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CZM Committee Considers Proposed Marina in Coral Harbor

July 13, 2006 – Plans by Coral Bay Marina to build a 116-slip marina in Coral Harbor got mixed reviews Thursday from St. John community members at a Coastal Zone Management Committee hearing.
However, many people spoke in support of the project. "We are going to build a marina," Coral Bay resident Guy Benjamin told the naysayers in the audience of more than 75 people that nearly filled the Legislature Building.
Former Sen. Robert O'Connor Jr. (who operates the island's Texaco gas station as well as other businesses), Eglah Marsh Clendinen and Minerva Marsh Vasquez are the principals in the project. All are St. John natives.
The marina is slated to go up on Marsh family waterfront property where Island Blues bar and restaurant now sits. Additionally, stores and offices will be built on property located across Route 107.
The facility will also include a portable pump-out station, a wastewater treatment facility, a reverse osmosis plant, a Laundromat, a repair shop, showers, and two apartments for employees.
Architect Teresa Roberts said the proposed reverse osmosis plant will be able to supply Coral Bay residents with water in case of an emergency.
The water depth under the docks will run five to 10 feet. Originally Coral Bay Marina wanted to dredge the area near the proposed marina but decided to extend the length of the docks into deeper water rather than dredge.
The marina also includes a public dinghy dock.
With numerous and varied rumors swirling around about the project, St. John attorney Brion Morrisette and O'Connor spoke out.
"It's high time people whose roots are here are allowed to participate," Morrisette said, inferring that natives have been left out of the island's economic growth.
He said people opposing the marina don't have to work for a living and want "to pull up the bridge."
O'Connor was particularly incensed that people had questioned his financial capabilities.
"It's insulting to me, the comments I hear. I resent it, I totally resent it," he said.
Several people in the audience complained that the marina's location would make it vulnerable to hurricane damage.
Morrisette, a former CZM member, said that the marina would probably suffer damage in a Category 5 hurricane, but so would many of the island's houses.
In response to rumors that insurance would not be available for the proposed project, Trip Lea, owner of Compass Point Marina on St. Thomas, said he had no trouble getting insurance.
He also spoke about the demand for marinas. "We have a six-and-a-half-year waiting list," he said.
He said another marina in the territory would help to bring back business lost to the British Virgin Islands.
Morrisette said that contrary to rumors, the developers had no plans to flip the property once they had the CZM permit in hand.
When St. John resident Barry Devine stood up to speak, O'Connor complained that Devine and "another group" had bashed the project. Also at issue for O'Connor was the fact that Devine, a scientist at the University of the Virgin Islands Conservation Data Center, announced he represented the university as well as the Island Green Building Association.
After some back-and-forth, Coastal Zone Program Director Victor Somme III said he had no correspondence from the university authorizing Devine to speak on its behalf so his reference to UVI should be stricken from the record.
Devine went on to point out what he said were deficiencies in the application.
"There is no business plan or feasibility study," he said. He also pointed out problems with the sediment drawings, the lack of plans for a fuel station, the omission of an oil spill plan, as well as other problems. "I recommend a smaller project," he said.
St. John resident Chris Clark said that the marina should be built on the other side of the harbor to protect it from hurricane damage. However, he said that the installation of a breakwater would help alleviate the problem.
He also noted that the marina had no slips large enough to accommodate catamarans, which are gaining in popularity.
He urged the CZM committee to evaluate the project on its merits, not the fact that natives are building it. "Whether it's Mr. O'Connor or somebody from Mars," he said.
Jackie Clendinen, Eglah Marsh Clendinen's daughter, urged the developers to include the suggestions made at the hearing in their revisions to the plans.
Somme pointed out issues, such as a confusing Environmental Assessment Report, that he said Coral Bay Marina should address before the CZM Committee decision meeting on Aug. 2.
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