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Wednesday, April 17, 2024


Neighbors of the Harthman family in Tutu want to know what kind of businesses would go into an area behind Tutu Park Mall if it is rezoned for commercial development.
But Arthur Harthman and his representative, Brian Turnbull, said they couldn't discuss what kind of businesses might locate in the area behind Tutu Park Mall until the rezoning from A-1 (agricultural) to C (commercial) is approved.
"Until it is rezoned," said Turnbull, who used to be a planner with the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, "everything we present…is speculative."
He called it a "philosophical" rezoning because of the "appropriateness of the development."
However Harthman said he'd been approached by "people who want to initiate commercial businesses in the V.I." He never said who or what the businesses were.
Most people at Wednesday's public hearing of the Zoning Committee of DPNR thought it was not unreasonable to consider the already heavily commercialized area for further commercial use. But almost to a person, witnesses wanted specifics on what kinds of businesses would go into the 27-plus acre area.
Community activist and former senator Stephanie Scott-Williams, who said she has lived in New Tutu for 30 years, made an impassioned plea to DPNR not to let the property be covered in concrete, and to keep its eye on what kinds of businesses are allowed to go into the development.
"We don't need any more gas stations, or laundromats or dry cleaners," she said.
She admonished the V.I. government for its lack of planning in the area as she brandished an aerial photo showing a variety of malls, homes and buildings surrounding the green area that Harthman wants zoned for commercial use.
And despite Harthman's assurances that he lives in Tutu and wouldn't put a "dump" in his neighborhood, Scott-Williams said that once the area was rezoned, the Harthmans, through death or for other reasons, might not always have control of the area.
Turnbull also reminded the committee several times that the government has the ability to control development.
But committee member Brent Blyden said, "Things imbedded in the land are the responsibility of the land owner."
Part of the area's appropriateness is that the Public Works Department is already running a sewage line through the property that will feed into already existing sewage lines in the area. The development would also be able to use the existing access road into Tutu Park Mall, along with developing the Harthman's private road that would feed onto the Weymouth Rhymer Highway near the Edith Williams Elementary School.
Erva Denham, president of the League of Women Voters of the Virgin Islands, said in a prepared statement read into the record by League board member Colette Monroe that the property "is an obvious area for future commercial development. However, without even a rough sketch to indicate the type of commercial development envisioned by the property owners, there is little or no reason for the area residents to support this zoning change."
Harthman maintained, however, "We do not develop commercial property."
Toward the end of the meeting committee chairwoman Sue Higgins asked Harthman if he would consider a zoning variance — which would specify what types of businesses could be developed — in place of rezoning. Though hedging the question, it seemed clear that was not what Harthman was looking for.

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