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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, May 24, 2024


Feb. 15, 2002 – After imposing a lengthy list of conditions, the St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee gave its unanimous approval Friday for the First American Development Group/Carib Partnership Ltd. to build the Pond Bay Club at Chocolate Hole.
"We weighed the sentiments with the conditions that we could put in. It's a good decision," said Julien Harley, who serves as CZM committee chair as well as St. John administrator.
The project as approved calls for 56 units in 22 buildings which with the Pond Bay house and a maintenance support building totals 24 buildings on 13.55 acres between Chocolate Hole Bay and a salt pond.
The CZM permit approval isn't the final green light for the project. First American must iron out differences with the Estate Chocolate Hole Landowners Association for two parcels of the Pond Bay Club property that come under the association covenants. First American plans tennis courts and parking on those parcels.
Paul Hoffman, First American's attorney, said after the meeting that he's sure the problems can be resolved. The homeowners association appears to be exercising its control of what can happen on those parcels as a way of stopping the project. "There's a precedent where they granted the same kind of use to others," Hoffman said.
Harley said the project can't start until the covenant issue is resolved in favor of First American. He said the committee in making its permit decision took into account the large number of people who expressed opposition to the project at a Jan. 23 public hearing.
Chocolate Hole resident Stan Rose, one of those who spoke out against the project at the hearing, was one of a dozen St. John residents who attended the 10-minute decision meeting Friday. "I'm very pleased with the conditions — but at the same time would have been more pleased if they had turned it down," he said.
Bob Emmett, who heads First American Development Group, said after the meeting that he was pleased with the decision. "It's been a long road," he said, referring to the fact that the CZM permit decision had been pending from more than a year ago.
After neighbors vehemently opposed the project at a Jan. 15, 2001, public hearing, First American withdrew its CZM application. The project was first approved in 1986 but failed soon after construction started; a big cistern and a denuded beach remain from that effort. In response to the January 2001 opposition, First American scaled the project down by about 14 percent.
The plan as approved calls for 56 units with 162 bedrooms and 121 parking spaces, all occupying 56,759 square feet of beachfront property with a setback of 60 feet.
Chief among the conditions imposed Friday was that First American post a $25 million bond to ensure that the project is completed and that it doesn't damage the area's wetlands or marine resources. The CZM staff had suggested $10 million, but as Harley was reading the conditions, he upped the figure to $25 million.
Harley also modified the CZM staff recommendation that First American not be allowed to apply for Economic Development Authority tax benefits. Instead, he said that the company would be limited to applying for only half what they would normally be entitled to. "Every hotel that we have gets benefits," he said. And, he said, since Pond Bay Club will operate primarily as a time-share, most of the benefits would apply only during the construction phase.
In the other CZM conditions attached to the permit, First American must:
– Eliminate the third story planned for Buildings 11 and 13 and not include a loft in the two structures. The plans as presented would have "blocked the neighbor's view," Harley said.
– Not bring construction materials in by water.
– Buy all that they can from St. John merchants.
– Not bring in sand to make the beach better. Environmentalists had testified that such sand would wash into the water, smothering the reef there.
– Secure an additional permit to build its desalinization plant. Harley had wanted to specify that the outfall be 2,000 feet out into the water, but CZM director Janice Hodge said it wasn't necessary because that would be addressed under the additional permit.
– Truck all garbage directly to St. Thomas at its own expense, bypassing St. John's overburdened Susannaberg transfer station.
– Guarantee public access to Chocolate Hole Bay through the Pond Bay Club road, which will be considered an easement.

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