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Rezoning Hearing Hears the Secret Words: Home Depot

Sept. 13, 2007 — The secret that really wasn't a secret is now public. Home Depot is planning to come to St. Croix.
Speculation over the summer was that Gallows Bay Hardware had expanded its hours in anticipation of the retail home improvement giant coming to the Big Island.
At the center of the issue is a proposed $35 million development to be called Island Crossing Shopping Center that will consist of an anchor tenant in a more than 60,000-square-foot store plus storage area. The site plan includes a smaller center of 24,000 square feet consisting of smaller shops, restaurants and a major pharmacy. It is estimated that 175 to 200 people will be employed at the center.
At a rezoning hearing Wednesday, an attorney for developer Jim Watson, principal owner of CDP, offered to present a letter from the development's anchor store — if senators kept the contents of the letter secret.
Senate President Usie Richards would have none of it. The hearing was a public meeting and any document presented would be a public document, he said. The senators did not want to be accused of keeping secret what had been whispered about for weeks, Richards said.
Finally, the first official public utterance of the store name came from project engineer George Suarez, who testified on the design of the building. When he mentioned that there would be an area for the sale of lumber, chuckles ran through the audience. "You know how Home Depot does it," Suarez said.
In order to develop the shopping center, off the Melvin Evans Highway across from Hess Road, Watson is asking for rezoning of 44 acres of undeveloped land from R-2 residential low density to B-2 business secondary.
Gloria Coursey currently owns the property. The sale of the land to Watson and the proposed development depends on the rezoning.
Marjorie Hendrickson-Emanuel, assistant zoning administrator at the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, recommended the property be rezoned. DPNR wants the applicants to work with the Department of Public Works to ensure traffic will not be adversely affected, with the cost of road work to be shared. DPNR also requested that CDP landscape with shade trees and provide walkways for pedestrian traffic.
Two owners of properties near the development, Rod Boyce and Ingema Khan, testified about their concerns on traffic and said bottlenecks are already a problem. CDP had a traffic study done in Puerto Rico that suggested widening the right of way, adding turning lanes and a signal light to alleviate traffic.
In the future, Watson also envisions an affordable housing development to be built on nine acres adjacent to the center. Construction could begin early next year.
"I welcome people willing to invest in St. Croix's economy and fully support their efforts," said Sen. Norman Jn. Baptiste.
Also testifying Wednesday was Cyrille Singleton, who requested a use variance for his 1.46-acre property to R-1 residential low density in order to operate a bed and breakfast. Testifying for DPNR was Leia LaPlace, who issued a favorable report recommending the variance be granted.
The property is located in Estate Little Fountain between Estate Lebanon Hills, Blue Mountain, Mon Bijou and Betsey's Jewel. Longtime resident Singleton and his wife, Denyce, have proposed a four-bedroom B&B where homeowners run the operation. They have incorporated numerous solar energy projects into their plans such as a solar water heater, security lights and gate.
Commending Singleton on his presentation was Sen. Basil Ottle. "Singleton's B&B could be a model to show others how to participate in the tourism industry," he said.
The vote for the variances will be put on the Senate agenda Sept. 19 or 20.
Also present at the hearing were Sens. James Weber, Ronald Russell, Juan Figueroa-Serville, Neville James, Terrance Nelson and Shawn-Michael Malone.
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