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Residents Upset at Bordeaux Mountain Villas Group-Dwelling Permit

Planning Commissioner Robert Mathes listens as St. John resident Pam Gaffin delivers an appeal.Sparks flew Monday when irate residents spoke out at Gov. John deJongh Jr.’s neighborhood town meeting against a group-dwelling permit for Bordeaux Mountain Villas.

Residents were particularly incensed that no announcement was made about the issuance of the permit when it happened in May, because by the time they learned of it Friday, the 30 days allowed to file an appeal was over.

"The permit was signed in the dark behind closed doors to prevent us knowing about it," said Bordeaux resident Catherine Fahy.

About 70 people attended the meeting at Gifft Hill School.

Bordeaux residents and others are filing an appeal anyway, starting the 30-day clock on July 24 because that’s when they first heard about it. St. John resident Pam Gaffin hand-delivered the appeal to Planning Commissioner Robert Mathes as he sat with other department heads at the front of the room.

"The entire neighborhood said ‘no, no, no,’ and you did it in secret," Gaffin said.

She said she emailed Mathes May 16 about her opposition to the group-dwelling permit, but said Mathes signed the permit anyway on May 21.

The Bordeaux residents’ group had filed an appeal with the Board of Land Use Appeals when Planning first issued a group-dwelling permit for the project in July 2008.

According to Mathes, the permit had to be reissued because the developer needed to come into compliance on the concerns brought by the community. He said after the meeting that the details were "fuzzy."

After residents continued to complain about their lack of notification about the permit’s issuance, Mathes said Planning didn’t usually issue notices when he signed group-dwelling permits. However, when the first permit was issued, Government House sent out a press release on a Sunday about the permit.

At that time, the developer planned 16 luxury townhouses in four buildings on about six acres of land. Each townhouse will have four bedrooms. It’s unclear if those plans remain the same.

Mathes continued to stress that while the developer, Eric Munsen, has a group-dwelling permit, he still has to get a storm-water permit, a building permit and an earth-change permit before he can start work.

He said after the meeting that those opposed to the project can speak out again when Bordeaux Mountain Villas applies for those permits.

Mathes said that Planning had no choice but to issue the group-dwelling permit because the project was allowed under the territory’s current zoning code.

Bordeaux residents also complained that the access road to Bordeaux Mountain Villas is a narrow neighborhood road not suited for heavy construction vehicles.

After a resident asked about the situation with the long-promised planner, deJongh said the government hasn’t been able to find a suitable person for the job despite advertising nationally, locally and with planning organizations.

While the Bordeaux Mountain Villas group-dwelling permit was the hottest topic at the meeting, residents also asked for the Public Works Department to stripe the roads before someone gets killed when vehicles veer over what should be the center line.

"I’m begging you, mon," said St. John resident Bonny Corbeil. “We need St. John to be at the top of the list.”

Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls said that he’s waiting for materials to arrive for the St. Thomas/St. John District’s new striping machine, but that St. John’s needs were a pressing priority.

In response to questions from residents, Deputy Police Chief Darren Foy said he hopes to staff the Police Department substation in Coral Bay for two shifts a day. Currently, no officers are on duty.

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