June 14, 2004 – Go to the Legislature with solutions to your concerns about the proposed Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan, Betty Barber of Sen. Lorraine Berry's office urged. "There are not enough watchdogs for your island," she told the St. John residents.
Barber made her remarks Monday at a meeting of the Coral Bay Community Council held at the John's Folly Learning Institute. They were in response to a presentation by Marjorie Emmanuel, director of the Planning and Natural Resources Department's Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning Program.
Barber urged the the residents to get a copy of the proposed plan, call upon the lawyers in their group and firm up their position.
If residents aren't on their toes, she said, they could find themselves in the same predicament as residents at Red Hook, who are fighting a development that they say will take away the public's easy access to beaches and change their neighborhood for the worse.
Emmanuel said her agency is finalizing its update before sending its Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan to the Legislature. She said she has been told the Senate will hold public hearings on the plan before the November elections.
Some of the three dozen people at the meeting appeared surprised that they would have no input on the plan before it goes to the Legislature. Emmanuel said that her agency held public hearings right after the plan was first conceived in 1989. Many of the people at Monday's meeting did not live on St. John at that time.
Work on the plan was essentially completed in 1995, but the Legislature never adopted it. Emmanuel said that Gov. Charles W. Turnbull in May ordered her agency to restart work on the proposal.
Emmanuel initially told those in the audience that they would have to visit the DPNR office at Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas to get a CD copy of the draft plan. But she later said one is available at the St. John Administrator's Office. She then agreed to work on getting the information to the Coral Bay Community Council so its members could prepare for the Senate public hearings on the matter.
Emmanuel said she did not bring a copy of the draft plan with her to the meeting, an omission that raised questions from some people. She said she had been told she needed only to provide an overview.
The plan will allow owners more flexibility in using their land, she said..
Michael Spellen, an environmental planner with DPNR, said that "intensity districts" will replace the zoning system. Instead of the 18 zoning districts now in use, the territory will operate on seven land and five water areas based on "intensity." Spellen later said that intensity refers to density.
Any new development would have to include potable water, sewage, parking and roads, he said, and "if the development does not meet standards, it will not be permitted." He said the plan envisions half-acre lots for Coral Bay.
Wil Henderson, a Coral Bay resident, said he hopes the gerrymandering that occurred when the territory adopted the Coastal Zone Management law won't happen with the Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan.
"I hope we lived and learned," Emmanuel responded.
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