Zoning Change Sought for Susannaberg Guesthouse Complex

A sketch of the units in Building no. 1. (Screenshot from livestream of Coastal Zone Planning meeting)

A St. John property owner is seeking a zoning change to allow her to build a multi-unit guesthouse/villa complex on a 2.7-acre parcel in Susannaberg.

Attorney Jennifer Jones made the case for the zoning change on behalf of Karris Moses during a Wednesday afternoon online hearing conducted by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Division of Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning.

A sketch of the units planned for Building no. 3. (Screenshot from livestream of Coastal Zone Planning meeting)

Karris Moses is the single owner of Parcel No.12 Estate Susannaberg which “is clearly not public property, but because of some mishap on the zoning map, it is designated as public,” said Jones.

Jennifer Jones made the case for a zoning change for Parcel No. 12 Susannaberg on St. John. (Screenshot from livestream of Coastal Zone Planning meeting)

Jones said Moses purchased the property in 2018 from an uncle who inherited it as part of the estate of Halvor Neptune Richards.

At one time, the Neptune Richards’ estate included nearly 250 acres of land which was used for farming and livestock, according to another family member. Upon Richards’ death, the estate was divided among 21 descendants.

Moses is requesting a zoning change to a designation of R-3 – medium density residential – which allows for a variety of uses, including guesthouses and villas, according to Jones.

Moses is an example of “a young Virgin Islander who is attempting to turn the wealth of property ownership into businesses that can generate revenue while retaining ownership,” she said.

Jones presented slides showing a preliminary site map of the property as well as sketches of the proposed development. The plan calls for the construction of three two-story buildings, which will include nine guest units as well as a separate pool, clubhouse, and small restaurant.

A site plan shows the locations of the buildings of the proposed development. (Screenshot from livestream of Coastal Zone Planning meeting)

The development will be built in phases, according to Jones. The first to be constructed will be Building no. 3 – the largest, comprising 4,109 square feet – which will include two one-bedroom units and one two-bedroom unit.

The property contains ruins of a plantation which the developer hopes to incorporate into a spa.

The plan calls for parking for 40 vehicles, more than enough for the guests staying at the nine units as well as up to 10 employees, according to Jones. As the property is located on Centerline Rd. – approximately three miles from Cruz Bay – there are no municipal services for water or sewage, but the site has two cisterns, and groundwater is available, she said.

The property is adjacent to the access road to the Windmill, a popular restaurant and bar with an extraordinary view of the Northshore of St. John and the surrounding islands.

A photo shows some of the plantation ruins on the property. (Screenshot from livestream of Coastal Zone Planning meeting)

The only nearby residence, which is owned by extended family members, is situated 30 feet from the property line of Parcel No. 12, but Jones said the nearest guesthouse building will be constructed 300 feet from that residence. The development will be screened by native plants and trees.

The public was invited to testify at the hearing, but only one person spoke up – Ivy Moses, Karris Moses’ sister. “I want to applaud Karris,” said Ivy Moses. “I’m calling in to support the project. We have seen St. John being taken over by individuals who are not natives but are from other places. St. John is looking for natives and locals to lead. This project is showing her leadership and commitment to the island.”

Jones said she welcomed comments. “It gives us the opportunity to make the project better.”

Anyone wishing to comment on the project may do so by sending an email to leia.laplace@dpnr.vi.gov. The deadline for comments is January 23.

A map shows the location of the property in Susannaberg on St. John. (Screenshot from livestream of Coastal Zone Planning meeting)