ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee of the Whole, led by Senate President Donna A. Frett-Gregory, convened in a meeting at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall. Lawmakers received testimony on rezoning map amendment applications. Senators cannot vote on measures in the Committee of the Whole; however, action will be taken during the next scheduled Legislative Session.
The full body considered applicants for rezoning regarding construction of a villa, development of residential and business properties, and the construction of a hotel. The Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) Territorial Manager for the Division of Comprehensive and Coastal Planning, Leia LaPlace Matthew, and Jewel Polimus, the Planning Technician within the Division of Coastal Planning, spoke in support of the rezonings.
ZAJ-22-1, represented by Karris Moses, and authorized agent, Jennifer Jones is requesting that Parcel No. 12 Estate Susannaberg, No. 17A Cruz Bay Quarter, St. John be rezoned from P (Public) to R-3 (Residential-Medium Density). Ms. Moses seeks to construct villas on the property. In 1972, when the zoning maps were originally drawn, the property was mistakenly zoned P for public land. The new zoning would allow for the correcting of the zoning error and would allow for a higher density, permitting the construction of villas and guest houses on the property.
The property would include a pool with a club house, restaurant for the guests, and a spa. Former plantation ruins on the property would be incorporated into the new space. The development would be completed within three phases. According to DPNR, the rezoning would be compatible with the surrounding zones. As it pertains to ruins on the site, a full Phase 1 Cultural Resources survey would be conducted with a high probability of a Phase 2 Testing and Evaluation Study. There was no public opposition to the rezoning request at DPNR’s public meeting. DPNR recommended the rezoning.
ZAT-22-1, Red Hook Hills, LLC, represented by authorized agent Chaneel Callwood-Daniels is requesting that Parcel No. 13 & 14-A Estate Frydenhoj, No. 3 Red Hook Quarter, St. Thomas be rezoned from R-2 (Residential-Low Density-One and Two Family) to B-3 (Business-Scattered). Ms. Callwood-Daniels seeks to build a two-phase development that would take three years to complete. The first phase consists of the development of a two-story commercial building. The second phase would consist of six 2-story single family buildings. No opposition was expressed at DPNR’s public hearings. DPNR recommended the rezoning.
Senate President Frett Gregory spoke in support of the plans, but reminded the body that balance was needed. “We have to strike a balance. We have Mrs. Callwood-Daniels making her plea for six homes, and then we have Ms. Moses making her plea for commercial development. Virgin Islanders must also have an opportunity to ensure that there is generational wealth.”
ZAT-22-3, the Government Employees’ Retirement System (GERS) of the Virgin Islands is requesting that Parcel Nos. 2 and 4 Estate Thomas, Nos. 6B and 6F New Quarter, St. Thomas be rezoned from W-2 (Waterfront-Industrial) to R-3 (Residential-Medium Density). The GERS, represented by Austin Nibbs, its Administrator, seeks to enter a ground lease with a developer who will build and construct a 126-room hotel. The property currently houses warehouses, some of which have been slated for demolition, and had been previously used for storage and parking.
At DPNR’s public hearing, there was no opposition or concerns regarding the proposal. The project would be constructed in two phases. Phase one would consist of the demolition of the warehouses within three months. The second phase would consist of construction of a 5-story hotel, parking, and green space within one year of permit issuance. The area is currently no longer used for the purpose it was originally zoned for. It was stated that the proposed zoning was not out of character for the area. DPNR recommended the approval of the rezoning request.
Senator Janelle K. Sarauw voiced some concern over the development of the proposed hotel.
“In this territory, economic development has become synonymous with hotels, villas, and AirBnBs, and do you saturate a 32 square mile island in hotels?” Senator Sarauw also questioned Administrator Nibbs regarding future revenue at the proposed hotel. Administrator Nibbs stated that confidential non-disclosure agreements were signed and that he could not reveal exact figures.
Senators present at the committee hearing included Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Marvin A. Blyden, Samuel Carrión, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Alma Francis Heyliger, Kenneth L. Gittens, Javan E. James, Sr., Franklin D. Johnson, Carla J. Joseph, Milton E. Potter, Janelle K. Sarauw, and Genevieve R. Whitaker.