Group Dwelling Is Not Inherent Legal Right


I have read the Tradewinds article about the Bordeaux Group Dwelling Permit and the letter from Michael Milne, and have a few comments.

First, Mr. Milne claims that the owners have a legal right to develop their property. Fine.  However, the legal right they had at the time they bought their property was to develop it in conformance with the zoning of that property at that time, which did not include Group Dwelling. 

I assume that the zoning at the time of purchase was the same as most of the other lots in the area, 1/2 acre single family or such. Therefore, the legal right the developer presumably had was to build single family homes. The developers never had an inherent legal right to build a Group Dwelling; instead they had a right to apply for a Group Dwelling Permit through the proper channels. Which they did. 

And the citizens in the neighborhood, and indeed throughout St. John, had an equal right to sign and submit petitions, contact elected officials, attend public hearings, testify against the proposal, etc. Which they did. This was a proper action by the community, and should never be questioned.

So, I don’t understand whose legal rights are being violated here. Certainly not the developer’s.  In fact, the developer’s legal rights were enhanced by the granting of the Group Development Permit.  And the legal rights of the neighbors in the area were lessened by that granting.

Second, it is my opinion that some developers and architects interpret the building codes to suit themselves to the detriment of St. John. For example, my old neighborhood at the outskirts of Cruz Bay had zoning which included a height restriction of three-stories. 

This was for a reason — to preserve the character of the neighborhood and to prevent overly tall structures from blocking ocean views. In spite of this, two condominium buildings were constructed — each with a cistern story, a basement story, and three living stories. 

Total five stories, but only three of them counted as “legal” stories. And the long-time neighbors across the street helplessly watched as their beautiful ocean view was blocked.

If the same type of buildings are being planned for Bordeaux, with the addition of “mezzanines,” they will be very tall, and certainly the only ones of their type in the area. They would thus correctly be called out of character for the neighborhood, as people have labeled them. 

Although these are allegedly “legal,” another interpretation would be to call them too tall and out of place. For example, Grande Bay, designed by the same architect, has a similar number of stories and mezzanines, and the over-riding public opinion on St. John is that it is too tall.

Finally, there is a huge difference between being “legal” and being “good for St. John.” It seems that a vast majority of people, especially in the Bordeaux neighborhood but also throughout St. John, are firmly against these buildings, while only a very small amount of people, including an architect and developer, are in favor of them.

It may be legal to build something, but another test should always be — “Is it good for St. John?”

Gerald Hills,
Coral Bay

Editor’s Note: Hills is a member of the St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee.