The packed St. John Legislature hall remained silent except for one lone voice of support at the Thursday evening, March 4, V.I. Senate hearing for the rezoning of a planned St. John post office site.
The Boynes family is seeking to have its 7,800 square foot parcel, located at 131 Estate Contant and Enighed, rezoned from R-4 to B-2 for the construction of a three-story building, with space to be leased to the U.S. Postal Service for a new post office for St. John.
The property’s current zoning does not meet the V.I. Code requirement that a lot be at least 15,000 square feet for the construction of a post office in an R-4 zoned area. The Boynes family-owned piece of land falls short by nearly half.
The Department of Planning and Natural Resources, which hosted its own hearing on the matter in October 2009, recommended that the Legislature approve the rezoning, provided current walls which are located on two of the parcel’s borders remain in place as a buffer to neighboring properties.
Senator at Large Craig Barshinger expressed hesitation at rezoning the parcel.
“When we change the zoning, we open up a whole new set of possibilities,” said Barshinger. “I don’t think the Legislature has any business rezoning properties.”
The senator at large would have preferred a zoning variance, he explained, which does not change the overall zoning of a property; however, he said he would support the rezoning provided all the property’s neighbors have been apprised of the situation.
DPNR Director of Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning Marjorie Emanuel confirmed that all neighboring property owners had been contacted regarding the rezoning.
The Legislative hearing was just one step of a years-long process the Boynes family has endured in order to reach its goal of constructing the new post office building. The USPS initially signed a lease with the Boynes family in May 2007, but let the lease lapse after three years of no progress. Officials said the lease would be renewed once a zoning change was obtained by the family.
The Boynes family has never stopped trying to move forward, family spokesperson Cheryl Boynes-Jackson explained at the hearing.
“The process has been ongoing,” said Boynes-Jackson. “We are trying to fulfill each and every requirement along the way.”
Senate President Louis Patrick Hill expressed distaste at the fact that the process has taken nearly three years thus far.
“It disturbs me greatly that this project was held up by government bureaucracy,” said Hill. “It’s really unacceptable.”
St. Johnian Robert O’Connor Jr., who was the lone testifier in the matter, expressed support for the rezoning. O’Connor, a former senator himself, asked the Senate to approve the Boynes family’s rezoning application.
“I have always looked out for what is best for St. John, and this application serves the people of St. John well,” said O’Connor. “The post office is essential to St. John. This is a good time to move forward.”
All of the senators in attendance — Barshinger, Carlton Dowe, Hill, Terrence Nelson and Patrick Simeon Sprauve — expressed their support for the rezoning. The Legislature will vote on the rezoning in the near future.
The Senate also heard a request for rezoning at the March 4 hearing by Grande Bay developer Bay Isle Associates.