Despite an outcry from residents and others against Summer’s End plan to build a 145-slip marina in Coral Bay, the St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee approved the project when it met Wednesday at the Legislature building on St. John.
“I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping it works out for the best,” CZM member Edmond Roberts said after the meeting.
He and committee chairman Andrew Penn Sr. voted yes on both the land and water applications. The committee’s third member, Brion Morrisette, abstained on both because he had represented one of the applicants and held a lease on one of the parcels to be used in the development. Morrisette said that if he didn’t attend the meeting, the committee wouldn’t have a quorum and the project would be approved by default.
Roberts said he struggled with his decision but decided it was for the good of the Virgin Islands to have the marina development go forward so it could generate revenue for the local government.
“And Coral Harbor has changed dramatically in my lifetime. The marina is a minor change,” he said.
As for allowing Summer’s End to take over management of the moorings that now sit in Coral Bay, as well as add 75 additional moorings, Roberts said the harbor at Coral Bay could use some organization.
Penn said he read all 300 plus letters sent to him opposing the marina but he said he envisions Coral Bay as a “super harbor” that would put St. John on a par with other destinations that have commercial dockage.
“It’s the one remaining area for development,” he said, adding that he sees it as a step toward the island’s future.
Chaliese Summers, who with Rick Barksdale and Robert O’Connor Jr., is a principal in the Summer’s End group, said after the meeting that they worked extremely hard with the Planning and Natural Resources Department, with the community and various agencies to move the project forward.
More than three dozen people, many of them Coral Bay area residents, attended the meeting to hear in person what the CZM would do. At the Aug. 20 public hearing on the matter and in numerous letters to the editor and through other efforts, they mainly complained that the scope of the project was too large and it was located in a spot that was vulnerable to storm damage. They also objected to the noise from driving 1,300 pilings for the marina, claiming that it will drive away the area’s lucrative vacation villa business as well as send customers scurrying from the handful of restaurants in the area.
The residents sat through the vote on the land portion of the application that would redevelop several building along Route 107 that include the long-closed Voyages building, the Island Blues building and Cocoloba shopping center. However, a few began filing out as soon as Penn started reading the conditions recommended by the CZM staff for the marina portion.
Outside the Legislature building, they gathered in small knots of people to discuss the CZM decision.
“It’s extremely disappointing,” Coral Bay Community Council President Sharon Coldren said.
She said this is the first time in her 11 years of following St. John CZM Committee votes that the members didn’t request any modifications.
The CZM members accepted the CZM staff recommendations that the applications be approved with some conditions.
“The proposed development is consistent with the CZM act,” Penn said.
Many of the conditions for both the land and water portions are similar to those imposed on all projects, such as the need to get all territorial and federal permits, including a required permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Included in the water conditions is a provision that the developer can only drive pilings from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. They can work on land projects until 5 p.m. In both instances, they can’t work on Sundays.
The developer must also provide shuttle service for the crews working on the land portion and bathrooms for those doing the marina work. They can’t remove mangroves and if they need to trim them, they must get a permit from the Planning and Natural Resources Fish and Wildlife Division.
The conditions also mandate that boaters using the marina must use the pump out facilities and fuel pumps must have automatic shut off nozzles.
For both land and water permits, Summer’s End must post a performance bond of 20 percent, or as much as $5 million, which is the estimated cost of construction. The developer also must maintain a $2 million default bond so the area can be returned to its original state if they don’t complete the project.