Port Authority Gives Unspecified Spaces to Dockside

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The new building at the Loredon L. Boynes Sr. ferry dock will get parking nearby from VIPA.

The V.I. Port Authority gave the developer of the new Dockside building the parking spaces required to open the building, but the deal has nothing to do with the Port Authority’s simultaneous attempt to move a landmark Cruz Bay business from two parking spaces in the VIPA-controlled Cruz Bay parking lot, according to officials.

VIPA is not ordering Patrick’s West Indian Delight, which has operated on the VIPA-owned property for the past 29 years, to move in order to provide the spaces to Dockside, according to VIPA officials. Removing the food stand is a separate issue from the parking spaces for the Dockside building, officials asserted.

“The VIPA requiring Patrick’s to move has nothing to do with anybody getting any parking spaces – the two things are not related,” said Robert O’Connor Jr., chairman of the VIPA governing board.

After delaying occupancy of the recently completed building on Cruz Bay beach adjacent to the Loredon L. Boynes Sr. ferry dock for several months due to an inadequate number of parking spaces, the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) granted an occupancy permit in September after the property owners secured four unspecified parking spaces from VIPA.

Search for Additional Spaces
Although Dockside was completed during the summer, the building’s co-owners, St. Thomas businessmen Paul Hoffman and Albert Paiewonski, had to secure the required number of parking spaces, which is seven, within 500 feet of the building before occupancy could be granted, DPNR Commissioner Dean Plaskett previously told St. John Tradewinds.

While the owners of the Cruz Bay waterfront building claim they have three spaces already on the property, DPNR officials believe “it’s more like two,” according to Commissioner Plaskett.

DPNR granted occupancy to Dockside’s owners when the VIPA provided four additional parking spaces located in the port authority-owned and managed parking lot located across from the post office in Cruz Bay.

The VIPA allocated the spaces in order to avoid a safety problem that could potentially result from on-site parking, according to Darlan Brin, VIPA’s executive director, who said if Dockside included the required amount of spaces around its waterfront location, it would cause chaos to the vehicular and pedestrian traffic to and from the ferry dock in Cruz Bay.

Safety Problems at Dock Cited
“The VIPA wanted to avoid a potential parking problem and safety hazard at Dockside so the authority allowed developers to use the space,” said Brin. “We allowed space in the lot for the developers to use because had they put the parking at the section that faces the park, adjacent to the building, it would create an unsafe condition and everyone recognized that.” “They could have put the spaces there to satisfy the permit requirements, but it would be an unsafe condition, so instead of them putting the spaces there we agreed to allow them to use four of our spaces in the VIPA lot,” added the VIPA executive director.

The four unspecified parking spaces the VIPA allocated to Dockside in order for the building to receive occupancy are located within the VIPA-owned and -managed parking lot that is utilized by the general public, according to Brin. No particular parking spaces have been marked or specified for Dockside’s use, he added.

“Dockside can use the spaces, we did not specify which ones and we are not marking them,” said Brin.

Some residents are questioning why VIPA is allocating parking spaces to the waterfront building. “If the VIPA is giving out private parking to businesses, where do I sign up?” asked local architect Michael Milne. “I think it would be great to have my own parking space.”

Building Rules Not Enforced
The parking problem in Cruz Bay is a direct result of V.I. laws and codes being ignored by businesses and not enforced by officials, according to the local architect, who has lived on St. John for 10 years.

“The law states that it is illegal to design a building without adequate parking, it’s illegal for the permitting office to approve it and it’s illegal to lease it,” said Milne. The minimum requirement for a legal space, defined by V.I. Code is 9-feet by 18-feet, according to Milne. “Anything less than that is not a parking space,” said Milne. “The three parking spaces that Dockside currently has are not even legal.”

Many Cruz Bay retail buildings, recently renovated or built, do not have adequate parking required by the V.I. Code, the architect added. “Despite protests from the community, these projects which are not meeting V.I. requirements are being approved and built and the community is suffering as a result,” said Milne.

Dockside Building Criticized
Senator at Large Craig Barshinger has publicly labeled the recently completed Dockside as the “poster child” of Cruz Bay buildings which have slid through the permitting process without meeting the requirements of the law.

As part of the Senator at Large’s five-point plan to solve the parking problem in Cruz Bay, he will be forming a building permit parking verification advisory committee, which will consist of St. John residents charged with the task of examining each and every building to ensure it has the required parking spaces that are specified on each building’s permit.

“We are not going to play games with parking anymore,” said Sen. Barshinger. “Everyone wants a town with some parking and we are going to verify that all businesses that get a building permit have the parking required by law in the future.” “There is a lot of bad that has already happened on St. John, but it can get a whole lot worse if we don’t plan,” the Senator at Large continued.

Islands Needs Master Plan
Parking is just one component of the problem resulting from a lack of island planning, according to Milne. “There is no planning – and DPNR, the senators, Property and Procurement and the Governor’s office are allowing things to go on St. John that shouldn’t,” said Milne. “I think we need a more in tune and responsive local government.” As numerous community members have publicly voiced for years, the island is truly lacking an overall planning component. “We keep moving forward with projects and not looking at the whole problem,” said Milne.

Senator at Large Barshinger is in the process of writing V.I. Governor Charles Turnbull to address the need for an island planner. “There needs to be a master plan on St. John, and Administrator Julien Harley said last winter at a Coral Bay Community Council meeting that Gov. Turnbull’s administration would hire a qualified city planner for St. John,” said the Senator at Large. “And I am writing him a letter today to remind the governor of that promise and ask him when that person will go to work.”

Administrator Harley said he has been asking Gov. Turnbull, who would be responsible for providing a qualified individual to manage island development, to employ a professional planner on St. John for the past three or four years, but has seen no results. “I have been asking my boss for a planner for at least three or four years, but up to this day, we have no planner,” said the St. John Administrator.

St. John needs a professional planner to help the island’s infrastructure grow with the rapid pace of development and increased population, according to Administrator Harley. “St. John is growing. There are more people, more cars, more development, but we still have the same infrastructure,” said Harley. “We need a planner to help the island grow holisticly.”