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Resident Loses Appeal to Stop Bordeaux Condo Project

St. John residents Pam Gaffin and Catherine Fahy argued unsuccessfully that residents were not informed about the condo project's permit.Meeting Wednesday at the St. John Legislature Building, the Board of Land Use Appeals dismissed an appeal related to a condominium development in Bordeaux, held an appeal concerning Grande Bay condominiums, and overturned a Coastal Zone Management Committee decision about Pond Bay Club.
Bordeaux resident Catherine Fahy asked the board to overturn Bordeaux Mountain Villas Group Dwelling Permit for a condominium project to be built in Bordeaux.
She lost on a technicality, a claim by the Planning and Natural Resources Department that she hadn’t filed the appeal within the 30 days required after the permit was signed.
“People did not know about it,” Coral Bay Community Council President Sharon Coldren said, indicating that residents did not hear about Planning’s decision when it was made.
Dawn Henry, legal counsel for Planning’s Environmental Protection Division, countered that the law does not mandate that Planning let the public know when it makes decisions on group dwelling permits.
“You don’t have any responsibility for notifying the public of granting the permit?” Board Chairman John Woods asked.
Woods cast the only no vote when the board considered a request by Henry and Bordeaux Estates Attorney Ashlee Gray to dismiss the permit. Member Jose Penn said he wasn’t voting, but said after the decision that he felt he needed more information before voting.
Board members Fred Vialet, Aloy Nielsen, James Benton, and Roberto Cintron all voted yes.
Bordeaux Mountain Villas actually received two Group Dwelling Permits for the project. A second one was issued in 2009 after Planning decided that the first one granted in 2008 had some issues.
Coldren said that Bordeaux residents learned of Planning’s decision 33 days after the first permit was signed and “just over 30 days” after the second permit was issued. Both instances were beyond the 30-day requirement for filing an appeal.
Coral Bay resident Pam Gaffin said people interested in the Bordeaux permit tried to get information about pending Planning decisions, but got no response.
“No matter how hard we tried, they wouldn’t tell us,” Gaffin said.
Fahy said after the decision that it was too bad the Board didn’t consider the merits of the matter because residents had many issues with the project. For starters, it sits close to an area that suffered a huge mudslide in Tropical Storm Otto’s rains. And surveyor Larry Best said the slope on the road to the project is steeper than Jacob’s Ladder, a very steep road in the Cruz Bay outskirts.
“People will die,” he said.
Only the road into where the project will be located and some concrete form work are completed at Bordeaux Mountain Villas.
After hearing a request by Henry to dismiss Gaffin’s appeal of Planning’s issuance of a temporary occupancy permit to Bay Isle Associates for its Grande Bay condominiums in Cruz Bay, Woods said the Board had to adjourn for the afternoon because St. Croix members had flights to catch.
“I spent a lot of time preparing for this and you’re just going to walk out on me,” Gaffin said, nearly breaking into tears.
After some discussion, Woods and Gaffin agreed that the Board would continue its discussion when it meets at 10 a.m. Monday at the Government Employees’ Retirement System building on St. Thomas.
The Board and attorneys for various parties spent 2.5 hours discussing the St. John CZM’s decision not to allow a transfer of First American Development Group’s CZM permit for the Pond Bay Club to West LB bank. First American Development had pledged the permit when the bank loaned them $35 million for the project.
The Board eventually agreed with four yes and two no votes to overturn the St. John CZM decision. Penn and Cintron cast the no votes.
Work on Pond Bay Club has stopped, and the project is in liquidation.
Although CZM staff suggested that the St. John CZM Committee allow the permit pledge when they took up the issue May 20, CZM Attorney Winston Brathwaite said that only the permit holder, in this case First American Development, can request a permit transfer. West LB applied for the permit transfer.
St. Thomas Attorney George Dudley, who represented the bank, said the fact that the permit wasn’t transferred when the loan was made was a technicality.
Dudley said after the decision was made that he expects it will “conservatively” be two to three years before construction resumes on the project.
“It’s about halfway done,” he said.

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