July 2, 2004 – Botany Bay Partners has chosen to relinquish the Coastal Zone Management major permit that would allow it to build a $169 million resort on St. Thomas's West End.
The group still intends to develop the property, but plans now call for building private residences.
Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean Plaskett said on Friday that Botany Bay Partners is scheduled to have a pre-application meeting with CZM staff next week. "They want to apply for a permit for a development of single-family homes." he said. "They notified us March 25 that they were no longer pursuing the hotel."
The meeting will not be open to the public, Plaskett said.
In March of last year, the Environmental Association of St. Thomas-St. John filed an appeal of the CZM permit approval, contending that the developer failed to survey nearby beaches adequately to determine the potential impact of the development on endangered wildlife. The appeal also questioned the ability of the government to monitor and regulate sedimentation and erosion at the site.
The fact that no action had been taken on that appeal nearly a year later aroused curiosity in February. (See "Appeal of Botany Bay Permit in 'Holding Pattern'".)
The project has had a contentious history from the first public hearing before DPNR representatives at Palms Court Harborview Hotel in November 2001. At that meeting, Botany Bay Partners proposed a $160 million development that would include a hotel, time-share and condominium units and residential homes the first such development announced for St. Thomas's far western end.
More than 20 people testified at that 2001 hearing, and no one but the developers spoke in favor of the project. (See "Only Developers Defend Botany Bay Plans".)
In September 2002 the St. Thomas CZM Committee approved the permit against the recommendations of its own staff and amid stiff opposition from EAST, the League of Women Voters, some senators and individual environmentalists.
William Karr, Botany Bay Partners architect, said at the 2001 meeting that construction would be designed to minimize the environmental impact. He said the planned development would have the lowest building density of any resort in the territory, that the public would have access to the beaches at Botany Bay, and that the historic sites there would be preserved.
Karr, who continued to maintain those stances throughout the company's long battle for the permit, could not be reached on Friday for comment on why Botany Bay Partners decided to relinquish the permit for the resort development. An office employee said he was unavailable until Tuesday.
Michael Law, attorney for the Board of Land Use Appeals, said on Friday that the board had received a copy of a letter sent to the CZM commission on March 25 by attorney George H.T. Dudley of Dudley Topper and Feuerzeig indicating that Botany Bay Partners had decided to relinquish the CZM permit for the hotel.
Dudley also was out of his office Friday and unavailable for comment.
Law said the Board of Land Use Appeals "will still require more than this to officially close the books on the appeal, since we were notified by a copy of the letter."
But, he added: "It is a formality. To dismiss it off the docket is the next step. No action has been taken because of this letter. We will, at some point, probably a board meeting later this month, act on it to formally dismiss the appeal."
Law said it's possible that the board will require the appellant, EAST, and representatives of Botany Bay to come before the board.
Carla Joseph, EAST president, said on Friday that she had no comment because she has not seen a formal notification of the withdrawal.
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