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Mandahl Bay Hearing Draws Hundreds

March 5, 2009 — Hundreds of V.I. residents came to Thursday's Coastal Zone Management hearing prepared to bring the house down in opposition to the large-scale marina and residential housing development being proposed for Mandahl Bay.
The meeting was held in the Lockhart Elementary School auditorium to accommodate the crowd.
Several community organizations, spearheaded by the Friends of Mandahl Bay, have been fighting the project for the past three years and going public with their concerns about what kind of impact the proposal will have on the area's ecosystems, environment and existing homeowners. Petitions to stop the development have also been circulated throughout the community, and have so far been dotted with the signatures of more than 2,000 residents.
These efforts culminated Thursday in more than three hours worth of testimony before the CZM board, with everyone from local school children, business owners and community activists making their case for the "preservation and protection" of an area they said is one of the last green spaces on St. Thomas. Though the discussion got heated at times — with CZM board chairman Austin "Babe" Monsanto abruptly ending the meeting at one point after the packed crowd continued to cheer and applaud during most of the speeches — several touching moments emanated from those residents who shared their memories of exploring and living near Mandahl Bay.
"I may be young, but I know that I want to show my children the Mandahl I was able to experience," said 17-year-old Nolan Diehl, whose father Jack had been instrumental in fighting the development alongside the Friends of Mandahl Bay before he was murdered late last month. Nolan's younger brother Cullen recalled times spent at the beach with his father, including a recent excursion in which the two came across different species of crabs, fish and other wildlife in the area.
"We were shocked by the abundance and diversity of what we found," Cullen Diehl said.
The proposed development, dubbed the Port of Mandahl Project, would cover about 15 parcels of land, which "creates 91 acres for our coastal community — estate homesites to studio apartments — a marina and full service town center," according to an environmental assessment report (EAR) filed at the Department of Planning and Natural Resources by Springline Architects, an agent for St. Thomas-based Mandahl Holdings Inc. and MJS Realty out of Dallas, Texas. The name listed on the Coastal Zone Management permit application under Mandahl Bay Holdings is Mark Small.
While some of the land slated for development is privately owned, a majority of it is being leased by the V.I. government. The original lease — 99 years at $500 a year — was executed by the Legislature in 1964 between the government and Hans Lollick Corp. and allows for the development of a marina, town center and housing community on about 24 acres of land. Pursuant to the lease, roads for a subdivision on the hillside surrounding the salt pond were cut back in the mid-1990's.
The lease was turned over to Mandahl Holdings in 2005, which has since been reinforcing the roads for the subdivision, and replacing the old concrete roadways with asphalt.
The first phase of the project includes creation of various hazard mitigation areas and water control facilities, while the second phase centers on the conversion of the existing salt pond into an 87-slip marina, Smalls told CZM board members Thursday night. The construction of a town center would follow, along with small retail businesses, a restaurant, townhouse units and condos, he said.
The project is not connected in any way to the development of Hans Lollick, but is instead based on a desire to create an "inclusive" development for Mandahl and the surrounding community that has continued to grow over the past 20 years, Smalls added. Community members would continue to have access to the beach and other facilities within the development, which would also create more than 100 jobs for local workers, he said.
A Springline representative said the units would be "priced at $300,000, within the range for middle-class Virgin Islanders," a remark that was met with gales of laughter from the hundreds packed into the standing room only hearing.
Attorney Tom Bolt, whose firm is representing Friends of Mandahl Bay, said it was the largest CZM hearing he had ever seen. "It's overwhelming," he said, "beyond the Hull Bay hearings."
Monsanto said later that about 63 residents testified during the hearing.
Meanwhile, Mandahl Bay Holdings and Springline have continued to meet with community groups, along with both federal and local fish and wildlife agencies to find ways to minimize the impact the development will have on the surrounding environment. While the project does include the removal of 1,700 square feet of existing mangroves, the developer plans to replant two mangroves for every one that's removed and create a mangrove walkway that would eventually allow the marine habitats to repopulate.
"There are impacts," Tracy Roberts. Springline architect, said. "But many of those impacts can be repaired within two to three years."
Residents disagreed, saying that the push for development in the 1960's had already altered the original makeup of the bay and has had "devastating" impacts on the beach. Any further development — including the dredging of the channel and salt pond basin — could increase erosion, reduce water quality and put in jeopardy several indigenous species of marine and wildlife that make Mandahl Bay their home. The mangroves are also protected by law, several speakers added.
Friends of Mandahl Bay members pointed out flaws in the developer's CZM permit application, which makes it impossible, they said, for the board to give the thumbs up to construction.
"Regardless of the proposed mitigation plans, this will cause great harm to the fragile ecosystems," said Jason Budsan, representing the Environmental Association of St. Thomas- St. John. "Regardless of creation of new mangrove areas, there will be a significant disturbance of wildlife due to the destruction of habitats of native birds and animals. Over 13 acres of terrestrial uplands and mover one-third of an acre of wetlands will be in jeopardy."
Moreover, the territory's beaches are not for sale, added Senate President Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg.
Community members have seven days to submit to CZM their responses to CZM's permit application. Board members have 30 days to make a decision, Monsanto said.

