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Senate Hears Rezoning Requests for 2 Projects

Aug. 12, 2008 — Though without a quorum, the Senate met in Committee of the Whole Monday for a zoning hearing and listened approvingly to two spot zoning requests by developers near each end of the soon-to-come Christiansted bypass.
Bella Collina Development, a Puerto Rican company, plans to build an 800-dwelling planned community on 78 acres in Estate Orange Grove, south of Richmond Post Office. They are asking for a rezoning of 13 of the 78 acres.
Route 70, called Contentment Road, abuts the property's southern side and Golden Rock Shopping Center is roughly to the property's northwest. Construction on the western end of the Christiansted bypass is visible from parts of the property.
The entire development is called Orangestaad Village, and should take between four and five years to complete, said Carlos Cacciamani, Bella Collina's chief executive officer.
Cacciamani is asking that the 13 acres be rezoned from R-3 — residential, medium density — to B-2, business-secondary/neighborhood. He wants to develop a "town center" named after Anna Heegard, consort of Danish Gov. Peter von Scholten. Heegard's grave was found within the property during pre-development archeological surveys. The town center will include a bank, a hotel, post office, markets, restaurants, stores, underground parking, a school and 200 of the total 800 housing units.
The rezoning isn't strictly necessary for the development to occur, Cacciamani said, but the current zoning "would not allow most of the uses envisioned for the town center."
Half of the housing units are to be "affordable housing," which in this instance means residences starting at $175,000.
The development is to be "totally pedestrian," Cacciamani said. "Apartments, especially in town center, will be able to experience the lifestyle.
"We hope this will be the first community like this in the entire Caribbean. It is a residential element and a lifestyle needed today."
Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste asked whether there were plans for a casino.
"We haven't planned for a casino but the zoning (change) will allow a casino in the facility," Cacciamani said. "We are planning for an extended stay hotel for the executive community. There is a lack of that sort of thing on the island and we know there is a need."
If the operator wants to put in a casino, Bella Collini does not object, but is not focused on that, he said.
East of Christiansted, local developer Nestor A. Paraliticci, is asking to have a 0.9 acre parcel changed from W-2 — waterfront industrial — to B-2. The plot, right across from the David C. Canegata Ballpark, is currently under construction. To the north is Gallows Bay and to the east is Schooner Bay Market.
Here too the rezoning is not strictly necessary for construction to continue. Rather, rezoning will allow a greater variety of businesses to set up shop within the development.
At present, industrial plants or warehouses are allowed, but retail sales and professional offices are not, said Leia Laplace, environmental planner at the Division of Planning and Natural Resources. Yet, partly because of businesses grandfathered in, most of the surrounding area is dominated by retail, Laplace said.
There was no quorum and hence no votes. Present were Jn Baptiste; Sens. James Weber III and Carmen Wesselhoft, all of whom endorsed the zoning changes.
"I can't promise anything because the Senate president isn't here to say," Weber said. "But we meet on Aug. 22 and a vote could be taken at that hearing."
If not, there is another plenary session in September, Weber said.
Absent were: Sens. Usie Richards; Juan Figueroa-Serville; Basil Ottley, Jr.; Louis Hill; Neville James; Celestino White; Alvin Williams; Carlton "Ital" Dowe; Terrence "Positive" Nelson; Liston A. Davis; and Shawn-Michael Malone.
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