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HomeNewsLocal news44-Unit Group Dwelling in Smith Bay Applies for Permit Approval

44-Unit Group Dwelling in Smith Bay Applies for Permit Approval

44-1- Building plans for the development of 19-C-A and 19-C-B Estate Smith Bay. (Photo: Teams virtual hearing screenshot)

A virtual public hearing was held for the construction of 44 two- and three-bedroom units in Smith Bay on St. Thomas. The Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Division of Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning presented the dwelling permit application to the public for parcel numbers 19-C-A and 19-C-B Estate Smith Bay, numbers 1, 2 and 3 East End Quarter.

The development request is to allow a grouped dwelling of 17 buildings for the 44 units on the sloping residential low-density one and two-family (R-2) 5.14-acre property. Michael Bornn, property and majority owner of Smith Bay 19-C-A, LLC, intends for the development to cater to middle-income Virgin Islanders.

“The goal and the mission of Smith Bay 19-C-A is to develop middle-income housing. The government does a very good job on the low-income side, and the wealthy have their own niche, but we’re dedicated to building a house for the middle-income program, in combining with the government’s program of V.I. Slice,” said Bornn.

The property is located directly across the street from Pavillions and Pools. Adjacent to the parcels is R3 zoning. Bornn mentioned that there were inquiries as to why the development was not used for the R3 zone, but he responded that “we want to do this as a quality development and not a quantity development.”

Modular steel structures from BAUHU – a provider of custom-designed modular buildings specializing in hurricane-resistant homes and construction services – will be used to construct the buildings. The buildings will be Miami-Dade hurricane-resilient. The Portuguese home development company creates homes for hurricane-prone locations. According to Bornn, they have developed homes in Jamaica, St. John and other Caribbean islands.

“This system gets you a more rapidly built house, a secure house, and an attractive house,” said Bornn. One big feature of the property is that it “is going to be environmental,” he added.

Michael Bornn, owner of Smith Bay 19-C-A LLC, talks about his application for development of a 44-unit community in Smith Bay. (Photo: Teams virtual hearing screenshot)

There will be three different building types, two levels per building, and two-six units per building that will make up the 17-building community. Each unit will be equipped with two parking spaces under covered parking sheds. There will be solar panels on the buildings and parking sheds, recyclable gray water, a closed sewage system, insulated window systems, rainwater catchment, installation of electrical vehicle charging systems, and use of native vegetation. Though potable water is available, the units will also have shared cisterns that are individually metered.

Once building permits are approved the development is anticipated to take 24 months to construct, but because of the modular nature of the development, construction can be completed sooner.

“This product is insurable, it’s secure, it’s cost-effective, and it’s gorgeous,” said Bornn who added that the units will not be used for short-term rentals but as a condominium form of ownership. “This idea is for Virgin Islanders who are willing to buy,” he said. He added that he has been asked by companies to buy the 44 constructed units from him to use as housing for their workers, but declined their offers.

Etienne Bertrand, development consultant for the project, said there is a “big need for housing that is unmet.” Of the construction, he said, “We do plan to phase the development from top to bottom in three steps.”

The intention is to begin at the top of the sloping property with four buildings, move to the second phase with the construction of seven buildings, and complete the remaining six buildings in the third phase.

According to Bertrand, an old water trough was found on site while surveying the property but there has been “no objection to the development of the site.” There is also a gut on the west side that will be protected by a buffer, and stormwater control will be implemented for the property.

At the end, Bornn said the company hopes “to cater to that proverbial middle income who many a time gets left out of housing in not the Virgin Islands but everywhere.”

The public comment period for this hearing ends on April 30. Email questions, comments, and concerns to DPNR territorial planner Lei LaPlace at leia.laplace@dpnr.vi.gov.

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