St. Thomas

St. John



Published: Nov 15, 2022

ST. CROIX – Members of the Committee of the Whole, led by Senate President Donna A. Frett-Gregory, convened in a meeting at the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room. Senators cannot vote on measures in the Committee of the Whole; however, action will be taken during the next scheduled Legislative Session.

 In Block one, ZAC-22-10, Marco St. Croix, Inc, represented by Shawn Baptiste, is requesting that Plot Nos. 1-K and 1-L Estate Diamond, Queen Quarter, St. Croix be rezoned from R-2 (Residential Low Density-One and Two Family) to C (Commercial). Baptiste is requesting the rezoning to accommodate the building of a water distillation plant and a multi-unit office complex. Jewel Poliums, the Planning Technician for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources delivered testimony. Per Polimus’ testimony, prior to the public hearing, one adjacent property owner registered no objection to the proposal. However, at DPNR’s public hearing held on August 11, 2022, two adjacent property owners registered opposition to the proposal.  

 Reasons for opposition included that privately owned road plot 1-B had been blocked, and a lawsuit had been filed seeking an injunction to have the gate removed. Also, guttering along the road was clogged without permission. DPNR’s Division of Building Permits Floodplain management program conducted inspection and found that a previous pipe was undersized. Flood improvements were made to eliminate flooding in the area. Landowners in the area were also concerned about the impact of the well on the water table and were concerned about land subsidence. The requested C commercial zoning was intended for light industrial/manufacturing uses to be located away from central business districts that catered to pedestrians and tourists and does not permit residential use. All the uses proposed by the application would not be permitted by the C commercial zoning. It was recommended by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources that the properties be rezoned to B-2 (Business-Secondary/Neighborhood), which would keep the property in conformity with the business zoning that currently exists in the area. 

 ZAC-22-11, represented by Retes Allembert is requesting that Plot No. 34-A Estate Two Brothers and Smithfield, West End Quarter, St. Croix be rezoned from R-3 (Residential Medium Density) to C (Commercial). Allembert is requesting this zoning change to implement a car rental agency, known as Hibiscus Car Rentals, LLC, to be located on the west side of the island of St. Croix. According to Polimus, there was no objection to the proposal via telephone, and no opposition or concerns were registered at DPNR’s public hearing on September 12, 2022. Current R-3 zoning allows the usage of the property as a car rental agency. The area has a mix of residential, business, and commercial usage. There were no concerns by the public over the proposed use, and the B-3 zoning was considered appropriate. It was recommended by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources that the property be rezoned from R-3 to B-3. 

 In Block two, ZAC-21-3, represented by Atta and Jihad Misbeh are requesting that a portion of the Remainder of Estate Beeston Hill (South Portion), Matricular No. 6a, Company Quarter, St. Croix be rezoned from R-1 (Residential-Low Density) to B-3 (Business-Scattered). Alvin Canaii, an advisor to Atta Misbeh gave testimony to the proposal, which is to allow for a mixed-use development, which would include six townhouse apartments, 12 gated condominiums, and a shopping pavilion. According to the report delivered by Polimus, at DPNR’s public hearing held on March 12, 2021, 41 attendees expressed opposition and concern to the proposal. Prior to and after the hearing, 22 letters and emails of concern were received, with numerous concerns, including negative effect on natural resources, population stagnation, increase in noise, decreased quality of life, and incompatible zoning change. The requested B-3 zoning allows uses which may not be compatible with the area. Polimus stated that the Department believed the B-3 zoning is inappropriate, and that the proposal should be reconsidered. It was recommended DPNR deny the petition to rezone the area.  

 Various senators voiced concern over the opposition to the proposed development. Senator Vialet stated that such developments had not been constructed on St. Croix for several years. Senator Francis Jr. also voiced concern stating that several properties on St. Croix had been constructed into Airbnb’s, and that property owners had become NIMBYS (not in my backyard), voicing opposition to any development whatsoever. Mr. Canaii also stated that many of the opposers of the development did not reside on St. Croix full-time.  

 ZAC-22-9, represented by Estelle McIntosh, is requesting that Plot No. 9-E Estate La Grange, West End Quarter, St. Croix be rezoned from R-2 (Residential Low Density-One and Two Family) to R-3 (Residential-Medium Density). McIntosh is requesting to expand the existing structure, from a one-story duplex to a two-story which will then consist of four apartments, with two bedrooms and two bathrooms each. There was no opposition to the proposal during DPNR’s public hearing held on July 6, 2022. An email was received after the hearing asking if adjacent properties would experience increased property taxes, whether adjacent properties would experience an increase in property values, whether the property would remain residential, and if the adjacent property would also be rezoned.  

