The St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee voted to slap Reliance Housing Foundation with a formal cease and desist order on Tuesday evening, January 16, for illegally starting construction at the developer’s Calabash Boom site.
Reliance was granted a major CZM permit in December 2005, to construct a $24.8 million, 72-unit affordable housing project.
Reliance’s permit was contingent upon the developer complying with a number of special conditions including furnishing CZM officials with air and water quality certificates, submitting a spill contingency containment plan and obtaining all necessary territorial and federal permits for the intake and outfall pipes for the reverse osmosis plant.
Although Reliance had not furnished any of the certificates or permits, a work crew began construction on their roughly nine-acre site on Tuesday, January 9.
Despite being issued a verbal cease and desist order on Wednesday, January 10, construction continued at the site until Tuesday, January 16, when the St. John CZM Committee conducted a public hearing on an unrelated subdivision.
After that meeting, committee members went into executive session behind closed doors and voted to issue Reliance the formal cease and desist order, which was delivered on Wednesday morning, January 17, according to Department of Planning and Natural Resources spokesperson Jamal Nielsen.
“The cease and desist order was issued to Reliance for non-compliance with the special conditions of their permit,” said Nielsen. “The developer did not submit water and air quality certificates, their necessary permits for intake and outfall pipes for the reverse osmosis plant, or their spill contingency control plan, prior to the commencement of work.”
Facing a $10,000 a day fine for any work done at their Calabash Boom site, Reliance contractors seem to have halted work, according to neighbors in the area who did not hear construction activity as of Thursday, January 18.
Reliance president Robert Jackson declined to comment on the issue.
“We have pending litigation, so I can’t talk about this,” said Jackson.
Although Jackson did not elaborate on the legal action against his company, he is facing an action for declaratory and injunctive relief by a group of Coral Bay residents, visitors and property owners.
Temporary Restraining Order Sought
The suit is being brought by a group called “Friends of Coral Bay,” who have recently written letters to local newspaper editors outlining serious environmental concerns about Reliance’s project. Friends of Coral Bay is represented by Attorney Alan Smith.
“I represent individuals who are frequent visitors as well as people who are residents of the area, and people who use the waters and enjoy the waters and the marine life and appreciate the marine resources of the Virgin Islands,” said Smith.
“The action is a declaration that Reliance is in violation of various local and federal statutes and we are requesting a temporary restraining order to prevent Reliance from doing anything further on that project until it comes into compliance with these federal and local laws which require them to have certain permits,” Smith said.
After hearing testimony on Friday, January 19, Chief District Court Judge Curtis Gomez said he would wanted more information before ruling on the matter Friday, January 26.
Reliance Housing attorney Treston Moore told Gomez a temporary restraining order was not necessary because the CZM had already stopped work on the project on wednesday.