Property owner H.C. Ruparelia is asking the V.I. Legislature to approve rezoning some land by Golden Rock Shopping Center to let him subdivide an 11.471 acre parcel, which would allow him to sell it for development as small, individually owned businesses or residential homes.
Also, out east on St. Croix, in Estate Green Cay, out past Cheeseburgers in Paradise, property owner Mike Meluskey is seeking a use variance to use an existing barn and office for a small veterinary office.
The Department of Planning and Natural Resource’s Division of Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning has no objection to either change.
Ruparelia’s plot of land has vacant land to the north; to the northwest is Golden Rock Shopping Center; to the east are owner-occupied residences; to the south are more residences; to the southwest are a school and office buildings, and to the west are the offices for Golden Rock Shopping Center, according to Leia LaPlace-Matthew, a territorial planner within the Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Division of Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning.
The parcel is vacant, but has historical ruins of an 1810 kiln, LaPlace-Matthew said. The owner intends to donate the parcel with the kiln, possibly to the St. Croix Historical Society, she said.
The rezoning would move the property from its current R-3, residential, medium density zoning, to B-2, business-secondary, neighborhood. Water for the businesses would come from cisterns, and wastewater would go to septic tanks. There was no comment or opposition at public hearings on the application, she said.
Most senators at the hearing were supportive of the change, but some, including Sens. Kurt Vialet and Kenneth Gittens, raised concerns about mixing businesses and residences together, and about what sorts of businesses would be there.
"This thing about just doing these zonings piecemeal, you never know where we are putting up obstacles for the future," Gittens said. He raised the specter of a homeowner building a house, "then someone builds a shipping center and you no longer have your view. Mind you, I’m not saying that will happen here."
Mike Meluskey is asking for a use variance for property he and his wife, veterinarian Laurie Bailey, own at Plot no. 115-A Estate Green Cay. Bailey makes calls as a vet, but would be able to operate at home, with the use variance. The 5.34 acre property has a barn, a small office with a bathroom, a single-family home that is their personal residence, and a guest cottage.
They want to use the barn and office for a vet clinic. While changes would need to be made to the inside of the barn, such as electrical and plumbing work, there would be no changes visible from the road and the footprint of the buildings would remain the same, according to LaPlace-Matthews and Meluskey’s agent, attorney Gerald Groner.
During public notice on the variance application, one neighbor wrote a letter in opposition. At a public hearing, two adjacent property owners expressed concern about how near the barn was to a pond; where effluent would go; whether animals, such as horses, would be washed down and where the wash might go, if the septic field worked, and how dead animals would be disposed of, LaPlace-Matthews said.
Noise and traffic increases were also concerns, she said.
LaPlace-Matthew’s division found the size of the property, distance from other properties, limited work to be done, and future permit requirements would limit its impact. It would serve customers and animal patients by appointment only.
"It has ample space for buffering from neighbors, minimizing noise and impact,"she said.
Neighbors acknowledged a lack of veterinary service on the east end of the island, she said. A use variance would limit the changes to this owner, so that if this business closed or moved, the variance would go away, she said.
She recommended approval of the variance, on condition there was no advertising on the premises and no employees except members of the household. Groner said the owners may need a small sign to let people know where the clinic is. LaPlace-Matthews said they would have further discussions with the owners to work out that detail.
No votes were taken at the information-gathering hearing. Sen. Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, who chaired most of the hearing, said that a senator would have to sponsor each of the changes. If that happens, they will be introduced on the floor of the Senate during session and voted upon.