The Sirius Resort and Marina’s Proposed Conceptual Site Plan for their resort stretches from ballfield to the waterfront, behind Guy Benjmain School.
CORAL BAY — When a Coral Bay community meeting on a marina development plan is conducted in a church and starts with a reading of a scriptural text what can go wrong?
As scores of concerned Coral Bay residents gathered Saturday, October 18, at the Emmaus Moravian Church overlooking Coral Harbor for a public information session on developers’ long-awaited plans for the historic church’s shoreline property, church members came from an earlier meeting with the development partners in the adjoining church hall and filled most of the remaining seats in the historic church.
The Rev. Yolense Christopher, Superintendent of the Moravian Church of the V.I., welcomed the community group to “a discussion of a proposed marina here in Coral Bay – what is what and how it will benefit the community.”
“We want to hear from the presenters what is what,” Rev. Christopher told the attentive audience of residents already organizing to fight a competing marina proposal which stretches more than halfway across the harbor from the opposite shore and proposes to relocate the established mooring field in the harbor.
The proposed view from the Emmaus Moravian Church, according to the Sirius Resort and Marina report.
Informative Exchange – From Both Sides
Despite any pre-meeting apprehensions, what transpired was a two-hour, informative exchange between the developers and community members on a myriad of community issues and concerns.
The church’s development partners in the project, now known as Sirius Resort and Marina, were represented by well-known St. Thomas architect John P. Woods, who has joined the development team, long-identified as T-Rex.
“We are glad to see that you have a fervor, a passion,” Woods told the audience. The developers have proposed a project “which would work at the site and not look like its from somewhere else,” he added.
The proposed resort would include 89 one-bedroom and studio apartment units. A second phase will include an 80-slip marina.
“Right now they are configured as a resort,” Woods acknowledged. “ …they could be sold (as condominiums) in the future.”
“The most important thing is creating a sense of community,” Woods said.
Woods outlined the preliminary project design – which did not include details on the marina portion of the project or any moorings and included incomplete plans for major landside portions of the marina development identified on the plans as “marina buildings and services” on the shoreline behind the iconic Skinny Leg’s.
The marina portion of the project along the shoreline behind Skinny Leg’s is intended to include “80 wet slips” in addition to a “one story, two level” boat storage building, boat lift and a boat ramp which elements are still in design, he added.
The preliminary design of the resort portion of the project was completed first to prepare for a St. John Coastal Zone Management committee hearing on a zone change application necessary for the project because the church property involved currently has two different zoning designations, Woods explained.
“If we don’t get the rezoning all of this is moot,” Woods said.
The zoning change, which should be the subject of a November hearing to be scheduled by CZM, according to Woods, “does not impact the marina” portion of the project, he added.
“We have met with the CZM for a pre-application meeting for the marina,” Woods acknowledged. The site surveys were done “seven years ago,” he added.
“The (marina plans) should be ready by January,” Woods said.
Preserving Views and Community
“The Moravians have always wanted to do a mixed-use project, creating their own little town center,” Woods explained.
The first consideration, Woods admitted, was to preserve the view from the historic hillside church to the harbor “looking straight out from the porch.”
“The view from the (church) Sanctuary is very criticial,” Woods added.
A major change from earlier plans includes “creating a new recreational complex across the street” on the other side of Route 107, he said, in what is called “Lala Land.”
The Moravian developers will seek a lease from the V.I. government for some public land, the parking area behind the fire station and V.I. Police Department mobile center, as parking for the project, according to Woods. The now-shuttered Guy H. Benjamin School property is not part of the proposed project.
“We certainly welcome it (the school) being there,” Woods said. “We hope it’s reopened as a school or some other institutional use.”
Among specific concerns raised, Woods said the developers will continue to seek a permit for reverse-osmosis water production facility.
Community members expressed concerns and made suggestions about the plans going forward – including concerns about public access to the waterfront and run off from the major watershed above the Moravian Church.
The Sirius developers promised continued cooperation and communication with the community – and compromise on the competing plan for a marina which includes relocating most of the existing moorings and establishing a channel closer to the Moravian portion of the shoreline.
“We’re going to continue along that path and hope for some compromise in relation to that,” woods said. The architect said he hoped in any future decisions on a competing marina plan officials “will make decisions as it relates to navigation and public interest.”