Sept. 28, 2006 – Some Coral Bay residents are upset because the Public Works Department plans to construct a VITRAN bus depot and an operations center on government-owned land now controlled by the Housing, Parks and Recreation Department.
The property in question is located in an area of Coral Bay known informally as "The Flats" because it is in the flattest part of the valley. While the property is now a casual dumping area with piles of debris, numerous houses sit nearby and on the hillsides that surround the valley.
"It sounds like a noisy industrial use," Coral Bay Community Council President Sharon Coldren said, adding that the government needs to do an environmental cleanup of the area to get rid of the dumped items and materials.
Coldren also said she fears the noise from early morning bus activity would disturb many neighbors because sound travels readily in this area.
Coral Bay area resident and senatorial candidate Lorelei Monsanto said that several people have volunteered to improve the property by building tennis courts and an amphitheater.
"We need those things," she said, discussing the rapid development in the Coral Bay area.
Public Works Commissioner George Phillips and Housing, Park and Recreation Commissioner Ira Hobson did not return phone calls requesting comment.
Deputy Public Works Commissioner Ira Wade declined to comment and referred questions to Phillips.
A July 7 letter from Phillips to Gov. Charles Turnbull forwarded to the Source asks the governor to intervene in the matter because Phillips said he didnt have an answer to his Nov. 4, 2005, letter to Hobson asking for a transfer of the property.
St. John Administrator Julien Harley said he understands that the land has already been transferred to Public Works.
Government House spokesman Rina Roebuck did not have any information on the matter.
Harley said that he believes the parcel will need to be rezoned in order to allow Public Works to put in the bus depot and operations center.
Coldren said that she thinks the project will also need a major Coastal Zone Management permit because it appears to sit in the first tier.
Efforts to find out information from the Planning and Natural Resources Department about zoning and CZM requirements were unsuccessful because spokesman Jamal Nielsen did not return a phone call requesting information.
Harley said he will push to make sure some of the property will be used for recreational facility.
Phillips wrote to the governor that the need for the land was part of Public Works efforts to upgrade the quantity and quality of services on St. John. He wrote that this particular piece of property will allow the department to move its "assets" away from the Cruz Bay congestion. Phillips also wrote that placing the facility in the rapidly growing Coral Bay area will allow the department to provide more timely and frequent infrastructure services — not only in Coral Bay but throughout the island.
Coldren said she was concerned because Public Works did not consult with Coral Bay residents about their feelings on the matter.
"We are concerned it was done behind the scenes," she said.
She said the council met with Hobson a year ago to discuss its wishes that the area be used for recreation.
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