Despite claims they were conducting on-going environmental testing which was required by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Pond Bay Club developers were told the four-year-old major permit for their project is officially null and void at a St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee meeting on Tuesday, September 19.
The 15-acre beachfront Chocolate Hole Bay luxury hotel project, which included plans for 56-units in three- and four-bedroom cottages and villas, tennis courts, swimming pools, a gym, a 140-seat restaurant and a full-service spa, was originally approved by CZM in 2002.
Before construction was allowed to begin, however, developers were required to conduct extensive environmental testing.
Groundbreaking Scheduled for June
The tests were completed this year and developers were ready to being construction in June, according to Robert Emmett, managing director of First American Development Group/Carib, the company behind the project.
“We were prepared to start construction,” Emmett said. “We had been on the site prior to the June CZM meeting and were starting to clear areas for erosion and sedimentation control. We were ready to drop the checkered flag and get going.”
CZM permits are only valid if construction begins within a year after they are issued, CZM Committee members said at the status hearing.
Since Pond Bay Club developers did not file for an extension of their permit, the permit was deemed invalid – even though Emmett said he had regularly kept in touch with DPNR officials, including Commissioner Dean Plaskett.
Communication with DPNR
Sitting with attorneys Treston Moore and Henry Smock during the meeting, Emmett showed a letter from Plaskett dated January 2006 which he said acknowledged the permit was still active.
In June, however, CZM Committee members toured the site and determined that work had not commenced and the permit was invalid.
CZM staff issued a letter to Pond Bay Club developers in July informing them of the decision. The St. John CZM Committee must stand by that finding, chairman Julien Harley explained.
“I think what you are asking is outside our authority,” he told Emmett, who had requested an extension for the permit.
CZM staff and St. John Committee members urged Emmett to reapply for the permit, but the developer said he is not sure what action he will take.
“We have to decide whether or not to do the reapplication that they call for,” said Emmett. “I suppose we were disappointed with their decision, but our goal is to produce a project. We’ll confront what we have to do internally, and decide whether we’ll go forward.”
The project has been under scrutiny since developers filed for the CZM application in 1999, and came up against the Estate Chocolate Hole Home Owners Association. Pond Bay Club officials eventually altered their plans and came to an understanding with the group, Emmett explained.