The U.S. Postal Service signed a lease with the Boynes family on Thursday, May 17, in its move to occupy two floors of a building — which has yet to be constructed on a lot which doesn’t meet zoning requirements — for the new St. John post office.
The signing of the lease for the undersized lot may bring to a close a long, difficult chapter in the USPS’s efforts to relocate the St. John post office, which is in dire need of more space.
Plans are now moving forward for the post office to relocate to the R-4-zoned Boynes family property, located in Estate Enighed on Fish Fry Road opposite the unfinished parking area of the Enighed Pond Marine Facility, the current site of a car wash.
Although the USPS advertised for a site almost three times larger than the one chosen and sought to lease a facility with a floor area larger than the lot they are leasing, USPS Real Estate Manager Thomas Pino said he was pleased with the final choice.
Design Being Finalized
“Yes, the USPS is proceeding with this new space and has sign-ed the lease last Thursday,” said Pino via email. “We are still working on some of the final aspects of the design of the building and USPS space.”
The lease is for 10 years, plus two five year options, for a total of 20 years, Pino explained.
The USPS does not construct its own facilities. It only rents existing buildings, or buildings which will be constructed at the expense of the property owner.
Sections of the V.I. Code which set restrictions for the construction of a post office in an R-4-zoned area raised questions regarding the legality of the proposed three-story building.
Restrictions in V.I. Code
The Code only allows for post offices in an R-4-zoned area provided the lot is a minimum of 15,000 square feet; the maximum coverage of the building does not exceed 30 percent of the area of the zoning lot; and there are minimum setbacks from every adjacent property of 25 feet, and setbacks from residential properties are 50 feet.
The restrictions will not affect the proposed post office, however, because the post office is related to government functions, according to DPNR’s new director of the Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning Division, Dr. Wanda Mills-Bocachica.
USPS Is “Civic Association”
“The post office is considered a civic association, which falls under uses permitted as a matter of right,” said Mills-Bocachica. “The post office is related to the government, therefore its offices are allowed.”
There will be no restrictions on the construction of the post office, Mills-Bocachica added.
There may, however, be restrictions on the proposed office space on the third floor.
“According to the code, three stories is allowable in an R-4 area,” said DPNR spokesperson Jamal Nielsen.
“Commercial offices are not allowed,” Mills-Bocachica added.
The plans presented at the January public meeting included 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 project architect is St. Thomas-based Trinity Architec-tural Services.
Plans Not Available
Plans for the building may not have been submitted to DPNR, according to Nielsen.
“My investigations haven’t found any…permits for the post office on St. John,” he said.
Nielsen was unable to confirm whether an application had, in fact, been submitted due to an air conditioning problem which shut down the St. Thomas DPNR office late last week.
The post office was last scheduled to move to a planned vendors plaza across the street from the the Cruz Bay Creek under the direction of former Governor Charles Turnbull’s special projects assistant Keith Richards.
After months of negotiations followed by several more months with no communication, USPS officials decided to move on earlier this year.
“We’ve had zero communication,” Pino told St. John residents at a mid-January meeting. “We had public meetings with all sorts of promises. We’re not sure the vendors plaza will ever get built.”
Pino said he was grateful the lease has finally been signed.
“The acceptance of this lease is very important to the USPS and myself, having spent the better part of 10 years getting it done — finally,” said Pino. “Thanks to the support of everyone in St. John.”