April 24, 2006 – Since the territory's Coastal Zone Management program staff can only administer and enforce laws passed by the Legislature, it's up to residents to convince the senators to strengthen development laws. That was the opinion of several government officials at a meeting of the Coral Bay Community Council on Monday.
"Most of the problems happening in St. John are happening because of antiquated laws," said Julien Harley, who chairs the St. John CZM Committee.
Sen. Craig Barshinger agreed. He said that "when the community gets clear on what it wants, we can change laws."
Harley said he thinks that the territory's CZM laws were adopted straight from a mainland jurisdiction without thought about the territory's terrain.
Barshinger said that those people who worked on the CZM law back in the 1960s and 1970s had no idea that projects like the Grande Bay condominiums in Cruz Bay would be built. The territory's CZM law was adopted in 1978.
A proposed six-story condominium at Pastory appears to be the catalyst that is galvanizing residents to oppose these types of projects. Two other large projects, Grande Bay and Sirenusa, have also raised residents' ire.
Those two are going forward, but Planning Commissioner Dean Plaskett last week nixed Reef Management's application for a building permit for 63 condominiums in six-story buildings.
Three members of the St. John CZM Committee, Harley, Andrew Penn and Edmund Roberts, as well as CZM director Victor Somme III, and staff members Manny Ramos and Jennifer Jones made the trip out to the John's Folly Learning Institute for the meeting.
About 60 people attended.
Penn said that he'd like to see a law limiting buildings to three stories.
"If we run out of land, we'll address it then," he said.
Harley is also the St. John administrator thanks to an appointment by Gov. Charles Turnbull.
Harley said that after the governor listened to concerns about St. John's rampant development, expressed by demonstrators at the Enighed Pond Marine Terminal grand opening on Friday, the governor told him that he was going to try to find the money to hire a planner for St. John.
Harley said the planner would cost about $65,000 a year.
Harley said he's been asking for a "good" urban planner for more than six years.
One of the demonstrators at Friday's event carried a sign that said "send us a planner."
Harley also said that St. John residents circulating petitions for various reasons need to make sure those who that sign are actually residents. He said a recent petition opposing the planned parking garage/vendor's plaza in Cruz Bay may have had 1,017 signatures, but those that signed the first two pages were not residents.
After one woman in the audience pointed out that visitors were affected by the project, Harley said having nonresidents sign petitions was akin to Virgin Islanders visiting New York signing petitions there on issues best decided by New Yorkers.
Roberts spoke about the need to balance development with preservation.
"Our economy needs certain things. I know St. John can't look the same as when I was growing up," Robert said.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.