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CZM Committee Stands Firm With Calabash Boom Ruling

Jan. 26, 2007 — After deliberating for nearly an hour in executive session, the St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee Friday upheld the cease-and-desist order it issued against Reliance Housing Foundation on Jan. 17 for violating the special conditions attached to its CZM permit for an affordable housing community at Calabash Boom.
However, the committee agreed that the company can reinstall and maintain knocked-down silt fences it put up to keep silt from washing downhill.
"We're trying to make the best out of a tricky situation," CZM Chairman Julien Harley said after the meeting held at the Legislature. About 50 people attended the meeting.
CZM attorney Dalila Patton said that keeping the silt fences in place lessens the environmental impact.
At issue for CZM is the fact that Reliance, which plans to build a 72-unit project, decided not to install a reverse osmosis plant and pipes to send the brine out to the sea. It made this decision without applying for a modification to its CZM permit.
CZM Director Victor Somme said that Reliance must now apply for the modification to its CZM permit.
CZM issued the cease-and-desist order because Reliance did not have its Army Corps of Engineers permit and did not submit a spill-contingency control plan and water- and air-quality certificates.
Both sides called it miscommunication on both their parts.
"We did not intend to do anything un-neighborly," Reliance attorney Treston Moore said.
Reliance President Robert Jackson had no comment after the meeting.
In a 45-minute address to the CZM Committee, Moore explained that Reliance was merely doing preparatory work in advance of the actual construction when CZM called a halt to its efforts. He said Reliance believed the advance work was called for in its CZM permit.
"We had no intention of proceeding with the actual construction until all the permits are in place," Moore said.
He said that Reliance was repairing the legal access road to the homes that sit uphill from the Calabash Boom project. Because the road is in very poor condition, residents have long used a road that sits on the Calabash Boom project property to drive uphill.
Moore said that many of the homes uphill do not have gabions or silt fences. Consequently, silt is running down hill.
He said that repairing the unused road will help alleviate the runoff problem. Moore also said that Reliance plans to pave that road.
Moore then noted that allowing people to drive across the Calabash Boom property creates a liability issue for Reliance.
He said he believed the Army Corps permit was no longer necessary because Reliance no longer planned to build a reverse osmosis plant. Instead, it will rely on filtering brackish water from wells and collecting rainwater in cisterns.
Moore said that Reliance decided to use the wells and rainwater after the Army Corps stopped action on the permit application because the agency thought running the outfall pipe 1,000 feet into the sea would place the briny effluent right on top of coral. He said that the 1,000-foot figure was at the insistence of CZM staff.
He said the Army Corps wanted the pipe to end 150 to 200 feet out to an area with sparse seagrass beds.
Moore said that Reliance believed the oil-spill contingency plan and air-quality certificates were needed at later stages of the project. He said the company has a water-quality certificate issued by the Legislature when it approved a submerged land permit for the scrapped reverse osmosis plant, but said that no one at Reliance or at the CZM office can locate it.
He said that Reliance last week filed an application for the air-quality certificate and the oil-spill contingency plan in response to the cease-and-desist order.
Moore said that Reliance is losing about $1.6 million a month while the project is delayed.
Moore also noted that the matter is also in U.S. District Court thanks to a suit by the ad hoc group Friends of Coral Bay.
He said that the first of the buildings should be done by March 2008, with the entire project completed by the end of that year.
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