Irked that Caneel Bay Resort has a $20 parking charge for nonguests who want to access the property, St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee member Brion Morrisette tried unsuccessfully to attach a condition to a CZM permit modification that would force Caneel to get rid of the fee.
“It has a chilling effect. Caneel Bay has effectively become off limits to people and I feel that’s not in compliance with its permit,” Morrisette said, noting earlier that he’s received numerous complaints from local residents about the fee.
Caneel Bay managing director Nikolay Hotze said that Caneel Bay does provide signed foot access to the resort’s main beach, as well as to Honeymoon Beach. Hotze pointed out that if people spend money at Caneel Bay, the parking fee is waived. He said the resort doesn’t make money from the parking fee because it’s so frequently waived.
“If that’s the case, you should have no objection to eliminating the fee so Caneel Bay does not appear to be excluding locals,” Morrisette said.
CZM attorney Winston Brathwaite suggested that adding the parking provision to the permit wouldn’t hold up should Caneel appeal the CZM Committee decision to the Board of Land Use Appeals. He said a court challenge to the parking issue would be more appropriate.
“It’s apples and oranges,” he said.
Morrisette’s motion failed when nobody seconded it. His was the only dissenting vote on a subsequent motion to modify Caneel’s June 9, 1993 permit so Caneel could build a covered patio at the gift shop, build a new set of stairs from the gift shop to a building at Little Caneel Beach, renovate the “galateria baths” into a sandwich bar, and replace or repair stairs at Scott Beach. CZM Committee members Edmond Roberts and Andrew Penn voted yes.
Morrisette had good words for public beach access at the Westin Resort and Villas, noting that the resort provides public access and parking near the beach on the eastern side of the property.
“It’s really bent over backwards, especially with boaters,” Morrisette said, referring to the numerous sailboats anchored just off the resort’s beach.
Westin requested modifications to two existing permits so it could rebuild its dock, relocate the reverse osmosis plant outfall pipe from a spot near the gut to under the dock to help clean up the water quality, expand the pool deck, install informational buoys in Great Cruz Bay to protect the sea grass, replace shoreline lighting with turtle-friendly lighting and to make other improvements.
Westin architect Tracy Roberts said the hotel’s original developers, Allen-Williams Corp., failed to get the required Army Corps of Engineers permit for the dock. The permit modification will allow the hotel to come into Army Corps compliance when it reconstructs the dock.
However, one of the conditions imposed when the resort got the first permit in 1982, and when it was modified in 1985, called for public access on the eastern side as well as on the western side of the property. The western access runs along Guinea Gut. It was never a viable access and is now impassible due in part to Public Works Department improvements to the South Shore Road.
“This is the worst recording of public beach access ever,” CZM Director Jean-Paul Oriol said.
The Westin had asked that the inclusion of the western public access be removed from the permit, but Westin attorney James Casner agreed that the Westin and CZM would work out how an access on that side of the property could be facilitated.
Morrisette, Roberts and Penn all voted to approve the Westin permit modifications.
They also agreed to give Marsh Legacy a one-year extension on its CZM permit issued May 19, 2010, to develop nearly five acres in Coral Bay.
At issue for Morrisette was learning that Marsh Legacy now planned to build a supermarket and a gas station. The original permit included a commercial and residential development with a food court and amphitheater seating 150 people.
Oriol pointed out that when the permit was first granted the supermarket was planned as an “anchor tenant” and there was an existing gas station on the property. That gas station, the Domino, closed several years ago. Several months ago, the building was taken down and the gas tanks removed.
This is Marsh Legacy’s third request for an extension and Oriol said that, with the inclusion of James Boynes Jr. in the partnership with Genevieve Marsh, the project has a better chance of success.