Summer’s End Group Managing Partner Chaliese Summers and Partner Rick Barksdale.
CORAL BAY — After years of talk and speculation about a marina planned for Coral Bay, last week’s announcement that Department of Planning and Natural Resources officials had deemed the application for Summer’s End Group’s proposed 145-slip project complete, sent tongues wagging from Mandhal to East End.
As DPNR begins the process of evaluating the project and scheduling public meetings — expected to be in August — Summer’s End Group’s plans for a large-scale marina, taking up most of Coral Bay harbor, and associated retail and hospitality development, are now available for review at Connections East and Keep Me Posted.
While many live-aboard boaters, recreational boaters and Coral Bay residents feel there is a need for a marina in the area, and welcome a pump-out facility and U.S. Customs and Border Protection office, many people feel Summer’s End Group’s plan is simply too big and inappropriate for the area.
“My first impression is that it’s way too big for Coral Bay,” said Stephen Hendren. “The marina would take up three-quarters of the inner bay.”
“What they want to do is build a marina in the middle of the bay with a bridge to it,” said Dick Burks.
Summer’s End Group’s proposed marina — with 46 slips for mega-yachts and 96 for smaller yachts — does not reflect the needs or the wants of the community, explained Coral Bay Community Council President Sharon Coldren.
Last year CBCC hosted an intensive community planning session with American Institute of Architects (AIA) which looked at ways to develop Coral Bay while maintaining the area’s beauty and charm. Summer’s End Group partner Rick Barksdale took part in that planning session, yet his proposed marina doesn’t reflect what was discussed or recommended by the AIA experts, explained Coldren.
“This is a huge development project for St. John with 49 slips for mega yachts and 96 for other boats,” said Coldren. “It does not seem consistent with the recommendations of the American Institute of Architects Planning workshop and Report held in Coral Bay in 2013, nor with the Community Vision Survey conducted by CBCC in conjunction with the community meetings involving more than 140 participants, including government agencies.”
“Also the principals in this marina development actively participated in this workshop and have supported the process and ultimate report,” Coldren said. “Thus it is surprising to see a marina now proposed — that is as large as their plans were in 2012 prior to the findings of AIA community visioning process.”
While the AIA report does not mention marinas, a part of the vision plan did encourage the construction of a small scale docking area, Coldren added.
“The AIA report does not mention marinas,” said the CBCC president. “Other ways to improve economic activity were mentioned, including a small scale docking area that would cause little harm to the seagrass and benthic nursery environment.”
“The Community Vision survey has detailed comments from individuals recommending only small scale marina and marine services activity, if any,” she said.
Summer’s End Group’s plan claims its marina will meet a “major need” in the Coral Bay area, which many residents say is simply not true.
“Surprisingly, they state these objectives as ‘major needs,’ as in a sense of urgency,” said liveaboard Coral Bay resident and business owner Paul Tsakeres. “It sounds as though they are all for us local boaters, except that they can’t be based on their proposal. I’m sure they will try to explain, how a Five Star facility assists transients, although they are also called cruisers.”
“Interestingly, neither these cruisers nor the mega yachts are desperate for these services,” Tsakeres said. “It would be rare for a cruiser to pay top dollar to lay up for a few hours (ever hear of a guy called Fatty Goodlander) and their true target population, the Mega Yachts, are entities unto themselves and produce water, power, international telecommunications all as part of their magnificent packages.”
Summer’s End Group’s proposed marina is too large and located in a position which leaves it far too exposed to weather, explained Norm Gledhill.
“It’s in the wrong place and it’s far too large for our island,’ said Gledhill. “It’s in the wrong place because it’s open to the weather and not protected at all from sea and wind in any kind of storm. It’s also all filled land there; it’s not stable land.”
Like many other residents in Coral Bay, Gledhill would welcome pump out facilities, a fuel dock and Customs office, but this project is too big.
“The idea for a pump out and Customs is fine, but this is going too far,” Gledhill said. “Most of the marinas here are built and then after a few years they fail. We don’t want to see that here.”
Other Coral Bay residents are also worried about being stuck with a partially-completed or damaged project since the plans do not call for building a break-water to protect this exposed area.
“The project does not include building a breakwater,” said a resident. “It’s not if it’s going to happen, it’s a matter of when it’s going to be destroyed. What happens then?”
“We’ll be stuck with these pilings sticking up out of the water,” said the resident. “This project is on the wrong side of the bay and we know that.”
Part of Barksdale’s proposal calls for relocating legally moored boats and redesigning the Coral Bay mooring field. Except the proposed mooring field would limit boats to under 30 feet and shows a lack of boating knowledge, according to several residents.
“The mooring field they propose just doesn’t make sense,” said one Coral Bay resident. “They suddenly want to limit all boats in the mooring field to under 30 feet or they have no idea what they are doing.”
The marina project is another tainted legacy of Governor John deJongh’s administration, explained another resident.
“Governor deJongh has sold Coral Bay out,” said the resident. “This is his legacy. He closed our school and now this.”
Coral Bay Yacht Club members had no officials statement to offer because the group has not met since Summer’s End Group’s application has been made public. CBYC will met on Tuesday, August 5, at 5:30 p.m. at Skinny Legs when the marina project will be discussed. The public is invited to attend.
On their plans, Summer’s End Group also billed itself as Summer’s End Yacht Club, which left a few CBYC members scratching their heads.
“If Summer’s End Yacht Club is the yacht club in Coral Bay, what do we do with our 100-plus members,” said CBYC Commodore Stephen Hendren.
Summer’s End Group’s proposed marina needs major Coastal Zone Management Land and Water Use permits from DPNR. A hearing is expected to be scheduled in August for the project.
For more information about CBCC’s visioning process check out www.coralbaycommunitycouncil.org. For the AIA report, check out www.coralbaycommunitycouncil.org/AIA.htm. The marina plans are available for review at Connections East and Keep Me Posted.