CZM Hears from One Neighbor Against Proposed Coral Bay Apartment Building

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Leslie and Myrine Hodge plan to construct a 3-story apartment building on the portion of a Estate Carolina lot, above. The structure would be built atop an above-ground cistern and be topped by a 15-foot high peaked roof.

 

The St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee’s public hearing on Wednesday even-ing, September 20, concerning the construction of a three-story apartment building in Estate Carolina attracted only one testifier.

Leslie and Myrine Hodge, who have their home, which includes two apartments, on one portion of their land, are requesting a major CZM permit to construct a three-floor, 11-unit apartment building on the remaining .3318 acre they own along Route 108, which is also known as Lower Bordeaux Road.

The project includes eight one-bedroom apartments, three two-bedroom apartments, a waste water treatment facility, an emergency generator, a gray-water holding tank, a potable cistern and 11 parking spaces.

One Neighbor Opposed
John Costanzo, who lives next door to the proposed development, was the only person who testified against the project.

“I’m opposed to this big a project being constructed between me and the view and the breeze,” Costanzo said.

Costanzo also questioned sufficiency the 11 parking spaces planned for the 14-bedroom apartment building.

“People who live in their existing house park in the street on the corner,” he said. “You have to drive in the other lane of the road to get around them. I’ve been in four or five almost-accidents having to drive around the cars parked on the road.”

“There is not enough parking for who is there now, how will there be parking for the 30 new vehicles that are going to be there,” Costanzo asked.

Vance Pinney, the Hodges’ architect, said the plans comply with the V.I. Code.
“By code, we only need to provide for one parking space per unit and we have conformed with that,” Pinney said.

Laws vs. Reality
CZM Committee member Andrew Penn also questioned if the plans include ample parking.
“We have laws and we have reality,” Penn said. “A great concern of mine is the parking issue. We have to look at public safety.”

“I know the road and it is a very steep and dangerous hill,” Penn continued. “The parking problem needs to be addressed. We need to look at these things realistically.”

Notice Called Misleading
The Hodge’s .6 acre parcel was rezoned from R2 to R3 in 2000. It is the only parcel in the residential area that is zoned R3.

The official CZM notice, published in a St. Thomas newspaper, stated the project was an 11-room, three-story building, al-though the project is far larger.

Neighbors contend the description of the building in the legal notice was misleading.
There are actually 42 rooms and the height of the building will be equivalent to a 5-story building, according to the environmental assessment report.

The structure, which has three floors of living space, will be on top of an eight-foot high cistern, and the roof rises about another 15 feet from the top of the third floor, according to the environmental assessment  report.

As planned, the highest part of the structure will be “about 70 feet,” according to the project’s environmental assessment.

The visual impact statement portion of the report states that the building will not block the view of the bay from the roadway, which is incorrect, according to a neighboring property owner who said the building will be 10-feet higher than the road above the site.

“It says the building won’t block the view from the roadway, but it will because the building is 90 feet and the contour of the road at the highest point is 80 feet,” said the neighbor.

CZM regulations require that all neighbors within 150 feet of the property be notified of the proposed project. A number of neighbors in the area, however, say they never received notification.

In the section that lists all neighbors within 150 feet of the property, Dassibla Joseph is listed as a property owner. Joseph subdivided and sold that property a number of years ago and the new property owners were not notified.

Thomas and Susan Robinson, Winston Smith and Joan Krigger — who all have property within 150 feet of the proposed apartment building — were not notified of the project.

CZM staff had a number concerns about the project as well, according to CZM Program Director Victor Somme III.

The developers must provide a detailed plan for erosion and sedimentation control; the 1,000 gallon wastewater system could be over-taxed during peak times and should be changed to a 2,000 gallon system; developers must show how the laundry water will be incorporated into the wastewater system without disrupting the plant; a plan for containing spills must be in place; the developer should consider commercial disposal services; and the permit can only be in the name of the property owner who is Mrs. Hodge, according to the CZM.

CZM Recommendations
The social impacts of the project should be weighed along with the economical impacts, explained Alton Adams, a consultant to the developers.

“This project is being developed by native residents of the Coral Bay area,” said Adams. “They want to take advantage of the growth being experienced here. They want to be a part of that growth.”

The CZM decision meeting for the Hodge’s apartment building is scheduled for Thursday, October 12, at 1 p.m. at the Cruz Bay Legislature building.