Residents at a Friday evening parking lot meeting listen to Nedal Salem, at right, who plans to construct a 24-hour gas station next to Greenleaf Commons on South Shore Road.
Residents who gathered in the Greenleaf Commons parking lot on Friday evening, November 12, to hear about a new planned development on the adjacent lot were mostly against the project.
Following a meeting at the Westin Resort and Villas last month, about 35 residents gathered in the parking lot on South Shore Road to hear Nedal Salem talk about his plans to construct a 24-hour gas station and convenience store.
Salem, principal of #481-1 Estate Chocolate Hole Realty Inc., stood just below his roughly .473-acre site located directly next to the Greenleaf Commons parking lot heading up the hill towards Jacob’s Ladder.
The area is zoned B-3, business scattered, which allows for the construction of a gas station among myriad other commercial uses.
The developer explained the need on St. John for a second gas station with expanded hours.
“There is a need for another gas station on St. John,” said Salem. “If the present one has mechanical or technical failures, you will have no gas on the island. It would also be good for competition.”
“Right now they have a monopoly,” Salem said.
Many residents, however, didn’t agree about the project’s location. The only gas station on the island, E & C Service Station, is about a half-mile away towards Cruz Bay.
“Logically it doesn’t make a lot of sense to put the gas station here,” said Philip Pickering. “I think we do need another gas station on the island, but not here.”
Pickering’s sentiment was echoed by many at the parking lot meeting, which also included Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Kent Bernier Jr., of the Environmental Protection Division’s water pollution control program, St. John Planner Stuart Smith and DPNR Attorney Dawn Henry.
The project calls for the construction of contained above ground tanks for gasoline storage, a four-car bay for gas pumping and a three-story building with a convenience store on the first level, two apartments on the second story and four apartments on the third floor.
The developers also plan to have a system designed for vapor recovery, so fumes would not be emitted into the air, Salem added.
Residents expressed concern over tanker trucks traversing the steep Jacob’s Ladder to deliver gas to the station, the steepness of the site itself and the added congestion the development would bring to the area.
Once resident firmly in favor of the project was Winnetta Boyd-Stapelton, who lives next door to the planned development.
“I live right here, this is my home,” she said. “We need this gas station. We need progress.”
DPNR officials took note of residents’ concerns and pledged to keep close eye on the project through its permitting process. The project is located in the island’s Tier 2 development site, which means it will not come under the scrutiny of the St. John Coastal Zone Management Commission.
While acknowledging that the area is properly zoned for a gas station, the proposed projects brings up the need for a master plan for the island, according to St. John Planner Smith.
“I think that this situation brings up the need in the future to consider a master plan and think about uses in proximity to residences,” said Smith.