Members of the public weighed in on a new building proposed for Coral Bay at a Coastal Zone Management hearing held online last Thursday.
Seagrape Equities, LLC, doing business as Johnny Lime, submitted plans to construct a one-story restaurant that can accommodate 60 diners at Plot 8-1 Est. Emmaus, across from the fire station in Coral Bay.
The proposed building is adjacent to the multi-use, three-story structure – recently painted a deep shade of green– which is also owned by Seagrape Equities. That building was constructed in 2009 by realtor John Ford; he died in a small airplane crash in 2016, and the name “Johnny Lime” is meant as a tribute to him.
Seagrape Equities is owned by Richard and Chelsea Baranowski, experienced restauranteurs who operate the Lime Inn, a long-standing restaurant in Cruz Bay, and the Lime Out, the wildly popular floating taco bar in Coral Bay.
Members of the St. John Committee of Coastal Zone Management complimented the design of the building, a downsized version of a plan for a two-story structure originally submitted to CZM.
The revised building plan features a traditional roofline and arches and relies on natural ventilation. It is situated on a hill above the parking area, but its height will be below the three-story building next door.
Although committee members said they had no issues with a new restaurant in the community, most expressed deep concerns about the adequacy of the parking area planned for the development.
The plans call for no expansion of the existing gravel parking lot, which already serves tenants at the adjacent three-story building and guests who stay in the three short-term rental units on the building’s top floor.
The current building code requires the Johnny Lime project to set aside 14 parking spaces: one spot for every 10 diners, totaling six spots: three spots for the restaurant employees; one spot each for the two offices in the existing three-story building; and three spots for overnight guests in the top-floor rental units.
The existing gravel parking area in front of the proposed new building can accommodate 13 cars as long as a system of inner and outer lanes of parking is implemented, according to Richard Baranowski. The owners plan to hire at least one parking attendant to move cars around the lot as space is needed.
An additional two parking spots, including one to serve handicapped clients, are available in a small roadway entrance and service area on the northside of the proposed building,
Baranowski said he was actively seeking additional parking and was hoping to reach an agreement with the nearby Seagrape Homeowners Association to acquire four more spots. He said other land that could be used for parking has been identified, and he called upon landowners and the Virgin Islands Port Authority to consider building additional parking facilities to allow businesses to grow in Coral Bay.
Most CZM committee members, as well as several members of the public who called in, said they were troubled by a congested parking situation that would require cars leaving the roadside gravel lot to back into Rt. 10, the main road through Coral Bay, which is a designated federal roadway.
“I don’t know that I could approve of a situation where cars are backing into our main roadway; this needs more attention,” said STJ-CZM committee member Kurt Marsh.
Too many vehicles now park along the side of the road, leading to traffic problems already, callers said.
STJ-CZM committee chair Andrew Penn said he saw the situation differently, citing Slim Man’s parking lot in Cruz Bay as an example of a small lot being used successfully with valet parking. “I see a business opportunity and a great plan. Someone needs to build a parking area in Coral Bay,” he said.
CZM Director Marlon Hibbert asked if the owners had considered reducing the size or capacity of the restaurant to cut down on the parking demands.
Baranowski responded that the current plan was already a reduction. “We’re doing what the law requires,” he said, and if the laws don’t provide for adequate parking, “Let’s change the law,” he added.
Committee members also questioned the design for the sewage treatment system located next to the road leading to residences on Seagrape Hill. Keira Fitzgerald, who designed the system, said the location made it easier for pump-out trucks to access the tanks, which will be buried underground and screened by vegetation. She said a lift system will pump treated water to a generously-sized leach field.
The complete Environmental Assessment Report, including plans for the project, can be accessed from this link.
Members of the public have until Feb. 3 to submit comments regarding the project by email; comments may be sent to email@example.com.