Some Citizens Oppose Proposed Coral Bay Marina

A number of St. John residents and community groups raised questions and concerns about a proposed 116-slip Coral Bay marina which is currently under consideration by the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) Coastal Zone Management (CZM) division.

Island groups and individuals – from the Coral Bay Community Council (CBCC), to engineer Greg Miller and University of the Virgin Islands scientist Dr. Barry Devine – took advantage of the public review process and submitted written comments to DPNR about Coral Bay Marina LLC’s application to construct the marina along Route 107 in Coral Bay.

Lengthy Application Process
The development company is headed by managing partner Robert O’Connor, who also is chairman of the V.I. Port Authority. The other partners include native owners of the property involved.

The developer is represented by St. John attorney Brion Morrisette. Morrisette has spent the past six months attempting to complete the company’s CZM major permit application.

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After repeated requests for additional information, CZM deemed the application complete in April.

The marina proposal calls for construction of three separate buildings – including one on the shore side of Route 107. In addition to the 116-slip marina, the plan calls for a reverse osmosis plant and office and retail space, primarily across Route 107 from the shoreline parcel included in the project.

The project, which encompasses about two acres of land, also calls for the use of four acres of submerged lands. Sub-merged lands are held in trust for the people of the territory by the V.I. Government. A lease for the submerged land would be voted on by the V.I. Senate and then approved by the governor.

The St. John CZM Committee will conduct a public hearing regarding the proposed marina on Tuesday, June 20, at 6 p.m. at the Cruz Bay legislature building where the public will be able to testify for or against the project.

Exposed Shoreline
A number of the written comments, which were accepted by DPNR until May 31, outlined serious concerns about the proposed location of the marina, which some critics question as too exposed to the wind and be a danger during a hurricane.

“The seaward marine docks are located in a shoreline that is buffeted by constant wind-driven waves,” wrote marine scientist Devine. “No protection exists for hurricane-driven waves. Docks would be destroyed and driven into the shoreside buildings and the adjacent mangrove community.”

“This shoreline area is fully exposed to the southeast and yet not one sentence in the application acknowledges that hurricane and tropical storm surge and waves directly impact this shoreline and would probably destroy the marina docks and fuel facilities in a moderate storm,” according to the CBCC’s written comments.

Possible Hurricane Danger
“Despite the CZM requirement for detailed dock plans and construction methods and a written explanation, there is no discussion of how the docks will be constructed to avoid hurricane damage,” the CBCC’s written comments.continued “There is only one drawing that doesn’t even make it clear how high above the water the decking is located,” the comments continued. “Hence the most statistically likely outcome of this development would be the wreck of a marina — scarring the bay and the whole Coral Bay community for many future years, because there will be no insurance money to rebuild.”

Citing the lack of a business plan for the marina, some of the written comments urged CZM to deny the application until more information is received.

“The Coral Bay Community Council recommends that CZM require that the Coral Bay Marina LLC provide a significant amount of additional information to adequately address the requirements under the CZM law — or that the applicant voluntarily withdraw the application until such time as a real marina plan has been done that indicates what kind of a marina can be financially successful on this shoreline,” according to the community group’s written comments.

Business Plan Sought
“Marina businesses are financially risky and frequently go bankrupt when demand does not meet needs,” wrote Devine. “A Marina Business Plan would identify the potential clients (seasonal, nightly), numbers, types of vessels, sizes and their needs. Without a plan, design and sizing of the dock system is guesswork.”

“My conclusion is there have not been adequate short, seasonal and long term studies required to meet the burden of the CZM Major Land and Water permit requirements,” Devine wrote.

Miller, a civil engineer owner of a St. John surveying company, wrote that the project could be successful.

“We feel if this project is done correctly, with all possible considerations to the environmental and the safety and convenience of the users and the public, it will be a big asset to St. John and the V.I.,” Miller wrote to CZM.