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Petition Seeks Signatures to Stop Parking Garage Project

July 20, 2005 – A petition to stop a $3.2 million vendor's plaza/parking garage began circulating Wednesday at a meeting held at the Legislature by the St. John Community Foundation to discuss the island's critical parking problem.
"We the undersigned do not support building the vendor/parking structure to be located across from the bulkhead wither the barges dock on St. John. We do want a parking structure of significant size in a location such as where the tennis courts are presently located," reads the petition.
The petition will be available at Connections and numerous other locations around St. John.
Many residents spoke out against the plan at a Dec. 16, 2002 meeting, as well as at other meetings. However, the government continued to move forward with its plans to build the structure.
Sen. Craig Barshinger said he will take the petitions to Gov. Charles Turnbull to let him know how St. John residents feel about the matter.
He said that it would take about 600 to 1,000 signatures to get on the governor's radar. He said 2,000 signatures would be the optimum number to get the project stopped.
"Or a lesser number of signatures of people willing to chain themselves to the bulldozer," he added.
However, he told the mostly-white audience of about three dozen people that they needed to call up residents "who don't look like you" so the petition represents all of St. John.
He also urged residents to personally phone the governor's office to let Turnbull know of the opposition.
Numerous residents said that St. John was in this parking pickle because the island has no master plan. Barshinger promised that if funding for a professional planner for St. John is not in the fiscal year 2006 budget now under consideration, he would include an amendment to a budget bill to pay for the position.
Others, including Barshinger, noted that using prime waterfront space for the vendor's plaza/parking garage was an outdated idea.
Albert Willis, who has served on several parking committees spanning numerous years, said that the vendor's plaza/parking garage was originally meant for people to sell goods made on St. John as well as fresh produce. He said none of the people who produced locally-made goods are left.
"They all died," he said.
St. John architect Rob Crane, a Community Foundation member who led the meeting, proposed building a three-story parking garage behind the public tennis courts.
Crane said that while he was open to any possible locations, he said he thought this was a good one because vehicles could access the parking garage without going through the heart of Cruz Bay. The tennis courts are near Enighed Pond.
V.I. National Park came under fire from Lovango Cay resident Wally Leopold for its failure to help find a solution to Cruz Bay's parking problem. He said many people visit St. John because of the park.
Leopold said that the 350-foot strip of land located between the park ball field and the road into the park's visitor center could house 40 cars if they were parked perpendicular to the fence.
"You'd have to pull out six hibiscus bushes," he said.
Others mentioned using the Julius E. Sprauve ball field as a public parking lot when the school is moved to another location, but Glen Speer pointed out that even if the new school got underway today, it would be at least four years before it was done.
He said that most residents have their own strategy for finding an elusive parking space.
"We've become an island of scramblers," Speer said.
He said that tourists have no similar experience to draw on and are often frustrated because they can't find a parking space. Speer pointed out that the tourists are the island's lifeblood.
He said that additionally, about 30 St. Thomas-based construction workers who have jobs on St. John are now parking vehicles on St. John because the Red Hook ferry terminal construction makes it difficult to find parking spots in the Red Hook area.
Speer said they return with their vehicles to Cruz Bay at around 3:30 p.m., just when the tourists are coming in to town to shop.
Also at issue is what to do with the handful of vendors who occupy space in the parking lot where vendor's plaza/parking garage is planned.
Lonnie Willis, pointing out that vendors pay low rent, asked why it was up to the community to find them a place to relocate when tenants in commercial buildings must find new space when the need to relocate arises.
"People who have to move, move. Why are we subsidizing vendors?" she asked.
The Community Foundation is also working to develop a shuttle service to run around Cruz Bay so people would be encourage to park in outlying areas.
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