May 26, 2004 – After waiting more than four months for a decision from the St. Croix Coastal Zone Management Committee, Golden Resorts was awarded a permit for development on Wednesday evening — by default.
The committee had 30 days in which to make a decision on the application following a Jan. 8 meeting.
At a meeting on Wednesday at the Curriculum Center in Kingshill, CZM committee members conceded that they had failed to decide the matter within the 30-day period. Therefore, the permit for the resort was granted by default.
The committee chair, John Beagles, and members Albert Hewitt and Christian "Ollie" Christensen met in executive session at 5 p.m.. Beagles issued a statement saying the committee had a bare quorum of three members and that other members were absent for medical-related reasons.
Beagles stated that the committee had not been able to meet and come to a decision within 30 days of the Jan. 8 public hearing as required by the Coastal Zone Management Act.
Golden Gaming, meanwhile, faced a Feb. 6 deadline to respond to written comments from the public and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Golden Resorts, the subsidiary seeking the CZM permit, complied with the requests and submitted the required documents.
Golden Resorts also asked that a meeting to decide on the permit request be held no later than Feb. 28.
On Sept. 3, 2003, the Senate approved the rezoning of land at Great Pond for the proposed Golden Gaming resort and casino complex.
On Aug. 28, 2003, Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean Plaskett rejected Golden's first CZM permit application, saying it did not include some phases of the project. However, he said he had no objection to the rezoning request. (See "Economy, Ecology Are Resort Rezoning Issues".)
At the Jan. 8 CZM meeting, the Fish and Wildlife Service gave its opinion on the proposed development, based on information from its own biologists and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It questioned plans for building six-story buildings close to the beach, the impact of lights on nesting turtles, and impacts to the bay-mouth bar and near-shore seagrass beds. Also, "The applicant must understand that the proposed site does not have a beach that can be considered usable by the paying public," its report stated.
Paul Golden said the area is perfect for the type of resort he will build. "It will be a nature preserve," he said. "We plan to clean and maintain the salt pond." (See "CZM Hears Good, Bad at Golden Resorts Hearing".)
Following the Wednesday evening meeting, which lasted about an hour, Kevin Rames, counsel to Golden Resorts, said company officials are pleased that they can now move the project forward and provide much-needed economic stimulus to St. Croix.
"The CZM committee took a courageous step, acknowledging that it had delayed the decisional meeting past the 30-day requested period," Rames said. "This delay was a result of matters outside of Golden Resorts. We are very pleased."
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