Despite strong objections raised by St. John residents who attended two meetings on the matter, the Planning and Natural Resources Department gave Estate Chocolate Hole Realty a “terminal facility authority” to build a gas station with above-ground tanks, a convenience store and apartments.
The station will be located on the South Side Road in an area near the Westin Resort and Villas residents refer to as Great Cruz Bay. The .43-acre site sits adjacent to the Power Boyd residential neighborhood.
“It’s great for the community of St. John. They need the convenience, and they need the choice,” owner Nedal Salem said.
Salem expects to start construction on the project at the beginning of March. He said it should take about eight to 10 months to complete the job.
The authority to build does not allow Chocolate Hole Realty to operate the gas station, Planning spokesman Jamal Nielsen said. According to the list of conditions that accompany the authority to build the gas station, Salem has to get a Terminal Facility Permit to Operate at least five days before he begins operation.
At public meetings held last October and November, residents expressed many concerns about Salem’s proposed gas station. At issue were the need to bring fuel trucks up the very steep Jacob’s Ladder for deliveries, the property’s location adjacent to a busy road, its proximity to the island’s only gas station and a grocery store, and worries about the 24-hour operation.
E&C gas station sits about a quarter-mile away, while one of St. John’s small grocery stores, St. John Market, is adjacent to the proposed site.
St. John resident Larry best was at the Nov. 12 meeting. He said Monday that he had serious concerns about the safety of fuel trucks traveling up and down Jacob’s Ladder.
“People will die,” he said.
Myrtle Barry, who manages E&C, said she welcomed another gas station to St. John because the island needs more than one. She, like others who spoke out at the two meetings, suggested that opening the closed Domino gas station in Coral Bay was a better solution to the island’s gas station shortage because it would provide geographic diversity.
“Adding to the congestion does not make any sense,” she said, referring to the new station’s proximity to her station and its location in a busy area.
Additionally, she said the steepness of Jacob’s Ladder (coupled with the steepness of the lot where the gas station will be located) caused concerns. She said she also worries that the jack hammering into bedrock necessary to build the station will hurt nearby houses, and that runoff from the disturbed area will run into the watershed.
A list of conditions dated Nov. 26, 2010 and forwarded Monday by Nielsen indicates that Salem must get a building permit, and earth change permit, a storm water discharge permit, a Territorial Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit, and an Environmental Assessment Report before starting work.
He must also have a spill prevention and countermeasures plan and a storm water pollution prevention plan. Additionally, no oil, debris or other substances are to be discharged from the site.
Kent Bernier Jr., the Planning official in charge of terminal facility permits, did not return a phone call requesting more information on the conditions.
Chocolate Hole Realty’s property is zoned B-3, business scattered, which allows gas stations.
A second gas station is in the works in Estate Adrian, but that gas station needed a rezoning from R-1, residential low density, to an industrial zoning. Planning held a hearing on the matter Dec. 14, 2010. Guilderoy Sprauve, who owns the station with Gerron Sprauve, said Monday that the rezoning request must now be heard by the Legislature.
“They have to set a date,” he said.