Senators, if you rezone in Estate Longford you will harm St. Croix's growing agriculture economy
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The rezoning request for Estate Longford, soon to be considered by the V.I. Legislature, appears to be poorly conceived, with long-term detrimental effects for the area - and for the island of St. Croix - if it is granted.
First, the request to rezone 493 acres of land from Agriculture-1 to Agriculture-2 flies in the face of sensibility, given our current need to expand our agricultural base rather than decimate it.
Furthermore, the plan is minimally researched and utterly open-ended.
Under the "Detailed Description of what exists on the property" is written "Cattle for the University of the Virgin Islands, and bushes." This statement completely misrepresents the true status of the land.
UVI cattle are on fenced pastureland. The complex interactions of plants, soil, micro and macro-organisms, rainfall, drainage, insolation, erosion rates and wind patterns that define working pastureland surely should not be summed up dismissively as "bushes!" And beyond the immediate impact on the 493 acres of the property itself, the change in zoning would adversely affect adjoining agricultural properties, thereby spreading the negative effects of the rezoning far beyond the boundaries of the property.
Our agriculturally viable land must never be taken for granted, especially on an island where we have limited land and few margins for error.
Clearly the writer of the plan does not value what the land actually contains, and considers it only of use for future residential plots. Yet the rather disingenuous statement is made that the proposal is "to continue its current use of property, however allow for a minimum of 2 acres."
How could such a minimum acreage possibly be compatible with continued use as pastureland? The A-2 designation is for small truck farms, not pasturage. The designation is clearly intended for turning the property into purely residential use, by eliminating the agricultural use best suited to the land.
The plan continues in its questionable detail by failing to mention the archeological sites noted in the Castle Nugent Farms Special Resource Study. In fact, the plan states that there are no historical resources on the site! This statement alone should be a red flag, as should line 15, where the "covenants and restrictions of record on the property," i.e. required protection of offshore reefs; watershed maintenance in a floodplain; and the presence of historically and archeologically significant sites are acknowledged with a succinct "Yes," but not addressed in any way shape or form in the plan itself.
But the most egregious part of the whole plan is the statement made at the hearing that they were applying for the change precisely so that they could have a free hand to do what they wanted in the future.
Undoubtedly the future would bring a complete eradication of agriculture for the entire 493 acres, as the zoning change is requested for the entire parcel, not just the lots along the shore.
The result of this zoning change would be to permit open-ended changes to the land without any regard for the need to maintain - and build - the agricultural base that is our best hope for the future.
St. Croix is my home. I grew up in East End, and my family has over 150 years of deep roots on both ends of the island. Proposals such as this one make me very frightened for the future of our St. Croix.
Now, when agriculture is finally making significant strides and is poised to be one of the few hopes we have for regaining the vibrant community that once graced St. Croix, the very worst thing we could do is allow the our agricultural land to be carved up for high-priced residences.
Worse yet, the land would be sacrificed for residences most likely never to be filled, because we would destroy our agricultural, historical and environmental heritage to create them.
Senators, please do not grant this rezoning permit.
- Lynn E. Frederiksen