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NORTHSIDERS DISCUSS FIRE SERVICE, GOATS, CONDOS

Feb. 28, 2004 – Residents of St. Thomas' Northside would do well to exercise sound fire-safety practices in their homes and on their properties because it doesn't look like the Dorothea fire station is going to reopen any time soon, and that means — according to the V.I. Fire Service's own estimate — at least a 35-minute wait while firetrucks from the downtown Fort Christian station make their way up Crown Mountain Road and around Estate Pearl to the scene of the fire.
The absence of this basic emergency service and what's to be done about it was the primary focus of a Northside Civic Organization meeting held Saturday afternoon at Mafolie Church.
"The problem," as the organization's president, Ann Durante-Arnold, put it, "is not only that firemen responding to a fire on the Northside are coming from town, but also that they have to go the long way around because they can't get their equipment up Mafolie Hill."
The obvious logistical problems caused by the lack of a working fire station on the Northside was underscored recently when an automobile caught fire in an area near Joseph Sibilly School. According to Durante-Arnold, it was 40 minutes before fire service personnel arrived, and by that time it was too late to do much more than hose down the smoking ruins.
Despite a now years-long effort by the Northside Civic Association to draw action from the current administration on this issue, Government House continues to remain oddly silent, failing, Durante-Arnold said, to respond in any way to repeated letters and a petition bearing the signatures of 800 Northside residents who feel it is their basic right as taxpaying citizens to have a fire station in their part of the island.
This is not to say, however, that all branches of the government are guilty of avoiding this problem. Minority Sen. Carlton Dowe skipped out on part of his son's little-league game to attend the meeting and hear the concerns of his constituents.
Dowe made it quite clear where he stands on the question when he said, "The issue of the vacant Dorothea fire station should not be a political one and unfortunately that is what it's turned into. This is a basic emergency service that residents have a right to expect; even Stevie Wonder could see that this is a huge problem."
"The bottom line," Dowe said, "is that we have to continue to press the administration."
In fact, Dowe indicated he will be leading the charge in the Senate to overturn Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's veto of the fiscal year 2004 budget on matters relating to emergency fire services.
Turnbull's December veto of the Legislature's 2004 budget in its entirety came as particularly bitter news to the island's firemen as the document contained appropriations for retroactive pay raises and, additionally, funding which would have reopened the Dorothea fire station.
Dowe assured the organization that his efforts would garner the 10 votes required to reopen the fire station.
Durante-Arnold and other members of the Northside group were happy with Dowe's pledge of support, but remained frustrated by what many of them see as the absurdity of finding themselves in the position, as NCO member and political activist Jason Budsan put it, of having "to beg for this important, fundamental service."
Also on the agenda for the meeting was some discussion of agricultural zoning issues on the Northside.
Local farmer David Berry attended the meeting to voice his concern over land adjacent to the Dorothea Tot Lot which he contends is being used improperly. The land in question, which belongs to the Agriculture Department, has been leased to farmers who are using it to pasture their livestock.
According to Berry, as many as 60 goats have been let loose on a plot of land no larger than half an acre. Berry said that agricultural grazing rules dictate no more than 20 goats per acre. Furthermore, Berry pointed out, the land is zoned for growing crops, not for keeping livestock.
Berry's own farm, which he uses to grow produce, is now surrounded on three sides by goats, sheep and cows. "I can't grow food on my own land anymore." Berry added, "Besides the stench, which you can't believe, all of these animals on such a small piece of land is an environmental disaster. You'll see, when the next big rain comes, what I'm talking about."
The last item on the agenda dealt with a proposed real-estate development in Estate Mafolie across from Sibilly School.
The developing agent, Mafolie Ridge Villas, is seeking approval from the V.I. Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning Office to build half a dozen four-bedroom, condominium-like duplex units in what is now a fairly quiet residential neighborhood.
John Foster, an architect and current resident of Mafolie Estates, came to the meeting looking for support to stop this development. "This project is completely out of character relative to other construction in the area." Foster said, producing architectural plans for the proposed buildings.
Budsan and fellow NCO member Helen Gjessing also voiced strong concern about the project, but on historical rather than aesthetic grounds. "Construction would take place on top of the ruins of the Mafolie Greathouse," Gjessing said. According to Budsan, the area has already been designated as a protected historical site by the State Historic Preservation Office. Such a designation, according to Budsan, would prohibit such development in the area.
