April 25, 2006 – A groundswell of opposition to St. John's rampant development is taking shape, but several people at Tuesday's Island Green Building Association meeting at the Legislature building warned that efforts will come to naught if the West Indian community doesn't get on board.
"There are very few locals in this room. Without locals and full community participation, you can't go anywhere," Environmental Association of St. Thomas/St. John member Dayle Barry told the approximately 50 people gathered for the meeting.
Most of the meeting's attendees were white residents who moved to St. John from the mainland.
Barry and EAST President Carla Joseph made the trip from St. Thomas for the meeting.
St. John resident Alan Smith, an attorney who once served as Planning commissioner, made similar remarks at the start of the meeting.
He said that without "native" participation, the government won't listen.
Philip "Grasshopper" Pickering suggested that Sunday night would be a better time to meet because many local residents have children to deal with and other responsibilities during the week.
"During the week is a killer," he said.
While the association has been meeting quietly for a couple of years to educate those planning to build about environmentally-friendly methods, the recently proposed six-story condominium development at Pastory galvanized the group into public action.
"That was the straw that broke the camel's back. We went berserk," architect Doug White said.
Initially, it was rumored that the project would be nine stories, but Planning Commissioner Dean C. Plaskett last week said that the developer had reduced it to six stories. Regardless, Plaskett nixed the application for a building permit, claiming the project was too dense.
Smith observed that much of St. John's development is now intended solely to make money rather than appreciate the "spirit of the place."
"But that's the reality in other places too," he said.
Pam Gaffin suggested that someone call places like Aspen, Colo., and Key West, Fla., — areas which faced the same development issues as St. John — to find out how they handled matters.
"We don't have to reinvent the wheel," she said.
After discussion on the inability of the Planning and Natural Resources Department to keep tabs on all permit infractions because of funding issues,Gaffin suggested that residents alert the department in writing when they see problems.
"They're [DPNR] in St. Croix. You have to tell them what's going on," she said.
Sen. Craig Barshinger said that he had a bill in the draft stage to limit the height of buildings to three stories. This prompted a discussion on what constitutes a story, and if defining height by stories was feasible.
"Why not just say height," Chris Clark said.
Architect Rob Crane pointed out that because of St. John's hilly terrain, height was a complicated issue that depended on whether it's measured on the uphill or downhill side.
White said that if the residents and the government cannot come to an agreement on how to bring order to St. John's development, the issue may have to go to court.
For more information, visit the Island Green Building Association's Web site.
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.