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Land and Water Use Plan to Make the Rounds Again

Aug. 17, 2004 – An updated version of the Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan that has bounced around government offices for years will surface once again on Wednesday night at a Senate committee hearing on St. Croix.
The 6 p.m. hearing before the Planning and Environmental Protection Committee, and others to follow on St. Thomas next week and on St. John in early September, will be informational in nature, according to the bill's sponsor, Sen. Usie Richards. "They will be a presentation of what the plan includes," he said, while hearings to take public testimony will be scheduled later.
In Richards' view the most important aspect of the plan is that it will put an end to spot zoning.
A Planning and Natural Resources Department report issued in 1995 stated that between 1980 and 1994 requests were received to rezone 1,050 acres of land in the St. Thomas-St. John district.
Conservationist Dayle Barry pointed out in an Op-ed essay published in December 2000 that the 1,050 acres broke down to 75 acres per year for the period reported on. (See "Why We Need Land and Water Use Planning".)
Richards said on Tuesday that the plan will provide a mechanism for orderly growth and development.
His bill, No. 25-0209, is similar to the earlier version but comes with a set of easily understandable maps developed by the Conservation Data Center at the University of the Virgin Islands using the Geographical Information System, or GIS. (The maps are attached at the end of this article for viewing as pdf files, as is the entire 284-page plan.)
Stevie Henry, data manager of the center, said the maps "are essential to the territory's Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan because they indicate locations where growth or conservation are likely to occur." The maps – one each for St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John – have legends on the lower left that provide keys to what is represented.
"When you present the information using maps, it's more compelling," Henry said.
The 1995 DPNR report laid out various reasons for implementing a land and water use plan. Among them were these:
– To provide specific standards for the protection of beaches, salt ponds, mangrove ecosystems, wetlands and off-shore cays, conserving the natural functions of these systems.
– To establish a uniform permitting system ensuring that the physical, social and economic impacts of all major developments (including subdivisions) are considered in public forums.
– To establish a pattern of concentrating development in areas with existing infrastructure in order to reduce infrastructure costs, curtail sprawl and insure more efficient use of limited land area.
– To reintroduce traditional patterns of land development; guide zoning for all territorial lands, waters and submerged lands; and provide a unified development management system for the entire coastal zone.
– To insure that appropriate recreational facilities are provided in large residential developments and subdivisions.
– To establish a territorial land and water use policy that would provide guidance to the territory's growth into the 21st century.
– To provide for planned residential development and cluster development, and to facilitate creative development while conserving more open space.
The version of the plan that went through a long series of pubic hearings back in 1995 failed to become law.
Wednesday night's meeting at the Legislature Building on St. Croix starts at 6 p.m. The St. Thomas meeting is to take place at 6 p.m. next Tuesday in the legislative chambers; the St. John meeting is set for 6 p.m. Sept. 8 in the legislative conference room in Cruz Bay.
You can access the Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan here.
To view the maps, click here.
Note: These files are very large and could take several minutes to download.

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