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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, May 23, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsCZM Committee Will Take Public Comment on Marina Proposal Thursday

CZM Committee Will Take Public Comment on Marina Proposal Thursday

An artist rendering of proposed marina building at the former Latitude 18 property on the East End of St. Thomas. (Screenshot from Zoom meeting)

The St. Thomas Coastal Zone Management Committee will hold a public hearing on two projects — a marina in Vessup Bay on St. Thomas and an eco-resort on Water Island — when it meets on Thursday.

While initially designated a decision meeting without public comment, the agenda has since been revised. While the eco-resort proposal will be up for a decision, the marina project will now be a hearing with public comment, according to the new notice.

The marina proposal has proved controversial, with nearby residents raising concerns about its impact on the environment, particularly the area’s endangered tree boas, and at least one charter yacht company fearing it could put them out of business.

According to the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, the project at the former Latitude 18 property on the East End of St. Thomas will include a restaurant and marine services building, an event lawn, a dry stack boat storage, fueling facilities, back-of-house yard, a wastewater treatment plant, and a generator. The development’s marina will include 17 slips, with a total of 2,128 linear feet alongside dockage and a managed mooring field. The managed mooring field will include 14 buoys in Vessup and 68 buoys in Muller Bay, with pumpout facilities and amenities available, the meeting notice states.

The mooring fields have raised the ire of local charter companies, who fear the moorings will create a monopoly for the developer, Jack Rock B-A C LLC, with one voicing their concern in a letter to DPNR Commissioner Jean-Pierre Oriol when the project came up for an initial CZM hearing in September.

“We have been in business and registering our multi-use moorings for our vessels, with CZM, paying our fees and maintaining our moorings by a professional mooring company, for 43 years,” Andrea King, who owns Island Yachts Charters with her husband, Skip, wrote to Oriol.

“There are many other small business owners who have moorings in Vessup and Muller Bay who pay their fees every year registering and maintaining their moorings. This new proposal for 68 moorings in Muller Bay and 14 moorings in Vessup Bay, will wipe out the small marine industry business owner if no concession is made for us to maintain our moorings in this area. This would be a monopoly in the Red Hook area, again, destroying local marine businesses who have been paying into the CZM mooring system for decades,” said King.

A team representing the developers at the September hearing, including Amy Dempsey, John Woods, George Dudley, and Estaban Biondi, said a managed mooring field would be better environmentally because the developers would care for the site. They also said managed mooring fields are nothing new and that they are operated in the British Virgin Islands and Florida.

Woods said the developers had been looking at the site since 2019 and assessing what impact the development would have. Dempsey said they would preserve what trees they could in the area and would have turtle-friendly lighting installed.

Neighbors initially raised alarms about the project in 2020, when backhoes were brought to help with an archaeological survey of the property required of the developers.

They expressed concern about the effect of the work on the property, a known wetland that used to consist of several salt ponds and mangroves before it was filled in with Red Hook dredging materials about 50 years ago, they said at the time. The area is also a well-known habitat for the endangered tree boa, as well as other wildlife such as white-tailed deer and land crabs.

However, Marlon Hibbert, director of Coastal Zone Management for the territory, said at the time that the State Historic Preservation Office oversees such work, and “the archaeologists, Cocosol, have done many such surveys in the territory and are familiar with the process. The Division of Fish and Wildlife will have oversight in the area as it relates to tree boas, there is a developed methodology overseen by the division in these cases.”

A proposed 14-room resort on Water Island would preserve Virgin Islands tree boa habitat, developers said. (Photo courtesy Bioimpact Inc.)
A proposed 14-room resort on Water Island would preserve Virgin Islands tree boa habitat, developers said. (Photo courtesy Bioimpact Inc.)

The proposal for an eco-resort on the southern end of Water Island likewise met some opposition at a hearing in September.

The proposed Flamingo Bay Eco Resort would envelop the Fort Segarra complex, abandoned by the U.S. military in the 1950s. The windswept structures at Plot 19 are popular with visitors for their stunning sea views and historical legacy. The developers said they want their resort to be in keeping with the island’s laid-back style but quieter than the current Honeymoon Beach offering.

BBK Development LLC wants to build eight studio units, two one-bedroom units, and four two-bedroom units on the 3.97-acre plot. The resort will also include a swimming pool, an open-air restaurant and bar, and 30 parking spaces. Fort Segarra consists of four existing hurricane-damaged structures: three barracks buildings and a mess hall. The ruins of these old buildings would be incorporated into the resort project, the developers said.

The project will incorporate solar energy to help meet its power requirements and will install a wastewater treatment plant and utilize the gray water for irrigation, according to St. Thomas-based BBK Development.

People living near the proposed site voiced concerns about noise pollution in the quiet area at the hearing.

A tree boa was seen at the fort in May of 2006 — a rare sighting that makes construction of the area potentially difficult, the developers said. The snakes are harmless to humans but exceedingly rare.

It was in one of the barracks buildings that the snake was seen.

However, the developers said they would follow all conservation measures, including hand clearing when necessary.

“Development of the site will follow the Virgin Islands Conservation Measures for the Tree Boa,” BBK officials wrote to Coastal Zone Management. “The site will have to be hand cleared, and BBK Development LLC will ask the Department of Fish and Wildlife to conduct a tree boa training session for all individuals involved in hand clearing.”

Once the project is complete, most guests to the eco-resort will arrive at Water Island by the ferry barge, which comes in at the public ferry landing, the developers said at the September hearing. Golf carts will be the primary mode of transportation for guests and the resort’s proposed 12 full- and part-time employees.

Most people visiting Water Island rent golf carts, and the addition of additional carts on the roads will not have a negative impact on traffic, they said. The same is true of the 12 full- and part-time employees at the eco-resort, they added.

The St. Thomas Coastal Zone Management Committee will meet on Thursday, Aug. 31 at 4 p.m. via the video conferencing platform Teams. The public can access the meeting at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-teams/join-a-meeting?rtc=1. The meeting ID is 248 764 687 148 and the passcode is tDbFZD.

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