approximately 1.5 acre site straddling Route 10. One of the buildings is a two-story “marina building,” designated for “mixed-use,” according to the plans.

A second building will house the marina workshops, boat lockers, utilities and a laundromat. The third building is for the marina office, showers, restrooms and manger’s apartment. The plans also include extensive parking, a marine pump-out facility and desalination plant.

The project also calls for extensive development of the submerged land off-shore from the waterfront site, encompassing almost four acres of the Coral Bay. Three main docks, each with a number of finger piers, jut out from the site as well as a marine fuel dock.

The submerged land is owned by the citizens of the Virgin Islands and held in trust by the V.I. Governor. The developers must negotiate a lease to use the submerged land for the marina itself.

Less Impact on Seabed
Plans for the marina were altered to eliminate dredging and minimize environmental impacts, Morrisette previously told St. John Tradewinds.

“We expect to eliminate dredging altogether,” Morrisette said in early-March. “The part of the dock that leads from the shore out has been lengthened. The slip areas and the functional part of the dock have been moved farther out, so we don’t have to dredge.”

The only impact on the seabed would be the installation of pilings for the dock, Morrisette added.

A number of residents, from members of the Coral Bay Community Council to University of the Virgin Islands scientist Dr. Barry Devine, shared concerns about the project with DPNR in written form during the public review period, which ended in early June.

Some Residents Express Concerns
Their concerns included the location of the marina and the feasibility of the marina business.

“The seaward marine docks are located in a shoreline that is buffeted by constant wind-driven waves,” wrote Devine. “No protection exists for hurricane-driven waves.”

“Docks would be destroyed and driven into the shoreside buildings and the adjacent mangrove community,” Devine added.

Citing the lack of a business plan for the marina, some of the written comments urged CZM to deny the application until more information is provided.

“The Coral Bay Community Council recommends that CZM require Coral Bay Marina, LLC to provide a significant amount of additional information to adequately address the requirements under the CZM law — or that the applicant voluntarily withdraw the application until such time as a real marina plan has been done that indicates what kind of a marina can be financially successful on this shoreline,” according to the community group’s written comments.

Length of Lease Not Questioned
The length of the since-reported 20-year lease the developers have on the native-owned properties involved in the proposal, a relatively short period of time for a major commercial project, was not questioned during the public comment period.

When contacted by St. John Tradewinds, Morrisette refused to comment on whether Coral Bay Marina has conducted a market study.

Nielsen did not comment on the issue, and Somme could not be reached for comment.

Another Marina Planned
Moravian Church officials have since confirmed they are planning to construct a marina in Coral Bay on their Estate Emmaus waterfront property across the bay from the Coral Bay Marina site, according to Reverend Errol Connor, superintendent of the Moravian Church, V.I. Conference.

“We are seeking to finalize discussions about building a marina,” Rev. Connor told St. John Tradewinds in mid-June.

St. John Tradewinds could not ask Morrisette about the impact of a second marina on the Coral Bay Marina project.