July 14, 2005 A major Coastal Zone Management permit application for improvements to existing marine facilities on Lovango Cay got an airing Wednesday at a meeting of the St. John committee, held at the Legislature building on St. John. About two dozen people attended.
The application has a long history. The 44-acre parcel had three owners who planned to develop the land for their use. One owner died and one got divorced, which left the Joseph John Markus Trust with its 11 parcels to develop.
According to a chronology read by CZM director Victor Somme, in January 2002, a barge bringing construction materials to the island ripped through the coral near shore. This brought the trust's activities to the attention of CZM staff, which on March 15, 2002, issued a notice of violation because the trust failed to meet two conditions of its minor permit. It failed to post a $1 million bond and neglected to hire an independent monitor.
CZM, in a letter dated Feb. 5, 2003, and signed by Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean Plaskett, authorized the trust to build what it termed temporary barge landing facilities and a 20-foot enlargement to their existing 80-foot dock. It also instructed the trust to apply for a major permit.
The temporary barge ramp allows the vessel to kill the engines while still offshore. The barge is then winched in to the ramp.
However, most of that temporary facility is made of concrete.
"No aspect of it appears temporary to me," CZM committee member Brion Morrisette said, adding that he owns three-quarters of an acre on Lovango.
Joseph Markus responded by saying that the phrases "stage one" and "stage two" would be better terminology.
Julien Harley, president of the St. John committee, said after the meeting that the trust should have originally applied for a major permit for the facility. He said the letter from Plaskett doesn't make any mention of a permit waiver. And he said the CZM staff should have acted when the trust didn't get the permits.
Also in question is why the owners do not need a CZM permit to develop a subdivision, when the CZM committee in 1998 denied the previous owners of the same 44 acres, Estate Lovango Ltd., a permit to develop the land.
"A loophole," Harley said.
The trust finally applied for a major permit on Feb. 3.
The trust's improvements requested in their major permit application include a 50-foot dock extension to the existing 100-dock, a 50-foot "L" at the end of the pier, a 30-foot finger pier off the main dock, a wave dampener for the 50-foot "L" to cut down wave action and two mooring piles to create boat slips. Additionally, the developers want to add concrete slabs on the ocean floor of the barge landing ramp, construct facilities for dinghies and personal watercraft and build a reverse osmosis line.
Most of the comments made by the half-dozen people who spoke were against the changes planned by the trust. Only a Markus employee, Mary Ann Brown, spoke in favor.
"They are very environmentally conscious. They do not want to destroy Lovango," she said.
Daisy Klecan, who has lived on Lovango for 19 years, questioned why the trust was ordered by CZM as part of its settlement agreement to install mooring buoys, while other residents had their requests turned down.
"I guess I have to be an environmental miscreant to get moorings on Lovango," her husband, Ron, added.
Amy Dempsey of Bio-Impact, who is on the Markus Trust team, said eight of the dozen moorings will be open to dive boats and day sailors to help prevent coral damage.
Wally Leopold, who also lives on Lovango, asked why the committee was holding this hearing when the facility was already built.
He also asked how landowners who buy lots in the 44-acre parcel will get to their properties. Markus said because the dock is for family use, future improvements will have to be made to the barge ramp so other landowners can use it for access.
John Bowman of St. John Rescue said he had concerns about how emergency vessels would access the island. He said the organization already responded to an incident in which Markus was injured.
"We had to improvise, and the situation was unsafe," he said.
Lovango landowner Yvonne Wells questioned how landowners east of the 44-acre parcel would access their property. Markus said the right of way will remain.
Markus also said that he would ask those landowners to join a homeowners association to fund further improvements to the barge landing ramp so it could be used for access. This project will need additional permits.
The CZM Committee will meet at noon Aug. 3 at the Legislature to make their decision.
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