In the wake of the V.I. Legislature’s passage of Sirenusa’s controversial zoning variance, a number of Love City residents have been making strong allegations regarding the luxury condominium project overlooking Cruz Bay.
The Senate voted 13 to 1 to approve a zoning variance for the 40-unit development from R-2, residential low-density, to R-3, residential medium-density, in order to construct seven additional units in three existing buildings on the lowest portion of the five-acre site.
The campaign against the development is being led by people who are determined to shut the site down, according to Sirenusa developer Enighed Condominiums LLC owner Carlo Marzano.
“You have so many things being said right now and a lot of the people have problems with the way development is taking place,” said Marzano. “There are people in this community who are emotionally and ideologically invested in seeing this project being shut down. And, failing to this end, they will say and do whatever is necessary to turn people against it.”
Truth Is Being Misrepresented
“These people have distorted the truth and the history of this project,” Marzano continued. “What they’ve said about how construction has been administered and how it is being administered today is incorrect. It is being misrepresented and being exaggerated and what has been said are fabrications.”
While several residents in the Estate Enighed area have alleged massive storm water runoff from the site, Sirenusa is not the only or the worst source of non-point source pollution in the area, according to Marzano.
“There is mitigation in place now and there is more coming,” he said about storm water runoff. “There are problems all over that hillside and all over St. John. We’re being blamed for stuff that isn’t on our site.”
Opponents Haven’t Been To Site
The residents who are determined to shut down the project have never even toured the site, Marzano explained.
“If the opposition wants to come up to our site and get the facts, they are welcome to,” he said. “We’ve asked them to do that and they haven’t come.”
Senators, on the other hand, did tour Sirenusa and based their decisions regarding the zoning variance in fact, added Marzano.
Senators Weren’t Coerced
“The people who are opposed to this project are organized and highly motivated,” he said. “They will do whatever they can and use as much misinformation as possible. The senators came to the site and they knew there were a lot of people against this project.”
“The senators looked at the facts and made their decision,” Marzano continued. “It was 14 to 1 — that is not a coerced decision.”
The only senator who did not tour the site was also the only senator who voted against the zoning variance, according to the Enighed Condo owner.
“Senator (Louis) Hill was commended for voting against the zoning but he never even came to site or spoke to me,” said Marzano. “The other senators who voted looked at both sides of the issue and looked at the facts. That is what it comes down to.”
Wesselhoft Should Be Lauded
Senator at Large Carmen Wesselhoft, who has suffered a backlash from her support of Sirenusa’s zoning variance, should be the one commended, according to Marzano.
“The future of St. John is about people like Senator Wesselhoft, who I think is very vested in the future of St. John,” he said. “She visited the site many times and weighed both the positives and negatives. It was a tough decision but she understood the issue and should be commended for it.”
“Senator Wesselhoft is an elected leader at large and is supposed to make difficult decisions like this to the best of her ability,” Marzano added.
Sirenusa is being blamed for bad construction practices which have occurred all over the island over the past 10 years, according to Marzano.
“Poster Child” for Island’s Problems
“The project has been made out to be the poster child of all that is bad with development and for that, any tactic — including lies and exaggeration — seems to be fair play,” he said. “I’m absolutely willing to have real dialogue with people who oppose this project but for them to wage war on this is incredibly negative for the island of St. John and the Virgin Islands in general.”
“This is not about this one project, this is about development on St. John,” Marzano continued. “This rezoning situation has frustrated the people of St. John and they are voicing their opposition to a decade of non-stop development on this island. And this project is suffering the brunt of that frustration.”
Sirenusa has not created the island’s infrastructure problems, the developer explained.
Stopping Project Will Not Fix Problems
“Infrastructure has been an issue that has been on the table now for probably a decade,” Marzano said. “If that is really the issue then there are other things that could be done. For example, we could have impact fees or have real a infrastructure plan that make sense.”
“To attempt to shut down a project when it’s more than half complete because you say you have infrastructure issues is an incorrect approach to solving problems,” he continued.
The seven additional units are needed at Sirenusa in order to restructure construction loans needed to complete the project — without which the site would have to close, explained Marzano.
“The negative impacts of shutting this project down would be overwhelming,” he said. “Besides the immediate loss of jobs and business to the island, you would have environmental issues because, in time, who would take care of erosion and drainage and safety issues at the site. The visual and environmental impacts would be awful.”
Shutting Site Would Hurt Island
“There are huge repercussions for what they perceive to be victory,” Marzano added.
Shutting down Sirenusa would hurt the island more than save it, according to the developer.
“Right now the way they are going about this is wrong,” said Marzano. “You should not try to close down projects once they’ve begun because that is scarring your island. It’s like cutting off your nose to spite your face.”
The developer is a local who intends to be a lifelong resident of the territory, he explained.
“I am a Virgin Islander,” said Marzano. “I grew up in the V.I. and I intend to live here for the rest of my life. The intention was always to build a beautiful project — that was by far the greatest motivation.”
“And I still believe — after all this adversity — this is going to be a world class project,” he continued.
Developer is Frustrated With Lies
If half of what people were saying about Sirenusa were true, the developer would shut it down himself, he explained.
“My frustration is that I hear people saying things every week and I can’t believe they are talking about my project because it’s not going on,” said Marzano. “If half of what they are saying was true — if this was as awful a project as everyone was making it out to be — I would have no problem shutting it down. But it’s not.”