 Zoning code does not address gradual increases in density and does not offer an option of an intermediary zone between R-2 and R-3 districts. The R-3 zone allows for 80 persons per acre, six story buildings, minimum lot sizes of 6000 square feet, and no setbacks. However, the surrounding R-2 zone allows for two dwelling units; two-story buildings; minimum lot sizes of 10,000 square feet; 15 feet front setbacks and 10 feet side and rear setbacks. The R-3 zoning was intended for larger density and more uses than R-1 and R-2 single and two-family zones. It was recommended by the Department that the rezoning be approved, on the condition that the property does not exceed four dwelling units. 

 ZAC-22-8, The Department of Public Works, represented by its Commissioner, Derek Gabriel is requesting that Plot Nos. 73-B and 271 Estate Concordia, West End Quarter, St. Croix be rezoned from R-3 (Residential-Medium Density) to P (Public). Derek Gabriel, the Commissioner of the Department of Public Works delivered testimony. Gabriel stated that the Department of Public Works is seeking to rezone the property to bring it into zoning compliance, as well as to allow demolition and renovation of the Department of Public Works Frederiksted Facility. The Government of the United States Virgin Islands has owned the property for over 30 years, which functions as a satellite location for the Department of Public Works.  

 No opposition or concerns were expressed at DPNR’s public hearing held on July 5, 2022. A rezoning is being requested because the original zoning designation, R-3 residential, does not allow for offices, storage, or mechanical repairs to zoning designation P-Public, which would allow the use. In the report delivered by Polimus, the site would be redeveloped in one phase over 12 months. The site was previously grandfathered, however under the nonconforming section of the Zoning Code, Section 234, there are restrictions on the extension and enlargement of nonconforming buildings.  The rezoning of the property would bring the nonconforming property into zoning conformity, eliminating Section 234’s restrictions. Additionally, because the property is government owned land, the rezoning would satisfy Section 229q of the zoning law, stating that “Properties which are publicly owned should be shown upon the zoning map as such.” It was recommended that the property be rezoned. 

 In Block three, the Committee considered the lease between the Government of the Virgin Islands and Christiansted Harbor Resort Hotel and Marina LLC. 

 Anthony D. Thomas, the Commissioner of the Department of Property and Procurement delivered testimony. Per testimony delivered by Thomas, the subject lease has been approved by Governor Albert Bryan Jr. in accordance with the provisions of Title 31, Chapter 20, Section 205(b) of the Virgin Islands code and is currently before the Legislature for consideration in accordance with the provisions of Title 31, Chapter 20, Section 205c. The government sought proposals to redevelop and reinvigorate offerings on Protestant Cay, for a qualified firm to design, finance, develop, and construct and operate a world-class resort with facilities on Protestant Key. Christiansted Harbor Resort and Marina, LLC, will lease Protestant Cay, located in Christiansted Harbor, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, specifically improved Plot No. 1 consisting of 4.404 US Acres, more or less and improved Plot No. 2, consisting of 2.862 US Acres, more or less with all buildings and improvements thereon. 

 Parties involved have negotiated an initial lease for 60 years, which will begin on the first day of the month following the approval by the Legislature of the Virgin Islands. Additionally, if the lessee is not in default of any of the terms of the lease, the lease provides the lessee with the option to renew for up to three consecutive periods of 10 years each upon written notice no less than 180 days before the end of the then current term. The base annual rent under the lease would be $150,000.00, payable in equal monthly installments of $12,500. During the construction period of the first phase of the project, the annual base rent will be paid at a reduced rate of $2,500 per month. Beginning in the 5th year of the lease and continuing every 5 years thereafter, the base rent under the lease will be increased in accordance with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all urban consumers (1967-100%), or 15%, whichever is less. 

 The redevelopment of the property is planned to occur in two phases. In Phase 1, the lessee will renovate the existing 55 hotel rooms, restaurant, pool area, and other site work, with a projected value of $8 Million. During Phase 2, the lessee will construct 60 new hotel units, construct dock extensions, and other structures at a cost of $17 million. The lease requires the lessee to submit permit applications for the Government’s review upon the earlier of either 1: within 240 days of the commencement date for phase 1 and within 360 days after the completion of Phase 1 for Phase 2, or 2: at least thirty days before the lessee submits the applications to the respective governmental permitting authority for approval. The lease requires the lessee to use all commercially reasonable efforts to work diligently and continuously towards obtaining all required permits and approvals. 

 During Phase 1, the lessee must achieve substantial completion within 24 months after the lessee receives all final required permits and resort approvals. For Phase 2, the lessee shall achieve substantial completion within 30 months of receiving final permits and resort approvals. If the lessee fails to complete phase 2 improvements within the agreed schedule, there will be a penalty by increasing the monthly rental payments by 150%, until the completion of the improvements in Phase 2. 

 Senators present at today’s Committee of the Whole meeting included Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Marvin A. Blyden, Angel L. Bolques, Sr., Samuel Carrión, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Alma Francis Heyliger, Kenneth L. Gittens, Franklin D. Johnson, Carla J. Joseph, Milton E. Potter, Kurt A. Vialet, and Janelle K. Sarauw. 


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