The V.I. Legislature looked at two St. Croix rezoning requests Monday evening in Frederiksted: to expand the UVI Community Engagement and Lifelong Learning (CELL) center in Frederiksted and to rezone the Justice Department’s old Estate Orange Grove property.
CELL is asking to change the zoning for its Hospital Street facility from R-4 (residential medium density) to B-1 (central business district). Officials plan to expand the building to add a computer learning center, more classroom space, a Labor Department access point for Frederiksted residents, and business offices for several other organizations, including Our Town Frederiksted, which owns the building.
The proposed expansion would increase the footprint of buildings on the site to 87 percent of lot size, exceeding the maximum 50 percent allowed under the R-4 zoning, so the rezoning is necessary if the expansion is to go forward, CZM Environmental Assessor Diane Prime testified.
The owner and the tenant of a neighboring building have reservations about the rezoning. Johanna Bermudez, a documentary filmmaker with offices adjacent to the property, testified to her concerns that construction noise, dust and debris would interfere with her ability to work. The planned expansion would put construction within a few feet of her office so "you could reach through and touch them with a broomstick," she said.
The V.I. Government is asking to rezone 3A Estate Orange Grove, where the Toro Building formerly stood and housed the V.I. Department of Justice. The government wants to rezone it from B-3 (business-scattered) to P (Public Purpose).
When finances allow it, the Justice Department plans to build a new headquarters at the same site, said James Bernier, engineering administrator for Public Works’ capital improvement program.
V.I. law says buildings that are public property should be zoned "Public Purpose,” and the rezoning would bring the property into compliance with that legally mandated policy after 40 years of noncompliance, Bernier said
Plans for the new center are nearly complete and call for several divisions arranged around a three-story tall central atrium with a large concrete arch at the northern end, he said.
The Legislature met as a Committee of the Whole, and no vote was held.
Present were Sens. Alicia “Chucky” Hansen, Louis Hill, Neville James, Nereida “Nellie” Rivera-O’Reilly, Usie Richards, and Ronald Russell.
Absent were Sens. Craig Barshinger, Shawn-Michael Malone, Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Alvin Williams, Carlton “Ital” Dowe, Patrick Sprauve, Janette Millin-Young and Celestino White.