On October 20, 2014, the VI Source published a “news article” under the headline: “Undercurrents: CZM Quietly Approves Harbor Landfill to Widen Veterans Drive.” The tone, approach and content of the article is anything but news in its first half. Rather, it misconstrues past facts disguised as “news.” I must respectfully and forcefully differ.
The article starts off with: “After decades of controversy, the Veterans Drive widening project, requiring major landfill of the Charlotte Amalie Harbor, has passed not with a bang but a whimper.” The article continues to suggest that the decision was made without notice to the general public and involved only “almost no one except those directly involved…”
It is true that this monumental project initiated with the first exploratory proposal in 1975 did pass without public opposition at the Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Commission stage….but for a reason. Unlike many major public projects, Downtown Revitalization Inc. [DRI] and the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce took a different approach…using the “bottoms-up” community engagement model successfully utilized in the development of The Town’s Blueprint Project undertaken by the Department of Public Works, Department of Planning and Natural Resources and Dover Kohl Partners and underwritten by Richard Driehaus from the private sector.
Utilizing this model, the community was invited to comment and engage in the proposal for the highway at multiple Community Forums at which the advancing harbor boulevard proposal was presented…each time with inclusion of design changes to address points of concern or comments from the community at the prior forum. In so doing, the usual breast-beating confrontation that usually characterizes CZM hearings was not present. Public input had already been sought and incorporated…and the project could come forward with review on its technical merits and detail. But even at the CZM Commission stage there was opportunity for further public comment by oral and written testimony….of which there was some about technical elements of implementation….which were timely addressed in the process.
The CZM Hearing was held pursuant to full public notice…which the article later admits to.
Hence, the “whimper” was a good thing and not a bad thing after more than 39 years in the making. That should have been the news.
David A. Bornn, St. Thomas
CZM Did Engage the Public in Decision Making