Empty Rhetoric or Better Solutions?


Thank you Mr. Lord, Mr. Hill, and Ms. Fahy for your letters and I appreciate the time you have taken to carefully respond with sincere concern. Yes, I agree with many of your reasonable points and willingly admit that there are many sites that are extremely difficult as well as see many designs that I would consider inappropriate.

Every day I see a growing disregard for the V.I. Code (and the law in general) so work with DPNR to enforce the laws as well as work to improve our quality of life and local construction practices. However, I differentiate between a project which violates our governing laws and a project which conflicts with my personal opinion because, while the law can be enforced, my subjective preferences (as you have pointed out) are irrelevant. That distinction has been missing from the majority of comments on the Bordeaux Mountain proposal and it certainly would have been more honest for other critics to simply state that they did not “like” the project instead of wrapping their personal concerns in the guise of true environmentalism or making statements and claims that are simply inaccurate.

Once you ignore the rumors and review the facts the debate on this project is not whether the design is legal (the permit approval was granted because the project complies with all laws and protects more natural resources than the typical neighbor) but boils down to people wanting to maintain the status quo.

While I may not agree with your conclusions, personal dissatisfaction is a reason I can understand and respect.

Unfortunately at some point in the future all the unprotected property on St. John will be developed and we must begin to come to grips with this harsh fact.

The majority of the island was and continues to be subdivided without forethought or concern for the natural environment and, as an unpleasant reality, includes no conditions beyond what is defined by basic property rights, zoning, and common laws. That means that unless we offer a better alternative, the vast majority of this land will be developed without public input or consideration. While you may not believe me I find this frustrating and want to improve environmental protection laws and strengthen enforcement before it is too late.

This goal does not conflict with my ideas of quality development because I see both careful construction and environmentalism as indicators of good design.

Given that everyone will someday build, I would be delighted if every St. John land owner adopted new covenants that addressed the many issues that plague our island’s growth and damage our community and natural resources. But, if this is to be fair, we would all need to adopt these new rules because what bothers me are critics that demand far more from their neighbors than they would of themselves.

So let’s see where we all really stand on the issue of development restrictions. If our outspoken architectural critics will agree to do the same, I would formally change the deed for my home to include the following restrictions that they have proposed for the Bordeaux project and all future development. In fact, if the community is really serious, perhaps everyone will adopt these restrictions for all their land and homes (no matter the zoning) right now and begin a neighborhood enforcement program to ensure your neighbor’s full compliance with your ideas. The new restrictions are as follows:

1. Limit development to natural slopes of less than 30 degrees with all steeper property considered “unbuildable.” All existing homes on such a slope or steeper shall be removed so as to comply, returning half the island to nature.

2. Limit the height of all buildings to thirty-five feet (35’-0”). Because current code definitions are too “vague,” the story count shall be replaced by height and all existing homes shall be appropriately “trimmed” as to comply, returning a quarter of the island to nature.

3. All designs must be approved by their adjoining neighbors as well as a majority of their neighborhood. All existing homes seen not to be “compatible with the neighborhood” shall be modified so as to comply or be removed, eliminating the last of the homes on our island.

So, if you really are serious, either adopt your own restrictions or sit down with those of us who are proposing alternatives so as to consider better ideas that will make noticeable differences to our environment. We all agree that St. John needs a new direction in development but, if your concerns are only expressed as inaccurate complaints and empty suggestions that even you would not accept, your credibility is lost and we are no closer to a feasible option to our increasing and uncontrolled development. That will not be good for St. John.

A. Michael Milne, AIA, barefoot architect, inc.