Three Nominated To Fill Vacant Slots, Replace CZM Committee Members

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V.I. Governor Charles W. Turnbull made five nominations to the Coastal Zone Management  Commission (CZM) on Thursday, July 28, beginning the long-lapsed process of filling the vacant positions on the short-staffed St. John CZM Committee.

V.I. Governor Charles W. Turnbull made five nominations to the Coastal Zone Management  Commission (CZM) on Thursday, July 28, beginning the long-lapsed process of filling the vacant positions on the short-staffed St. John CZM Committee.
Gov. Turnbull renominated for two-year terms St. John  Administrator Julien Harley who has served on the St. John CZM committee for the past
16 years and member Madeline Sewer who has served on the board for the past four years.
Gov. Turnbull nominated Edmund E. Roberts, supervisory park ranger for the V.I. National Park, to replace Thomas F. Matthias; Gerald Hills to replace J. Brion Morrisette,  and  Andrew D. Penn, chief operating officer of Penn’s Corporation, to replace Marquise C. James.
The territory’s CZM Commission is composed of three committees from each of the three major islands throughout the territory, each of which is designed to have five members, but currently St. John only has three committee members – Harley, Sewer and Morrisette.
The nominees, if approved by the V.I. Legis-lature, will serve two-year terms.
Each of the current St. John CZM members has served well past their original two-year terms, according to Bill Rohring, assistant director for Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Division of CZM.
Morrisette, a St. Johnian attorney, has served on the committee for 15 years and been renominated several times. Matthias and James have resigned their positions and James is working on the U.S. mainland.

Expedited Process

Prior to the new nominations, the possibility of  a CZM major application to construct a marina on 1.5 acres of waterfront property in Coral Bay being approved by default spurred action by Senator at Large Craig Barshinger to fill the committee. Sen. Barshinger submitted the names of four residents eligible for nomination by the Governor in an attempt to expedite the process.
Coral Bay Marina LLC’s CZM major application has not yet been deemed complete, according to Victor Somme, III, director of CZM.
“The application was submitted and reviewed, but it has been deemed incomplete twice,” said Somme.
Once a CZM major application has been submitted and deemed complete, CZM has 30 days to notify relevant public agencies and must hold a public hearing within 60 days, according to Somme.“We need a functioning CZM commission to carefully study proposed projects and give us development that is both ecologically sustainable and economically viable,” said Sen. at Large Barshinger.
Morrisette is representing CZM  applicant Coral Bay Marina LLC., in its current CZM application and has told DPNR officials that he would not vote on the developer’s pending application, according to Jamal Nielsen, media relations coordinator for DPNR.
If Morrisette does not vote on the CZM committee, a quorum could not be reached and the application would be approved anyway, according to DPNR Commissioner Dean Plaskett.
“I am horrified to think that something so important as the development of a Coral Bay marina would be passed without the benefit of CZM hearings,” said Sen. Barshinger before the nominations were announced.
Sen. Barshinger said he wrote to the governor twice in June suggesting four “qualified St. Johnians who are ready, willing and able” to serve on the CZM committee.
The decision of whether or not to build a marina is a critical step in Coral Bay’s growth, according to the Senator at Large.
“It could either be a wonderful boon in Coral Bay to open the area up for expanded marine services or it would be an ecological disaster,”
said Sen. Barshinger. “And that is why the CZM commission’s role is so critical for St. John – they will determine whether it is a boon or a bane by their careful study and their recommendation on a marina for Coral Bay.”
“I can say the nominations that were just made were a long time coming, and hopefully it will help us to do the things we need to do on a timely basis,” said Administrator Harley.
CZM members must live on the islands they serve and be nominated by the governor, according to Rohring. Members serve two-year terms and continue serving until renominated at the end of the term period to replace an existing member.
The St. John Administrator said he has sent requests to Gov. Turnbull for the past several years to nominate members but it was not until recently that action has been taken.
“We had a full complement of commissioners until about three years ago when two of the members went away and we were stuck with only three members, and you can hardly form a quorum like that,” said Harley.

Default Approval Eliminated

A complete St. John CZM committee will eliminate the possibility of a permit being granted by default, according to the St. John Administrator.
“Before, when we did not have the information on a timely basis or did not have the ability to form a quorum, a person could be be granted a permit by default,” said Harley. “But with the right complement of people, we will eliminate the possibility of that happening.”
The nominees should be in the office within the next two months once the entire process is complete, according to V.I. Legislative Director and Chief Researcher Cheryl Hydman.
Once the Governor’s nominations are submitted to the Senate president, they are forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary, chaired by Senator Shawn-Michael Malone.
“As soon as we receive the nomination letter from the Senate President, we send out congratulatory letters to the nominees,” said Hydman.

Questionnaire Required

The congratulatory letters outline what each nominee must do to continue the process, containing a questionnaire which must be returned within seven working days, she continued.
“Nothing can continue until that questionnaire comes back to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary,” said Hydman.
Once the questionnaire is returned, an investigative and background check begins involving various agencies from the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Department of Finance to the V.I. Police Department, the V.I. Legislative director and chief researcher continued.
“Once we receive the questionnaire, review it and obtain the background information from various agencies, the Committee on Rules and Judiciary conducts an interview process with nominees,” said Hydman, explaining that after the interview, individual biographies about the nominees are written and distributed to the seven committee members.
At the next Committee on Rules and Judiciary meeting, which occur bimonthly, the nominees are either approved or denied by the seven committee members, according to Hydman.
If all the factors included in the Committee on Rules and Judiciary’s required process –  the completed questionnaire, investigation, background check, interview and voting – are completed in a timely manner, the process can be finished within a three week time frame, said Hydman.
If a nominee is approved by the Committee on Rules and Judiciary, all
15 senators vote to confirm the nomination at the next full legislative session, which occurs quarterly, according to the V.I.  Legislative director and chief researcher.
Once confirmed at the full Legislative session, the and if confirmed, the St. John CZM committee member’s term becomes effective immediately, added Hydman.