With all the excitement over the January announcement of a new site for the relocation of the island’s U.S. Post Office, St. John residents and U.S. Postal Service representatives seem to have forgotten one detail — the new site, located across from Enighed Pond where a car wash is currently located, is not zoned for a post office.
The process to move the St. John post office out of its current overcrowded, inadequate location, has been a long one, and obtaining a rezoning or variance at the new site could extend the process even further.
Postal services are allowed under commercial and business zoning, but not under residential zoning. The Boynes family-owned site is zoned R-4.
New Site Announced
After months with no word on a timeline for the completion of the vendors plaza and parking garage, it was announced in January 2007 that plans to relocate the post office to the vendors plaza had been scrapped, and the new site near Enighed Pond had been chosen.
At a January 2007 town meeting, USPS officials admitted their frustrations with the V.I. government.
“We had zero communication,” said Pino. “We had public meetings with all sorts of promises. We’re not sure the vendors plaza will ever get built.”
The new plans, designed by St. Thomas-based Trinity Architectural Services, call for a three-story building that the Boynes family will construct.
The lower floor will provide nearly 6,000 square feet for the post office, the second floor will provide anywhere from 12 to 15 parking spaces for post office customers and the third floor will be reserved for office space for the Boynes family.
One St. John resident congratulated USPS officials for making progress.
“Congratulations on moving forward this way and not waiting for the vendors plaza,” he said.
No Mention of Need To Rezone
Although residents were happy with the new location, there was no mention at the meeting of the need to obtain a variance or even rezone the site, and there have been no more updates on the new post office from USPS officials.
The relocation of the post office has been an ongoing issue for several years.
The original location proposed for the post office was the ill-fated vendors plaza and parking garage at the Creek in Cruz Bay.
As of May 2006, a lease agreement was worked out between the V.I. government, which was going to construct the building, and the U.S. Postal Service, which can only move into existing locations.
“Two to three weeks ago we came to an agreement for a lease,” said Keith Richards, assistant to then-Governor Charles Turnbull at a May 2006 town meeting. “We have to work out the fine details for the construction arrangement. The contractor has been chosen, and the facilities will be built to post office specifications.”
Less than a month later, plans for the parking garage and vendors plaza were drastically changed.
The vendors space was greatly reduced, and the plans revealed at a June 2006 town meeting called for a 6,500-square-foot post office on the first floor, along with 16 parking spaces; 22 parking spaces and 1,000 feet of vendors space on the third floor; and 50 parking spaces on the third floor.
The changing of the plans raised the attention of then-Senator at Large Craig Barshinger, who was told by Richards that a petition with more than 1,000 signatures against the waterfront structure could not be taken into account because the plans were already in place.
Tensions Between USPS and V.I. Govt.
“There is a glaring inconsistency in what Keith Richards has been saying to us,” Barshinger said in June 2006. “He told the 1,000-plus signers of the petition that the plan couldn’t be changed because it had gone too far. Then here, midstream through the whole thing, after he said everything was a done deal, he’s completely changed the plan.”
Tensions between Richards and U.S. Postal Service representatives were first evident at the June 2006 town meeting, when a disagreement over parking arose.
“Everything will be paid parking,” said Richards at the meeting.
USPS real estate manager Thomas Pino objected to Richards’ statement.
“That is not paid parking,” said Pino at the 2006 meeting. “There will be no fee charged to the public. We will work that out later.”
Richards offered to allow the USPS to lease parking spaces to provide free parking to its customers.