Neighbors object to Anna's Hope development


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ST. CROIX - Members of the Anna's Hope residential community are once again showing resistance to plans to further develop the land surrounding their homes with multi-family dwellings.

Earlier this month, Jackson Development Company met with about 30 of the residents at Gertrude's Restaurant and unveiled its plans for the proposal that includes 19 newly constructed duplex homes situated on lots containing a minimum of 10,000 square feet.

Robert Jackson, president of Jackson Development Company, said his company is not required to have any public meetings because the development complies with current zoning regulations, but they made a determination that it would be best to take the extra steps to keep neighbors informed.

Despite the objections, the project plans to move ahead, according to Jackson.

"Our development is a use by right under current zoning, and good quality affordable rental housing is in high demand, so we will not abandon our development based on their opposition," he said.

The development of the site originally was proposed in 2012 through Reliance Housing Foundation. The plan at that time included 72 apartments in a total of six buildings, with each building being three stories high on 6.5 acres.

However, the neighbors opposed the plan, and the development was abandoned.

Jackson said the V.I. Housing Finance Authority, the owner of the site, at that time asked his company to redesign the site at lower density and with no buildings higher than two stories.

"The plan outlined has 19 two-story duplex buildings, providing 38 rental units, plus a one-story community building," he said. "After the initial 15-year rental period, required by the federal program, the homes will convert to home-ownership, providing each resident the opportunity to purchase their unit at an affordable price."

At the public meeting, residents said the proposal violates the spirit and intent of Act 543, which became law on April 28, 1960, and granted special priority to veterans for the purchase of homestead land.

The law states that veterans or enlisted members of the armed forces who were born in the territory or inducted from the islands are granted a special first-priority for the purchase of homestead land at Estate Anna's Hope and other government-owned land reserved for sale to war veterans.

Housing Finance Authority Director Adreinne Williams has said that the development does not fall on homestead land as defined in Title 21 of the V.I. Code.

Ena Hansen, whose family has been living in Anna's Hope since its inception, said the residents are not being unfair, but they are looking to preserve the quality of life they have enjoyed in the safe and quiet community primarily occupied by veterans.

"We would not be opposed to them breaking up the land into quarter-acres or half-acres and sell the parcels as single family homes, but to have these high-density projects will ruin our neighborhood," she said.

Hansen said the land primarily was put aside for veterans, and even if veterans are not given first priority now, it has to be more stable than the projects proposed.

"Our agreement prohibits us from putting two apartments on the property, so how can they do it," she said. "We want single-family homes or leave it how it is."

Eusabio Christian, a Korean War veteran, echoed the same sentiments, saying that the veterans of Anna's Hope had fought for the country, the freedoms and liberty they enjoy, and they now deserve to live in peace. He said the projects can be built anywhere else on the island, but it is something that he does not believe will be good for Anna's Hope.

Other residents said they are apprehensive because they have looked at peaceful, close-knit communities, such as Grove Place, deteriorate when projects such as Mutual Homes housing community, Lorraine Village housing community and Croixville Apartments were built surrounding the community with multi-level, densely populated developments.

Hansen said when the development plans first came about, a petition was circulated that garnered more than 100 signatures against the project, and the will of the residents has not changed.

Based on the reaction at the public meeting and the strong, united voice of opposition to the project, Jackson said it is clear that although the plan is now a single-family development in compliance with current zoning, the neighbors are still unhappy with the project, which is expected to move forward in a matter of months.

"It is a classic case of 'not in my back yard,' and is it unfortunate that the neighbors don't want others to be offered the same opportunity they benefitted from many years ago, the opportunity to have a safe, attractive and affordable home for their families," he said.

He said priority will be given to honorably discharged members of the U.S. military, and adult family members must have reasonable credit, a good rental history and no criminal record.

He said his company will try to accommodate ideas or suggestions that the neighbors may have, such as adding a fence or moving a building to preserve trees, but the plans will move forward.

The development will be financed with affordable housing tax credits and will feature home ownership conversion after the initial 15 year tax credit rental period required by the federal guidelines.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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