Correction: See Editor’s Note
The V.I. Government will not rent hundreds of acres of St. Croix farmland to Tibbar Energy to grow King Grass for use in electricity production after the V.I. Legislature voted to reject the measure Friday. The Legislature first voted to approve the lease, then later recalled the question and voted to reject it, while acting on a number of other leases, rezonings and board nominations before the Senate on Friday. The government had planned to lease Tibbar 232 acres on St. Croix that are reserved for agricultural use to grow King Grass. The land would have joined more than 1,700 acres on St. Croix that Tibbar has purchased or leased to grow the grass and build digesters to produce biogas for energy production, according to Tibbar owner and manager Tania Tomyn.
Senators raised concerns about the length of the lease and use of groundwater that hypothetically could be needed by farmers. Agriculture officals testified in committee in support of the project. After the initial vote in favor of the lease, Sen. Donald Cole called for the bill to be reconsidered. On the second vote, Cole and Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen changed from yes to not voting and Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone changed from yes to no, killing the lease.
The Legislature also approved a 99-year lease for a hotel development on Water Island where a hotel existed until 1989.
The Water Island Development Company plans for 122 rooms, 35 villas and a marina for large yachts and smaller vessels. They plan to apply for tax breaks and hotel development incentives enacted earlier this year as amendments to a 2011 hotel development law aimed at promoting building on St. Croix.
Senators approved two leases in Sub Base on St. Thomas. One is a lease with Budget Super Service Center for 22,727 square feet in Sub Base. The lease is for 10 years with an option for two five-year renewals. The monthly rent is $6,664. The company plans to use the space for a state-of-the-art auto repair shop, with a paint booth, frame machine and other services.
The other is a lease for 6,145 square feet of space at Sub Base for Bryan’s Electrical Contracting Corporation, with options to renew until 2033.
The Legislature also approved government leases with:
– J.U.B. King and Associates;
– Jonah Julien Welding;
– Ortalis Properties;
– and Associated Universities – National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Senators approved several rezonings, including those for:
– Henry A. Schuster to have Plot 237 in Estate Glynn rezoned from agricultural to commercial so that he can construct a fully automated carwash, complete with waiting room, detail shop, oil change center and a self-service carwash area. The business will operate in conjunction with Echo Valley Imports & Tire Services.
– Dennis McCluster to have Plot No.10-A in Estate Castle Coakley rezoned from low-density family and two-family to business scattered. This would allow him to build a two-story building with the first floor as 5,000 square feet of retail space, where he plans to relocate his Jackie’s Beauty Supply from its current location in Estate Diamond. The second floor will feature office space and a two-bedroom apartment.
– Benjo’s North America LLC to rezone Plot 20-A Strand Street and 5-BB Smith Street in Christiansted. The request asked the two properties be given a use variance so that the owner can convert an existing three-story building to a mixed-use facility. The owners will live in part of the space and the first floor will be used for a small juice processing facility. The second floor will be used for storage and living quarters and the third floor for office and living quarters.
– Magdalene and Ira Moses to change the zoning map from R2 (residential-low density, one and two family) to B-3 (business scattered) for Parcel 3J-2A Estate Mariendal;
– a use variance for Parcel No. 46A Estate Nisky to allow a car rental business;
– and rezoning Parcel 48C Estate Lindbergh Bay from R-1 (residential- low density) to R-3 (residential, medium density).
The Legislature also approved several coastal zone building permits.
One permit allows improvements to Veterans Drive between Long Bay Road to Hospital Gade, then in a second phase, from Hospital Gade around the Legislature and Coast Guard buildings and ending at Tvaer Gade. Plans call for a four-lane roadway, a landscaped median, a sidewalk to the north and promenade on the south. The work will follow the existing road while widening into the harbor to accommodate additional lanes.
Another allows WAPA to continue using the existing 300-foot jetty, catwalk and marine equipment seaward of its Randolph E. Harley Power Plant on St. Thomas. It permits WAPA to install a new marine loading arm, new mooring piles and fenders and two, more distant mooring piles for lines from feeder vessels.
It also allows WAPA to dredge about 2,500 cubic yards of material in Krum Bay leading up to the Krum Bay boat ramp.
The body also approved permits:
– for St. Thomas Sports Fishing Center to keep using its 260-foot wooden pier and landing in Smith Bay for the next 20 years;
– for Neal K. Henderson to keep using the existing 248-foot dock and surrounding water area seaward of No. 88 Estate Frydenhoj, St. Thomas;
– for Tropical Marine Inc. to continue using their existing 125-foot dock, a smaller 50-foot dock, boardwalk fuel pumps and other seaside infrastructure in Estate Nadir in Benner Bay, St. Thomas. Tropical is also permitted to remove the existing underground storage tank, upgrade restrooms and have live-aboard residents in the marina to improve security;
– for the Buccaneer resort on St. Croix to continue using its 759-foot, T-shaped dock and surrounding water seaward of Estate Shoys for another 20 years;
– for MSI Building Supplies another 20-years’ use of its Crown Bay facility. The permit allows for the demolition of two existing structures. It also permits the construction of a 3,700-square-foot steel frame building, the restoration of a 160-foot-by-20-foot storage building and building an 18-car parking lot and loading area.
The Legislature also approved GERS nominee Michael McDonald, Board of Nurse Licensure nominee Claudette Robinson and Board of Chiropractic Examiners nominee Robert Monokian.
Editor’s Note: The author initially reported the Tibbar lease in error, noting the first vote in favor but missing the second vote against. The author apologizes for the error.