March 11, 2003 – About 20 longtime Bordeaux homeowners made no bones Tuesday about their feelings concerning the idea of a gas station and convenience store invading their tranquil neck of the woods on St. Thomas's West End.
They do not want the commercial enterprise — not now, not ever.
Members of the Carrillo family and several others voiced their many concerns — ranging from safety and noise factors to environmental drawbacks — at a rezoning hearing on Tuesday before the Planning and Natural Resources Department's Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning Division.
The rezoning is being sought by Michael Dixon, from R-2 (residential – low density, one- and two-family) to B-3 (business – scattered), to allow for the operation of a gas station, convenience store and small office at No. 10 Estate Hope. Dixon, owner of Courtesy Garage in Sub Base, said he owns a storm-damaged house in Estate Hope which he wants to turn into the convenience store and office, with the gas station outside.
Dixon told the panel he simply wanted to "help residents of Fortuna" whom he said had told him they would welcome the enterprises. No supporters of his plans were at the hearing. None of those testifying favored Dixon's idea.
When asked by the CZM officers about drainage, he deferred to his engineer, who was not present. He said the entrance to the property from the main road would not present a traffic hazard, something those in opposition challenged.
When asked if he had consulted his neighbors, Dixon said: "Those immediately affected didn't care to have [such an operation] in the area." He said the building would have two gas pumps adjacent to it, and that he planned no further construction at the site.
Senior planner Sue Higgins asked Dixon if he would accept a zoning variance in place of rezoning. "Whatever is available, I'll settle for," he replied. A variance restricts the use of property to the exact purpose specified, whereas rezoning allows for any use that falls within the zoning category.
Zolayma Belle, a member of the Carrillo family, said: "My grandparents built here more than 30 years ago. It is a quiet area where I want to raise my children."
Her husband, Kibwe Belle, echoed his wife's concerns, saying that "Mr. Dixon didn't build a strong enough case in my view. He wasn't prepared." However, even if he had been, Belle said, the project would invade the "calm, peaceful way people live their lives" in the area. He said there are five Carrillo siblings, and they all have homes in the immediate area where Dixon wants to create the businesses.
All of the homeowners spoke of how they cherish the calm, quiet and peaceful neighborhood they live in. They suggested to Dixon that if he wants extra income, he build homes instead of a commercial property. When Dixon asked if they would approve a convenience store alone, a chorus of voices responded with a resounding "No!"
Jose Torres, a former narcotics officer, said he has lived in the area for 24 years. "There is no way to see from west to east on that road," he said. "When they come down that area," where the turnoff would be, he said, "they speed up."
Summing up the homeowners' concerns, Torres added: "Everybody is so nice here; we help each other. A lot of people like to live in peace."
Iris Dotten, aunt of Zolayma Belle, said she had recently moved back to the property she has owned for 40 years. "It's a terrible idea," she said of Dixon's proposal. "More families, yes, but no businesses."
The main objections the opponents raised were:
– Invasion of privacy.
– Quality of life — noise and traffic hazards.
– Negative impact on real estate values.
– Lack of an environmental study has been done. Critics noted that underground gasoline tanks can leak into aquifer.
– The potential fire hazard of gasoline storage tanks.
– Fear of crime with a cash register on the premises.
One objection came from St. Thomas's North Side. Valencia Berry Krause, who owns property adjacent to the Friendly Grocery and gas station on Crown Mountain Road, told of the myriad difficulties of living a hundred feet from a gas station. She said traffic in the area "increased 1,000 percent" after the convenience store and gas station opened.
Krause said she could hear the conversations from cars parked nearby, car radios were loud, and she could hear all conversations from the nearby phone. "My husband could hear the conversations even with his hearing aid on," she said.
Another problem was noise from Texaco tanker trucks and other delivery trucks, she said. The area has been "destroyed by outsiders," she said.
Raul Carrillo, host of WVWI Radio's early morning show, wrote the committee that he was "in total opposition to the project," citing all the reasons listed above. Carrillo was ill and couldn't attend in person.
After everyone who wished to testify had spoken, Marge Emanuel Hendrickson, acting division director, told Dixon that public responses would be forwarded to the Senate along with the division's recommendation.
Dixon said he would persevere. "I will try again," he said, "or someone else will try, because it will be developed in the future." If he doesn't do it, he added, "someone else will."
Should the rezoning request be approved by the Senate, it would still require the governor's signature.
Four other rezoning requests also were heard on Tuesday, all without objection. They are:
– By Old Wireless and Telegraph, from R-3 (residential – low density, one- and two-family) to B-3 (business – secondary, neighborhood) for Parcel No. 36, Estate Nisky.
– By the Estate of Robert Joseph Questel, from R-1 (residential – low density) to R-2 (residential – low density, one- and two-family) for Parcel No. 7, Estate Agnes' Fancy.
– By Lloyd Norford, from B-4 (business – residential) to B-3 (business – scattered) for Parcel No. 32-B, Estate Frydendahl.
– By Spencer L. Browne, from R-2 (residential – low density, one- and two-family) to B-3 (business – scattered) for Parcel No. 2-1, Estate Mariendahl.
Higgins said copies of the applications are available for review at the DPNR planning division office on the second floor of the Cyril E. King Airport terminal.

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