Legislative Committee Hears Rezoning Proposals, Residents Against Grande Bay

About 50 people filled the St. John Legislature building on Monday evening, August 29 for a Committee of the Whole meeting which heard three requests for changes to the St. John zoning map. Most people were present to testify vehemently against the proposal by the developers of Grande Bay Resort, Bay Isles Associates LLLP, who are requesting to rezone two parcels adjacent to their Cruz Bay waterfront property from W-1 (Waterfront-Pleasure) to R-4 (Residential-Medium Density) and to obtain a use variance to allow for the operation of a restaurant and sundry shop. Grande Bay Requests Rezoning Developers of Grande Bay Resort have permits to construct a 48-unit condominium complex and are requesting the zone change to bring the two small parcels in question, 3 Abc and 3 Aac Cruz Bay, into compliance with the surrounding lots which are zoned R-4; and to allow for the construction of 14 additional units, which are already contracted, and a reception building, according to the architect for the project John Bedminster. “If the properties are not re-zoned the reception building can’t be built because it’s on two parcels,” said Bedminster. “One key reason for the re-zoning is to consolidate the property.” The current W-1 designation allows for the construction of a restaurant and sundry shop but only allows for construction of four of the 14 additional and pre-sold condominium units. The developers are also requesting a use variance to allow the operation of a restaurant and sundry shop on the property once it is rezoned to R-4. All 62 of the units have been sold with a contingency clause for the rezoning, ranging in price from $395,000 to $1.2 million, according to Kelly Frye, construction manager and a limited partner in Bay Isle Associates, LLLP. The Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Division of Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning Director Marjorie Emanuel recommended granting the re-zoning and the variance requests to be consistent with other parcels in the area. Fourteen residents and neighbors in the area testified in opposition to the rezoning request citing congestion, water pollution and noise pollution caused by the development. Residents, Neighbors Object “The developers assured us that our view would be preserved but they are going to build a 35 foot wall right in front of us,” said Liza Trey, granddaughter of legendary island resident Ivan Jadan, who owns a home directly above the development. Local architect Rob Crane questioned what the community would get in return for granting the increased density of the development. “The real reason for this is profits; they will make more money and that’s what it’s all about,” said Crane. “What are we getting in return for the tax on our water system, further burdens on our power system and putting sewage into our sewage system which all adds to burdens on St. John — we need something in writing.” “I understand all of the concerns; I’m very sincere when I say that we want to be good neighbors,” said Frye. “We want to invest in the community and be here for the long haul.” Other residents spoke about silt run-off into Cruz Bay harbor which has resulted in an accumulation of algae in the area and noise pollution from the construction which lasts until late in the evening. Senate President Lorraine Berry had a difficult time keeping order during the formal proceedings as most of the testifiers garnered applause from the audience who largely oppose the rezoning. Senators Mostly Undecided Most of the 11 senators present at the meeting expressed indecision about the development except for Senator at Large Craig Barshinger. “I am not going to give my thumbs up on this one,” said Senator Barshinger. “The key thing is to tie the developer’s future to St. John’s future; if we allow them to build and then leave in three years we’ll have been hoodwinked.” The senators, some of whom are unfamiliar with the area, plan to tour the construction site in the future to get a better understanding of the area in question and promised to further investigate the matter before the request goes before the senate in mid-to-late September. Senator Berry read a letter from Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen who expressed her opposition to the project as well. “I take the side of the many residents that I have spoken to and hope that the legislature denies the request in order to restore some degree of balance,” according to Delegate Christensen’s letter. Iguana Nest Commercial Building Brian Smith proposed a much less controversial zone change request for parcel 5C, Estate Adrian, Cruz Bay quarter from R-1 (Residential-Low Density) to C (Commercial) to construct a small commercial building about the same size as Meada’s Plaza on one acre of land. “I don’t intend to over-power the area and I have spoken to all of the my neighbors who are behind me all the way,” said Smith. “This would be a 70 foot long by 30 foot wide, West Indian type of structure with a hip roof and stone front.” The two-story building would be located of Centerline Road near George Simmonds Terrace and provide 32 parking spaces. DPNR’s Emanuel recommended that a use variance, not a rezoning, be granted to allow for a convenience store, a boutique and light professional-type businesses. Most of the senators agreed to support DPNR’s recommendation except Senator Celestino White who chided Smith for agreeing to a use variance instead of going for the rezoning. “You own property and the government is telling you what you can do with it; you should be crying,” said Senator White. “Don’t genuflect, you stick with what you are requesting.” However, confusion arose as to whether Smith was requesting a C designation, as outlined in the senate agenda, or a B-3 (Business-Scattered) zone. Senator Barshinger agreed to sponsor Smith’s rezoning request at the next legislative session. Local Restaurant in Grunwald At the end of the long meeting, which ran past 10:30 p.m., senators heard Jacqueline Jacobs’ request to change parcel 5 Grunwald, Cruz Bay Quarter from R-3 (Residential-Medium Density) to B-3 (Business-Scattered) to operate a restaurant specializing in West Indian food on the half-acre lot. “We have 253 signatures from individuals in the area who support this restaurant,” said Jacobs’ husband Carlyle Penn, who spoke on her behalf. DPNR’s Special Reviewer Analyst C. Randolph Boschulte recommended a use variance be granted to allow the construction of a restaurant. Senator Barshinger was the only one who questioned the proposal and was assured that off-street parking and delivery could be accommodated.