Senators Meet in Committee of the Whole

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ST. CROIX–The Committee of the Whole, chaired by Senator Novelle Francis, Jr., held a zoning hearing on Wednesday in the Bennie and Martha Benjamin Conference Center at the Virgin Islands Cardiac Center, St. Croix.

The Committee received testimony on the following Rezoning Request and Coastal Zone Management Permit:

Bill No.33-0142-An Act to rezone Plot Nos. 11 and 12, remainder of the Northern Portion and remainder of the Southern Portion, Estate Longford, Company Quarter, St. Croix from A-1 (Agriculture Zone) to allow for the plots to be subdivided into two-acre-parcels; and Bill No. 33-0154-An Act ratifying the approved of the Governor of the Virgin Islands of Major Coastal Zone Permit No. CZX 18-18.

According to Leia LaPlace-Matthew, Territorial Planner of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR), recommends that the petition to rezone Plot Nos 11 and 12 remainder (Northern and Southern Portion), Estate Longford, Company Quarter, St. Croix for A-1 to A-2 (Agricultural Zone).

She pointed out that the property consists of 492.96 acres. Most of the plots are vacant; however, a portion is being utilized by the University of the Virgin Islands for cattle grazing. She added that ten (10) persons testified on the petition at DPNR’s public hearing. Most of the testifiers were in outright opposition to the proposal, while others asked questions and voiced concerns.

LaPlace-Matthew said the main concerns were: (1) The property should only be used for the intended purpose of large scale farming; (2) The environmental impacts of the large development close environment to the shoreline; (3) The presence of historical resources; (4) The absence of a detailed plan for future improvements; (5) The effects of a large residential community on a nearby commercial farm and; (5) The effects the rezoning would have on the proposed Castle Nugent National Park.

The Longford Property authorized agent representative, Reginald Perry stated in his testimony that the intent of the proposed rezoning is to continue the current use of the property while allowing for the property to be subdivided into lots as small as two (2) acres.

LaPlace-Matthew pointed out that the current A-1 designation requires a minimum lot size of forty (40) acres. She added that although the conceptual site plan submitted does show thirty-eight (38) lots situated along the shoreline in the southern portion of the property, the applicant’s representative testified that there is no clear development.

According to Marlon Hibbert, Director for DPNR’s Division of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), the Major CZM Permit No. CZX-18-18 issued to Gold Coast Yachts, have deemed that the permit meets the goals and policies of the VI Code and therefore should be ratified by the Legislature.

Hibbert said, should the Permit be ratified it will allow for the construction of seven buildings: The Component Shop/Infusion Building, Assembly Building 1, Assembly Building 2, Office/Lunchroom and Inventory Building, a Maintenance Building, a training Building, and a small Guard House.

He added that the Permit also provided for 42 Gravel Parking spaces, two setting ponds to control runoff from the site, graveled accessway to the lunch ramp, and a 180’ long,12’ wide with a 10’ wide 100’ shape docking facility.

Richard Difede, Gold Coast Yachts said in his testimony that founded in 1985 as a designer and builder of large composite multihull vessels. The company, he added has become a recognized leader in the fields of (1) U.S. Coast Guard certified commercial sailing catamarans; (2) Custom sailing catamaran yachts; (3) Wave piercing power catamarans; (4) Displacement power catamarans, (5) Light weight fuel efficient passenger vessels; and (5) Novel and experimental hull designs.

Difede pointed out that the company currently operates two leased two facilities on St. Croix:  one Building 4 at the William Roebuck Industrial Park where they manufacture composite components, and two buildings at Salt River Marina facility where they assemble components, launch, and commission new vessels.

Senators at Wednesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting were: Chairman Novelle Francis., Jr, Kenneth Gittens, Kurt Vialet, Allison DeGazon, Alicia Barnes, Javan James., Sr, Marvin Blyden, Myron Jackson, Stedman Hodge, Jr., Athneil J. Thomas and Dwayne DeGraff.