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VARIANCE COULD PROVIDE BOTANY BAY COMPROMISE

Dec. 7, 2001 – Planning and Natural Resources Department officials may have struck an acceptable balance between economic development and protection of historical and environmental resources by recommending a zoning variance that would allow the resort development at Botany Bay to move forward.
The variance recommended by DPNR to the Senate Committee of the Whole on Thursday night would allow Botany Bay Partners to move forward with plans for a $165 million resort development on the pristine land at the far West End of St. Thomas, but would bind them to plans that they say are sensitive to environmental and cultural issues.
The developers have promised to build with low density, to use construction methods that will prevent run-off that could damage the healthy coral reefs offshore, and to preserve archeological sites as an education center.
Many critics of the project expressed support for the variance option; Botany Bay Partners officials said they believe they could work within that framework; and several senators said they believe the variance could be a good option.
"We want to achieve a win-win for both sides," said Marjorie Hendricksen-Emmanuel, acting director of comprehensive and coastal zone planning for DPNR, who recommended the variance option at the hearing.
"I think the uses they [Botany Bay Partners] have proposed are reasonable," Hendricksen-Emmanuel said. "It's not a public property; the owners should be allowed some uses. But this addresses concerns and keeps a level of control."
Botany Bay Partners had sought a zoning change that would allow them or any other developer the option of nearly 40 different kinds of uses.
Opponents to that rezoning noted that a variance would allow the developers to go forward with the plans they have presented but would prevent them from drastically changing those plans or selling the property with new zoning to other developers.
About 80 people attended the hearing, which lasted well past midnight, with more than 25 persons testifying and senators taking two hours to offer their own views on the project. Most of the senators present expressed support for the Botany Bay development project, with only Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg saying he was adamantly opposed.
Sens. Lorraine Berry, Douglas Canton, Donald "Ducks" Cole, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Carlton Dowe, Norma Pickard-Samuel and Celestino White attended the meeting, along with Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd, who chaired the Committee of the Whole.
Pickard-Samuel said she could not support a zoning change that would allow development of land containing archeological sites, artifacts and other important cultural resources. Too often, she said, the V.I. government has allowed developers to carry through their plans unchecked, without regard for the culture of the Virgin Islands.
"As much as I like development," she said, "I like my history and my islands too much to vote for any rezoning of Botany Bay. Our history is embedded in that property." She added that she would support the project if the developers followed strict guidelines. "If you agree to a variance, I will work with you," she said. "You have the right to build on your property, but there have to be restrictions."
Other senators offered strong support for the project, citing the need for jobs and economic growth in the territory. Several chastised the project's opponents, saying they were against development of any kind, at the expense of working people who need economic opportunities.
"What about humans?" asked Sen. David Jones, accusing opponents of caring more about protecting crabs and corals than protecting people.
Jones offered to get out his shovel and hard hat to help with the construction of the Botany Bay resort.
While some opponents said a variance could address their concerns, others took the stand that no development is appropriate or needed at Botany Bay, whether the government places restrictions on it or not.
"We need to say 'Enough is enough.' We already have enough resorts," former Bordeaux resident Julia Lanclos said. "We do not need on this island another resort. It's not going to benefit us; it's not going to benefit our children."
Lanclos recalled her history teacher, now Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, telling her and her classmates that they needed to work to preserve the culture of the Virgin Islands for the children. She said she did not see that happening with the Botany Bay proposal.
Alain Longatte, chief operating officer of Botany Bay Partners, said the developers would meet with DPNR officials to try to work out acceptable conditions for a variance. He said if those conditions allow for the current plans to move forward, it could be a workable arrangement.
"We all want to have a superior project," Longatte said. "When you build a resort like this, there's a large element of pride." He added that the developers want to preserve the environment and cultural resources as much as anyone else.
The full Senate is expected to vote on the rezoning issue later this month.

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Dec. 7, 2001 – Planning and Natural Resources Department officials may have struck an acceptable balance between economic development and protection of historical and environmental resources by recommending a zoning variance that would allow the resort development at Botany Bay to move forward.
The variance recommended by DPNR to the Senate Committee of the Whole on Thursday night would allow Botany Bay Partners to move forward with plans for a $165 million resort development on the pristine land at the far West End of St. Thomas, but would bind them to plans that they say are sensitive to environmental and cultural issues.
The developers have promised to build with low density, to use construction methods that will prevent run-off that could damage the healthy coral reefs offshore, and to preserve archeological sites as an education center.
Many critics of the project expressed support for the variance option; Botany Bay Partners officials said they believe they could work within that framework; and several senators said they believe the variance could be a good option.
"We want to achieve a win-win for both sides," said Marjorie Hendricksen-Emmanuel, acting director of comprehensive and coastal zone planning for DPNR, who recommended the variance option at the hearing.
"I think the uses they [Botany Bay Partners] have proposed are reasonable," Hendricksen-Emmanuel said. "It's not a public property; the owners should be allowed some uses. But this addresses concerns and keeps a level of control."
Botany Bay Partners had sought a zoning change that would allow them or any other developer the option of nearly 40 different kinds of uses.
Opponents to that rezoning noted that a variance would allow the developers to go forward with the plans they have presented but would prevent them from drastically changing those plans or selling the property with new zoning to other developers.
About 80 people attended the hearing, which lasted well past midnight, with more than 25 persons testifying and senators taking two hours to offer their own views on the project. Most of the senators present expressed support for the Botany Bay development project, with only Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg saying he was adamantly opposed.
Sens. Lorraine Berry, Douglas Canton, Donald "Ducks" Cole, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Carlton Dowe, Norma Pickard-Samuel and Celestino White attended the meeting, along with Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd, who chaired the Committee of the Whole.
Pickard-Samuel said she could not support a zoning change that would allow development of land containing archeological sites, artifacts and other important cultural resources. Too often, she said, the V.I. government has allowed developers to carry through their plans unchecked, without regard for the culture of the Virgin Islands.
"As much as I like development," she said, "I like my history and my islands too much to vote for any rezoning of Botany Bay. Our history is embedded in that property." She added that she would support the project if the developers followed strict guidelines. "If you agree to a variance, I will work with you," she said. "You have the right to build on your property, but there have to be restrictions."
Other senators offered strong support for the project, citing the need for jobs and economic growth in the territory. Several chastised the project's opponents, saying they were against development of any kind, at the expense of working people who need economic opportunities.
"What about humans?" asked Sen. David Jones, accusing opponents of caring more about protecting crabs and corals than protecting people.
Jones offered to get out his shovel and hard hat to help with the construction of the Botany Bay resort.
While some opponents said a variance could address their concerns, others took the stand that no development is appropriate or needed at Botany Bay, whether the government places restrictions on it or not.
"We need to say 'Enough is enough.' We already have enough resorts," former Bordeaux resident Julia Lanclos said. "We do not need on this island another resort. It's not going to benefit us; it's not going to benefit our children."
Lanclos recalled her history teacher, now Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, telling her and her classmates that they needed to work to preserve the culture of the Virgin Islands for the children. She said she did not see that happening with the Botany Bay proposal.
Alain Longatte, chief operating officer of Botany Bay Partners, said the developers would meet with DPNR officials to try to work out acceptable conditions for a variance. He said if those conditions allow for the current plans to move forward, it could be a workable arrangement.
"We all want to have a superior project," Longatte said. "When you build a resort like this, there's a large element of pride." He added that the developers want to preserve the environment and cultural resources as much as anyone else.
The full Senate is expected to vote on the rezoning issue later this month.