Sen. Barshinger Wants Public input on Controlling Development

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Tradewinds,

Over-development is a growing concern for St. John residents. The shared concern is uniting the people of diverse backgrounds who call St. John their home. The longer people live on St. John, the more their goals converge. The newly-formed St. John Coalition is wonderfully diverse, and I hope it continues to blossom.

Quite simply put, residents of St. John are now shaping their own future, rather than letting someone else do it for them. They are rejecting the influence of outside developers who are coming to our shores with the intention of doubling their money in a short time. Such persons often care nothing for St. John people, culture, or history.

Such people create problems by stressing our overburdened infrastructure, but are gone with their profits before they can be enlisted to help fix the problems they created.

There are things that I can and am doing legislatively to deal with this problem. But the most powerful force is the collective voice of the People of St. John. I will use my office as a magnifying glass to help focus the light of the People of St. John into that shared image of St. John’s future.

I strongly support native St. Johnian entrepreneurs who want to develop businesses on their land. I do not support native St. Johnians who use their name as a “front” for stateside developers to get permits, then cash out.

I feel that to preserve St. John’s identity and culture, we need more businesses in the hands of native St. Johnians.

I will personally help any St. Johnian entrepreneur through the process of obtaining up to $50,000 in low interest business loans from the VI Government Development Bank Microcredit loan program.

In this Senator at Large report I would like to look at Coral Bay Development. The Moravian Church plans to develop the ball field and waterfront in Coral Bay. I think this is sad because the Emmaus Moravian Church is the physical and spiritual center of Coral Bay.

The Church’s connection to the waterfront across an open ballfield is something that I would like to see maintained. Losing the ball field to condominiums is not a pleasant thought. Preserving the Guy Benjamin school is important.

These are my personal feelings on the issue. What are more important, however, are the wishes of the People of St. John, and particularly Coral Bay, and more particularly the members of the Emmaus Moravian Church.

I have met with Pastor Connor (Nisky Moravian), Ira Hobson (HPR Commissioner), Mr. Alvis Christian, Mr. Guy Benjamin and the developers engaged by the Moravian Church. I have met with some members of the church who express concern, regarding both the planned development and what might happen if they spoke out freely.

So now I would like to know what the grass-roots people want. I have heard what the church officials want, and other “big-wigs” have to say.

Once I know what the people want, I can sponsor legislation to meet their goals, such as helping the church get out from under the heavy land tax burden, while making good money and preserving some land. This is hard, because there seems to be some pressure silencing those people who have made Coral Bay a beautiful, culturally sacred place through a lifetime of of living, working, and growing in Coral Bay.

I have tried to schedule a Town Meeting on this subject, and have met with resistance from officials from whom I would have hoped for cooperation.

Here are some things that I can do as your Senator at Large to help you enact your vision of how Coral Bay should develop:

1) Do nothing at all….let the free market take its course. Ball field will have condominiums on it.

2) Sponsor legislation to allow the VI Government to negotiate with the church to buy the waterfront land, which would be maintained by Housing Parks & Recreation as a ball field, with improvements such as working bathrooms.

3) Sponsor legislation to allow the church to retain all its land ownership, but give a Conservation Easement for the land it wishes to protect in perpetuity. This relieves taxes and makes some money for the church.

4) Sponsor legislation to take the land for Housing Parks & Recreation by eminent domain, paying the Church fair market value.

I can easily support choices one, two, or three. I will not do choice number four unless I am asked by the native-born residents of Coral Bay. (The reason for my reluctance is because my predecessor untruthfully said during the campaign that I “wanted to take the native St. Johnian land by eminent domain”.)

Because the truth was handled carelessly by my predecessor, I will wait for very specific instructions from the native-born residents of Coral Bay before using eminent domain to acquire the ball field for the V.I. government Division of Housing Parks and Recreation.)

Frankly, eminent domain is the least desireable option of the four choices.

As your representative, I want to hear your voice, and help you shape the future of St. John in a direction that pleases you. You can call me at any one of my three offices. The St. John number is 693-8061. St. Thomas is 693-3546. St. Croix is 712-2315. You can call me at home at 693-5000. You can email your comments to craig@visenate.net. (I am the only one who will open this email.)

Thank you for the opportunity to represent you in the 26th legislature and to share this report of the issues facing us today.

Sincerely,
Craig Barshinger
Senator at Large