The Senate, sitting Wednesday as a Committee of the Whole, heard four rezoning requests, all of which contain the promise of economic benefits.
According to a legislative news release, Wednesday’s hearing was informational only, and the senators took no action. Chaired by Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone and Vice-President Sammuel Sanes, the hearing that took place in the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room.
All four of the zone-change requests involve St. Croix properties.
– Frederick E. Miller requested the rezoning of Plot No. 90 in Estate La Grande Princess to create a plot for a self-contained tilapia farm. The existing plot is approximately 5.37 acres and is zoned for low-density residential use. Miller is seeking a change to A-2 Agriculture.
The Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ report said tilapia farming would not have any adverse effect on the surrounding areas and the department has no objection to the request.
– Henry A. Schuster requested that Plot 237 is Estate Glynn be rezoned from agricultural to commercial so that he can construct a fully automated carwash, complete with waiting room, detail shop, oil change center and a self-service carwash area. The business will operate in conjunction with Echo Valley Imports & Tire Services.
Schuster said his new business would create jobs for eight to 10 new employees.
DPNR said the property consist of approximately 1.5 acres and has been used for live stock farming. According to DPNR the area is predominantly already consisted of several commercial businesses and would not be out of context with an operation such as the one Schuster described, and the department has no objection to the petition.
– Dennis Mc Cluster requested that Plot No.10-A in Estate Castle Coakley be rezoned from low-density family and two-family, to Business Scattered. This would allow him to build a two-story building, with the first floor as 5,000 square feet of retail space, where he plans to relocate his Jackie’s Beauty Supply from its current location in Estate Diamond. The second floor will feature office space and a two bedroom apartment.
According to DPNR the property consisted of approximately 4.16 acres and is undeveloped.
McCluster told senators he wants to relocate the beauty supply store to reduce his overhead, and allow for ownership, thus reducing the high rental cost. DPNR recommended that the petition be granted.
– Benjo’s North America, LLC, through its authorized agent, Daniel A. DaCosta, requested the rezoning of Plot 20-A Strand Street and 5-BB Smith Street in Christiansted. The request asked for the two properties be given a use variance so that the owner can convert an existing three-story building to a mixed-use facility. The owners will live in part of the space, and the first floor will be used for a small juice processing facility. The second floor will be used for storage and living quarters and the third floor for office and living quarters.
Upon approval of the request, DaCosta said the property can be feasibly renovated and returned to service for the production and export of tropical fruit juices. According to DaCosta, many properties in downtown Christiansted have remained un-utilized due to the low demand for rental apartments or other rental space in St. Croix.
He added that several jobs will be created.
According to DPNR, the introduction of a small manufacturing facility in this area should have no adverse effect. The department recommended that zoning request be granted.
Representing DPNR were Stuart Smith, director of Coastal Zone Management Planning, and Leia Laplace, assistant director of Coastal Zone Management and Planning.
Committee of the Whole members at Wednesday’s hearing were Sens. Shawn Michael-Malone, Craig Barshinger, Judi Buckley, Terrence Nelson, Nereid Rivera- O’Reilly, Sammuel Sanes and Myron Jackson.