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HomeNewsArchivesDespite DPNR Objections, Senate Approves Added Units for Sirenusa Condos

Despite DPNR Objections, Senate Approves Added Units for Sirenusa Condos

April 17, 2007 — Despite numerous concerns raised over the past few months by large groups of St. John residents, senators on Tuesday approved a bill allowing the developers of the Sirenusa condominium project to add seven new units to the building site in Cruz Bay.
The bill, which was special-ordered to the floor during Tuesday's full legislative session, garnered much support from senators, who said that revenues generated from the development — via the collection of property taxes and the hiring of local employees — would help fund various government proposals and initiatives. Additional revenues could also help offset this year's projected $46.5 million budget shortfall, senators added.
Voting in favor of the bill were Sens. Liston Davis, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Juan Figueroa-Serville, Neville James, Norman Jn Baptiste, Shawn-Michael Malone, Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Basil Ottley Jr., Usie R. Richards, Ronald E. Russell, Carmen M. Wesselhoft, Celestino A. White Sr. and Alvin L. Williams.
Sen. Louis P. Hill voted against the bill. Sen James Weber III was absent at voting time.
While Wesselhoft said that she was sure "to take a lash" for supporting the measure, she explained that she, as a senator, is responsible for "voting" her "conscience."
"All the developer is asking for is seven more units," Wesselhoft said. "And they will not be blocking anyone's view since nothing will be added to the buildings already located on the property."
She added that representatives from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources — responsible for issuing the requisite building permits — have not, in previous Senate meetings, objected to the proposal, which grants a use variance to three buildings located on the property, changing the zoning designation from R-2 (residential-low density) to R-3 (residential-medium density).
However, at a meeting held March 26, representatives from the DPNR told senators they could not currently support granting a use variance, since there are some discrepancies in the company's request, along with various other unresolved issues.
At the March meeting, Marjorie Hendrickson Emanuel, head of DPNR's comprehensive and coastal zone planning division, said that it is not clear whether the project's developer is actually requesting a use variance or asking for the entire development to be rezoned. "We have asked the company to clarify their request, but they haven't gotten back to us yet," she said.
DPNR representatives also argued that the request, as presently written, nullifies the development's original group-dwelling permit, which was issued based on the current R-2 zoning (See "Sirenusa Developers Ask Senate for Changes Amidst Public Opposition").
The Legislature's chief legal counsel, attorney Yvonne Tharpes, raised similar concerns on Tuesday in a written note attached to the bill.
"The foregoing measure has not been approved for legal sufficiency, because a variance from the R-2 zoning designation to the R-3 zoning designation does not exist in law or in fact, creates an impossibility of application, is vague and ambiguous, unwarranted, arbitrary and capricious and flies in the face of reasonableness," Tharpes wrote.
When asked about the legality of the bill, White, the bill's sponsor, said the statements issued by DPNR and the Legislature's legal counsel were "all opinions."
"The Legislature feels very strongly that granting a use variance is the best way to go, because giving the developer a rezoning would allow them to do so much more with the property. We're just looking to add the seven new units," White said after the meeting.
Wesselhoft, who deferred questions to White, said that she did not read the legal counsel's note before voting on the bill.
Senators also voted to attach an amendment to the bill appropriating $50,000 from the General Fund to Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix for the purchase of two hemodialysis machines.
While some senators questioned whether an unrelated amendment should be attached to the bill, Richards said that he allowed the amendment to be introduced since the bill was "special-ordered to floor" and not included in the Legislature's planned two-day session agenda.
The bill now goes to Gov. John deJongh Jr. for final approval.
All senators were present during Tuesday's session.
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April 17, 2007 -- Despite numerous concerns raised over the past few months by large groups of St. John residents, senators on Tuesday approved a bill allowing the developers of the Sirenusa condominium project to add seven new units to the building site in Cruz Bay.
The bill, which was special-ordered to the floor during Tuesday's full legislative session, garnered much support from senators, who said that revenues generated from the development -- via the collection of property taxes and the hiring of local employees -- would help fund various government proposals and initiatives. Additional revenues could also help offset this year's projected $46.5 million budget shortfall, senators added.
Voting in favor of the bill were Sens. Liston Davis, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Juan Figueroa-Serville, Neville James, Norman Jn Baptiste, Shawn-Michael Malone, Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Basil Ottley Jr., Usie R. Richards, Ronald E. Russell, Carmen M. Wesselhoft, Celestino A. White Sr. and Alvin L. Williams.
Sen. Louis P. Hill voted against the bill. Sen James Weber III was absent at voting time.
While Wesselhoft said that she was sure "to take a lash" for supporting the measure, she explained that she, as a senator, is responsible for "voting" her "conscience."
"All the developer is asking for is seven more units," Wesselhoft said. "And they will not be blocking anyone's view since nothing will be added to the buildings already located on the property."
She added that representatives from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources -- responsible for issuing the requisite building permits -- have not, in previous Senate meetings, objected to the proposal, which grants a use variance to three buildings located on the property, changing the zoning designation from R-2 (residential-low density) to R-3 (residential-medium density).
However, at a meeting held March 26, representatives from the DPNR told senators they could not currently support granting a use variance, since there are some discrepancies in the company's request, along with various other unresolved issues.
At the March meeting, Marjorie Hendrickson Emanuel, head of DPNR's comprehensive and coastal zone planning division, said that it is not clear whether the project's developer is actually requesting a use variance or asking for the entire development to be rezoned. "We have asked the company to clarify their request, but they haven't gotten back to us yet," she said.
DPNR representatives also argued that the request, as presently written, nullifies the development's original group-dwelling permit, which was issued based on the current R-2 zoning (See "Sirenusa Developers Ask Senate for Changes Amidst Public Opposition").
The Legislature's chief legal counsel, attorney Yvonne Tharpes, raised similar concerns on Tuesday in a written note attached to the bill.
"The foregoing measure has not been approved for legal sufficiency, because a variance from the R-2 zoning designation to the R-3 zoning designation does not exist in law or in fact, creates an impossibility of application, is vague and ambiguous, unwarranted, arbitrary and capricious and flies in the face of reasonableness," Tharpes wrote.
When asked about the legality of the bill, White, the bill's sponsor, said the statements issued by DPNR and the Legislature's legal counsel were "all opinions."
"The Legislature feels very strongly that granting a use variance is the best way to go, because giving the developer a rezoning would allow them to do so much more with the property. We're just looking to add the seven new units," White said after the meeting.
Wesselhoft, who deferred questions to White, said that she did not read the legal counsel's note before voting on the bill.
Senators also voted to attach an amendment to the bill appropriating $50,000 from the General Fund to Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix for the purchase of two hemodialysis machines.
While some senators questioned whether an unrelated amendment should be attached to the bill, Richards said that he allowed the amendment to be introduced since the bill was "special-ordered to floor" and not included in the Legislature's planned two-day session agenda.
The bill now goes to Gov. John deJongh Jr. for final approval.
All senators were present during Tuesday's session.
Back Talk


Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.