LAWMAKERS REJECT REZONINGS, PASS ST. JOHN LAND SWAP

Published: Sep 15, 2023

ST. THOMAS – The 35th Legislature of the Virgin Islands, led by Senate President Novelle E. Francis, Jr, convened into Committee of the Whole to receive testimony on rezoning requests in St. Thomas. Lawmakers then rose into Legislative Session to act on these bills.

Bill No. 35-0130, An Act granting a zoning use variance for Parcel No. Remainder 30C Estate Elizabeth, No.8i Great Northside Quarter, St. Thomas, from the R-2 (Residential-Low Density One and Two Family) zoning designation to allow for a scenic lookout with a restaurant/bar and gift shop. The measure was proposed by Senator Novelle E. Francis, Jr., at the request of the Governor.

Leia LaPlace-Matthew, Territorial Planner at the Department of Planning and Natural Resources delivered the report on Petition ZAT-22-16, the petition of Lionel Warrell, for a use variance for the R-2 Residential- Low Density- One and Two Family) zoned Parcel No. Remainder 30C Estate Elizabeth, No. 8i Great Northside Quarter, St. Thomas. This is the third attempt before the Legislature to rezone the property, with previous attempts in 2015 and 2017. DPNR found major concerns with the request. According to the Department, the property is a gut, and the development of the property is limited by the Virgin Islands Code. Nearby property owners have voiced opposition to the proposal. The Department of Planning and Natural Resources recommended that the use variance be denied.

Additionally, testimony was considered concerning Bill No. 35-0135, An Act granting a use variance for Parcel No. 17D-1 Estate Bovoni, Nos. 1 & 2, Frenchman’s Bay Quarter, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands from the C (Commercial) zoning to house a fuel storage facility consisting of a maintenance/storage building, and a parking/truck storage containment structure. The measure was proposed by Senator Novelle E. Francis, Jr., at the request of the Governor.

Keshoy Samuel, Territorial Planner at DPNR presented the report on Application ZAT-23-5, the petition of Dry Marina LLC, for a use variance for the C (Commercial) zoned Parcel No. 17D-1 Estate Bovoni, Nos. 1 & 2 Frenchman’s Bay Quarter, St. Thomas. The property is currently used by a trucking company for parking and truck storage. The remainder of the property is undeveloped. The proposed use of the property is a fuel storage facility consisting of a guard house/office, maintenance/storage building, parking/truck storage, and fuel storage containment structure.

Christian Rosenberg, the sole member of Dry Marina LLC, testified that the proposed development is being pursued for the intended tenant Petroleum Brokers. Petroleum Brokers stores fuel and delivers on demand to gas stations and others. The development would consist of a single phase and take one to two months depending on the granting of a Major Coastal Zone Management permit. A trucking company currently occupies the site. The fuel storage facility would consist of three, one story buildings. Three employees would occupy the site daily and 10,000 gallons of fuel would be stored on the property. The C zoning allows for manufacturing and light industrial use. However, it does not allow for fuel storage with would be allowed as a matter of right under the categories “Explosive & Inflammable Liquids, Storage; Flammable Liquids, Storage: and Propane Manufactured Gas, Storage and Distribution. This, however, would be allowed in the I-1 and W-2 industrial zones or accessory to gas stations and the airports. The Department of Planning and Natural Resources recommended that a use variance be granted to the C – (Commercial) zoned Parcel.

During the Committee of the Whole, David Silverman, a St. John resident was allowed to make a brief presentation on an alternative to the proposed St. John land exchange. Silverman testified that his proposal did not involve the swapping of Whistling Cay to the US Government, but instead swapping a 13.2-acre parcel in land in Estate Carolina. Silverman and his wife had recently acquired the parcel and are offering to convey it as an alternative to Whistling Cay. Silverman’s property lies within the authorized borders of the national park, has no known cultural resources, and has a comparable value to that of the Catherineberg parcel. In receiving the testimony, Senate President Francis reminded Silverman that the Legislature does not negotiate and by itself, is unable to act on the alternative proposal.

The Committee then went into Legislative Session to consider and act on the zoning requests and on Bill No. 35-0112, An Act approving the conveyance by the Government of the Virgin Islands of the United States to the United States of America, Department of Interior, acting by and through the National Park Service, of Tract No. 02-101 Whistling Island a/k/a Whistling Cay, Cruz Bay Quarter, St. John, Virgin Islands in exchange for the Department of Interior, National Park Service’s conveyance to the Government of the Virgin Islands of the United States of a portion of Tract No. 01-137A Catherineberg (Hammer’s Farm) Cruz Bay Quarter, St. John, Virgin Islands, and directing the Government to deposit of the proceeds from the parcel exchange into the St. John Capital Improvement Fund. The measure was proposed by Senator Novelle E. Francis Jr, at the request of the Governor.

Bill No. 35-0130 and Bill No. 35-0135 both failed. Bill No. 35-0112 was approved and will be sent to the Governor for further approval.

Senators present at today’s legislative session included Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Marvin A. Blyden, Angel L. Bolques, Jr., Diane T. Capehart, Samuel Carrión, Dwayne M. Degraff, Ray Fonseca, Alma Francis Heyliger, Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Kenneth L. Gittens, Marise C. James, Javan E. James, Sr., Franklin D. Johnson, Carla J. Joseph, and Milton E. Potter.

The Division of Public Affairs is committed to providing the community with accurate information on legislative proceedings and other events at the Legislature of the Virgin Islands.

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