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Feb. 28, 2004 - Residents of St. Thomas' Northside would do well to exercise sound fire-safety practices in their homes and on their properties because it doesn't look like the Dorothea fire station is going to reopen any time soon, and that means -- according to the V.I. Fire Service's own estimate -- at least a 35-minute wait while firetrucks from the downtown Fort Christian station make their way up Crown Mountain Road and around Estate Pearl to the scene of the fire.
The absence of this basic emergency service and what's to be done about it was the primary focus of a Northside Civic Organization meeting held Saturday afternoon at Mafolie Church.
"The problem," as the organization's president, Ann Durante-Arnold, put it, "is not only that firemen responding to a fire on the Northside are coming from town, but also that they have to go the long way around because they can't get their equipment up Mafolie Hill."
The obvious logistical problems caused by the lack of a working fire station on the Northside was underscored recently when an automobile caught fire in an area near Joseph Sibilly School. According to Durante-Arnold, it was 40 minutes before fire service personnel arrived, and by that time it was too late to do much more than hose down the smoking ruins.
Despite a now years-long effort by the Northside Civic Association to draw action from the current administration on this issue, Government House continues to remain oddly silent, failing, Durante-Arnold said, to respond in any way to repeated letters and a petition bearing the signatures of 800 Northside residents who feel it is their basic right as taxpaying citizens to have a fire station in their part of the island.
This is not to say, however, that all branches of the government are guilty of avoiding this problem. Minority Sen. Carlton Dowe skipped out on part of his son's little-league game to attend the meeting and hear the concerns of his constituents.
Dowe made it quite clear where he stands on the question when he said, "The issue of the vacant Dorothea fire station should not be a political one and unfortunately that is what it's turned into. This is a basic emergency service that residents have a right to expect; even Stevie Wonder could see that this is a huge problem."
"The bottom line," Dowe said, "is that we have to continue to press the administration."
In fact, Dowe indicated he will be leading the charge in the Senate to overturn Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's veto of the fiscal year 2004 budget on matters relating to emergency fire services.
Turnbull's December veto of the Legislature's 2004 budget in its entirety came as particularly bitter news to the island's firemen as the document contained appropriations for retroactive pay raises and, additionally, funding which would have reopened the Dorothea fire station.
Dowe assured the organization that his efforts would garner the 10 votes required to reopen the fire station.
Durante-Arnold and other members of the Northside group were happy with Dowe's pledge of support, but remained frustrated by what many of them see as the absurdity of finding themselves in the position, as NCO member and political activist Jason Budsan put it, of having "to beg for this important, fundamental service."
Also on the agenda for the meeting was some discussion of agricultural zoning issues on the Northside.
Local farmer David Berry attended the meeting to voice his concern over land adjacent to the Dorothea Tot Lot which he contends is being used improperly. The land in question, which belongs to the Agriculture Department, has been leased to farmers who are using it to pasture their livestock.
According to Berry, as many as 60 goats have been let loose on a plot of land no larger than half an acre. Berry said that agricultural grazing rules dictate no more than 20 goats per acre. Furthermore, Berry pointed out, the land is zoned for growing crops, not for keeping livestock.
Berry's own farm, which he uses to grow produce, is now surrounded on three sides by goats, sheep and cows. "I can't grow food on my own land anymore." Berry added, "Besides the stench, which you can't believe, all of these animals on such a small piece of land is an environmental disaster. You'll see, when the next big rain comes, what I'm talking about."
The last item on the agenda dealt with a proposed real-estate development in Estate Mafolie across from Sibilly School.
The developing agent, Mafolie Ridge Villas, is seeking approval from the V.I. Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning Office to build half a dozen four-bedroom, condominium-like duplex units in what is now a fairly quiet residential neighborhood.
John Foster, an architect and current resident of Mafolie Estates, came to the meeting looking for support to stop this development. "This project is completely out of character relative to other construction in the area." Foster said, producing architectural plans for the proposed buildings.
Budsan and fellow NCO member Helen Gjessing also voiced strong concern about the project, but on historical rather than aesthetic grounds. "Construction would take place on top of the ruins of the Mafolie Greathouse," Gjessing said. According to Budsan, the area has already been designated as a protected historical site by the State Historic Preservation Office. Such a designation, according to Budsan, would prohibit such development in the area.
Back Talk


Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and city and state/country or island where you reside.

Publisher's note : Like the St. Thomas Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much -- and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice ... click here.