May 21, 2006 – Getting more community members involved in education and advocacy is a top priority for the Environmental Association of St. Thomas – especially when it comes to tackling issues like development, rezoning and local beach access.
"When we talk about advocacy, we're not talking about shutting down development in the territory," Carla Joseph, EAST president, said over the weekend at the organization's annual meeting. "We're talking about protecting our tourism product and making sure we leave something for our future generations to enjoy."
Joseph said that in order to accomplish this goal, EAST will look at partnering with various community organizations over the next year and will be working together to evaluate six upcoming Coastal Zone Management permits.
"One of those applications is for Botany Bay Partners," said Caroline Browne, EAST's Issues Committee chairwoman. "And one of our main problems with that was the lack of proposed parking spaces – they only allowed for seven, and we thought that was unacceptable. Their plan also proposes the development of 40 hilltop villas, a small market, 25 hillside lots, nine hotel buildings, a recamping area, a spa and a restaurant."
Browne said EAST would be closely monitoring development that cuts off residents' access to public beaches. "Our residents are not being able to do the things which they traditionally used to be able to," she said. "Like going to the beach – it's getting harder and harder. So we really want to get a group of like minded-people together to help us fight this issue."
Later in the meeting, Joseph explained that the group is making headway in building a case against the property owners of Sunsi Beach who erected a gate and posted an armed guard to block access to the beach. "There used to be a shortcut residents used to get to the beach, but that was cut off," she explained.
"And a lot of residents got up in arms about it. So we started collecting affidavits from people who had once been able to gain access to the beach using this shortcut. According to local law, once you can prove that you have accessed an area for a certain number of years – unhindered by the property owner – then you still have the right to access that area if it's been blocked," she said. "Planning and Natural Resources knows this, but they still aren't doing anything to enforce the law."
Joseph added that the organization has already collected 20 affidavits. "According to our attorney, that's really good," she said. "It means we're legally in a good position – that we can support our case."
May Adams-Cornwall, the executive director of the Waste Management Authority, outlined the goals of the organization and what they accomplished last year.
"It's amazing what they've done," Joseph said after the presentation. "Especially considering that they only got started about a year and a half ago."
She added that EAST would be looking to partner with the WMA, and would concentrate on getting more recycling initiatives going for the territory.
EAST members also elected a new board during the meeting.
President – Carla Joseph
Vice-President – Autumn Harrell
Treasurer – Dalma Simon
Secretary – Caroline Browne
At-large members – Jeff Watson, Greg Miller and Everette Parker Jr.
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