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Robin Bay Resort Gets Warm Reception at Public Hearing

April 22, 2009 — St. Croix residents Wednesday largely voiced support for the Seven Hills Beach Resort and Casino development planned for Robin Bay during a public hearing of the Coastal Zone Management (CZM) committee.
The Robin Bay project is one of several long-delayed resort projects on St. Croix, along with the Amalago Bay development planned for Estates William and Punch on the island's west end and Golden Gaming's casino and resort project planned for St. Croix's south shore near Great Pond. As with other proposed projects, plans at Robin Bay call for a mixed resort development with golfing, casino gambling and condominiums, along with hotels.
Plans call for four phases of development over a 10-to-12-year span, depending on market conditions and demand. Phase one includes two hotels with 422 rooms, a 30,000-square-foot casino, meeting and banquet rooms, retail shops, spa space, an 18-hole golf course, 56 timeshare condos and utility infrastructure. Later, if all goes well, the plans call for more hotel rooms, condos and cottages along the golf course.
Consultants and contractors with Robin Bay described their plans to control erosion, mitigate and reduce the resort's potential environmental impact. Along with delicate flora and fauna from mangroves to sea turtles, the site has a number of historic and pre-Columbian archeological sites, which the developers mostly plan to preserve and open up for historical interpretation.
After the formal presentation by the developers, residents got a chance to speak their piece. None opposed the project outright.
"After seeing their presentations and hearing the testimony to the CZM committee, it is clear Robin Bay is ready to go," said Percival Edwards of Frederiksted, contrasting it with other projects that might be less ready. "When you see a proposal like this one here tonight, you can tell a lot of time went into it, and they need a round of applause."
Most other speakers were at least as enthusiastic.
"My wife and I have been landowners here on St. Croix about 10 years," said Bill Scott of St. Croix. "We are members of SEA (the St. Croix Environmental Association). We've set aside a large portion of rain forest for conservation. We are very serious about conservation, and so we come to meetings like this with a great deal of skepticism. With this presentation, my skepticism has evaporated."
SEA itself wants changes to the plans.
"With adequate design modifications, an environmentally sustainable resort could be constructed at Robin Bay," said Paul Chakroff, managing director of SEA. But SEA regards the project's Environmental Assessment Report as inadequate and insufficiently detailed, he said. SEA wants to see a series of alternatives for various design elements included in the CZM permit application, too.
Now that it has held a public hearing, the CZM committee members must rule on the permit application within 30 days. Anyone interested can submit their written comments to the committee for the next seven days. You can bring comments to the St. Croix office at No. 45 Mars Hill, in the Rainbow Building adjacent to the police station in Hannah's Rest, or to the St. Thomas office in the Cyril E. King Airport. Or you can fax them to the St. Croix office at (340) 773-3343.
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