Aug. 29, 2005 Neighbors and St. John residents at a Legislature Committee of the Whole meeting Monday spoke loudly and at great length against a request by Bay Isles Associates to rezone a half acre of land in Cruz Bay for the Grande Bay Resort condominium project located across the Bay Road from the waterfront.
Most of the 16 people who spoke opposed the change, but much of their concerns centered on the fact that the project has already created what many view as an eyesore on the Cruz Bay landscape. Additionally, several people complained that when the part of the project already permitted is completed, they will lose their water views.
"That view was sold to the future owners of the condominiums. After construction is completed, I will have only the sky to see," Alexander Jadan said.
Bay Isles asked for the rezoning from W-1, waterfront, to R-4, residential medium density, to make two parcels totaling a half acre confirm with adjacent property owned by the developers. Bay Isle partner Kelly Frye said they need to have the same zoning designation on the parcels because they can't put a reception building on the property line when the adjacent parcels have different zoning designations.
If Bay Isles gets the rezoning, it wants the Legislature to grant the company a variance on the rezoned parcels to allow the company to open a restaurant and sundry shop.
Frye said Bay Isles wants to build 14 condominium units to add to the 48 condo units and restaurant already permitted on the adjacent land. Under the existing W-1 zoning designation, the resort can have a restaurant and four condominium units.
Marjorie Emanuel, director of comprehensive and coastal zone planning at the Planning and Natural Resources Department, said the division recommends granting the rezoning and accompanying variance.
She said approving the rezoning would give Bay Isles the same development rights as other landowners in the area because they are all zoned R-4.
St. John resident Rob Crane said the real reason Bay Isles wants the rezoning is to increase profits.
Frye said that the initial 48 units are already sold, although the project is not anywhere near completion. He said the units sold for $395,000 to $900,000.
"And the 14 units have already been contracted based on the contingency of getting rezoned," Frye said, referring to the ones slated for the parcels of land under debate.
He said that those units will sell for $500,000 to $1.2 million.
Seven of the units have already "flipped," meaning that the original owners already resold their properties.
Frye, after listening to requests that the developers give back to the community for their impact on the island's infrastructure, agreed that it would donate money to help fund a tram project now under consideration by the St. John Community Foundation. The tram would help alleviate traffic and parking problems in congested Cruz Bay.
Frye also agreed to take the senators on a tour of the project before their next session. He will have to find a senator to sponsor legislation to grant the rezoning and subsequent variance.
"This is really a tough one," Sen. Craig Barshinger said.
He said he couldn't give his "thumbs up," but noted that some neighbors would lose their views whether or not the rezoning got an approval.
Barshinger said that the problems caused by this project stem from the fact that this property, as well as a nearby one where the Wharfside Village shopping center sits, were exempted from the Coastal Zone Management Act for reasons that remain unclear.
The senators also heard testimony on Brian and Betty Smith's request to rezone their acre of land in Adrian from R-1, residential-low density, to B-3, business scattered.
Emanuel said that DPNR recommended a variance, which Brian Smith agreed was okay. However, Sen. Celestino White Sr. chastised Smith for going along with DPNR's recommendation because it would limit his ability to develop his land. Smith said he planned a convenience store, offices and perhaps a restaurant.
"Don't let anybody do this to you. You come alone in a tie and a jacket. Come with an attorney," White told Smith.
The senators also heard testimony on Jacqueline Jacobs request for a rezoning from R-3, residential medium density, to B-3 in Grunwald. She wants to open a restaurant.
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