The discovery of an endangered plant species on Moravian Church-owned land slated for development has thrown a wrench into T-Rex St. John LLC’s plans for Coral Bay.
T-Rex president Cliff Pre-minger, the Superintendent of the V.I. Moravian Conference and church attorney Karl Purcell met with Emmaus Moravian Church congregation members on April 12 and revealed new possibilities for the planned development.
Following the church meeting, Preminger and the other officials met with Coral Bay Community Council members briefly, ex-plained CBCC president Sharon Coldren.
“In our short meeting they did not disclose their plans,” said Coldren. “We were able to introduce them to CBCC’s concerns for the environment and storm water. Their responsibility, and any developer’s responsibility, is to keep the bay clean.”
Prickly Ash Found
Originally, the developer signed a 99-year lease with church officials for five hillside acres and five waterfront acres in Coral Bay. Development plans initially included a marina, residential units and a commercial complex.
After a recent environmental assessment, however, the endangered plant prickly ash was discovered on about three of the five leased hillside acres, according to community members.
That discovery prompted the developer to alter its plans, according to Preminger.
“I have to go through all sorts of reports and assessments,” said Preminger. “In the course of doing those reports we determined there is prickly ash on a portion of the property that we were going to develop. There are two alternatives — one is to develop around the plant and the other is to relocate it and develop the property as it was intended.”
“So we are in the process of trying to figure out our best alternative,” Preminger continued.
Plans Hinge on Decision
Plans for the remaining seven acres of the property can not be determined until a decision is made regarding the land which contains the prickly ash, ex-plained Preminger.
“That decision affects everything else,” he said. “Until we make that decision, we can’t make decisions on the other portion of the land.”
After the April 12 church meeting, rumors spread that the developer had proposed to relocate the Guy Benjamin School, the Coral Bay Fire Station and the planned V.I. Police Depart-ment permanent Substation to another area of Moravian Church-owned land as well as develop the ball field.
No Decision Made
Although Preminger declined to comment on specific development plans, nothing has been finalized, he explained.
“No decision has been made on any of that,” Preminger said. “The conversation with the church members was in confidence. We were examining a bunch of different examples.”
“We don’t have a development plan,” he added.
T-Rex officials listened to church members’ concerns and will make changes accordingly, Preminger explained.
“The church members articulated their concerns,” he said. “The purpose of the meeting was to get their feedback as our partners, not to tell them what we were doing. We’re going to incorporate their concerns as much as possible.”
The Emmaus Moravian Church has been in Coral Bay for more than 200 years and congregation members will not allow developers to destroy the area, explained Alvis Christian, who has been going to the church since he was christened there.
Congregation Will Protect
“The church has been there for 200 plus years, and our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents went there,” said Christian. “We are not going to let anyone destroy or put the area really out of whack.”
“We have been here for more than 200 years and we have protected the area and we are going to continue to do so,” Christian added.
Dialogue between the developer and church members is positive, according to Christian.
“The members are engaged and there have been questions and discussions,” he said. “I’m quite confident that things are going to work out because this is not happening in a vacuum. There is input from all sides.”
The public should be patient and let the dialogue process between the Moravian Church and T-Rex continue, Christian explained.
“When it comes time for Department of Planning and Natural Resources hearings, then the entire community will have a chance to get involved in the process,” said Christian. “People should just be patient.”
Both parties are trying to avoid the spread of incorrect information throughout the community.
“The biggest problem is lots of half-baked information getting out to the public,” said Preminger.
“I am concerned with people spreading rumors and I just want to let people know that there is dialogue with the congregation and we have questions and concerns,” said Christian.
T-Rex officials will be back on island in the future to further discuss Coral Bay development plans, Christian explained.
“They came with a conceptual plan in terms of what they would like and they will come again,” he said. “They will take into account what the congregation said and show what changes have been made. We’ll continue to dialogue.”
In the end, the development plan should be acceptable to everyone, according to Preminger.
Creating Acceptable Plan
“The bottom line is we are in the process of trying to come up with a plan that is acceptable to us and our partner, the church,” the developer said. “Once we come up with the plan, we have to determine if it works from a regulatory point of view and an environmental point of view, then we have to present it to the public. We’re still in the first phase.”
“We’re hoping to come back to the church with a plan that will get them as excited as we are about the project,” said Preminger.