Tempers flared and harsh words were exchanged at an informational meeting Friday called by the developer to discuss his proposed 24-hour gas station and convenience store at Great Cruz Bay near Power Boyd. The only real difference between this meeting and the one held Oct. 26 on the same subject at the Westin Resort and Villas conference room was that it was held in a parking lot adjacent to the proposed gas station property.
St. Thomas resident Nedal Salem, who operates as Chocolate Hole LLC, announced Friday that he also plans to include six apartments above the convenience store on the .43-acre property.
As the meeting wrapped up, an informal vote showed that most of the nearly 50 people who turned out for the meeting opposed having a gas station at that location.
One of those in favor took issue with the fact that some of those who attended the meeting lived in other parts of the island.
“Then what are you doing here?” Winnetta Boyd Stapleton said to Pam Gaffin when Gaffin said she lived in Coral Bay.
Myrtle Barry, who owns the island’s only operating gas station located a quarter of a mile from the proposed one, took umbrage when Salem said that he planned to provide convenience with his 24-hour schedule. Barry pointed out that her E&C gas station was open until 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and until 6 p.m. on Sunday. She said her gas station provided plenty of convenience for St. John drivers.
“Bravo for them,” Salem said of E&C.
Fish Bay resident Terri Provost noted that the strip where Salem proposes to put his gas station does not need another gas station and convenience store when there were already another gas station and three grocery stores in the area. Salem likened it to the jewelry stores located in downtown Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas.
“We’re not talking jewelry. We don’t need another grocery store, and we don’t need another gas station in this area,” Provost said.
Provost also pointed out that when the local government forced the Texaco gas station in Cruz Bay to close so it could build the roundabout, E&C installed larger tanks so it could handle the demand. Subsequently, the Domino gas station in Coral Bay closed, further increasing business at E&C.
No one disputed the fact that the island needs a second gas station, but most people indicated the need was in Coral Bay, not close to E&C.
Residents raised many issues including the small size of the lot, the steepness of the slope and heavy amount of traffic on the road in front of the proposed gas station.
After Gaffin complained that residents would have no way of knowing if the Department of Planning and Natural Resources gives Salem the required facilities permit, Planning Attorney Dawn Henry said it had no legal requirement to notify the public. However, she said the paperwork pertaining to the gas station would be available at the St. John office.
The meeting was held in the St. John Market parking lot after Barry and others complained at the Oct. 26 meeting that residents could not attend because it was held in the daytime. However, Nael Ahmad, who leases the St. John Market space, said after the meeting that it would have been nice if Salem asked first before announcing that the meeting would be in his grocery store parking lot. He said he didn’t make a fuss because it was for the people of St. John.
The area where Salem plans the gas station is officially Chocolate Hole, but residents refer to it as Great Cruz Bay because it’s adjacent to the bay of the same name.