Approval sought for 145-slip Coral Bay marina


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ST. THOMAS - A private company has submitted plans to the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources to develop a marina in Coral Harbor on St. John.

Summer's End Group LLC submitted a project permit application to the department several months ago, according to Anthony Richards, permits coordinator for the Coastal Zone Management Committee.

"It's quite a sizable marina," Richards said.

The Summer's End Yacht Club at the St. John Marina would be located in Coral Harbor across from Island Blues, Voyages and Coco Loba, according to the application. Summer's End expects to begin work in early 2015.

The marina would have 145 slips, which would be available to nearly all boat sizes, according to Summer's End, which is led by St. John residents Chaliese Summers, Rick Barksdale and V.I. Port Authority Board Chairman Robert O'Connor Jr.

The project would take place in two phases.

Along with the construction of the docks, the first phase would enhance existing commercial business sites at Coco Loba, Shoreline Inn and Island Blues and renovate the abandoned "Voyages" restaurant building.

Improvements for the proposed marina complex would include 120 off street parking spaces, a new 56-seat restaurant, Customs and Border Protection office, a Marina Office, Marina Engineering, Marina Security, fish and farmers market, crew shower and locker facilities.

The phase would also include the construction of apartments to support marina management, as well as solid, hazardous and liquid waste management, stormwater management and fueling facilities.

The second phase of the development will be implemented strictly on market demand, according to the application. Proposed for this phase are four new buildings where additional retail, restaurant, office and commercial space would be located, along with six short-term rental units.

Aside from the 145 slips, a mooring field with 12 mooring balls is part of the plan. An additional 75 moorings are proposed under this application as a public-private partnership with the Department of Planning and Natural Resources to better manage resources within Coral Bay.

Access to the upland businesses by boaters will occur via a dinghy dock located at the terminus of the marina. The marina will also include a diesel and gasoline fuel dock and a wastewater pump-out system available to the boating public.

"The St. John Marina, with its new state-of-the-art docks and upland buildings in their classic West Indian architecture vernacular, will evoke those feelings of wonder and through experience of the marina's services, create memories that could last a lifetime," the application states.

The same site was being prepped for development of the Coral Bay Marina in 2006, though nothing ever came of the project.

O'Connor also was a managing member of that project which was proposed by Coral Bay Marina, a development company which intended to call the marina by the same name.

The original plans called for by Coral Bay Marina mapped out a 116-slip marina, three two-story buildings to provide commercial space for retailers and businesses, fuel storage and pump facilities, a reverse osmosis plant, wastewater treatment facilities, an on-site generator and 60 parking spaces.

Based on the new plans, for which the application documents are dated between early 2013 and early 2014, the marina would create 90 or more jobs that would equate to slightly more than $3 million in labor income annually. Summer's End also estimates that the annual economic impact to St. John would be about $8.8 million annually.

Still, many of the residents of Coral Bay are concerned.

"If this marina happens, it will completely change the character of St. John," said Sharon Coldren, president of the Coral Bay Community Council.

The community is expected to be able to voice its opinion in a mid-August public hearing, according to Richards, who currently is trying to find a place that will fit all of the people that he expects will attend.

"The community is concerned because this development is so huge, and it would have all kinds of impacts, both good and bad," Coldren said.

A lot of people are surprised too by the plans since both Barksdale and Summers are members of groups that would likely be interested in knowing of such plans for a marina.

Neither Summers nor Barksdale mentioned their plans to develop a marina to two community groups, the Watershed Management team and the American Institute of Architects-Sustainable Development Assessment team, that are invested in planning the future, especially any development of Coral Bay.

Still, if the permits are acquired, it is unclear how much the community will have a say in the matter.

According to the application, the seven parcels that Summer's End intends to develop include three that currently are being leased, and four that Summer's End is looking at contracts for purchase.

"The fact is, development in Coral Bay is something that anyone has the right to do," said Sen. Craig Barshinger, who lives on St. John.

Barshinger said that he is neutral for the time being on the subject, though he is concerned because the marina would be in a location that faces open water and is rich in marine life.

Environmental assessments have marked the area to be designated as the St. John Marina as a home to a wealth of sea grass, sea turtles, sea cucumbers, star fish and a nursing ground for sharks.

Not to mention, in the case of a storm, the area is known for having wreckage wash ashore because it does not have ample protection from the weather.

"I think this is a significant leap of faith," Barshinger said.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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