Nov. 29, 2006 — No decision was reached Tuesday night at a Coastal Zone Management Committee meeting to consider 10 special requests by Botany Bay partners.
The developer is asking the committee to reconsider these conditions, included in the 31 conditions that were attached to the major CZM permits Botany Bay was granted in July. At that time, the committee approved two permits for the 367-acre, $300 million upscale resort and residential community on the island's west end.
(Though the project had been previously estimated at a cost of $200 million, Tuesday night the committee referred to it as a $300 million project.)
While the meeting was open to the public, the public was not allowed to comment. Several persons submitted comments in writing, but Committee Chair Austin "Babe" Monsanto said they would not be considered because the public had seven days to comment in writing after permits were approved July 25.
Though the CZM staff concurred with many of the developer's requests, the committee spent more than two hours examining the alternative recommendations of the developers.
While the requests covered a number of issues, there were four main issues that concerned the committee:
– changing language concerning compliance dates from "prior to the issuance of the permit" to "prior to the start of construction." The permits were approved contingent on the developer complying with the conditions.
– the responsibility of the developer to repair any damage to Route 30 from its vehicles and machinery using the road.
– a medical ambulance that the developer offered to purchase instead of financing any repaving, as needed, from the western portion of Estate Hope to the entrance of the development.
– the developer's offer of a surety bond in the amount of $2 million to be used to cover any environmental damage caused by construction activities.
The developers also asked that a mandated air-quality certificate be "deleted," a request that was turned down. The staff recommended that the developer submit a plan for control of the fugitive dust and submit a plan approved by Department of Environmental Protection.
The most contentious discussion of the evening surrounded responsibility for repair of Route 30.
The committee balked at the idea of accepting an ambulance in lieu of repaving on Route 30. CZM Secretary Sarah "Peggy" Simmonds said to project director Donald Parris, "I'm sure whatever an ambulance would cost, that would negligible in comparison to the cost of road repair."
According to CZM Director Victor Somme III, Health Commissioner Darlene Carty was called to the meeting at the last minute. Carty arrived later and held a brief discussion with Parris outside the meeting. Somme said the two, along with Carol Beckowitz, president of the St. John Emergency Medical Services Association, would meet later to work out if the purchase would be feasible.
Somme said a memorandum of understanding would have to be issued between the government and the developers. Beckowitz, in a letter to the committee, raised many issues, including the fact that there is insufficient staffing for the vehicle.
There was much heated discussion about just what parts of Route 30 the developers should accept responsibility for. Monsanto contended that other construction companies also use the road, so he said Botany Bay shouldn't be left carrying the whole cost. Also, the developers had asked that they be allowed to repair the road on a monthly basis, rather than "immediately," as the condition stipulates.
Simmonds said the developers should be "good corporate citizens" and accept responsibility. "They are damaging the road," she said.
Parris said he had offered alternative solutions to the road repaving because other construction vehicles use the road, and some damage already existed before the project began.
There was also conflict over exactly what portions of the road should be considered the project's responsibility — from Estate Hope to the project entrance, or from the bus turnaround. It was suggested by Monsanto that the committee take a field trip to look at the road. Winston Adams strenuously objected. "I know that road," he said. "There's no need to do that."
Adams also objected to the bond issue. "The $2 million is far too low," he said. The original condition stipulates an environmental bond of 25 percent of the estimated construction costs. "The people have to be protected," Adams said.
Parris said he couldn't find out what exactly an environmental bond is. The staff advised the committee that a $2 million bond over a period of five years for a project estimated to take seven years for build-out is not adequate.
The meeting was recessed until the concerns can be studied more thoroughly. Somme said the staff will research the bond issue further. The committee plans to examine Route 30, along with a representative from the Department of Public Works.
Carla Joseph, president of the Environmental Association of St. Thomas, which has kept a close eye on the project since the beginning, said Tuesday night that she was "encouraged" by some of the staff recommendations.
"I'm glad to see the members understood the last item about public access and easements," she said. "They wanted to make sure the partners recorded, prior to issuance of the permit, that they are serious about the public being able to access the site."
Another concern that Joseph approved was the staff's recommendation that, prior to the issuance of the CZM permit, all culverts and storm drain inlets and outfalls have proper protection, as described in the V.I. Environmental Protection Handbook 2002.
"This must be done prior to issuance of the permit, to safeguard and protect our coral reefs," Joseph said. "It was a good stance the committee took."
Community activists Jason Budsan and Sean LaPlace shared Joseph's concerns. Speaking after the meeting, Budsan said it was "troublesome" that the developers didn't fully understand the conditions when they were first issued. Budsan and LaPlace both expressed concern with the air-quality certificate, the bond issue, and the road repairs.
All five committee members — Adams, Henry Harrigan, Monsanto, Fern Richards-LaBorde and Simmonds — attended the meeting.
The committee also granted a one-year extension on an application by the Department of Public Works to relocate the existing floating dock on Water Island east of its present location to allow small boat owners and the Water Island ferry to continue to utilize the dock.
The application says the request for the extension was due to "unavoidable delays surrounding approval and eligibility of a boat launch ramp for emergency egress/ingress; relocation of marine route 306M from Crown Bay to Krum Bay due to a Coast Guard mandate restricting public access within specified distances of berthing cruise ships for homeland security; and the drafting, approval and execution of the renewed design contract to fund this additional work."
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