Members of the St. John Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Board voted to approve Virgin Islands Port Authority’s proposal to pave the so-called “gravel lot” near the barge entrance in Cruz Bay, according Michele Baker, legal counselor for CZM.
The May 4 meeting was called to give CZM board members an opportunity to question Virgin Island Port Authority (VIPA) officials, including Executive Director Carlton Dowe and Director of Engineering Dale A. Gregory. Because the issue of paving is considered to be a modification of an existing permit, the public was not invited to testify.
Baker said that CZM board members did add conditions to the existing permit, including notification to the CZM board before beginning work, and conditions related to charging for parking once the work is completed.
The public is currently allowed to park in the gravel lot adjacent to the Theovald E. Moorehead barge facility without charge for up to 72 hours, according to a posted sign. The lot is used primarily by residents who need parking for errands during the day and by local businesses who need a place to stash their vehicles overnight and on weekends. The Police Department has reserved an area for their vehicles as well.
While the nearby barge staging area is under construction, the lot is also used to store shipping containers. This past winter season, the lot has often been full.
The Port Authority has stated its intention to charge for parking once the upgrade is completed. According to board meeting notes posted on VIPA’s website for September 2015, VIPA awarded a contract to the deJongh Group “in the amount of $70,260 for engineering services to design a paved parking lot at the T. Moorehead Facility at Enighed Pond.” The project was funded by VIPA bonds and is expected to generate revenues of $525,000 per year once the parking lot is completed.
The Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) board must approve any fees prior to implementation, according Monifa M. Brathwaite, VIPA’s public information officer. Two members of the Port Authority Board reside on St. John — Jose A. Penn, who serves because of his position as chairman of the board of the Economic Development Authority, and Laurel Hewitt-Sewer, who serves as a representative from St. John.
At the May 4 meeting the CZM Board voted to require the Port Authority to file the proposed rates for parking fees with them and to consider waiving fees for the first 30 minutes, according to Baker.
The current members of the St. John Board for CZM are Brion Morrisette, Edmund Roberts, and Andrew Penn. There have been two vacancies on the board for several years.