Without Zone Change, Grande Bay May Include Marina

The Grande Bay Resort could include a marina if a zone change pending in the V.I. Senate is not granted to allow additional units.

The developers of Grande Bay Resort say that if the parcels are not approved for rezoning, the waterfront property will face even more drastic development allowed within its current zoning – including a marina. The developers are still awaiting word on their request to rezone two parcels of their Cruz Bay property from W-1 (Water-front-Pleasure) to R-4 (Residential-Medium Density) and to obtain a variance to allow for the operation of a restaurant and sundry shop.

Grande Bay Resort has permits to construct a 48-unit condominium complex on the two consolidated parcels already zoned R-4, but are seeking to build an additional 14 units with the request to rezone the adjacent W-1 parcels to R-4 to allow the 14 already-contracted condominium units to be constructed.

The developers say if their rezoning request is approved, it will result in constructing the same square footage but will maintain stricter limitations, and that the rejection of the application would lead to further development of the W-1 parcels.

“Under W-1 code by right we can build a dock, a marina, a restaurant, a sundry shop and so many other things,” said Kelly Frye, construction manager and a limited partner in Bay Isle Associates.

Request Is “Down-Zoning”
The rezoning being applied for is a down-zoning from the current parcel zoning of W-1, according to Frye. “The usage under an R-4 zoning is much more limited and restricted than under a W-1 where we would be allowed to do a lot more,” said Frye. “Under an R-4 zoning, you can have more people per acre so you can divide the same number of square footage into more units.”

There are misconceptions and mis-statements circulating publicly regarding Grande Bay Resort, according to the construction manager.

“There is a misunderstanding in the public that if this rezoning application is turned down, that we won’t be able to build condos and that we will have to build a smaller building than what we are proposing to build,” said Frye.

“That is absolutely not true, the public needs to know that if this application is not approved, two three-story buildings, a marina, a dock, a restaurant and a sundry shop would be built in lieu of one three-story building and one one-and-one-half story building with no dock and no marina,” the developer said.

Grande Bay Resort, like many parcels on the Cruz Bay waterfront, is exempt from the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resource’s more stringent Coastal Zone Management process.

A bill to vote on Bay Isle Associates, LLLP’s rezoning application has already been sponsored, all required public hearings have been conducted and there will be a vote by the 26th Legislature once Senate President Lorraine Berry places the bill on the agenda.

Grande Bay Resort developers are proposing to build one three-story building containing small condos and one one-and-one-half story building containing the reception lobby, sundry shop and restaurant instead of building two three-story buildings with fewer large condos, according to Frye, adding that under W-1, developers can apply for a building permit to build two three-story buildings with a restaurant and a sundry shop.

“And we could have four very large condos as opposed to 14 smaller condos,” Frye continued.

W-1 Allows Marina, Dock
Under the Virgin Islands zoning and subdivision law, W-1 permits a wide array of uses as a matter of right, some of which include a marina, charter and rentals, boat access sites and marine terminals with docking facilities. Developers currently have the right to build a dock and marina on the property, and Frye indicated the waterfront would be developed if the rezoning request is not approved.

“If the people who had spoken against the rezoning application truly understood its implications, I think they would rather the property be zoned R-4 than W-1 because of R-4’s restrictive use such as not being able to build a dock and marina,” asked Frye. “Here we are asking for a down-zoning – as a part time St. Johnian, I’d rather have one three-story and one one-and-one-half story as opposed to all the other things we are allowed under W-1.”

The public needs to understand that the density under consideration is not relative to the size of the building, it is only relative to the number of people you can have in the building, said Frye. Bay Isle Associates, LLLP is proposing to build almost the exact same size of what they can presently build, according to Frye.

“The square footage of what we are allowed to build under the current W-1 zoning is almost exactly the same square footage as what we are proposing to build – it is within 100 square feet,” said Frye.

Despite public criticisms that Grande Bay Resort will be depleting the island’s already taxed infrastructure such as water and power problems, the limited parking and sewage, the construction manager said adequate measures are being taken to avoid it.

“We have submitted a code analysis on how much parking is required for all guests of the resort and the restaurant and we will provide 76 parking spaces and we are only required to provide 75 – and we have a capacity for even more than that,” said Frye, adding that the resort will also have two large cisterns on site to fill its water needs and an on-site septic system to treat its own sewage.

“We also have our own generator that will power all emergency systems in the resort and we have met with WAPA (V.I. Water and Power Authority) and we are not at all remotely taxing their capacity,” said Frye, adding that Grande Bay Resort also has designed a storm water collection system to divert rainwater runoff and filter it before reaching the bay. Frye also said he cares deeply about the Virgin Islands and has invested himself into several philanthropic projects over the past year and one half.

Developing 50 Affordable Units
Grande Bay Resort responded to the V.I. Government’s public Request for Proposals (RFP) this past spring to develop affordable communities and was recently selected to be the developers and financial backers of affordable communities in the territory, according to Frye.

“We will be building at least 50 homes in the territory, wherever it is decided by the government, in the first 12 months of the program,” said Frye of Frye General Contracting Virgin Islands, Inc., the developer and financier of the program. “So if anyone suggests that we are not concerned about giving back to the community, it simply isn’t true – we’ve been giving back to the community for the past year and a half.”

Under Frye General Contracting Virgin Islands, Inc.’s program, unlike other affordable housing projects in the territory, tenants in the single-family residences will own the home and the yard from day one, and any equity gained over that period goes directly to the homeowner instead of waiting the normal 15 year-plus period to gain ownership while losing equity, explained Frye.

The V.I. Government is in the process of writing the contract and will determine when the affordable housing project will begin, which Frye suspects will be before the end of the year. “The 50 single family homes that will be built on government land will cost millions of dollars, which we are paying for at no development cost to the government,” said Frye.

For the past year and one half, Frye has also been donating resources to the V.I. Government’s health care planning grant committee, which has been conducting research on how to solve the rising costs of health care insurance and how to modernize the Virgin Islands health care system infrastructure.

“This is something personally near and dear to my heart, I wanted to help provide adequate healthcare to Virgin Islanders and we have provided time and research in means and methods and legislative models and examples,” said Frye.

Bay Isle Associates, LLLP recently contributed $250,000 to the St. John Community Foundation’s glass recycling project. The quarter million dollar donation will cover operational costs, necessary equipment and first year expenses, jump starting the project, which is now expected to be operational by January.

The construction manager said these are the types of projects he has been involved with for more than a year to better the Virgin Islands. “The purpose is not to draw attention to yourself or go tooting your own horn,” said Frye. “The purpose is to give to the people.”