The Estate Enighed site of the proposed new St. John post office — which is subject to zoning conditions of the V.I. Code, according to Department of Planning and Natural Resources Division of Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning Director Dr. Wanda Mills-Bocachica — is too small for the construction of a post office, according to requirements.
The R-4 zoned site is comprised of parcel 131, which is 7,400 square feet, and parcel 129, which is 4,900 square feet, according to Marvin Berning and Associates, which surveyed the site. This does not meet the zoning requirement which states that postal substations in an R-4 zone must be on a minimum lot area of 15,000 square feet since the combined lots only add up to 12,300 square feet.
Title 29, Chapter 3, Subchapter I, Subsection 231, which applies to fire stations and police stations in addition to postal substations, provides several restrictions on a postal facility in an R4 zone.
“Fire stations, police stations, and postal substations are permitted in the R-1, R-2, R-3, R-4, S, and R-5 Districts subject to the following conditions:
A. There shall be a minimum lot area of 15,000 square feet;
B. The maximum coverage of any building or buildings shall not exceed 30 percent of the area of the zoning lot;
C. There shall be minimum setbacks from every adjacent property of 25 feet, except that setbacks from adjacent residential properties shall be 50 feet;
D. There shall be no exterior car washing;
E. There shall be no parking or storage of nongovernment vehicles in the front yard;
F. Off-street parking shall be provided in accordance with the provisions of section 230 of this subchapter,” states the V.I. Code.
Exceeds Maximum Coverage
It’s not just the lot size of the new post office location that doesn’t meet V.I. Code. The maximum coverage of the building is well above 30 percent of the lot.
Trinity Architectural Services, which is designing the building for the Boynes family, who own the Estate Enighed site, revealed plans at a January town meeting for a three-story building — 6,000 square feet on the first floor for the post office; 12 to 15 parking spaces for post office customers on the second floor; and office space for the Boynes family on the third floor.
The 6,000 square foot first floor would cover nearly 50 percent of the lot area. The post office is still in the design development stage.
USPS Declines Comment
U.S. Postal Service spokesperson Mildred Diaz referred questions regarding the zoning issue to the Boynes family, as the post office is leasing its space in the building and is not responsible for the construction of its new space.
Boynes spokesperson Cheryl Boynes-Jackson was off island last week and was unable to be reached for comment.
The newly-appointed Commissioner Mills-Bocachica, whose department was considering the post office as a “civic association” which falls under a “matter of right” and is therefore allowed to be constructed on the R-4 site, later said DPNR officials were reconsidering their position on the proposed project.
“Dr. Mills assumed that a zoning compliance review had already been conducted for the federal United States Post Office, which led to her choice of the most applicable designation under the R-4 zoning category of ‘civic association,’” according to a written DPNR statement. “The listing of postal substations under ‘uses permitted subject to the conditions’ was erroneously overlooked.”
DPNR Says Code Provides Challenges
The 40-year-old V.I. Code provides challenges for today’s developers, according to the DPNR statement.
“The planning director recognizes that the Virgin Islands law is approximately 40 years old, and even with its revisions, does not clearly define function of the increasingly popular mixed-use facility within an urbanized area,” states the DPNR press release.
“Planners are challenged to apply the singular designations of the existing zoning law based on the contemporary public demands for mixed-use facilities based on their convenience — this is currently a national and international challenge. Another revision of the Virgin Islands Code is pending.”
The USPS signed a lease for its new St. John post office location with the Boynes family on May 17.