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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, February 25, 2024
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Senators Voice Approval toward Zoning Requests

In a short Committee of the Whole hearing Wednesday night, senators expressed support for two rezoning requests that they said would most likely pop up for a vote during next month’s full session.
St. Thomas-based Frydenhoj Heights has proposed construction of a small commercial complex on a four-acre site on the hill between Food Center and the armory. One acre of the property would be dedicated to the complex, which would cater to local businesses, while another acre would be donated to the V.I. Housing Finance Authority (VIHFA) for moderate housing development, according to local architect John Woods.
Responding to concerns from Planning and Natural Resources officials about the need to safeguard potential tree boa habitat in the area, Frydenhoj Heights Vice President Lee Steiner said another quarter acre of the property would be used as a preservation site. He said the group would continue working with DPNR’s Division of Fish and Wildlife on mitigation measures if the project moves forward.
Financing for the project hinges on the rezoning of the one acre upon which the development will sit. from R-2 (residential-low density, one and two family) to B-3 (business scattered), Steiner said. While DPNR officials recommended that use variances instead be granted to ensure that the developers only use the property for the complex, Steiner explained that a complete rezoning would make the property more marketable if it were to be repossessed or sold.
As a compromise, Frydenhoj Heights has already drafted up restrictive covenants to be attached to the deed that would prevent the property from being used for "anything that the government deems unsuitable," such as gas stations, laundromats or businesses using hazardous materials, Woods said. The same restrictions would apply if the property is sold or turned over, he added.
"This is just the way a rezoning should go," Sen. Craig W. Barshinger said later. Not only has the group continued to work with the government on the project, but efforts are being made to give back to the community through the donation of land to VIHFA, several other senators added.
Senators’ concerns over the second rezoning request — which would allow the existing quarry off Turpentine Run to be expanded — were mostly directed to DPNR, whose recommendation for approval came attached with a 13-item list of conditions.
The existing quarry — owned by the Harthman family — was established 60 years ago, before the local zoning code was in place, and was grandfathered under the existing A-1 (agriculture) zoning designation. But now the face of the quarry has hit the zoning line, which means that for it to continue to be used it has to be expanded, using two adjoining parcels of land — also owned by the Harthman family — that have to be rezoned to I-1 (industrial).
The I-1 designation is the only one under the code that allows for quarry operations, said representatives for Harthman Leasing II LLLP.
DPNR’s concerns focused on the absence of a comprehensive set of local regulations for quarries and mines. Without something like that in place, DPNR had to impose certain conditions to make sure, among other things, that the quarry’s operations meet certain environmental standards and have a limited impact on the surrounding area, officials said.
"Currently, the potential impacts that the quarry expansion will have on the management of quarry operations and on the surrounding community is uncertain," said Marjorie Emanuel, head of DPNR’s Division of Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning. "It is imperative that quarry activity be allowed to provide the critical material needed for development, but clearly defined regulations will be necessary to assist in the continuing interaction of quarrying with residential uses."
Senators took issue with DPNR using the Harthman application to set a precedent for quarry regulation and for not submitting its list of recommendations to the property owner before the hearing.
The property will be leased to Heavy Materials, which currently operates the quarry. Attorney Jim Hindels, representing Harthman Leasing, said the operator has already met many of the conditions included in DPNR’s report and questioned whether the same regulations would be imposed at similar facilities throughout the territory.
Sen. Carlton "Ital" Dowe also asked that DPNR impose "special conditions" on illegal vendors that are setting up shop around the territory, most specifically on the road running past the quarry, which he — along with several other senators — said is becoming littered with bars and taverns.
Since no votes can be taken by the senators when they meet as Committee of the Whole, the requests would have to be sponsored by a senator and drafted into bill form, which many indicated would happen by next month’s full session.
Present during Wednesday’s meeting were Barshinger, Dowe, Hill, Wayne James, Shawn-Michael Malone, Patrick Simeon Sprauve, Michael Thurland and Sammuel Sanes.

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