Although some senators expressed concern about a large rezoning allowing businesses or residences on 11 acres by Golden Rock Shopping Center, the Legislature voted to approve the change, Monday.
It also approved a use variance to allow a veterinary clinic in Estate Green Cay.
Property owner H.C. Ruparelia sought rezoning 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.
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.
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. Wastewater would go to septic tanks.
Supporters cited the importance of small businesses to the local economy.
"Small business is the engine that drives any economy," Sen. Marvin Blyden said.
Others raised concerns that the owner had no concrete plans and development could happen far in the future.
Sen. Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly said that when the rezoning was heard in committee, it was "made clear there is no written, concrete plan for development." She said the rezoning includes "150 uses," from bars to mechanic shops, and if some homes are built, and businesses added later, owners may be surprised and dismayed.
"Not all buyers are sophisticated enough to ask what other types of businesses might pop up. I would would hate to see that hill become overdeveloped with businesses that are a nuisance. … I submit that if someone builds a $250,000 house they do not want a mechanic shop or nightclub opening up down the street," she said. "Do not dictate what might be developed on that property in my district without making an informed decision," she said.
Similarly, Sen. Tregenza Roach said he opposed the rezoning, saying nearby property owners should have some assurance that if they build a home, the government will not come in later and change nearby zonings to change the character of the neighborhood.
Sen. Kenneth Gittens reiterated his oft-stated view that the Legislature should not be deciding zoning issues. He voted in favor of the change however.
Voting for the rezoning were: Blyden, Gittens, Sens. Novelle Francis, Clifford Graham, Neville James, Almando "Rocky" Liburd, Positive Nelson and Sammuel Sanes. Voting no were: O’Reilly, Roach, Sens. Jean Forde, Justin Harrigan, Myron Jackson and Janette Millin Young. Sen. Kurt Vialet abstained.
Out east on St. Croix, in Estate Green Cay, past Cheeseburgers in Paradise, property owner Mike Meluskey sought 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 a variance would allow her to operate at home. 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.
When it was heard in committee, Department of Planning and Natural Resources officials said some neighbors were concerned about traffic and possible runoff from washing horses, but their analysis found neither should pose much of an issue, due to the size of the facility. That there is a lack of veterinary service on the east end of the island also led DPNR to support the use variance, which, unlike a zoning change, would expire if the business closed or moved.
Senators approved the Meluskey’s use variance 15-0.