Home News Local news Residents Unite Against Sirenusa Condo Project

Residents Unite Against Sirenusa Condo Project

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Dec. 12, 2006 — An overflow crowd of nearly 100 people descended upon the St. John Legislature building Tuesday to make it clear to Planning and Natural Resources Department officials that they opposed a variance request to allow Sirenusa condominiums to add one story to three of the buildings now under construction.
The increase would add seven additional units to the 40-unit project.
"Enough is enough. Essentially what you have is a hotel," St. John resident Don Porter said.
He spoke about the huge increase in traffic that will come from guests as well as service people who will work at the project.
Sunilal and Jane Ramnarine, whose house sits 20 feet from the Sirenusa boundary, showed a video of the damage caused to their property from the development.
He said the developer promised them that no more rocks would come down the hill to his house, but the rocks keep rolling.
Porter and Ramnarine were two of nearly two-dozen people that took their turn at the microphone to complain about problems with the project, now visible from all over Cruz Bay.
No one spoke in support of the project.
Neighbors complained about extensive flooding that impacted their homes and yards, dirt blowing into their houses, noise all night long, truck drivers who drive too fast on the narrow neighborhood roads used to access the project, roads widened without permission, and their belief that St. John's already beleaguered infrastructure will be taxed beyond its capacity.
"Not since Blackbeard the Pirate has the place been so pillaged and blighted," St. John resident Jeff Smith said.
After many residents, including several architects and builders, had their say against the project, St. John resident Steve Simon told developer Carlos Marzano of Enighed Condominiums LLC, architect Caliex Gumbs of William Karr and Associates, and attorney Arturo Watlington that they owed the community a huge apology for the problems they've caused. He suggested that they meet with the neighbors and do what ever it takes to "make it right."
"And I call upon the real estate industry on St. John not to represent the project until they make it right," Simon said.
St. John resident Sharon Coldren asked DPNR to issue a cease-and-desist order for the entire project until the issues are resolved. Additionally, she urged Planning to make the developer get a new group dwelling permit.
The St. Thomas-based Marzano later said that he was not aware of all the project's problems, including the flooding and the rolling boulders. He said subcontractors were the ones speeding, but that he planned to put a flag person on the job to slow them down.
He said he planned to meet with the neighbors to discuss the situation.
"I'll try my best to resolve the issues," he said.
St. John resident Bonny Corbeil called Sirenusa the straw that broke the camel's back. This project comes on the heels of another large Cruz Bay development, Grande Bay, that had residents up in arms. Corbeil said that the government isn't taking into account St. John's wishes.
"St. John has had enough of this disregard of what it needs on the island," she said.
The project has come under fire before. Although many residents said they opposed the project at a public hearing on July 27, 2004, DPNR issued a group dwelling permit.
In March, the department issued a cease-and-desist order after staff discovered that the developer had submitted a different set of plans for its building permit than it did when the company applied for the group dwelling permit. The group dwelling permit allowed for two-story buildings, but the developer was putting up a three-story building with a mezzanine.
Marjorie Hendrickson Emanuel, who heads DPNR's Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning Division, said that architect William Karr then claimed he received an approval that amended the group dwelling permit to allow the three stories and the mezzanine, but she said that appears not to be the case.
Planning subsequently lifted part of the order to allow the developer to continue with the part of the project that didn't violate the zoning code.
Emanuel said after the meeting that the buildings in the variance request look like those that were going up when Planning issued the cease-and-desist order.
Marzano said he needed to build the additional units to make the project more financially viable but added it was still doable if he didn't get the variance.
Emanuel said Planning will issue its report on the variance request within the 30 days allowed by law, but she said anyone who has anything more to say on the matter should soon fax their letters to Planning at 713-2418 because she suspects the Legislature will want to act on the matter before its term expires.
Should the lame-duck Legislature take up the matter and give its approval, it's then up to Gov. Charles Turnbull to have the final say.
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