Aug. 20, 2002 – A request for rezoning 12,996 square feet of land at 1-Kc Estate Bethany for a seven-unit apartment building sparked discussion of St. John's affordable housing shortage at Tuesday's meeting of the Senate Committee of the Whole.
The meeting was held at the Legislature Building in Cruz Bay to take testimony on three St. John rezoning requests. The Planning and Natural Resources Department has recommended that the Senate approve all three.
Irvine and Bernice Monsanto requested a rezoning from R-2 (residential low density, one- and two-family) to R-3 (residential, medium density) for the apartment project. A neighbor, Maurice Smith, suggested that the senators rezone the entire area R-3 because he, too, would like to develop his piece of property.
"Every day you hear people complaining about rents being so expensive," Sen. Roosevelt David said. The Monsantos' son, Kirton, promised that their rents would be affordable.
Robert O'Connor Jr., a former senator, called for subsidies to help reduce St. John's shortage of affordable housing. Many people who work on the island commute from St. Thomas because they can't find affordable housing on St. John, he said.
"People who are born here and have families are not going to be able to live on St. John," O'Connor said.
This prompted Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd, who does live on the island, to point out that he expects ground will be broken within a few months on a subsidized home-ownership project in Calabash Boom.
The senators also heard testimony on a request to rezone 20,293 square feet of land at 5g Remainder Estate Pastory from R-2 to R-3 so the local Jehovah's Witnesses could move their Kingdom Hall from Centerline Road. "We have outgrown the area," said Edwin Sullivan, who heads the Kingdom Hall and represented the landowners, Kepperine and Alva Edison Richards.
Sullivan said traffic is now a serious problem during services because the Kingdom Hall has minimal parking. The new building will have off-street parking.
In the third case, Beverly Melius, president of ABM&C Co., asked for rezoning from R-2 to B-3 (business scattered) so she can expand her Pickles Deli and build a furniture store along Route 107 in Coral Bay. "With the growth in Coral Bay, we've outgrown the space," she said. The property of 29,969 square feet is located at 14-3 Estate Carolina.
Smith, who builds furniture, urged Melius to add a workshop that could produce items from "caskets to cabinets." Melius said she hadn't thought about it before, but would be glad to sell locally produced furniture. She said she would add two or three people to her current staff of a dozen when the she expands the deli and opens the furniture store.
Sen. Lorraine Berry said that the furniture store would improve the quality of life for St. John residents, since they no longer would have to travel to St. Thomas to shop for furniture.
No votes were taken on the rezoning requests at the Committee of the Whole hearing. Those will come next week, when the Senate meets in full session.
David took advantage of Tuesday's meeting being on St. John to announce that the GARVEE bonds that will pay for the $16 million Enighed Pond commercial port project are to be signed on Sept. 26. The bonds are backed by Federal Highway Administration funding commitments for future years.
Senators present for the meeting were Berry, Douglas E. Canton Jr., Donald "Ducks" Cole, David, Carlton Dowe, David Jones and Liburd.
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