May 6, 2009 – Several senators indicated that they were pleased St. John residents had applied for rezonings so they could develop their family-owned land when they spoke Tuesday at the Legislature's Committee of the Whole meeting on St. Thomas.
The senators also heard testimony on why Oceanside Village Inc. needed a rezoning for its affordable housing projects on St. Thomas.
"The application is before you because of the response of the people of the community," St. Thomas Attorney George Dudley said in making the case for Oceanside's rezoning.
Oceanside has completed 26 of its 173 houses in a development called Raphune Vista. While the houses are freestanding, as the project was initially planned, those houses would operate on the condominium concept with the buyers individually owning just the interiors, but collectively owning the exteriors, the land on which they stood and other amenities like playgrounds.
When Oceanside started to sell them, St. Thomas Attorney George Dudley said potential buyers indicated they wanted to own the "dirt" under the house. If rezoned, those lots will be about 3,000 square feet in size.
A second phase of development, called Green Hills, is also planned. Dudley said the company needs the rezoning at Green Hills because topography mandates that "four or five" of the 60 lots be smaller than the 10,000 square feet mandated under the current zoning.
The parcels are currently zoned R-1, residential, low density, and R-2, residential medium density, one and two family. Oceanside requested R-4, residential medium density, for all its property. However, Planning recommended R-2 for the Green Hills development and R-4 for the Raphune Vistas.
At issue for Julius Jessup, who serves as a planner at the Planning and Natural Resources Department, was the worry that the covenants and restrictions that accompanied the sale of the houses when sold as condominiums and were included in the Group Dwelling Permit would not carry over to the sale of the houses and the land. Specifically, he said that without the covenants and restrictions, the owners would be able to add on to their houses, thereby increasing the density beyond what was feasible for the area.
Dudley stressed several times that the covenants should be included as a special provision in the rezoning to prevent this from happening, but Jessup continued to take issue with it.
"For the fourth time tonight, we are satisfied if the covenants and restrictions are conditions of the rezoning," a testy Dudley said.
Four of the other five requests for rezoning came from St. John residents.
"It's heartwarming to see local families coming forward," Sen. Wayne James said.
Sen. Sammuel Sanes pointed out that on a trip to St. John several weeks ago — his first in 30 years – he was shocked to see how the island had developed.
"I saw those huge buildings and I knew they were not owned by native St. Johnians," he said.
Former Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd and his daughter, Alana Liburd, requested a rezoning from R-2 to B-3, business scattered, so they could build a laundry on .31 acres of family property located next to the old Flamingo Club in Estate Fortsberg.
"The growing Coral Bay community lacks a laundry," the former senator said.
At issue for some senators was where the Liburds would get the water to run the operation, but Liburd said that the V.I. Water and Power Authority plans to build a desalinization plant at Fortsberg. Until it goes up, he said the laundry will use temporary cisterns to store water.
Senators also heard from Gershwain Sprauve, who owns Adrian Realty, on his request to rezone from R-2 his .23 acres of land at Estate Adrian so he can reconfigure a just-built apartment building from two four-bedroom units to four two-bedroom units.
Ronnie Jones wants a rezoning from R-1 could build an 18-unit apartment building on 2.96 acres at Estate Susannaberg.
Both wanted rezoning to R-4, but Planning suggested R-3, residential medium density, would be more appropriate because both Adrian and Susannaberg lack the public water and sewer services required for R-4 zoning. Both Sprauve and Jones said that was fine with them.
Jens and Irma Pickering requested a rezoning from R-4 to B-2, business secondary, so they can convert a vacant warehouse on .23 acres of land in Estate Enighed to a grocery store and offices. Planning recommended B-3, business scattered, because it was better suited for mixed use.
WR LLC asked for a rezoning from R-2 to Commercial so it could build a 10,077 office building on .25 acres of land located behind East End Plaza at Red Hook, St. Thomas. Planning recommended a B-2 zoning.
Whether the senators will approve the rezonings will be determined when they meet in full session on May 28 and 29.
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