79.7 F
Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, May 18, 2024


The Senate Rules Committee on Thursday approved six of nine nominees to the Coastal Zone Management Commission, three for St. Thomas and three for St. John. But the governor's nominee to replace Albert Paiewonsky, who chairs the CZM Commission, said he wasn't invited to testify.
The Senate Rules Committee on Thursday approved six of nine nominees to the Coastal Zone Management Commission — three for St. Thomas and three for St. John.
Two current members up for reappointment were not scheduled to appear, and one new nominee, the governor's choice to succeed commission chair Albert Paiewonsky, was not invited.
Approved for the St. John CZM Committee were St. John administrator Julien Harley, retired educator Madaline H. Sewer and attorney J. Brion Morrisette.
Confirmed for the St. Thomas committee were retired educator Ida A. White, former Realtor Sarah M. Simmonds and Anthon Winston Adams, project manager for school construction.
The nominee who wasn't invited, Robert Mathes, was nominated by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull to succeed CZM Commission chair Albert Paiewonsky.
"I didn't know anything about today's hearing until I heard it on my car radio about six this morning," Mathes said Thursday. "Nobody was more surprised than me" that he was not invited to testify, he said.
Mathes, retired from a 24-year government career that included serving as Consumer Affairs commissioner and in the Public Works Department, said, "I left my application personally at the Legislature three or four months ago."
He said he telephoned Jim Southerland, an aide to Rules Committee chair Violet Anne Golden, on Thursday morning but wasn't able to reach him.
Harley, who has served 10 years on the committee, is being reappointed. A possible conflict of interest was raised by Sen. Gregory Bennerson regarding Harley's role as St. John administrator.
Southerland said "the reappointment of Harley to CZM raises an immediate question of conflict." Southerland said holding the two posts may mean that Harley would have to recuse himself from a large number of CZM cases.
"It is a judgment call on his effectiveness to the commission because of his all-inclusive oversight as administrator," Southerland said.
Harley responded, "I am my own person." He said he had consulted a lawyer who had told him there would be no conflict. Harley said he would recuse himself if he had an interest in a matter, or if the applicant was a good friend.
Conflict concerns were also addressed to Simmonds because of her real estate background. Simmonds said she was retired from the field, and her only job was working for her husband, Michael A. Simmonds, in his food distribution company, Masco.
"If there were a developer I knew, or any of my former contacts, I would recuse myself," she said.
Adams, project manager for Lockhart School, said he also would recuse himself if the situation required, but he said that was something he didn't anticipate. He said, "The biggest challenge facing CZM today is balancing development and maintaining open space while implementing all necessary CZM requirements."
Morrisette and Adams both questioned current CZM laws. Morrisette said he believes regulations and requirements of both Tier 1 and Tier 2 laws should be changed. Tier 1 applies to land seaward from a boundary, and Tier 2 applies to properties landward.
"Everything that happens in Tier 2 affects Tier 1 — it's the law of gravity," Morrisette said. If regulations for the two tiers were the same, the standards for all building criteria would be the same and it would benefit all coastal development in the territory, he said.
Sen. Adelbert Bryan took issue with all but two nominees. He accused White of being anti-development because of presentations she had made in the Legislature opposing the development of a bowling alley in the Bolongo Bay area.
White said several residents had opposed the rezoning of the area. She said they were not opposed to development but wanted to retain the integrity of the neighborhood, and that some of their concerns had come true.
Aside from Bryan's questions, the committee appeared satisfied with the nominees' qualifications, approving Adams and Harley unanimously. White, Morrisette, Simmonds and Sewer received 4-1 votes with Bryan dissenting. Senators voting were Golden, Bennerson, Bryan, Judy Gomez and Almando "Rocky" Liburd. Committee members Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg and Vargrave Richards were excused.
Up for reappointment, but not slated to appear Thursday, were retired Port Authority official Austin "Babe" Monsanto of St. Thomas and St. John resident Marquise James.
As for Mathes, Southerland said Thursday afternoon that he would have to look into the matter on Friday.
The approved nominations will now be forwarded to the full Senate for a vote up or down.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.