June 11, 2009 – With one abstention, the St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee Thursday gave First American Development Group/Carib Limited Partnership the OK to install a well system to supply Pond Bay Club with water.
For CZM Committee member Gerry Hills, who abstained, at issue during the meeting held in the St. John Legislature Building was First American's plan to draw water from a well located on the property, remove the salt and then put the brine down another well.
"I have no documentation from any responsible agency about the huge amount of brine," Hills said.
Members Madaline Sewer and Andrew Penn approved the modification. Edmond Roberts was absent.
First American had planned to run a pipe from the V.I. Water and Power Authority water line that goes up Jacob's Ladder, but project architect Tracy Roberts said that it turned out that the WAPA usage fee was too high, Majestic Construction doubled the cost of installing the line and the Westin Resort and Villas backed out of a plan to share the water line to Pond Bay Club.
"It became an uneconomical project," she said.
Hills was irked that First American didn't have approvals from local and federal regulatory agencies to utilize the well system, but Roberts explained that getting the CZM permit modification was a prerequisite for those approvals.
She said that studies have shown that using the well system is more environmentally sound than installing a reverse osmosis system that discharges into the adjacent bay.
First American's permit application asks for permission to drill three new wells. There is already a well on site, but Roberts said it is too small, and First American plans to cap it after using it to conduct some tests. She said the company also hopes to have to drill only two wells. The company also wants to drill one well for discharging the brine.
If the test proves that the proposal is feasible, Roberts said First American will move forward with the rest of the well project. Roberts said the company expects to start drilling in three weeks.
According to Roberts, the wells will produce 30,000 gallons of water a day, enough to meet the resort's needs.
The modification also allows First American to change the restaurant from two stories to one, move buildings around and make the "back-of-the-house" building smaller. According to the permit application, Pond Bay Club will be managed by Auberge Resorts, which requested the shifting of the buildings to fit with its "six-star dining and leisure standards."
First American is building 50 units at Chocolate Hole on St. John's south side. It took a long time for the First American to get to this point after buying in 1999 a site where work was begun by another developer in 1986. First American faced opposition from neighbors and myriad permit issues before officially breaking ground in March.
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