Jan. 11, 2004 While St. John's booming construction industry is great for those making money, residents who live near construction sites are fed up.
"Once it was 10:30 at night when they were still pouring concrete," East End resident Terry McKoy said Monday.
One Cruz Bay resident who didn't want his name used said things in his neighborhood are currently on the quiet side, but about a year ago, construction crews worked seven days a week on a project near his house.
"It was sheer madness," he said.
David Holzman, who owns Innovative Builders on St. John, said Monday he expects the construction boom to continue for the next 10 to 15 years. He predicted that "hundreds if not thousands" of houses will be built in the next few years.
"That's a lot of noise for a long time," he said.
He said in addition to those ongoing all over the island, major developments are in the works or on the way on the East End. In addition to Privateer Bay and Dreekets Bay projects already in the works, he said another project on land adjacent to Privateer Bay and another one at Point Rendezvous near Fish Bay are gearing up.
"It's going to be very noisy for a long time," he said.
Jamal Nielsen, Planning and Natural Resources spokesman, said Tuesday the department issued 224 building permits for St. John in 2004. While not all these projects have started, the number doesn't reflect those that began before 2004 and continuing.
Holzman estimated that over 200 houses were currently under construction on St. John.
He said the demand for new homes is so high that contractors must work their crews overtime to get projects finished.
He said that often concrete pours happen late because that's the only slot available.
"You don't want to say no because it's weeks till the next slot," he said.
And he said that some pours take many truckloads of concrete, so the pour goes on for many hours.
While there are construction projects all over St. John, the problem is particularly acute in areas surrounding Coral Bay. With one of the last expanses of undeveloped land on St. John, people are snapping up land to build homes. Most of the houses under construction will end up in the vacation villa market.
McKoy went on to detail numerous other problems associated with the island's building boom. He said that on the road from Coral Bay to the East End, overloaded trucks spill concrete, closing almost half of the road near Princess Creek.
Potholes are developing from big trucks using the roads.
Ira Wade, deputy public works commissioner, said East End Road is the worst, with Gifft Hill Road coming in second.
"Concrete trucks use Gifft Hill Road on their way to Fish Bay," he said, noting that the road also sees construction traffic from new homes, the Bellevue Village affordable housing project and the new building for the St. John School on Gifft Hill.
Wade said Monday he held a meeting at the Public Works Department on Jan. 5 with concrete trucking companies to discuss problems, but only one, Majestic Construction Inc., attended. He said Majestic was also the only one that cleaned up its concrete spills. Wade said the other three that do business on St. John failed to show up.
Dana Andrews, who serves as a superintendent at Majestic, said Monday that drivers call whenever they have a spill. A two-man crew goes out immediately to clean it up.
"It's our obligation," he said.
Wade also said that Public Works crews must frequently clear up hydraulic fluid spills when hoses break on trucks.
McKoy said he's had any number of close calls from big trucks veering into his lane as they round a corner. Centerline Road residents are subjected to the continuous loud noise as trucks sound their horns all the way up and down the long hill from the intersection of King Hill Road and Centerline Road.
Additionally, traffic in already-congested Cruz Bay snarls even further early in the morning and late in the afternoon when construction crews vie for spots on the barges that connect Cruz Bay and Red Hook, St. Thomas. This often ties up traffic as drivers navigate around those waiting to board.
Ferries are also crowded early and late in the day with construction workers who hold jobs on St. John.
Holzman said construction noise starts with the excavation. Since St. John is rocky, it takes a noisy, hydraulic hammer to break them up. How long this lasts depends on the size of the project, but he said it went on for nine months at a condominium project in Cruz Bay. Along with the excavation comes the sound of the trucks hauling away the dirt and rocks.
Once the actual construction starts, neighbors may have to put up with generator noise if the project doesn't have an electricity hookup. And of course, they'll hear hammers banging, construction workers shouting and the music they play at full blast throughout the day.
Holzman said this influx of noise has shattered the peace where people previously heard only the birds and the breeze.
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