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Rezoning Opens Door to Bigger Projects, Neighbors Say

Sept. 30, 2008 — While nearly all of Alfredo and Marie Alejo's neighbors had nice words to say about the couple, they uniformly opposed their request for a rezoning of 0.67 acres in Enighed, contending it would open the door to much-larger projects.
The Alejos want to build 15 low-income apartments on the property, located adjacent to their house and near the Sirenusa condominium project. The Alejos asked for a rezoning from R-2 (residential low density — one and two family) to R-3 (residential medium density).
"The Alejos are good neighbors," Christie O'Neil said. "My main objection is for changing the zoning."
She made her remarks during a hearing at the Legislature building Tuesday by the Planning and Natural Resources Department's Division of Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning. About 50 people attended to hear what the Alejos and two other applicants had to say about their rezoning requests.
In making his case for rezoning, Alejo said building the apartments would help secure his future. Born in the Dominican Republic, he said he worked hard since his arrival several decades ago. He now owns Alfredo's Construction.
"I'm a little man," he said. "I came over here with nothing."
Will Culver, president of the Upper Deck homeowner's association, pointed out, as did others, that R-3 zoning allows for buildings six stories high. This would "completely wipe out the view" for several Upper Deck owners.
While the rezoning was the issue for most of those who spoke out, neighbor Calvin George brought up property-line disputes. According to George, the entryway to Alejo's proposed project encroaches on his property. Culver also had issues with Alejo's ideas about the property's boundaries.
The discussion on that boundary dispute got a little heated. Afterward a suggestion came from Marjorie Hendricks Emmanuel, acting director of the Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning Division, that the department and those with boundary issues meet with Alejo to iron them out.
Several people who live in other St. John neighborhoods spoke out in favor of the Alejos' request for rezoning.
"This is one of our own who lives here and works hard," Myrtle Barry said, to applause from members of the audience.
Most of those who expressed opposition to the rezoning because it paved the way for bigger projects suggested a variance instead. However, planner Julius Jessup of the Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning Division said that a variance was not appropriate because it could only change the usage allowed.
Ronnie Jones, representing Susannaberg LLC, asked for a rezoning from R-1 (residential low density — one and two family) to R-4 (residential medium density) so he could build 18 apartments on 2.967 acres of land.
When Jessup questioned the need for an R-4 zoning because it was traditionally used in urban areas, Jones said his frustration with the department led to the request. Jones said he initially asked for a group-dwelling permit, but was told he didn't have enough units.
"It took me 18 months," Jones said. "I was so fed up with the process, I said, 'Let's got for the maximum.'"
Adrian Realty wanted a rezoning from R-2 (residential low density — one and two family) to R-4 to convert two four-bedroom apartments to four two-bedroom apartments. Principal Gershwain Sprauve said construction on the building, located on 0.23 acres at Adrian, is nearly done, but he's discovered he can't rent four-bedroom apartments.
Sprauve's attorney, Jennifer Jones, said there was no other choice but to request the R-4 zoning because a more appropriate zoning doesn't exist in the V.I. Code.
The rezoning requests need approval by the Legislature.
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