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Planning Director Wants New St. John Planner to Improve Ambiance

Feb. 18, 2008 — The Planning and Natural Resources Department has received 28 to 30 resumes from people across the country applying for the newly created position of St. John planner, Planning Director Wanda Mills-Bocachica said Monday at a meeting of the Coral Bay Community Council.
"I would like to see someone with landscape-architecture or urban-design experience," Mills-Bocachica told the nearly 30 people gathered at the John's Folly Learning Institute.
She wants someone to deal with issues like ambiance, because the department already has technical specialists on staff. The deadline for applications is March 1.
Mills-Bocachica said she hopes the planner will develop guidelines also applicable to St. Thomas and St. Croix.
During a question-and-answer session, St. John resident Kristin Cox asked if the planner's post would disappear with a change in administrations. The job is funded through 2009, Mills-Bocachica responded.
St. John residents asked Gov. John deJongh Jr. for a planner after they saw the island's ambiance change with condominium developments such as Grande Bay in Cruz Bay and Sirenusa, which overlooks Cruz Bay.
Group-dwelling projects work well on St. Croix, Mills-Bocachica said, but she has "concerns" about them for St. Thomas and St. John because of the steep hillsides.
The territory has to look at scale of development, she said.
"We have projects of a scale typical for places much larger," she said.
Mills-Bocachica was friends with the late Doris Jadan, who lived adjacent to the Grande Bay development. Jadan, who died at age 79 in 2004, complained many times about the noise, air pollution and other issues associated with the ongoing development.
"I saw the aggravation that Grande Bay caused her," Mills-Bocachica said, suggesting the stress was a factor in Jadan's death.
Additionally, she said, the department needs to develop best practices for development of offshore cays.
St. John winter resident Bob Barlow told Mills-Bocachica that she is inheriting a series of bad planning disasters.
"We have the perception that people on St. John pay no attention to the special needs on St. John," Barlow said.
He said he suspects corruption was a factor in those decisions, given the fact that former Planning Commissioner Dean Plaskett is now on trial for corruption charges.
"You're in a hole you're going to have to dig yourself out of," Barlow said.. "I wish you well."
St. John resident Bob Kurt pointed out that St. John suffers from storm-water runoff and the filling in of Coral Harbor.
While development on St. Croix is "picking up," Mills-Bocachica said, things are starting to slow down on St. Thomas and St. John.
She spent much of the meeting outlining plans for shaping up the Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning Division she heads. Her division has nine people on staff.
"We have a dysfunctional data-management system," she said. "We need to update and improve the accuracy of records."
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