The Public Hears and Responds to Three Zoning Change Requests

Clarence Brown demonstrates plans for the Fred Hotel expansion. (Screenshot from Microsoft Teams meeting)

St. Croix residents voiced support and questioned three requests for zoning changes during virtual hearings by the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources on Monday.

DPNR’s Territorial Planner, Leia LaPlace-Matthew, led the hearings and questioned the land owners’ representative, and then asked for public questions or comments.

ZAC 24-4: Clarence Brown, architect with Design District PLLC, presented the request from the owners (Evolve USVI LLC) of the Fred Hotel in Frederiksted to change zoning from W-1(Waterfront-Pleasure) to R-3 (Residential-Medium Density) for Plots #36, 37, 38, and 42 to build two buildings and add to the building on the street to create an additional 34 rooms and a parking lot with 36-38 spaces. Currently, the hotel has 20 rooms.

According to Brown, street parking cannot be included in Fred’s parking spaces since it is public parking. Also, the plan does not involve building demolition or renovation of existing rooms.

“The expansion was deemed necessary by at least four groups” including potential investors, Brown said.

Several landowners and tenants who live in the neighborhood asked Brown if the changes would negatively impact the environment or devalue the surrounding properties due to an anticipated increase in crime and traffic and impact the overall quality of life.

“I don’t see a negative impact on property values,” Brown answered. He added that Fred had already been approved for full development, minus the parking.

Renters living in the area complained that their view of the sea would disappear. They were also told that Fred would repair wooden sidewalk covers and renovate an old building on the corner of Strand and Fisher Streets.

“Public access (to the beach) will not be changed,” Brown said

Brown mentioned the original plans have been approved by the State Historic Preservation Office. Sean Krigger, SHPO director, said lights, screening, and the surface finish would need to be approved for the parking lot since the lot was a late purchase.

ZAC-24-5: Brown also spoke on behalf of Lasso Investment Holding, LLC, which requested rezoning from R-2 (Residential Low Density-One and Two Family) to B-3 (Business Scattered) for two lots comprising 3.65 acres in Estate Mount Pleasant.

The current land owner wants to relocate her business to one of two lots bordering Centerline Road. The second lot, which borders Mount Pleasant Road, will be turned into a park with tiny houses (330 square feet) for rent.

Brown said the now-vacant property across the road from The Market will be developed in three phases. Cultural and flora/fauna studies will be conducted before clearing the land.

Neighbors’ questions and concerns included restricting commercial use on the Mount Pleasant side. One neighbor pointed out that a lot of water was collected there during recent rains, causing Brown to say the owner would obtain a DPNR stormwater plan. He also assured the public that there would be no road access from the commercial area to the residential area. A gate will allow people to walk between the two lots.

“There will be a quiet neighborhood feel back there,” Brown said. “Residents can walk to catch a bus through a gate.”

ZAC-24-3: Owners Ezra and Atarah Garib are requesting rezoning from R-2 (Residential-Low Density-One and Two Family) to R-3 (Residential-Medium-Density) for a 308-acre plot on Centerline Road and 8th Street in Estate Williams Delight to develop six dwelling units.

Brown said the owners want to construct four one-bedroom and two two-bedroom rental apartments on their vacant land. They plan to build in one or two phases—two-story, 660-square-foot and 960-square-foot units. There will be a 15-foot green space between the buildings and the highway. The Garibs estimate it will take 12-16 months to complete.

The land owners met with the homeowners association but were told the HO had no objection and no support.

There were no public comments during the hearing.

LaPlace-Matthew said written comments will be accepted at DPNR before June 2. Then, a decision to approve, modify, or deny the requests will be sent to the Legislature, and finally, the Committee of the Whole will vote on each application.