The Coastal Zone Management division of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources approved the demolition of the administration building at the Department of Agriculture in Estate Lower Love, St. Croix, Thursday at a meeting held virtually with the board members and staff.
Scott Beebe of Witt O’Brien introduced architect Jeffrey Boschulte who discussed, with professional drawings, the plan to bring down the hurricane-destroyed building and potential plans for rebuilding on the same footprint.
Beebe said the permit petition was only for the demolition process, and actual drawings for a new building would be presented at a later date. The permit includes soil boring, earth change, and waste disposal operations.
He pointed out that the location is 450 feet from the nearest gut but is in a flood zone. “The building does not affect drainage or the wetlands in a negative way,” he said.
Boschulte began his presentation by stating the existing building could not be salvaged. He described the original administration building as a two-story structure comprising 4,500 square feet.
A new building, proposed by Boschulte, places designated parking to the west of the facility. He said the new building should be raised in the front to avoid the flood zone with seating and planters on an open courtyard that could also be used for classes.
The new building will house staff on the lower level, along with a meeting room and restrooms. There would also be a break room, conference room/training room, and spaces for janitorial supplies and a cashier.
Boschulte proposed that the second level, reached by elevator, would hold executive and managerial offices and a research room, reception, and waiting rooms. In addition, there will be space on the flat roof for a garden.
“We tried to think about the mission of Agriculture and think how the building itself could become an educational facility,” he said.
Other components of the building might include impact glass panels, a gable roof, and concrete steps.
Funding for the project will come from a $5 million FEMA grant with a ten percent match, according to Boschulte.
Boschulte said the project could begin in three months. Construction could take up to two years.
Anita Nibbs of DPNR said the staff research showed the application is consistent with the CZM program. She added the project is in the public interest, with no environmental effects. She said the staff review recommended approval.
Nibbs said that the federal regulations had been complied with, including contractors for the demolition, and a subcontractor has tested for hazardous materials.
The permit was approved unanimously by the commissioners with conditions, including permits regarding solid and hazardous waste and an approval letter from the V.I. Historic Preservation Office. No other work will be allowed, and the work must be done using best practices.
The second permit discussed by the CZM commissioners was a public hearing about reissuing a major permit to the Port Authority for the Ann Abramson Pier that was issued in 2016 but never worked due to the 2017 hurricanes and lack of funding.
In 2016, the original permit was modified to include a new 75- by 15-foot tender landing, extending perpendicular to the existing landing. New pilings are to be placed beyond the existing colonized riprap, and the existing tender landing is to be removed. The colonized pilings would be cut off above the water line to minimize the impact of colonizing organisms. The new pilings would be driven into uncolonized sand beyond the existing tender landing. Concrete stairs will be installed on a concrete foundation for swimmer and diver access.
The Frederiksted Pier, as it is commonly called, consists of 1.6 acres of filled land, a 910-foot by 32-foot wide approach bridge connecting to a 402-foot long by 80-foot wide platform. A 20-foot by 20-foot mooring platform lies 200 feet off the western end of the platform. A catwalk and dolphin mooring system extends off the end of the pier.
No new work other than that already permitted in 2016 is proposed under the application.
No one from the community called or emailed comments about the permit, but Kai Nielsen, a CZM commissioner, commented that although the additions to the pier ultimately would help Frederiksted dive shops, inspections under the pier for structural issues and construction time would hurt business.
CZM chair Masserae Webster asked if any dredging would be needed to accommodate large cruise ships. Nibbs said there is “no indication” of dredging and that there is already enough depth for large ships. DPNR’s Marlon Hibbert added that the Frederiksted Pier is one of the few in the Caribbean, with a naturally deep drop off on the seafloor at the end of the pier.
The public can make comments to DPNR until Dec. 24 (340-773-1082). A decision hearing will be held in approximately 30 days.