Secret Harbor and Marriott Frenchman’s Reef resorts both got the thumbs up from a Senate committee for renewal of coastal zone permits and leases Tuesday. Both are for preexisting docks and nearby submerged land.
The Secret Harbor permit (CZT-05-12) allows for the continued use and occupancy of an existing dock and authorizes the resort to install a floating swim platform in a part of the bay that has no coral colonization. The dock is 12 feet wide and 80 feet long. The permit includes a 2-inch intake and 2-inch discharge pipe for a reverse osmosis plant.
A written analysis by Yvonne Tharpes, deputy chief legal counsel of the 31st Legislature, raised a concern about the reverse osmosis plant, saying the plots’ R-3 zoning "in the outdated zoning code of the Virgin islands does not allow desalination plants.”
Jean-Pierre Oriol, director of Coastal Zone Management at the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, said the reverse osmosis plant is not itself in the R-3 zone and that the use is permissible because the water is not being sold commercially.
“This is not a commercial use. This is an operational use for the hotel. … They are not selling any portion of the water so there is no commercial activity taking place," Oriol said.
Providing water for hotel guests is "a subsidiary use" and an "incidental use" because providing water is a part of providing a room, he said.
Amy Dempsey of BioImpact, the firm that performed an environmental impact study for the permit, said that Secret Harbor had moved to using seawater to chill air for the hotel rooms, which meant that more water was being pumped in and out, blending with the salty reverse osmosis discharge. As a result, the clean water flow was having a beneficial impact on the local environment and new colonies of endangered coral species had formed, she said.
The committee also approved a permit for Marriott Frenchman’s Reef to allow it to continue to use one acre of filled, submerged land; a 160-foot dock, nine swimming buoys and two navigational markers. It also includes a 300-foot, 14-inch reverse osmosis intake line.
Both permits are for 20 years. Both have been approved by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources. Both were sent on for final votes before the full Senate.
“Every permit request that we review in this committee, that we vet, that we vote on, represents economic development,” Sen. Janette Millin Young, committee chairwoman said.
“A great majority of these requests allow for businesses to conduct business and therefore attributes to our commerce. And this I believe is important to mention because it is necessary for all of us to embrace the work that contributes to the economic development of our territory because it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. … It behooves all of us to ensure that something is actually built on the foundation that we lay here," Millin Young said.
Voting to send both permits out were Millin Young, Sens. Clifford Graham, Myron Jackson, Almando "Rocky" Liburd and Tregenza Roach. Sens. Novelle Francis, Neville James, Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly and Kurt Vialet were absent.
The committee voted to hold a permit affecting an existing dock seaward of Lovango Bay on St. John so that the committee could hold a hearing on St. John, making it easier for St. John residents to attend.