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St. Johnians Rail Against Lack of Parking in Cruz Bay

Nov. 29, 2005 –– Planning Commissioner Dean C. Plaskett told the approximately 75 people gathered Tuesday at the Westin Resort and Villas that he would look into whether Dockside Mall has sufficient parking spaces.
"If not, we will revoke the occupancy permit," he said.
He promised an answer by Friday.
Dockside Mall is located beachfront and adjacent to the Cruz Bay ferry dock in an area that was exempt from the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1978. This means the developers St. Thomas attorney Paul Hoffman and his partner Albert Paiewonsky, was not required to have the plans undergo public hearing like most other beachfront developments.
Other properties in Cruz Bay including Wharfside Village and the newly developed Grande Bay also were never included in the first tier of the Coastal Zone and therefore also did not go through the CZM public hearing process. Recently Grande Bay did go through a rezoning process from W-1, waterfront, to R-4, residential medium density, to make two parcels totaling a half acre conform with adjacent property owned by the developers.
Plaskett said the original approved plans called for three parking spaces, five fewer than the eight that would normally be required under the building code.
When his department decided that wasn't enough, Dockside Mall worked out a deal with the V.I. Port Authority. The Port Authority agreed that four spaces at its parking lot across from the post office could be contracted to Dockside Mall. This brings the total to one less than the building code requires.
Plaskett said he has the latitude to allow fewer parking spaces.
Barshinger said that in exchange, the Port Authority could put its power line to the ferry dock on Dockside Mall property.
Port Authority engineer Dale Gregory said that the four spaces in its parking lot are not specifically designated for Dockside Mall.
This prompted Emergency Medical Technician Carol Beckowitz, who works across the street from the parking lot, to point out that the parking lot is filled long before the stores at Dockside Mall open so the spaces would not be available to Dockside Mall customers and staff.
"And at 1 a.m. there were over 25 cars in the parking lot," she said.
Architect Rob Crane proposed that the Dockside Mall be forced to buy four parking spaces in the parking garage the government proposes to build.
Barshinger noted that many buildings went up in Cruz Bay during the past 15 years that did not have adequate parking.
"We are at a point where people are desperate for a solution," he said, speaking about the fact that drivers are often faced with the inability to find an empty parking space anywhere in Cruz Bay.
He said a plan is in the works to increase parking by towing away abandoned vehicles, to put in place a citizens committee to verify that proposed projects have sufficient parking and to build a multi-level parking garage.
Barshinger said the parking garage may be located near "Inspection Lane," but the government has said it plans to build a combination vendor's plaza and parking garage across from the Creek.
Robert O'Connor Jr. warned residents that strictly enforcing the building code would mean that people who own substandard lots won't be able to develop them.
"This is like taking people's rights," O'Connor said.
Although the Dockside Mall issue took up much of the meeting, other topics came up.
Plaskett said that Atlantic Northstar got a group dwelling permit to build 36 units on 5.5 acres at Gifft and Regenback. This is six less that it originally requested.
He said that Planning imposed about 20 conditions that covered protecting cultural resources and endangered species. Additionally, it will include some affordable housing.
Planning spokesman Jamal Nielsen said the group dwelling permit was issued Oct. 21.
The permit application was controversial, with many neighbors opposed.
Plaskett also said that the Grande Bay Resort development now under construction in Cruz Bay adheres to the building code. Some residents have complained that the building is too tall, but Plaskett said that the developer is allowed to have a parking level below a three-story building. He also said that it can include a loft as long as it doesn't consume more than 33 percent of the floor below.

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