Residents upset with the V.I. Legislature’s approval of Sirenusa’s zoning variance have not quieted and continue to wage a campaign aimed at getting Governor John deJongh to veto the bill.
On April 17 the senate voted 13 to 1 — against the recommendations of both the legislature’s legal counsel and the Department of Planning and Natural Resources — to change the almost five-acre Estate Enighed site from R-2, residential low-density, to R-3, residential medium-density.
The zoning change was approved with a variance which allows the developer, Enighed Condominiums LLC, to only raise the height of three existing buildings, in order to accommodate seven additional units.
The move increases the number of dwelling units from 40 to 47 but does not allow for any additional buildings to be constructed at the $35 million hillside project overlooking Cruz Bay.
Bill Not Approved by Legal Counsel
The bill was not approved for legal sufficiency, according to the legislature’s legal counsel, who categorized the zoning variance as an act of illegal spot zoning, according to the legal draft.
The bill “has not been approved for legal sufficiency, because a variance from the R-2 zoning designation to the R-3 zoning designation does not exist in law or in fact, creates an impossibility of application, is vague and ambiguous, unwarranted, arbitrary and capricious and flies in the face of reasonableness,” according to the legal note. “It does not fit within either of the two types of variances established in the zoning law. Moreover, it could be construed as granting R-3 status to the entire 4.89 acres, which could have adverse consequences.”
Charge of Illegal Spot Zoning
“The bill proposes to treat the subject parcel like no other similar parcel has been treated, invoking the charge of illegal spot zoning,” the note continued.
Despite this attachment to the bill, senators voted overwhelmingly to approve the bill in an unscheduled, last minute motion introduced by St. Thomas/St. John district Senator Celestino White.
The lone dissenting vote came from St. Thomas/St. John district Senator Louis Hill.
After word of the vote spread across the island, residents quickly began calling for a gubernatorial veto.
St. John Coalition Leads Opposition
Members of the grassroots group St. John Coalition, led by Sirenusa steering committee chairs Katie and Don Porter who are also neighbors to Sirenusa, have been urging residents to call, fax or email Government House and request deJongh’s veto on the bill.
DeJongh has reportedly received more than 200 letters and phone calls urging he veto the bill.
St. John Coalition members have also been circulating petitions for the past five months and are hoping to garner at least 1,000 signatures, according to Don Porter.
DeJongh Has Short Window for Action
The governor has 10 days from the date on which the bill is forwarded to his desk to veto it. If the bill is vetoed, it goes back to the senate which can override deJongh’s veto with 10 approval votes. If the governor takes no action on the bill within 10 days of receiving it, the bill will become law.
DeJongh had not received the bill as of Wednesday, April 25, according to published reports.
Government House spokesperson John Greaux did not return repeated phone calls from St. John Tradewinds requesting comment by press time.