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Lack of Quorum Sinks Senate Meeting on Thatch Cay Development

Oct. 8, 2008 — After taking testimony Wednesday from the Thatch Cay Ocean and Beach Club development team and the Planning Department, Sen. Alvin Williams was forced to hold up the vote on two measures because the Planning and Environmental Protection Committee lacked a quorum.
"We'll obviously have to repeat the entire event," Sen. Raymond "Usie" Richards complained.
Of the seven committee members, only Williams and Richards showed up for the hearing at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall on St. Thomas. Sen. Celestino White answered when the roll call was taken, but he didn't appear later to ask any questions.
Absent were Sens. Norman Jn Baptiste, Juan Figueroa-Serville, James Weber III and Carmen Wesselhoft.
Non-committee members Sens. Louis P. Hill and Patrick Simeon Sprauve sat in and asked questions. Williams noted that Sen. Carlton Dowe was also present when the roll call was taken, but he didn't stick around for his seven minutes of questioning.
The Planning and Environmental Protection Committee met to ratify the land portion of the Thatch Cay CZM permit and give its approval for use of the territory's submerged lands to build a dock, a barge-landing facility and a reverse-osmosis intake pipe. Hill's bill to provide for renewable energy was also held in committee.
The water portion of the Thatch Cay permit will run for 20 years and cost $35,000 a year.
Coastal Zone Management Program Director Janice Hodge presented the Planning and Natural Resources Department's position.
"The granting of the permit will not adversely affect the public health, safety and general welfare, nor cause significant adverse impacts," Hodge said, asking that the permit be approved.
She also cited help for the territory's economy as a reason to approve it.
Thatch Cay wants to build 101 homes and 24 other buildings on the 230-acre island.
"Each residence needs a minor CZM permit that the owner has to apply for," said St. Thomas architect Robert deJongh, who designed the project.
The buildings and the roads will take up 7.58 percent of the island, which also includes a conservation zone and wildlife preserve. The 300-foot dock will hold 20 boats up to 100 feet long. A mooring field will hold 25 boats, including vessels more than 100 feet long. Five of those moorings will be available to the public, deJongh said.
The development will add to the territory's tax base without driving up property values on St. John and St. Thomas, according to deJongh.
The handful of St. Thomas residents who testified at the meeting oppose the project.
"We've degraded St. Thomas," said Helen Gjessing, representing the League of Women Voters. "Now we're going to start on the cays."
Thatch Cay and other cays are on the "execution list known as development," Sean LaPlace said. He added, "I have been completely disillusioned and lost faith in CZM."
The meeting segued into a discussion led by Hill on the need for a public policy concerning the offshore cays. After saying he doesn't think the cays should be developed, Hill said they're what made "this part of the world" special and unique.
"This is what we're trying to change," he said.
Citing a confidentiality agreement, developer Paul Lange declined to answer when asked how much he paid for the property.
"It was expensive," he said.
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Oct. 8, 2008 -- After taking testimony Wednesday from the Thatch Cay Ocean and Beach Club development team and the Planning Department, Sen. Alvin Williams was forced to hold up the vote on two measures because the Planning and Environmental Protection Committee lacked a quorum.
"We'll obviously have to repeat the entire event," Sen. Raymond "Usie" Richards complained.
Of the seven committee members, only Williams and Richards showed up for the hearing at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall on St. Thomas. Sen. Celestino White answered when the roll call was taken, but he didn't appear later to ask any questions.
Absent were Sens. Norman Jn Baptiste, Juan Figueroa-Serville, James Weber III and Carmen Wesselhoft.
Non-committee members Sens. Louis P. Hill and Patrick Simeon Sprauve sat in and asked questions. Williams noted that Sen. Carlton Dowe was also present when the roll call was taken, but he didn't stick around for his seven minutes of questioning.
The Planning and Environmental Protection Committee met to ratify the land portion of the Thatch Cay CZM permit and give its approval for use of the territory's submerged lands to build a dock, a barge-landing facility and a reverse-osmosis intake pipe. Hill's bill to provide for renewable energy was also held in committee.
The water portion of the Thatch Cay permit will run for 20 years and cost $35,000 a year.
Coastal Zone Management Program Director Janice Hodge presented the Planning and Natural Resources Department's position.
"The granting of the permit will not adversely affect the public health, safety and general welfare, nor cause significant adverse impacts," Hodge said, asking that the permit be approved.
She also cited help for the territory's economy as a reason to approve it.
Thatch Cay wants to build 101 homes and 24 other buildings on the 230-acre island.
"Each residence needs a minor CZM permit that the owner has to apply for," said St. Thomas architect Robert deJongh, who designed the project.
The buildings and the roads will take up 7.58 percent of the island, which also includes a conservation zone and wildlife preserve. The 300-foot dock will hold 20 boats up to 100 feet long. A mooring field will hold 25 boats, including vessels more than 100 feet long. Five of those moorings will be available to the public, deJongh said.
The development will add to the territory's tax base without driving up property values on St. John and St. Thomas, according to deJongh.
The handful of St. Thomas residents who testified at the meeting oppose the project.
"We've degraded St. Thomas," said Helen Gjessing, representing the League of Women Voters. "Now we're going to start on the cays."
Thatch Cay and other cays are on the "execution list known as development," Sean LaPlace said. He added, "I have been completely disillusioned and lost faith in CZM."
The meeting segued into a discussion led by Hill on the need for a public policy concerning the offshore cays. After saying he doesn't think the cays should be developed, Hill said they're what made "this part of the world" special and unique.
"This is what we're trying to change," he said.
Citing a confidentiality agreement, developer Paul Lange declined to answer when asked how much he paid for the property.
"It was expensive," he said.
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.