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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, April 23, 2024
HomeNewsArchivesSenate Hears Cruz Bay Rezoning Requests

Senate Hears Cruz Bay Rezoning Requests

Former Sen. Robert O'Connor Jr. (foreground) spoke in support of a rezoning request for the new post office. New owners and management at the Grande Bay condominium project in Cruz Bay have turned things around, several owners and people affiliated with the project said Thursday at a Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on developer Bay Isles Associates’ request for a rezoning.
The project has been rife with controversy, with 20 condominium owners at one point suing the developers because they didn’t provide the promised amenities.
"The change in the way the new owners acted toward us was 180 degrees. They have acted in a responsible way, which is in marked contrast to the previous owners," Grande Bay unit owner Thomas Hill said, urging the senators to approve the rezoning request.
Grande Bay currently has 48 units, with 32 of them sold.
The Senate also heard from Breezes Inc. on its request for a rezoning so it can construct a building in Cruz Bay near Enighed Pond to lease to the U.S. Postal Service for a new post office.
Bay Isles Associates wants a rezoning from W-1 (waterfront) to R-4 (residential medium density) for one of its parcels so it can build out the shell of an existing building with six units instead of the two allowed under the W-1 zoning. The six units will include three two-bedroom units and three one-bedroom units.
Additionally, the rezoning would bring the parcel into the same zoning as the surrounding Grande Bay and neighborhood lots. Grande Bay also asked for a variance if the parcel is rezoned R-4 so it can add a sundry shop. A sundry shop is not allowed under R-4 but is allowed with W-1.
The original plans called for a restaurant in what is now a shell building, but that plan was scratched.
In its 2005 rezoning request, Bay Isles asked for 14 units, but former Gov. Charles Turnbull vetoed a legislative approval. Bay Isles then cut the number of units to six.
Senate President Louis P. Hill, who chaired the meeting, spoke about how shocking it was to see Grande Bay go up. It’s located adjacent to the south side of Cruz Bay Harbor and visible from the ferry as it enters the harbor.
"The hillside was a horrific site. It was disconcerting to see that happen to the face of St. John, but it’s not such a shock any more," he said.
Adam Cook, who provided the landscaping for Grande Bay, said the landscaping has softened how the project looks.
Sen. Craig Barshinger noted that the area from the Cruz Bay dock along the waterfront to Gallows Point Resort, which includes Grande Bay, was exempt from the Coastal Zone Management law as a "political plum" to people who owned those properties. He said when the law was written in the early 1970s nobody could envision that anyone would build such a large-scale project as Grande Bay, so the area’s exclusion from the CZM law wasn’t a concern.
"There’s a lesson here for us," he said.
St. John resident Pam Gaffin was the lone person pushing that the Grande Bay rezoning request be denied. She suggested that once Grande Bay got the rezoning to build out the shell building with six units, it would instead put in the originally planned 14.
"When is enough enough? When do we send a message to developers that the Virgin Islands is not a banana republic where you can buy your way around any law?" she said.
Gaffin complained that Grande Bay was renting out units without a license to do so, but Bay Isles attorney Robert Messick said that it was in the process of applying for the needed license.
"We wish we had done it last fall," he said.
He said that individual owners don’t need a license to rent out their units, which they are doing.
Former Sen. Robert O’Connor Jr. was the only person to speak out regarding Breeze’s request for a rezoning a 7,800-square-foot lot from R-4 to B-2 (business secondary) for the new post office. The lot isn’t big enough for the 6,000-squarefoot building under the existing zoning. The post office is currently housed in cramped quarters in Cruz Bay.
"This application serves the people of St. John well," he said.
The applicants now need to find a senator to sponsor a bill for their rezonings.
In addition to Barshinger and Hill, Sen. Carlton Dowe, Sen. Wayne James, Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson and Sen. Patrick Simeon Sprauve attended the meeting.

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