Senate Overrides deJongh’s Sirenusa Zoning Variance Veto

Sirenusa workers pose next to an almost finished building at their five acre site.

The 27th Legislature of the V.I. wasted no time overriding Governor John deJongh’s veto of the controversial Sirenusa zoning variance bill on Tuesday morning, May 29.

The senate originally approved Enighed Condominium LLC’s request to construct seven additional units — adding another story on two buildings — at its five acre $35 million luxury condominium site overlooking Cruz Bay on April 17.

DeJongh sent his veto down on May 10, one day before the deadline to take action on the bill.

May 29 was the first scheduled legislative session since deJongh signed the bill’s veto and the senators got right down to business. Around 11:15 a.m., following various committee reports, veteran St. Thomas/St. John District Senator Celestino White introduced a bill to consider an override of deJongh’s veto.

St. Thomas/St. John District Senator Louis Hill was the lone dissenting vote, with St. Croix District Senator Terrence “Positive” Nelson abstaining. All other senators, including St. Johnian Senator at Large Carmen Wesselhoft, voted in favor of the override consideration.

White then introduced the override itself and all senators, except Hill, voted in favor of the override without any debate on the issue.

While only 10 votes were needed for the override, the final vote was 14 in favor of overriding the governor’s veto, with Hill dissenting.

The senate’s original approval came despite objections to the zoning variance from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources and the V.I. Legislature’s legal counsel.

In his veto, deJongh raised questions regarding the bill’s legality and dubbed the action a “disregard of existing law.”

“While the proposal may have some beneficial economic benefits, the Virgin Islands Zoning Code requirements were dispensed with, thus depriving parties of due process and demonstrating a disregard of existing law which my Administration cannot condone,” deJongh wrote in a letter to V.I. Senate Usie Richards accompanying his veto.

“Specifically, and without limitation, the suggested zoning variance contained in this Bill is not authorized by an provisions of the zoning laws of the Virgin Islands,” according to deJongh’s letter.

The additional units were needed, however, to make the project financially feasible, explained Enighed Condominiums owner Carlo Marzano.