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HomeNewsArchivesNEW BOTANY BAY RESORT PLAN DUE NEXT WEEK

NEW BOTANY BAY RESORT PLAN DUE NEXT WEEK

Local architects are expected to present their master plan for a proposed development at Botany Bay on St. Thomas's West End next week and submit applications to the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.
According to architect William Karr, the plan — including a cultural heritage preserve, a nature preserve and extensive nature trail — will differ markedly from initial proposals for the development being proposed in an area that a 1993 DPNR study called "an extraordinary example of relatively undisturbed ecosystems and habitats."
But it may not quiet criticism of the development, whose contractors have already been accused of pilfering archeological artifacts and misleading environmental consultants and government officials.
The former estate of Warren H. Corning was purchased last year by a group of investors calling themselves Atlantic Land Holdings LLT. In September, Karr, as architect and representative of the developers, began holding meetings and mini-tours on the 365-acre property with DPNR, other government officials, representatives of the Environmental Association of St. Thomas, UVI environmental scientists, neighborhood groups and others.
"We wanted to get people out there who deal with permitting and environmental issues," Karr said Thursday, "so we could adapt our plan. We wanted to encourage more of an open book process and let people participate and then make those adjustments."
Some of those who visited the site at Karr's invitation left with the idea that the development would be far smaller than what has been proposed thus far: the conceptual site plan calls for a 100-unit hotel, a spa, two restaurants, access buildings, tennis courts, 25 villas, 55 condominiums, 80 time-share units and 41 houses — about 1.5 million square feet of buildings.
According to one of those visitors, Julie Wright, natural resources program supervisor for UVI, "Our understanding was that it was to be some kind of executive retreat. That's about all we heard about it until we took a look at what had been submitted to DPNR, which is so much larger in scale."
Karr said, "I have no idea where they got that notion" of an executive retreat. "We never used those words."
According to Karr, "We never said how many hotel rooms or how many buildings there would be, because we didn't know." He said his firm, William M. Karr and Associates, has been working hard to finish plans for next week's presentation, and he still doesn't know exactly how it stacks up against previous site plans in terms of number of buildings and square footage.
Wright said that she and others at UVI provide technical assistance to homeowners and developers on the least intrusive ways to develop land, and that "we had been hoping that more ecotourism-like facilities would be constructed."
The Botany Bay property would be a likely setting for eco-tourism; it was listed as a proposed public park and natural area by the U.S. Interior Department more than 40 years ago. The 1993 Comprehensive Analytic Study of Botany Bay carried out by DPNR is unequivocal: The area "is worthy of immediate attempts at preservation and planning for appropriate conservation, recreational and educational purposes."
Regarding the 1993 study, DPNR Commissioner Dean Plaskett said this week that "it is incumbent upon us to take a fresh look at that site, and that will be done when the application is submitted."
Plaskett said the department had granted the Botany Bay developers a Phase I permit enabling them to proceed with an archeological dig on the site, which has yielded Precolumbian objects, pottery and other artifacts. The property also holds relatively intact ruins of a sugar mill and factory complex, slave quarters and other buildings.
"We had a pre-application meeting and brought in all the interested parties — Historic Preservation, CZM (Coastal Zone Management), Fish and Wildlife, and Environmental Protection," Plaskett said. "It is our position that it's obviously an archeological site and a sensitive area that requires all necessary precautions. Clearly, the cataloging of all artifacts also needs to be done."
There have been unsubstantiated charges that artifacts have been taken from the site in violation of the Antiquities Act, but Karr adamantly denies it. He said the archeological consultant on the site, Holly Righter, has discovered some artifacts and is in the process of dating them. After that, he said, they will be returned to the Virgin Islands.
Karr said Righter has worked as an archeologist for the V.I. government, "and if anybody knows the rules and regulations, she does."
In addition, Karr said, "we're working with UVI and the Nature Conservancy in terms of creating two kinds of preserves. One would be a heritage preserve including prehistoric and historic sites, which we're now mapping. We're also looking to preserve an area that's a touch more than 30 acres as a nature preserve." A nature trail that "could be a couple of miles long" would connect the two.
In the meantime, Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole, who chairs the Government Operations, Planning and Environmental Protection committee, has called Plaskett to testify before the committee on Wednesday and Thursday. Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg has called for public hearings on the Botany Bay development. A formal application to DPNR and CZM will be filed next week, Karr said, "on or before Wednesday."

