On a small island like Love City, it’s difficult to get away with anything, especially illegal construction activity.
The Department of Planning and Natural Resources issued Reliance Housing Foundation a verbal cease and desist order on Wednesday, January 10, for illegally commencing construction at their Calabash Boom site after contractors were given two days to clean up the area and install silt fences.
Reliance was granted a major Coastal Zone Management permit on December 28, 2005, to construct a $24.8 million, 72-unit affordable housing development in Estate Calabash Boom.
Special Conditions Not Met
The permit included a number of special conditions that Reliance officials were required to comply with before beginning construction. Some of those conditions were obtaining water and air quality certificates from the Division of Environ-mental Protection, submitting a spill contingency plan and obtaining all necessary permits for intake and outfall pipes for the planned reverse osmosis facility.
Although none of those specific conditions had been met by Tuesday, January 9, residents in the Calabash Boom area noticed that construction had already begun at Reliance’s site.
The St. John CZM Committee was informed of the activity and members held a telephone conference on Tuesday evening to address the problem.
“There are several special conditions that have to be completed before they start construction,” said St. John CZM Committee member Gerald Hills. “The community noticed that construction had begun and we immediately sent people out to do an inspection. We didn’t have someone on the site monitoring it because they weren’t supposed to have started construction yet.”
CZM and DPNR staff members visited the Calabash Boom site on Wednesday morning, January 10, and Reliance was given two days to clean up the site. The issue was under review by DPNR officials who expected to issue an offical cease and desist order on Tuesday, January 16.
No Comment from Jackson
When contacted by St. John Trade-winds, Reliance president Robert Jackson declined comment.
While some of the special conditions included in Reliance’s permit are routine, like air and water quality certificates, the developer has not complied.
Another major factor is the lack of a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the intake and outfall pipes for the planned reverse osmosis facility.
ACOE Deactivates Application
In a letter dated March 8, 2006, the Chief of ACOE’s Antilles Regulatory Section in Puerto Rico, Sindulfo Castillo, deactivated Reliance’s application.
“On March 6, 2006, we received information from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Division of Coastal Zone Management indicating that the design of the proposed intake and discharge pipelines had been considerably modified,” stated Castillo in the letter. “Please be advised that said modifications would also alter the nature and scope of our evaluation of your proposal. There-fore, the referenced Department of Army permit application is hereby withdrawn from processing.”
While the deactivation of Reliance’s application did not prejudice future requests, ACOE officials have not had any correspondence from the developer since March, according to ACOE spokesperson Elsa Jimenez.
“We never heard from them (Reliance) again after the March letter — there is nothing else in the file,” said Jimenez. “If they want to reactivate their application, they need to let us know.”
R/O Plans Questioned
Since there has been no action on the necessary ACOE permit, some residents have been wondering if Reliance will alter their plans and scrap the plans for a reverse osmosis facility.
Reliance, which was also behind Bellevue Village on Gift Hill, plans to construct eight six-unit rental apartment buildings and 12 for sale duplex townhomes on the roughly eight-acre site in Estate Calabash Boom.
Reverse osmosis and waste water treatment facilities were also included in the original plans, with intake and outflow pipes to be buried at Johnson’s Bay.
It remains unclear whether those facilities will still be included in the construction plans for the affordable housing community.