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HomeNewsArchivesWilliams and Punch Developers Address Concerns About Roads, Beach Access

Williams and Punch Developers Address Concerns About Roads, Beach Access

Nov. 9, 2007 — Speaking to a crowd of concerned citizens at Frederiksted's Pier 69 restaurant Thursday evening, Williams and Punch developers said St. Croix's environment, history and culture will be major selling points to the guests of their planned hotel and casino resort.
The developers submitted their Coastal Zone Management permit application Wednesday and are now holding a series of public meetings. They brought out artist's renderings, sketches and diagrams of plans for their hotel, casino, golf course and marina, talked up their project and took questions from area residents.
"There are old historic ruins on the site," said Wade Blackmon, an attorney and member of the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, which is bankrolling the project. "We want to be able to celebrate the history and cultural value of the island. … As you can see here, the old Punch village is on the site, and there are grave sites there, too. We are truly committed to developing a historical center for the people of the Virgin Islands. And that is something unique we have to offer our guests that sets us apart."
The project borders Rainbow Beach on the South and Sunset Beach on the North.
The resort will have a 378-unit main hotel, Blackmon said. Of those, 322 will be in one central hotel and casino complex. Around that will be three swimming pools: an adult pool, a family pool and a recreational pool with a water slide and other attractions, he said. An 18-hole public golf course is to run eastward up into the forested hills of Estates Williams and Punch. Two channels are to be cut inland, carving a lagoon for a 64-slip inland marina and providing two ways for water to come in and out. The channels and lagoon will create a small beach island of sorts, with a small bridge coming over where the existing road intersects with the planned channel. On the artificial island, developers plan a 56-room beach hotel.
"It is an amazingly one-off resort experience we believe is unlike any other in the Caribbean market," Blackmon said.
Three residential areas that Blackmon called "golf villa complexes" are part of the project, too. They are to have 144 residential lots of about an acre each. The variety of types of development are important to the business model, Blackmon said.
"No one is building 378-room hotels in the Caribbean," he said. "You need mixed use to make it economically feasible."
Residents asked questions about all aspects of the project. Merrily Burch of Frederiksted asked what would happen to the existing road running parallel to the shore. Plans call for it to be moved inland.
"It splits off at Rainbow beach, goes in about 800 feet, turning north," said Williams and Punch partner Chris Elliot. "Then it blends with Creque Dam Road, and then joins Northside Road."
"Are there any plans to widen the road before Rainbow Beach to accommodate the increased traffic?" Burch asked.
"We envision a day when the west coast of St. Croix will be a full tourist experience from Frederiksted to the resort," Elliot said. "Whether connected by a boardwalk or perhaps penny cabs to bring people back and forth."
Asked whether the road would be able to handle the heavy trucks hauling gravel the road now bears, Elliot said the road will be built to federal standards and would have to be able to accommodate the existing traffic.
Jill Hurd of Sprat Hall, a historic colonial estate north of Frederiksted, asked whether her property would still be accessible once the road was diverted.
"This road was created just for you, Jill," Elliot said, pointing to a line on the map.
Hurd later said her wells experience saltwater infiltration during dry spells, and asked whether the marina would make this worse, or if she would be able to connect to public water. Elliot said he would talk to the project engineers to see what he could find out.
Former senator Adelbert Bryan said he supported building a resort, but opposed moving the road and the marina plans out of concern for public access to the beaches.
"Why should I have to drive on a road on private property to go to the beach?" Bryan asked. "You say you'll let us go, but what about years from now, when you and I are gone?"
Another audience member, George Suarez of Frederiksted, responded to Bryan.
"The road is private now," Suarez said. "When they are done, they are giving the road to the Virgin Islands and it will be like any other public road."
Elliot confirmed these details, saying the road would have an easement across the property like all public roads.
Bryan was not persuaded. He also objected to putting the marina inland, saying it should be out at sea, so the marina's inlets would not cross the beach line and prevent a continuous walk down the coast. Elliot said putting the marina offshore would be more damaging to the coast and would leave the marina unprotected in a storm. He also said there would be a small bridge across the south channel.
St. Croix attorney Kevin Rames, a partner in the project, addressed the issue, as well.
"There are people on St. Croix who believe the island should remain as it is," Rames said. "I am not one of them. Our Virgin Islands legislators have made it law that 50 feet up from the high water mark — or to where greenery begins — is public, and builders know this like it is written in the Book of Genesis. There will be dedicated access to the beach. This project is about inclusiveness. It will change the west end of St. Croix."
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