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Floating Restaurant Planned for Christmas Cove, But Opponents Organizing

Feb. 22, 2008 — Two St. John businessmen want to open a floating restaurant at Christmas Cove, located at Great St. James island off St. Thomas, but some East End, St. Thomas, residents are marshaling their opposition.
"Placing it in a marine sanctuary seems contradictory to me," said St. Thomas resident Drew Russo.
The purpose of marine reserves is to "provide coastal and marine viewing and recreation areas for the general public, snorkel and scuba divers, school groups, and scientists," according to a pamphlet from the Fish and Wildlife Division of the Planning and Natural Resources Department.
Delbert Parsons and Curtis Penn, operating as WT Enterprises, have applied for a major Coastal Zone Management permit to moor the 115-foot Leylon Sneed at Christmas Cove.
Allowing the Leylon Sneed restaurant will disturb the beauty and tranquility of the area, Russo said. He is organizing residents who oppose the plan under the umbrella of the East End Protection Coalition.
The St. Thomas CZM Committee will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. March 4 at its Cyril E. King Airport conference room to hear what residents think about the proposal.
"It won't be crazy like the Willie T," Parsons said, referring to the floating William Thornton restaurant moored at Norman Island in the British Virgin Islands.
Parsons said he plans to include a nightclub, but stressed that it would not be loud or have loud music. The area needs such a restaurant because tourists are clamoring for it, he said. Many visitors don't want to go to the trouble of clearing BVI customs so they can visit the William Thornton, he said.
Parsons also envisions local residents patronizing the restaurant. It would take four to six months to open the restaurant if he gets the CZM permit, he said. He and Penn plan to sink more than $1 million into the project.
Four moorings would be installed to tie the vessel down at both the stern and bow ends so it won't swing. The area has a sandy bottom, Parsons said. In accord with CZM requirements, he hired Bio-Impact to prepare an environmental-impact statement.
While he is aware of the opposition to his proposal, Parsons said those against it are selfish.
"Most are older people who want to have Christmas Cove for themselves," he said.
Numerous anticipated problems were cited by Russo and Robert Fagenson, president of the Cowpet Beach Resort Condominium Association board of directors. In addition to environmental concerns, they cited noise and visual pollution from the Leylon Sneed. Russo also noted the proximity to the path of the ferry that runs between Cruz Bay and Charlotte Amalie.
"And it's a safety issue because of increased marine traffic in an area that has ferry-boat traffic," Russo said.
He envisions cups and paper plates from the Leylon Sneed fouling the water — and worse, referring to the William Thornton's reputation as a party place.
"Jet skis, dinghies, more snorkelers and naked people jumping overboard doesn't seem proper," Russo said.
The permit application indicates the Leylon Sneed will have to leave its mooring for Crown Bay periodically to offload sewage and take on water.
Fagenson estimates that several thousand people live within viewing distance of the proposed Leylon Sneed site. At its closest point to St. Thomas, the boat will be about a half-mile away.
"I'm hard-pressed to find a positive aspect to this," Fagenson said.
The proposal calls for a dock attached to the Leylon Sneed and 10 moorings, Russo said.
Planning and Natural Resources spokesman Jamal Nielsen could not be reached for further information Friday.
Those currently involved in the East End Protection Coalition come from the ranks of Water Point, Cowpet Bay East and West, Deck Point, the St. Thomas Yacht Club, the Anchorage condominiums, the Elysian Resort and the Red Hook Alliance, Russo said.
Parsons and Penn are offering St. John residents a ferry and bus trip to and from the March 4 public hearing. The boat leaves Cruz Bay at 5 p.m.
The CZM is scheduled to make a decision at its March 26 meeting.
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