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Plaza Extra Supermarket Zoning Request Sparks Complaints, Procedural Questions

Dec. 19, 2006 — A panel of community members loudly opposed a controversial rezoning request made by the owners of Plaza Extra Supermarket during a Committee of the Whole hearing Tuesday evening.
The rezoning, which was first introduced during a meeting held in June, also sparked concern for the Legislature's legal counsel, Yvonne Tharpes, who said the request "was not properly before the Senate."
Representatives from the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR), speaking at the June hearing, had recommended that the request be denied, Tharpes said. The request: to rezone a 9.5-acre parcel of land behind Fort Mylner Shopping Plaza to allow for the construction of grocery store. (See "Senators Hear Testimony on Rezoning Requests.")
The rezoning expired since senators did not act upon the request within 90 days of the hearing, Tharpes said. In order for the rezoning to be reconsidered by the Legislature, she added, Plaza Extra's owners would have to file another request with DPNR, which the department would subsequently have to consider in a series of public hearings.
The company did not consider the testimony previously presented by DPNR as a formal denial, said attorney Susan Moorehead, representing the company behind Plaza Extra Supermarket, Plessen Enterprises. Instead the department presented Plaza Extra with a list of changes to the proposed development and the company complied, Moorehead explained.
To address concerns from community members about increased traffic and congestion in the area, she said, the company purchased an additional 0.5 acres of land next to the proposed building site for use as a new entrance and exit. Additionally, Moorehead said, the scope of the development was altered to include the construction of sidewalks and drains to divert rainwater.
Plaza Extra had requested a B-2 (Business-Secondary Neighborhood) zoning designation. DPNR now recommends the property be zoned C (Commercial) instead, said Majorie Hendrickson-Emmanuel, division director of DPNR's Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning Division.
Hendrickson-Emmanuel's testimony was supplemented by a letter from DPNR Commissioner Dean Plaskett, who asked senators to reconsider the rezoning.
Despite attempts made by Plaza Extra to address concerns aired in June by community members, local residents once again came forth on Tuesday to discuss their concerns and ask for senators to look into implementing a comprehensive land- and water-use plan.
Residents said they were also concerned that the existing Plaza Extra Supermarket, located next to Tutu Park Mall, would remain open while another store is constructed "right down the street."
The current site is "not adequate" because of the building's poor construction, said Plaza Extra owner Fathi Yusuf, holding up a shiny black square of roofing material. Yusuf spent about 15 minutes talking about the market's roof, which he said was hastily rebuilt after getting damaged in Hurricane Marilyn.
Without a proper roof, he said, the store's inventory would not be protected. In addition, Yusuf said, his current landlord, Tutu Park, had also shortchanged the company on space, creating the need for a bigger facility. The new site would house an 86,000-square-foot supermarket — 26,000 square feet more than the current building — along with a 30,000 square-foot warehouse.
During the meeting, senators also heard testimony on two other zoning requests, made by:
— Reynald and Patrick Charles, to rezone Parcel Nos. Rem. 17D, 17G-1, and Rem. 17G, Estate Bovoni, St. Thomas, located inside the Bovoni landfill, from R-1 (Residential-Low Density) to I-2 (Light-Industry), to allow for a variety of light-industry activities, along with heavy equipment and construction storage; and
— Steve and Karen Jarnron, to rezone Parcel No. 19-2-149-4 Estate Smith Bay, Nos. 1, 2 and 3 East End Quarter, St. Thomas, located next to Lindqvist Beach, from R-2 (Residential-Low Density, One and Two Family) to B-2 (Business-Secondary Neighborhood), to allow for the construction of a public shopping plaza with retail and office space.
Since the Committee of the Whole is unable to vote on bills or requests, all rezonings considered on Tuesday evening must be formally sponsored by a senator and incorporated into a bill before any action can be taken.
If sponsored, some of the requests may make an appearance during the Legislature's final session, scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday.
Present during Tuesday's meeting were Sens. Lorraine L. Berry, Craig W. Barshinger, Roosevelt C. David, Liston Davis, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Juan Figueroa-Serville, Louis P. Hill, Neville James, Norman Jn Baptiste, Shawn-Michael Malone, Terrence "Positive" Nelson and Usie R. Richards.
Absent were Sens. Pedro "Pete" Encarnacion, Ronald E. Russell and Celestino A. White Sr.
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