Open forum: The Debate on Rezoning Residential Property to Industrial Use Continues

The Virgin Islands Senate in session Wednesday. (V.I. Legislature photo)
The USVI Senate in session in 2020. (V.I. Legislature photo)

How did we get here?

The issue of rezoning two parcels across from Pueblo Golden Rock in St. Croix from residential/business to industrial is being widely debated — and that is a good thing. We stand at a point in time and can choose which way to go. There are many questions.

Do we allow this rezoning to go ahead only to see it happen in other residential neighborhoods? Do we look the other way and allow individuals to proceed with development even if it’s not in the proper area because they spent money on it? Do we disregard the recommendations of our own DPNR and blame them for the situation? If one does not live adjacent to the site in question, are you allowed to care?

During the Legislative Session last week Friday (4/14/23) Senate President Novelle Francis Jr. summed the situation up accurately by saying, “As a government, I believe we have failed to at least properly advise this individual prior to all of this work being done and this money being expended to do this.”

So true. However, he voted for the rezoning to go ahead. Two senators, Marise C. James and Alma Francis Heyliger were strong enough to vote “No.” Thank you to these honorable senators.

Where do we go?

Right now, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) is creating a Comprehensive Land & Water Use Plan or CLWUP, and they are asking for input. This plan sets a shared vision for the USVI!s future and a guide for how we can get there. Take time to share your ideas on the website — thinking of what we should preserve, strengthen or transform. Everyone has a place at the table. I want to see a beautiful plan, along with strong enforcement. Financial penalties that mean something.

We can utilize AARP’s 8 Domains of Livability framework that is used by many towns, cities, counties and states enrolled in the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities to organize and prioritize our planning to create more livable communities for people of all ages.

What’s good for an 8-year-old is good for an 80-year-old! Safe housing, nearby outdoor spaces, reliable public transportation and walkability, health services, social participation, respect and social inclusion, communication and employment.

Let’s make the Pueblo Golden Rock area a more livable community, not less livable. Be part of creating the new Land and Water Use Plan!

Let’s take zoning out of the Legislature. DPNR should be the entity that handles zoning from start to finish with a review board if needed.

Let your senators and Gov. Bryan know what you think! They are paid to represent you.

And have a beautiful Earth Day weekend.

Barbara Walsh of St. Croix