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Public Input Wanted on Zoning Code Revamp

   Planning consultant Stuart Meck said the V.I. subdivision code is in "sad shape."Work is progressing on the revamping of the territory’s 38-year-old zoning code, said planning consultant Stuart Meck at a meeting Tuesday, but public input is still important. Meck, on a contract with the Planning and Natural Resources Department, heads the Edward J. Bloustein School of Public Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.
He got an earful from some of the nine people who attended the meeting at St. Ursula’s Multi-Purpose Center in Cruz Bay.
“We need to build to a size not only to make wealth but to meet with the ecology of St. John,” resident Myrtle Barry said.
Resident Rob Crane told Meck that decisions affecting St. John development are made by government officials on St. Thomas and by senators from St. Thomas and St. Croix.
“They don’t care about the hardship it causes on St. John,” Crane said, suggesting that St. John should decide on its own issues.
The issue of Sirenusa came up several times. The condominium development sits partially finished on a hill above Cruz Bay. Work stopped because the developer ran out of money. During construction, residents with houses downhill of the project suffered flooding and rock slides.
“It was like pulling teeth to have safety decision made,” Barry said.
Aaron Cook, a St. Thomas-based urban planner on contract to the South Miami-based urban design firm of Dover, Kohl and Partners, showcased a new planning tool called form-based code.
Instead of describing allowed uses, as does a traditional zoning code, form-based code proscribes what an area will look like. Cook is working on such a plan for Charlotte Amalie, paid for by a grant from philanthropist Richard Driehaus, who has a house on St. Thomas.
The form-based concept worried St. John resident Lorelei Monsanto, who said she hoped that it wouldn’t mean that St. John would look like the Florida town of Celebration, where every detail (including paint colors) are set out in a code.
“Celebration is fake,” she said.
Cook assured her that it wouldn’t happen on St. John because “this is a real town, and we don’t want it to feel phony.”
Monsanto added that people move here because they like the island’s tropical feel, but once they get to St. John they want to make changes.
“The donkeys are a problem, the goats are a problem, the people are a problem,” she said.
Earlier Meck said that he was told chickens are currently a problem, so that aspect of island life has to be incorporated into the revamped zoning code.
According to Meck, the revamped zoning code should be ready to go to the Legislature in 18 months. While his efforts cover many areas, he said the fees charged by Planning are too low and need to be raised.
“And the subdivision code is in sad shape,” he said.
Planning will hold a similar meeting Wednesday on St. Croix. It starts at 6 p.m. at the Education Department’s Curriculum Center.
Reach Meck at 732-932-3822, extension 640, or via email at stumeck@rcl.rutgers.edu.

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