ST. JOHN- Members of the 33rd Legislature, led by Senate President Novelle E. Francis, Jr. convened in Committee of the Whole at the Cleone H. Creque Legislative Conference Room on Tuesday to receive testimony on the consolidated Major Coastal Zone Permit No. CZJ-04-14(W), CZJ-03-14(L), and B Modification issued to the Summers End Group, LLC. Per the Virgin Islands law, the permit for Summer’s End Group, LLC was sent by Governor Albert Bryan, Jr. to the Legislature of the Virgin Islands for ratification. Lawmakers did not vote on the proposed measure. However, action will be taken in Legislative Session.
The Major Coastal Zone Management Permit No. CZJ-04-14(W) seeks to allow the construction of a 145-slip marina, a designated mooring field of up to 75 moorings, a pump-out-station, and a fuel station at and Seaward of Plot Nos. 10-17, 10-18, 10-19, 10-41 Rem., 13A, 13B, and 13 Rem. Estate Carolina, St. John, Virgin Islands. Furthermore, the permit allows for the use and occupancy of the structures described in Section 2 (a) of this permit including 27.5 acres of submerged land areas surrounding the structures described in Section 2 (a) of the permit. Separately, the conflict on the Senate floor pertained to the modification of the ratification sent down by the governor that removed 13A and 13B from the permit. However, the CZM permit presented before legislators included 13A and 13B in the permit. Sen. Dwayne DeGraff inquired about the effects of the removal of 13A and 13B. In response, Boyd Sprehn, Esq. General Counsel, of the Law Office of John H. Benham, P.C. stated that the removal has a far less impact on the environment. Although 13A and 13B were removed, it was approved in the initial agreement. “The documents are contradictory. I am not against the marina. I am against the process,” said Sen. Janelle Sarauw.
The Department of Planning and Natural Resources Coastal Zone Management Director, Marlon Hibbert, shared the timeline of the permit process. Summer’s End Group, LLC applied for both the Major Coastal Zone Management Water Permit Application and the Major Land Permit Application in April 2014. Two months later, a public hearing was held in St. John of which residents did not support the establishment of the St. John Marina Development Project. However, the St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee voted and approved the permit in October 2014. By December 2019, Summer’s End Group LLC, consolidated the major permits to follow the mandate of the Board of Land Use Appeals. In response to Sen. Oakland Benta’s query as to whether the consolidated permit is in violation, Hibbert noted that presently there aren’t any violations.
Defending the permit, Summer’s End Group, LLC Member Manager Chaliese Summers noted that the development of St. John Marina yields both economic and environmental benefits. Tourism Economics conducted an Economic Impact Analysis on the St. John Marina and the findings were conclusive of the provision of 362 jobs for residents and approximately $46.4 million to be made in the first year. Additionally, Summers noted that the annual operational economic impact totals $9.6 million, $29.8 million for initial labor income, and the accessibility to $100 million annually to the British Virgin Islands Charter Industry. To protect the environment, Summers indicated that there is a $1.3 million mitigation plan, infrastructure/pump-out facility for waste disposal, and the use of EPA approved fueling.
Despite the benefits, St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee Member David Silverman stated that the consolidated CZM Land and Water Permit is illegal. Silverman cited that the Governor does not have the jurisdiction to unilaterally modify CZM permits which were not approved by the St John CZM Committee.
However, lawmakers unanimously expressed support for the Major Coastal Zone Permit despite its shortcomings. “When we fight and fuss over what is proper, we find ourselves being left behind,” said Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory. “We need to figure out how to address economics in the Territory and move forward.” Similarly, Sen. Francis also shared his remarks. “The state of Coral Bay remains challenged. I truly believe that some residents don’t want change. Regardless of the proposal of any project, there are movers and shakers in Coral Bay who will always oppose it. The fate of the St. John Marina Development requires lawmakers to weigh the pros and cons and then make a decision.”