The Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation will publicize on its website and to the Legislature a list of government-managed vendor spaces and whether they are vacant or occupied if a bill approved in committee Tuesday becomes law.
Sen. Marvin Blyden, the bill’s sponsor, [Bill 31-0329] said the impetus for the measure came from constituents calling and coming to his offices asking about vendor spaces. Blyden said the information is hard to come by and is important for small business owners who want access to the spaces.
"The bill gives hope to several residents who are hoping to open small businesses," Blyden said, adding that making sure all the vendor spaces are filled with active businesses would be good for the economy and generate more tax revenue for the government as well as rental fees on the spaces.
Sports, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Pedro Cruz testified there are 103 vendor spaces rented out by the department. They are spread out all over, from Nazareth Field, Estate Nardo, Coki Point and other locations on St. Thomas and St. John; in Frederiksted and at the Randolph "Doc" James racetrack on St. Croix, among other spots.
There are 47 vendor spaces on St. Croix and 55 for the district of St. Thomas, St. John and Water Island, he said. That adds up to 102 spaces, suggesting one of the figures is off by one vendor space.
They generate a total of $103,180 in rental revenue per year, with $96,180 from St. Thomas/St. John/Water Island and $7,300 for St. Croix, Cruz said. He endorsed the measure, saying it would add to transparency.
Sen. Sammuel Sanes offered an amendment, sponsored by Blyden, making it so Sports, Parks and Recreation would publish the information on its website. The Government Services, Veterans and Consumer Affairs Committee approved the amendment by unanimous consent then voted to send the bill out of committee.
Voting to send the amended bill on for more consideration were Sanes, Sens. Neville James, Tregenza Roach and Justin Harrigan. Sens. Positive Nelson, Myron Jackson and Janette Millin Young were absent at the time of the vote.
The committee voted to hold three other bills for more amendments. One sponsored by Sen. Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly would require insurers to regularly provide liability insurance data to the Virgin Islands Bureau of Motor Vehicles and for the bureau to establish a motor vehicle liability insurance database for law enforcement to use.
The goal, she said, was to give police a more powerful tool to enforce the requirement that drivers have valid insurance and reduce the number of uninsured drivers on the road.
Insurance companies and the BMV raised concerns about the details of how and when notification would occur and the bill was held for amendments to clarify those details.
A bill sponsored by Sanes would require insurers to allow seniors to get a break of some kind on their auto insurance if they take and pass a driver safety course. Insurers raised questions about the wording of the bill, how long the rates would be reduced and whether they would have to reduce rates for drivers who had accidents or violations if they took a course. It was held for amendments to clarify and address those concerns.
Finally the committee held another bill from Sanes creating an unfunded mandate to expand V.I. burial benefits for V.I. veterans to include those from the territory who die elsewhere. The bill would also subsidize transportation of the remains back to the territory. Senators praised veterans but acknowledged concerns over exactly who would qualify and other what circumstances.
In the evening, the Committee of the Whole heard testimony on two St. Croix rezoning applications: One would change the zoning of the Strand Street, Frederiksted property, adjacent to Turtles Deli and across the street from the Athalie MacFarlane Petersen Library, from W-1 W-1 (Waterfront-Pleasure) to R-3 (Residential – Medium Density)
The change would allow owners Jeff Printz and Christopher Swanson to continue with their plans for a 22-room resort complex they plan to call The Fred.
Kelly Davis of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Division of Coastal Zone Management read the department’s report, which endorsed the change.
Leia LaPlace Matthew, territorial planner for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, said without the change, the existing zoning required at least three acres for a hotel, while with the change, the small, .3646 acre parcel could host a small hotel.
The other zoning request was for George Lake Sr. and George Lake Jr. to amend Official Zoning Map No. SCZ-6 from A-2 (Agriculture Zone) to C (Commercial) for Parcel No. 253 Estate Glynn, Kings Quarter, St. Croix. The Lakes want to relocate and expand their current contracting business.
They plan an office, parking for heavy equipment and a garage for heavy equipment. All neighboring properties have been rezoned to C-Commercial or B3- Business and it is on the edge of an area already zoned for commercial use, LaPlace Matthew said.
Neither proposal received opposition from neighbors and senators were supportive of both.
Senate President Neville James said both would be voted upon at the Senate’s next session, planned for Sep. 21-22.
No votes are taken in Committee of the Whole hearings. Present were Harrigan, James, Sanes, Nelson, Rivera-O’Reilly, Sens. Jean Forde, Novelle Francis Jr., Kenneth Gittens, Almando "Rocky" Liburd and Kurt Vialet. Absent were Blyden, Roach, Jackson, Millin Young and Sen. Clifford Graham.