Rezoning Requests Could Bring New Businesses to St. Croix

A dilapidated, one-time car wash currently sits on Centerline Road in between two properties with large commercial structures. (Photo from Clarence Brown)

Two separate requests to rezone properties from residential to business-scattered were well received by the Senate during Monday’s Committee of the Whole hearing, and should they be accepted by the Senate, they could spur new business growth.

One plot would be used for a car wash and convenience store, and the other plot is planned to be the site for a barbershop, law firm office and retail store.

Plot No. 1AEA Estate Diamond, Queen Quarter, on St. Croix sits just north of Sunny Isle Shopping Center and is currently the site of an unsightly, abandoned car wash. Should the request be granted the applicants plan to build a new car wash and convenience store. The new structures would sit adjacent to an existing strip mall and commercial building.

Architect Clarence Browne represented property owner Maurice Thomas and additional applicant MacGarvey Henry at Monday’s hearing.

“The car wash has been zoned an R-1 in the ’70s despite being a car wash in the ’60s. It’s been owned by the Thomas family the entire time. The previous car wash went out of business and the grandfather clause expired,” Browne said.

Now the Thomas family is seeking permission to get the car wash back up and running by first zoning it appropriately and then demolishing the old car wash before building a new automated car wash complete with parking, single-story convenience store and vacuuming stations.

The eastern side of a building that sits on a property in need of rezoning before being utilized as rental space for small businesses. (Photo from DPNR application)

Owners of Plot No. 39A Street, Frederiksted, also requested the property be rezoned from R-4, residential-medium density, to B-3, business-scattered, with the intent of utilizing the property’s existing structure as rental units for as many as three small businesses.

One of the two property owners, Larry Miller, said during the public hearing held earlier this year by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources that, pending the acceptance of the rezoning request, they would like to make the building available for his son’s barbershop. Additionally, a law firm would likely rent one of the spaces in the short term and, in the future, Miller said it could be available for retail or event rentals.

The site is located near the Frederiksted Post Office and Seventh-day Adventist Church, where the surrounding area contains properties historically used for both commercial and residential purposes.

During the department’s public hearing held early this year, one resident expressed concern that if the property is rezoned, a bar could be put in one of the rental spaces.

While senators supported the request in general, saying it would supply a facility to suit the needs of a handful of St. Croix entrepreneurs, they too did not wish to see “disruptive businesses” in the vicinity of a church.

“I have the same concerns as my colleagues,” Sen. Athneil “Bobby” Thomas said. “I hope whatever investment is done on that facility, it is not a distraction or disturbance to the surrounding residents or businesses.”

Also during Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, a Major Coastal Zone Management Permit that has already been issued to LICA Holding Corporation brought testifiers before the Senate in hopes to renew the permit for 20 years.

No action was taken by the Senate on the requests during the hearing.