New Cruz Bay Parking Garage on Road to Reality

Site of proposed parking garage at Cruz Bay tennis courts.

A $200,000 appropriation from the St. John Capital Improvement Fund for a parking garage with tennis courts on the top level at the present site of the public tennis courts and Inspection Lane in Cruz Bay was approved by the V.I. Legislature October 5.

St. John Senator at Large Craig Barshinger had requested $2 million from the General Fund for the project. The 26th Legislature passed legislation spending a total of more than $76 million in the Omnibus Authorization Act of 2006 when it convened in regular session on St. Thomas. “I put in a request for $2 million for St. John to come from the extra $60 million in the General Fund,” said Senator at Large Craig Barshinger.

“The senate majority, without any consultation, took the request from $2 million to $200,000 and changed the bill so that the funds come from the St. John Capital Improvement Fund,” Sen. Barshinger added. Most of the appropriations within the bill will be spent with monies in the General Fund, which contains nearly $60 million of unanticipated revenues, according to Sen. Barshinger.

The $200,000 appropriation is enough money to place the idea of a multi-leveled parking garage on the road to reality, but will not even begin to cover construction costs, according to the Senator at Large. “I am out there fighting for St. John because it has serious needs,” said Sen. Barshinger. “The majority senators do not understand the severity of the St. John parking crisis.” “I am happy to get the $200,000, don’t get me wrong, but I put in for $2 million which would allow the construction of a multi-level parking structure in Cruz Bay near Inspection Lane with tennis courts on top of the parking structure,” said Sen. Barshinger.

Five Point Parking Plan
The Senator at Large said the parking structure is part of his five point plan to solve the parking problem in Cruz Bay. Point one, towing away the derelict vehicles in Cruz Bay, has already been completed. Preventing Cruz Bay building owners and developers from violating the parking requirements outlined in Virgin Islands codes is the second component of the plan.

“Building permits are issued without adequate parking required by V.I. Code, and a poster child for that is the new Dockside building that has no parking – there are a few spaces but they are not of adequate size,” said Barshinger. “The owners violated the law and didn’t put in adequate parking and look at the results.”

In the near future, the island will have its own committee of St. John residents who will be charged with the task of examining each and every building to ensure every building in Cruz Bay has the required parking spaces that are specified on each building’s permit, according to the Senator at Large.

“Many of the people who are violating the parking rules of the Virgin Islands come from the United States in communities where these violations would never be permitted, but they come here and violate the problems – shame on them,” said Sen. Barshinger. Enforcing the laws will prevent Cruz Bay’s parking problem from getting worse, he added.

Building a multi-level parking structure in Cruz Bay at the current location of the tennis courts is point three of Sen. Barshinger’s five-point plan. An in-town golf cart-style shuttle which will transport passengers from their parked cars all around town and back is the fourth component of the parking plan. “People will only have to park once and jump on the shuttle, which will be paid for by businesses or cost 50 cents at the most to ride,” said Sen. Barshinger. “Point five is to enjoy our town again – we want to love Cruz Bay for what it is.”

Proposed Plaza Opposition
The St. John Community Foundation wrote to V.I. Governor Charles W. Turn-bull requesting a meeting to discuss what the community wants to see happen, which is to build a parking garage by the Inspection Lane – and to stop the proposed parking garage and vendor’s plaza from moving forward, according to local architect Rob Crane.

Many residents feel that the long-debated approximate $3 million, two-story, 86-space parking garage and vendor’s plaza which has been in the planning stages to be constructed across from the current barge dock in the Cruz Bay creek for the past decade, is no longer a viable option.

“We are still pushing the parking garage at the tennis courts,” said Crane, who said the cost would be less than the proposed parking garage and vendor’s plaza. “The net gain on parking at the proposed vendor’s plaza is in the neighborhood of 40 to 50 cars whereas the net gain at the parking garage is well over 200 cars and will probably cost less money than the vendors plaza,” said Crane. “What we need is a solution to the parking problem and I don’t think 40 to 50 parking spaces will make a dent in Cruz Bay.” “And it is in the wrong location,” he added.

St. John Administrator Julien Harley said the status of the proposed parking garage and vendor’s plaza is still unknown, but that he will be meeting to discuss the issue with government officials from Property and Procurement and Keith Richards, assistant to the governor for capital projects. “We are putting the meeting together as soon as possible to sit down and discuss the issue,” said Harley. “We will reach a consensus one way or another, but we have to look at it holisticly.” Once a decision is reached, the public will be notified, according to the St. John Administrator.