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March 5, 2009 -- Hundreds of V.I. residents came to Thursday's Coastal Zone Management hearing prepared to bring the house down in opposition to the large-scale marina and residential housing development being proposed for Mandahl Bay.
The meeting was held in the Lockhart Elementary School auditorium to accommodate the crowd.
Several community organizations, spearheaded by the Friends of Mandahl Bay, have been fighting the project for the past three years and going public with their concerns about what kind of impact the proposal will have on the area's ecosystems, environment and existing homeowners. Petitions to stop the development have also been circulated throughout the community, and have so far been dotted with the signatures of more than 2,000 residents.
These efforts culminated Thursday in more than three hours worth of testimony before the CZM board, with everyone from local school children, business owners and community activists making their case for the "preservation and protection" of an area they said is one of the last green spaces on St. Thomas. Though the discussion got heated at times -- with CZM board chairman Austin "Babe" Monsanto abruptly ending the meeting at one point after the packed crowd continued to cheer and applaud during most of the speeches -- several touching moments emanated from those residents who shared their memories of exploring and living near Mandahl Bay.
"I may be young, but I know that I want to show my children the Mandahl I was able to experience," said 17-year-old Nolan Diehl, whose father Jack had been instrumental in fighting the development alongside the Friends of Mandahl Bay before he was murdered late last month. Nolan's younger brother Cullen recalled times spent at the beach with his father, including a recent excursion in which the two came across different species of crabs, fish and other wildlife in the area.
"We were shocked by the abundance and diversity of what we found," Cullen Diehl said.
The proposed development, dubbed the Port of Mandahl Project, would cover about 15 parcels of land, which "creates 91 acres for our coastal community -- estate homesites to studio apartments -- a marina and full service town center," according to an environmental assessment report (EAR) filed at the Department of Planning and Natural Resources by Springline Architects, an agent for St. Thomas-based Mandahl Holdings Inc. and MJS Realty out of Dallas, Texas. The name listed on the Coastal Zone Management permit application under Mandahl Bay Holdings is Mark Small.
While some of the land slated for development is privately owned, a majority of it is being leased by the V.I. government. The original lease -- 99 years at $500 a year -- was executed by the Legislature in 1964 between the government and Hans Lollick Corp. and allows for the development of a marina, town center and housing community on about 24 acres of land. Pursuant to the lease, roads for a subdivision on the hillside surrounding the salt pond were cut back in the mid-1990's.
The lease was turned over to Mandahl Holdings in 2005, which has since been reinforcing the roads for the subdivision, and replacing the old concrete roadways with asphalt.
The first phase of the project includes creation of various hazard mitigation areas and water control facilities, while the second phase centers on the conversion of the existing salt pond into an 87-slip marina, Smalls told CZM board members Thursday night. The construction of a town center would follow, along with small retail businesses, a restaurant, townhouse units and condos, he said.
The project is not connected in any way to the development of Hans Lollick, but is instead based on a desire to create an "inclusive" development for Mandahl and the surrounding community that has continued to grow over the past 20 years, Smalls added. Community members would continue to have access to the beach and other facilities within the development, which would also create more than 100 jobs for local workers, he said.
A Springline representative said the units would be "priced at $300,000, within the range for middle-class Virgin Islanders," a remark that was met with gales of laughter from the hundreds packed into the standing room only hearing.
Attorney Tom Bolt, whose firm is representing Friends of Mandahl Bay, said it was the largest CZM hearing he had ever seen. "It's overwhelming," he said, "beyond the Hull Bay hearings."
Monsanto said later that about 63 residents testified during the hearing.
Meanwhile, Mandahl Bay Holdings and Springline have continued to meet with community groups, along with both federal and local fish and wildlife agencies to find ways to minimize the impact the development will have on the surrounding environment. While the project does include the removal of 1,700 square feet of existing mangroves, the developer plans to replant two mangroves for every one that's removed and create a mangrove walkway that would eventually allow the marine habitats to repopulate.
"There are impacts," Tracy Roberts. Springline architect, said. "But many of those impacts can be repaired within two to three years."
Residents disagreed, saying that the push for development in the 1960's had already altered the original makeup of the bay and has had "devastating" impacts on the beach. Any further development -- including the dredging of the channel and salt pond basin -- could increase erosion, reduce water quality and put in jeopardy several indigenous species of marine and wildlife that make Mandahl Bay their home. The mangroves are also protected by law, several speakers added.
Friends of Mandahl Bay members pointed out flaws in the developer's CZM permit application, which makes it impossible, they said, for the board to give the thumbs up to construction.
"Regardless of the proposed mitigation plans, this will cause great harm to the fragile ecosystems," said Jason Budsan, representing the Environmental Association of St. Thomas- St. John. "Regardless of creation of new mangrove areas, there will be a significant disturbance of wildlife due to the destruction of habitats of native birds and animals. Over 13 acres of terrestrial uplands and mover one-third of an acre of wetlands will be in jeopardy."
Moreover, the territory's beaches are not for sale, added Senate President Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg.
Community members have seven days to submit to CZM their responses to CZM's permit application. Board members have 30 days to make a decision, Monsanto 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.