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Local architects are expected to present their master plan for a proposed development at Botany Bay on St. Thomas's West End next week and submit applications to the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.
According to architect William Karr, the plan -- including a cultural heritage preserve, a nature preserve and extensive nature trail -- will differ markedly from initial proposals for the development being proposed in an area that a 1993 DPNR study called "an extraordinary example of relatively undisturbed ecosystems and habitats."
But it may not quiet criticism of the development, whose contractors have already been accused of pilfering archeological artifacts and misleading environmental consultants and government officials.
The former estate of Warren H. Corning was purchased last year by a group of investors calling themselves Atlantic Land Holdings LLT. In September, Karr, as architect and representative of the developers, began holding meetings and mini-tours on the 365-acre property with DPNR, other government officials, representatives of the Environmental Association of St. Thomas, UVI environmental scientists, neighborhood groups and others.
"We wanted to get people out there who deal with permitting and environmental issues," Karr said Thursday, "so we could adapt our plan. We wanted to encourage more of an open book process and let people participate and then make those adjustments."
Some of those who visited the site at Karr's invitation left with the idea that the development would be far smaller than what has been proposed thus far: the conceptual site plan calls for a 100-unit hotel, a spa, two restaurants, access buildings, tennis courts, 25 villas, 55 condominiums, 80 time-share units and 41 houses -- about 1.5 million square feet of buildings.
According to one of those visitors, Julie Wright, natural resources program supervisor for UVI, "Our understanding was that it was to be some kind of executive retreat. That's about all we heard about it until we took a look at what had been submitted to DPNR, which is so much larger in scale."
Karr said, "I have no idea where they got that notion" of an executive retreat. "We never used those words."
According to Karr, "We never said how many hotel rooms or how many buildings there would be, because we didn't know." He said his firm, William M. Karr and Associates, has been working hard to finish plans for next week's presentation, and he still doesn't know exactly how it stacks up against previous site plans in terms of number of buildings and square footage.
Wright said that she and others at UVI provide technical assistance to homeowners and developers on the least intrusive ways to develop land, and that "we had been hoping that more ecotourism-like facilities would be constructed."
The Botany Bay property would be a likely setting for eco-tourism; it was listed as a proposed public park and natural area by the U.S. Interior Department more than 40 years ago. The 1993 Comprehensive Analytic Study of Botany Bay carried out by DPNR is unequivocal: The area "is worthy of immediate attempts at preservation and planning for appropriate conservation, recreational and educational purposes."
Regarding the 1993 study, DPNR Commissioner Dean Plaskett said this week that "it is incumbent upon us to take a fresh look at that site, and that will be done when the application is submitted."
Plaskett said the department had granted the Botany Bay developers a Phase I permit enabling them to proceed with an archeological dig on the site, which has yielded Precolumbian objects, pottery and other artifacts. The property also holds relatively intact ruins of a sugar mill and factory complex, slave quarters and other buildings.
"We had a pre-application meeting and brought in all the interested parties -- Historic Preservation, CZM (Coastal Zone Management), Fish and Wildlife, and Environmental Protection," Plaskett said. "It is our position that it's obviously an archeological site and a sensitive area that requires all necessary precautions. Clearly, the cataloging of all artifacts also needs to be done."
There have been unsubstantiated charges that artifacts have been taken from the site in violation of the Antiquities Act, but Karr adamantly denies it. He said the archeological consultant on the site, Holly Righter, has discovered some artifacts and is in the process of dating them. After that, he said, they will be returned to the Virgin Islands.
Karr said Righter has worked as an archeologist for the V.I. government, "and if anybody knows the rules and regulations, she does."
In addition, Karr said, "we're working with UVI and the Nature Conservancy in terms of creating two kinds of preserves. One would be a heritage preserve including prehistoric and historic sites, which we're now mapping. We're also looking to preserve an area that's a touch more than 30 acres as a nature preserve." A nature trail that "could be a couple of miles long" would connect the two.
In the meantime, Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole, who chairs the Government Operations, Planning and Environmental Protection committee, has called Plaskett to testify before the committee on Wednesday and Thursday. Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg has called for public hearings on the Botany Bay development. A formal application to DPNR and CZM will be filed next week, Karr said, "on or before Wednesday."