Editor's note: The following is a copy of a letter sent to Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and his legal counsel, Paul Gimenez, on Dec. 14, 2001.)
I write this letter as a plea for you to reconsider the recent request to rezone the Botany Bay area for development. As a marine biologist at the Center for Marine and Environmental Studies at the University of the Virgin Islands, I have been monitoring the influx of land-based sediments into our coastal waters during the past four years. Our studies have found that very small amounts of eroded soil can have significant adverse effects on coastal marine resources, especially coral reefs and their associated organisms.
Around the Virgin Islands many coral reefs are being seriously impacted from thousands of pounds of eroded soil that originate from construction sites and unpaved roads near the coast and far inland. Rezoning the Botany Bay watershed to R-3 will allow unregulated development in this pristine area with potentially devastating effects on the marine environment.
I was personally shocked to hear that many of our legislators voted against the recommendations of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources and the concerned voice of the people of this territory. The ability of eight individuals (0.008 percent of our population) to dictate the use of the territory's natural resources against the recommendations of expert opinion is completely irresponsible and undemocratic.
There are other alternatives to rezoning which will allow responsible development and preservation of our natural resources for generations to come. Please veto the rezoning request and let the democratic process persevere over the special interests of a few.
Richard S. Nemeth, Ph.D.
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