Residents are worried that a new construction site on North Shore Road, above, could cause serious damage to sensitive V.I. National Park resources.
Gabion baskets have given way on the road to the new construction site, reportedly prompting a change to the use of concrete walls instead.
North Shore neighbors and St. John residents were worried about a new construction site rising on an undisturbed knoll high above Hawksnest and Oppenheimer Beach even before contractors reportedly removed century-old trees on V.I. National Park land.
The construction site is accessed by an old road in Estate Susanna-berg that begins near Cheyenne’s Heavy Equipment on Centerline Road and ends near Peace Hill on North Shore Road. After years of no use, the road was reopened by Department of Public Works with little fanfare and no public announcement several months ago.
The construction site is located on about an acre of land in Estate Denis Bay, on Denis Bay Parcel 2-A and Parcel 2-B. The owner of the project has been identified as interior designer to the stars, architect Anthony Ingrao, who owns Ingrao Inc. with partner Randy Kemper. The two have designed homes, garden spaces and more for the likes of Goldie Hawn, Howard Stern, Donny Deutsch and Kim Cattrall and are based on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
“Not all our clients are billionaires; the other half are just normal millionaires,” Ingrao was quoted in an article on www.hamtons-magazine.com.
While the home will undoubtedly be designed to exacting standards, what has neighbors and residents worried is the impact on its surrounding environment.
The home site is surrounded on three sides by untouched VINP land and is located on a steep slope above pristine Hawksnest, Oppenheimer and Denis Bay beaches.
From the beginning stages of earthwork to actually changing the grading of the access road, the new construction has posed serious environmental threats, according to St. John attorney Raf Muilenburg who is familiar with the site.
“They’ve done a massive amount of earth work at the site,” said Muilenburg. “They haven’t just opened the road and made it smooth, they’ve widened it enormously. They’ve also graded the road and lowered it and changed the direction of water flow.”
“There has been an enormous amount of loose dirt and mud sitting up there for a long time, and all of that is just waiting for one of our big rain storms to come and wash right into pristine Hawksnest Bay and Denis Bay, not to mention Gibney and Oppenheimer beaches,” said Muilenburg.
Even if contractors made every effort possible, construction seems likely to impact the area. And several environmental impacts have already been reported.
“Several of their gabion baskets already collapsed and sent yards of dirt down the hill,” said Muilenburg. “If more of that were to happen, it would be enough to really damage the bays below. They were supposed to be paving it all by early April and now they say they’re at least several months away from that still due to the problems with the baskets.”
Construction at the site has also already encroached on VINP land and resources, Muilenburg said.
“The park tells us they’ve already encroached on park land in several areas, including with their gabion baskets,” Muilenburg said. “And when we had a moderate rain recently, enough water got between the dirt road and the loose fill in the gabion basket that the whole thing collapsed down into park land — apparently due to lack of engineering.”
VINP officials issued fines and cited the developers for the instance, explained Muilenburg, who added that workers continue to fix the gabion basket collapse.
“They say they’re in the process of fixing the basket collapse and they’re going to do a concrete wall instead,” said the St. John attorney. “But that is going to take months apparently, and in the meantime that could mean a terrible amount of runoff right into Denis Bay.”
The most shocking incident at the Denis Bay construction site, however, came about reportedly because Ingrao and Kemper wanted to expand their commanding view.
“From the survey we’ve seen, they’ve also cut into the ridge line behind the home — which is VINP land — apparently to cut off enough of it to open the view to the west, ” said Muilenburg. “They did that with no authorization whatsoever, and in doing so they also cut down a great deal of tall trees which were 100-plus years old on park land and on neighbors’ land.”
The site, while located adjacent to pristine VINP land and towering over sensitive VINP beaches below, is not part of Department of Planning and Natural Resource’s Tier 1, meaning plans were not scrutinized by the St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee.
There has been virtually no public input on this project and no information on the plans have been shared at a public forum by DPNR, DPW or any other government agency.