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St. John Development Meeting Called for Sunday

June 3, 2006 – A meeting is being held Sunday for residents of St. John to begin a dialogue about development and the changing face of the island.
Organizers hope to generate a sense of empowerment from different sectors of the community and to create a new group that will continue discussions about development, public policy and enforcement of existing laws on development.
The meeting is set for 4:30 p.m. at the multipurpose center of St. Ursula's Church, and discussions are expected to provide enough time for all who attend to share their concerns. But one of the organizers, attorney Alan Smith, said there is a set agenda.
"What we hope to be able to do is consult together on the issues," Smith said. "Secondly, to try and adopt a mission statement. Thirdly, to try and identify some long and short term goals and also to put together a steering committee."
Smith said he thinks development is outstripping the island's infrastructure and is being driven largely by financial interests, without regard for the quality of life of the existing community.
"St. John has provided us with opportunities," Smith said. "It provided open arms to us. It's a community that deserves to be able to sustain and maintain community and a quality of life which those of us who have chosen to live on St. John and those who are native St. Johnian have come to love and appreciate."
Smith served as commissioner of Planning and Natural Resources under former Gov. Alexander Farrelly at a time when the governor was promoting the creation of a comprehensive 10-year land and water use plan. Smith said he hopes the discussion Sunday will provide an opportunity for St. Johnians to tackle some of the land use issues confronting them today.
Those issues, according to Smith, are expected to include, but not be limited to, whether there should be a height limit for buildings constructed in the territory, and whether all of St. John should be classified within Tier One of the Coastal Zone limit, set by DPNR. Organizers also hope to solicit opinions as to whether provisions of the local Environmental Protection Act should be considered implicit in local zoning laws.
In the past year, different groups on St. John have protested, petitioned and rallied their public officials against multi-story construction projects, including one that proposed to rise as high as nine stories in a territory where no such buildings exist. Another, along the Cruz Bay waterfront, was building a fourth story onto what was believed to have been permitted for three.
Among the organizations invited to share the discussions are the Coral Bay Community Council, One by One, all St. John homeowners associations, the Lions Club, St. John Rotary, St. John Green Builders and the St. John Taxi Association.
Sharon Coldren of the Coral Bay council also helped pull the meeting together.
"In order to try and get a good cross section of people involved in this we have encouraged different organizations to send a representative to this," Coldren said.
"I think it's important to respond to the people on St. John, to provide a vehicle for people to get together to talk about the experiences they've had with different development projects going up around the island," she said.

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