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Friday, August 12, 2022
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Zipline Appeal Dismissed by Land Use Appeals Board

Concerns about excessive noise emanating from the Tree Limin’ Extreme zipline attraction in Estate Peter were the focus of an appeal considered Wednesday by the Board of Land Use Appeals, which dismissed the petition based on when it was filed.

The petition to dismiss the decision made by Planning and Natural Resources to grant a permit for the zipline was filed in October 2012 by One St. Peter, a limited liability company owned by attorney Paul Hoffman, who owns land near the zipline. Hoffman’s sister lives on the property and spoke to Tree Limin’ owners early in the construction phase of the project about the possible encroachment of one of the zipline poles on her property.

According to law, the zipline would have had to be constructed at least 15 feet from all adjacent property lines. Hoffman, under One St. Peter, also filed a suit a year ago in Superior Court asking for a preliminary and permanent injunction, along with a declaratory judgment closing the attraction and forcing the owners to remove the structures constructed within the 15-foot zone.

The appeal addressed Wednesday focused on testimony from Tree Limin’ attorney Michael Quinn and Hoffman’s attorney, Maria Tankenson-Hodge, who disagreed over when the appeal would have had to be filed in order for it to be valid.

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According to Quinn, the law states that any appeal to the board should be filed within 30 days of any order or permit issued by DPNR. Hoffman’s appeal was filed last October, after Tree Limin’ owners Marc and Julie Bryan had already invested more than $1 million in the project, and therefore could not be considered, Quinn said.

But Hodge argued the 30-day time period was never triggered because neither Hoffman, nor any of the Estate Peter neighbors – who packed DPNR’s conference room at Cyril E. King Airport for the hearing – had ever received notice that a permit had been issued.

While Quinn said it was not practice in the territory for notice to be issued to anyone other than the property owner or applicant, Tankenson-Hodge said Tree Limin’ was circumventing clear legal statutes and trying to re-write the law to their convenience.

She also said that Hoffman’s sister, along with others in the area, had attempted to speak to the Bryans or their legal representative prior to an appeal or suit being filed, but got no response. It was also not apparent to anyone in the area that the zipline – which she said was a commercial business in a low-key residential area – was being constructed, she said.

Instead neighbors thought that new houses were being built or restored, while the zipline poles and other structures were concealed up toward the top of the property, Tankenson-Hodge added.

Quinn countered that the general practice in the Virgin Islands is for the developer to publicly post the permit on a portion of the property, so that it is visible, and after that, it would have been the responsibility of the residents in the area to go down to DPNR and research what the project was about.

Tankenson-Hodge also noted that at the time the appeal and the Superior Court suit were filed, One St. Peter had not received notice that a permit had been granted.

Board of Land Use Appeal members dismissed the petition, however, saying that there is no legal requirement for notice of a building permit to be issued to adjoining neighbors.

After the hearing, Hoffman said he was disappointed by the outcome and would be looking at whether to appeal the decision. He also explained that the Superior Court had chosen to delay action on the original suit, deferring to the board, but were not aware that their hearing to consider the petition would be called a year later.

Tankenson-Hodge added that support from neighbors in the area would make it more likely that the court would act quickly on Hoffman’s suit, and would take into consideration how others in the area are being affected by the project.

Coming out of the meeting, other Estate Peter residents also spoke about appealing the board’s decision and talked about how much noise – which Tankenson-Hodge described during the hearing as "shrieking, shrill screams every day of the week" – filtered through the neighborhood during the day.

"I’ve been on ziplines all over the world and no one screams," said resident John McKay. "The only place they scream is here. It’s like living in a haunted house in the middle of an amusement park."

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Concerns about excessive noise emanating from the Tree Limin' Extreme zipline attraction in Estate Peter were the focus of an appeal considered Wednesday by the Board of Land Use Appeals, which dismissed the petition based on when it was filed.

The petition to dismiss the decision made by Planning and Natural Resources to grant a permit for the zipline was filed in October 2012 by One St. Peter, a limited liability company owned by attorney Paul Hoffman, who owns land near the zipline. Hoffman's sister lives on the property and spoke to Tree Limin' owners early in the construction phase of the project about the possible encroachment of one of the zipline poles on her property.

According to law, the zipline would have had to be constructed at least 15 feet from all adjacent property lines. Hoffman, under One St. Peter, also filed a suit a year ago in Superior Court asking for a preliminary and permanent injunction, along with a declaratory judgment closing the attraction and forcing the owners to remove the structures constructed within the 15-foot zone.

The appeal addressed Wednesday focused on testimony from Tree Limin' attorney Michael Quinn and Hoffman's attorney, Maria Tankenson-Hodge, who disagreed over when the appeal would have had to be filed in order for it to be valid.

According to Quinn, the law states that any appeal to the board should be filed within 30 days of any order or permit issued by DPNR. Hoffman's appeal was filed last October, after Tree Limin' owners Marc and Julie Bryan had already invested more than $1 million in the project, and therefore could not be considered, Quinn said.

But Hodge argued the 30-day time period was never triggered because neither Hoffman, nor any of the Estate Peter neighbors – who packed DPNR's conference room at Cyril E. King Airport for the hearing – had ever received notice that a permit had been issued.

While Quinn said it was not practice in the territory for notice to be issued to anyone other than the property owner or applicant, Tankenson-Hodge said Tree Limin' was circumventing clear legal statutes and trying to re-write the law to their convenience.

She also said that Hoffman's sister, along with others in the area, had attempted to speak to the Bryans or their legal representative prior to an appeal or suit being filed, but got no response. It was also not apparent to anyone in the area that the zipline – which she said was a commercial business in a low-key residential area – was being constructed, she said.

Instead neighbors thought that new houses were being built or restored, while the zipline poles and other structures were concealed up toward the top of the property, Tankenson-Hodge added.

Quinn countered that the general practice in the Virgin Islands is for the developer to publicly post the permit on a portion of the property, so that it is visible, and after that, it would have been the responsibility of the residents in the area to go down to DPNR and research what the project was about.

Tankenson-Hodge also noted that at the time the appeal and the Superior Court suit were filed, One St. Peter had not received notice that a permit had been granted.

Board of Land Use Appeal members dismissed the petition, however, saying that there is no legal requirement for notice of a building permit to be issued to adjoining neighbors.

After the hearing, Hoffman said he was disappointed by the outcome and would be looking at whether to appeal the decision. He also explained that the Superior Court had chosen to delay action on the original suit, deferring to the board, but were not aware that their hearing to consider the petition would be called a year later.

Tankenson-Hodge added that support from neighbors in the area would make it more likely that the court would act quickly on Hoffman's suit, and would take into consideration how others in the area are being affected by the project.

Coming out of the meeting, other Estate Peter residents also spoke about appealing the board's decision and talked about how much noise – which Tankenson-Hodge described during the hearing as "shrieking, shrill screams every day of the week" – filtered through the neighborhood during the day.

"I've been on ziplines all over the world and no one screams," said resident John McKay. "The only place they scream is here. It's like living in a haunted house in the middle of an amusement park."