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Dockside St. John Thought You'd Want to Know…

Dec. 17, 2005 — The past few weeks have, unfortunately, been filled with so many rumors and misstatements about our new building in Cruz Bay that we thought the community might like to know the facts. We are all entitled to own opinions –whether one likes the new building or not – but no one is entitled to his own facts. Here are the facts:
Dockside Mall, Inc., a Virgin Islands corporation entirely owned by Virgin Islanders, has owned Parcel 4-C Cruz Bay since 1988. Then, as today, the property was zoned for commercial use and was outside of the first tier of the coastal zone. Five years ago, it became clear that the wooden structure on the property had to be replaced. A food stand and retail shops had been operating there with three parking spaces on the eastern side of the lot. Dockside Mall met with the V.I. Port Authority's Executive Director Darlan Brin to discuss the re-development of the property. Mr. Brin expressed great concern about congestion and safety issues at the ferry landing, especially the lack of a sidewalk exiting the dock, so that passengers walked off the dock to the north of our property and directly into the active roadway. He was also concerned about the possibility of any vehicular entry or exit on the north side of the property which he felt the Port Authority would have to actively discourage or oppose not only for pedestrian safety but also on account of Homeland Security issues and regulations, which apply to VIPA. We committed to working jointly with the Port Authority to address those concerns. Consequently, we committed to and have now built a handicapped-accessible sidewalk leading off the dock and then turning south towards Wharfside Village as well as a walkway on the western side of our property. Pedestrian traffic is now safer.
Mr. Brin and Dockside Mall's representatives met with officials of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) in May, 2003, when Mr. Brin once again urged that no development be permitted that allowed vehicles on or off the north side of the lot. DPNR requested that Dockside present plans for what it wished to do. Dockside presented plans for the building that has now been built. These plans showed three parking places on the east side of the property and a sidewalk on the north and eastern sides of the building. At that time it was understood that these three parking places were fewer than the seven that would have otherwise been required, but which would have used the north side of the property. DPNR reviewed the plans and issued a building permit on January 14, 2004.
As a consequence of questions about parking at the building, DPNR initiated a review of the situation, and the Port Authority was contacted in an effort to address the entirely proper concerns of the general public about parking in Cruz Bay. In addition, during construction of the building, Commissioner Andrew Rutnik contacted Dockside because he and the Administrator, Julian Harley, were working on a plan to streamline the traffic and loading flows at the ferry dock landing. They sought both cooperation and a financial contribution from Dockside, the Port Authority, and, one assumes, other interested parties. Central to these plans was the removal of the power poles along the shoreline and placement of all utilities underground. Moreover, a location was needed for the placement of the required transformer, the conduits for connecting to the transformer, and the meters for the ferry dock as well as for the Moorehead's property across the street from Parcel 4-C. The financial contribution being sought was $20,000.00. Dockside agreed to contribute this amount by buying a transformer for the proposed uses (far beyond our needs), installing the necessary conduits, and buying and installing the meter banks– all on our property. The out-of-pocket direct cost to Dockside has exceeded $20,000.00, but the common purpose was achieved. The rest of the project, including the undergrounding of utilities off our property and changes to traffic or loading flow, remains solely within the Government's purview and control.
DPNR, Dockside and the Port Authority have cooperated with each other on the both the parking and utilities issues. As part of this cooperative effort, the Port Authority made four parking places available, now formally marked for use. The governmental departments and agencies made appropriate agreements and took actions on parking in an effort to respond to public concerns and safety, just as they had concerning the prohibition of vehicular use on the north side of Dockside's property. As Zoning Administrator, the Commissioner has both the power and the duty to regulate and/or modify the parking requirements so as not to create or add to a public safety hazard or a congestion problem at what is probably St. John's busiest place. The Commissioner did so in a timely fashion before the issuance of the building permit.
Dockside has consistently and at all times cooperated with all relevant government authorities and complied with all laws. We are grateful to the many persons who have complimented us for building what we believe is a very attractive project. Dockside reserves its opinion as to those who failed to learn the facts or decided simply to ignore them.
Dockside's owners are all Virgin Islanders with parents buried in the Virgin Islands. We are saddened and perplexed that critics would imply that we have acted in any way that would detract from the best interests of St. John. We are dismayed at the criticism of the Government officials who offered cooperation during the development of plans for and construction of our new building. We ask critics to consider what their response would have been if Dockside had accessed its property for parking, entry or egress right in front of the ferry dock landing or had government officials failed to work with the private sector. DPNR and the Port Authority fulfilled their respective responsibilities to the community, as did Dockside, by planning and permitting a building that not only avoided adding to the congestion at the ferry landing and, but indeed, relieved it to some degree by providing long-needed sidewalks.
We hope Dockside and its tenants will thrive and prosper with all who live and work on St. John. May the New Year bring prosperity and greater understanding to us all.
Dockside Mall Inc.
Paul Hoffman
Albert Paiewonsky

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