Oct. 5, 2004 Establish local planning boards for each island to oversee development rather than implement the proposed Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan, said several people at Tuesday's town meeting on the subject.
"Keep the existing zoning law," John Ford, who is president of the St. John Board of Realtors, said as the more than 60 people who attended the meeting at the Legislature building on St. John listened.
However, others had a different opinion. Barry Devine, a Coral Bay resident who works at the University of the Virgin Islands Conservation Data Center, said that the plan was necessary to keep a check on St. John's rapid decline in natural resources.
"It's like a tornado through the island," he said, mentioning development and traffic as two of the island's woes.
He cautioned that the Planning and Natural Resources Department and the senators should not rush the plan through.
Devine said St. John is a much different place than it was when the plan was first developed back in the early 1990s. He said changes need to be taken into account in the new plan.
"Ten years have passed, certain things have happened. We need a true update," Sharon Coldren, who heads the Coral Bay Community Council, added.
Sen. Louis P. Hill, who chaired the meeting, said if the plan does not get through the legislative process by the time the current Senate ends in January, the process will have to begin again.
Hill promised that comments from residents would be considered as the plan takes shape.
"Several shortcomings have been pointed out," he said.
Several people commented on the industrial designation for the Coral Bay waterfront.
Coldren said she was told the industrial designation was so barges and ferries could access Coral Bay.
However, Victor Somme, Coastal Zone Management director, said that designation takes into account future development in Coral Bay.
Hugo Roller, a Coral Bay farmer, said the plan creates a greater hodgepodge of land uses than the existing zoning.
Ford said that the current spot rezoning practice was not that much of a problem since only 14 requests were made last year in the entire territory.
Keith Richards, who serves as director of capital projects in the governor's office, asked Ford if the Board of Realtors would develop a program that calls for builders of "million dollar homes" to contribute to building affordable housing for less well-heeled residents.
When Ford responded that he was proposing to tax builders on top of what they already pay in taxes, Richards retorted that it was an impact fee.
"They're driving up the cost," he said, referring to St. John's high real estate prices.
Ford said it wasn't for him to answer that question since he doesn't own the property.
Wilma Marsh Monsanto, whose family owns big chunks of Coral Bay land, said that families are being forced to sell their land because of high taxation.
"The people of St. John are becoming extinct. We need leaders who will look out for the people of St. John," Monsanto, a senatorial candidate, said.
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