Aug. 18, 2004 – The mandate for the Virgin Islands to produce a comprehensive land and water use plan was given in 1970, according to Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean Plaskett.
Serious efforts to produce one were made in the late '80s and early '90s, but they fell by the wayside, he said.
Things like that happen too often in the Virgin Islands, Sen. Ronald Russell said Wednesday night at a hearing on a new version of the plan. "Good ideas are allowed to get derailed," he said.
Senators speaking at the Planning and Environmental Protection Committee hearing on St. Croix said it will not happen this time. Sen. Louis Hill, who chairs the committee said, "I am committed to seeing this brought to a successful end. I am committed to bringing it to Government House and before the governor."
Sen. Usie Richards, who is not a member of the committee, attended the meeting as sponsor of the 284-page bill that would make the latest version of the plan law.
"This is not an old plan," Richards told his colleagues. "This is a 2004 document."
Richards said he took the earlier draft of the plan to Plaskett last October and his department "analyzed it, reviewed it, got input on it and changed it." Richards said he received the revised plan in May and that attorneys then scrutinized it.
On Wednesday night, Plaskett presented an overview of the plan and listed specific changes made to the old plan. Something that has changed profoundly is how information is being gathered and used in the plan.
Stevie Henry of the Eastern Caribbean Center at the University of Virgin Islands gave a presentation on the maps being used in the plan and how they were linked to data.
Using a Geographical Information System, commonly called GIS, he is getting the data from the Tax Assessor's Office as well as the Planning and Natural Resources Department. To demonstrate, he showed a large map of St. Croix, zoomed in on a plat and then showed how to retrieve information about that plat.
Before Henry and Plaskett made their presentations, each senator present was asked to comment.
Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone said the plan is long overdue. He also said he hopes it can be moved forward quickly in a bipartisan effort.
Sen. Carleton Dowe said the plan "could be an instrument to stop some of the madness" in development on the islands.
Sen. Roosevelt David said that "there is no question that we need some sort of plan for growth."
Sen. Douglas Canton Jr. arrived near the end of the hearing and made no comment.
In wrapping up the hearing, which was intended to be informational and not to address public concerns or comments, Hill said: "This is just the first step in a long journey. This will require a lot more in-depth questioning, a lot more meetings."
About 20 spectators attended the hearing.
The committee also has scheduled similar informational hearings at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the legislative chambers on St. Thomas and at 6 p.m. Sept. 8 at the Legislature Building on St. John.
Hill said after those hearings, town meetings, maybe two on each island, would be scheduled to get input from community members. He emphasized "energy and input from community members" will keep the process going.
For further information about the plan in its current state, see "Land and Water Use Plan to Make the Rounds Again".
You can access the Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan here.
To view the maps, click here.
Note: These files are very large and could take several minutes to download.
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