The CZM hearing for the Port of Mandahl on March 5th we heard the developer present his case directly and through his architect and her staff and sub-contractors such as Amy Dempsey of Bio-Impact. However, it is important to note that not one private citizen stood up and testified on behalf of the developer. However, we listened to hours and hours of testimony against the development with over 63 private citizens speaking against the project and asking the permits be denied.
The Mandahl Salt Pond and its surrounding land is what is in question. It is a 99-year VI Government lease developed in 1964 to support the development of Hans Lollik. This current developer has made it clear that two years ago he legally separated the lease from Hans Lollik (his words and emphasis). Therefore, the operating purpose of the Lease was voided by this separation. The Government of the Virgin Islands must take back the Lease and preserve and protect Mandahl Salt Pond.
The developer's plans for a 'town center' are not reasonable nor viable in today's market nor in the next 10 years. We have 13 other marinas that are not full. A marina development in Mandahl could be disastrous as evidenced by the recent high seas and wave action into the lagoon. The developer himself acknowledges in the EAR that the 'marina' would be unusable part of the year due to north-northwest swells. There are lots of condos on the market that remain unsold, and in fact right at this minute there are over 175 various sized units for sale. Retail space throughout the island of St. Thomas remains un-rented. There are dozens of restaurants and bars that have empty seats each and every night. So why do we need a new development of retail/condos/marina/restaurants and bars?
Those opposing development had experts giving evidence of the significant impacts development would have on the thriving coral populations just outside the entrance to the pond. Staghorn and Elkhorn Corals thrive in this area. We saw dramatic underwater footage by Dr. Paul Jobsis of UVI attesting to rich life under the sea. We cannot ignore that these species are directly in the path of boat traffic suggested for the development.
Let's speak to the noise, lighting and air pollution to the adjacent neighborhood. We live on Atlantic Road, just 500 feet above Mandahl Bay. We can hear the waves crashing on shore and the birds screeching before they dive for fish. We can hear the few voices on the few boats that utilize the lagoon. However, if this development is approved the noise from the building out of this project alone would be deafening and destroy the peace, quiet and tranquility that we have known over the past 28+ years. And if the project is completed, the continuing noise, air and light pollution will be unacceptable. No matter the 'special turtle lighting' there will be lots of headlights, streetlights, and security lighting destroying the dark sky we have all come to know and appreciate. The noise pollution from the expected stand-by generators, compressors for a/c and refrigeration, motors in the powerboats, motors in the sewer treatment plant, R/O plant, alone will be deafening to the entire neighborhood. The smell from the exhaust of the trucks and boats, the dirt kicked up by building will exacerbate those living with asthma.
There are so many reasons why this permit should be denied. But the bottom line is that this is an ill-conceived project which has little likelihood of being financed and an even less likelihood of being marketable and sold. Everything that the developer wants to build out is already available on St. Thomas; marina slips, condos, retail spaces, places of worship, artists' studios, grocery stores, and more.
We simply do not need to add to the glut of empty spaces in this world-wide recession, nor do we need to grant another permit that will most likely be sold to yet another 'developer-investor' with high ideas of how 'they' are going to 'bring prosperity and jobs to the Virgin Islands'. We are a smart people, us Virgin Islanders. We should be able to control our own destiny by figuring out how to use our own natural resources such as the Government owned Mandahl Salt Pond and Mandahl Bay area. We can and should and will find unique and interesting ways of offering eco-sensitive experiences to our residents and visitors alike. And we will do it without ruining our coastlines, beaches and salt ponds. And we will provide jobs and revenue. We really hope that CZM Committee uses their wisdom and that they will vote to deny the permits requested by Mandahl Bay Holdings. Thank you.
Fred and Sharon Hupprich
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