The litany of problems with the Summers End Group marina plans is extensive, but they fall broadly into five main categories:
- Defects in the Application Documents
- Defects in the Procedures of the Coastal Zone Management Committee
- Defects in the Environmental Assessment Report
- Failure to Identify and Mitigate Impacts
- Impacts to the Natural Environment
- Impacts to the Economic Environment
- Impacts to the Social Environment
- Defects in the Permits Issued by the CZM Committee
Defects in the Application Documents
As detailed in the Statement of Complaint, the permit application submitted by the developer had multiple defects that, according to law, should have rendered it “incomplete” and returned to the applicant for correction. These fundamental flaws included:
- The land owners never signed the permit application. Not a single owner of the seven parcels slated for development, nor the leaseholders of those properties, signed the permit application. The space for signature was left blank.
- The developer did not provide adequate proof of legal interest to complete the development, as required by law.
- The application did not include all required details, including no details for the proposed mooring field, no required certificate of water quality, no proof of littoral rights for the submerged lands required for marina construction, no evidence of impairment of aquatic function in the existing mooring area caused by individual moorings, and no evidence the marina could survive even a moderate tropical storm event.
Defects in the Procedures of the Coastal Zone Management Committee
The St John Coastal Zone Management Committee is supposed to have five members, all resident on St John, appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Legislature. The committee that reviewed the Summers End Group application had just three members, and one of those had a clear conflict of interest that prevented him from participating in the proceedings.
However, in spite of the severely compromised committee, the CZM continued to process the application, eventually approving it with virtually no modifications. Rather than step down from the meetings at which the permit was reviewed, the board member with the conflict (he had been the attorney for the applicant, and is currently a long term leaseholder of property slated for the marina development) was allowed to attend the meeting in order to establish quorum and enable the hearings and the decision to proceed.
Had this board member stated early on – at the very least at the moment the application was submitted in April 2014 – that he would be unable to participate due to conflict of interest, then the Governor would have had ample time to appoint additional members to the CZM Committee. Rather than do this, he remained on the committee, providing no incentive for the Governor to appoint a replacement, attended meetings to make quorum, and then abstained from voting allowing the permits to be issued by just two members.
According to parliamentary procedure, the chairman of a meeting should neither make nor second a motion. This procedure was not followed.
The public hearing was scheduled at a time when a large segment of St John’s population was not on island – during the month of August. In spite of knowing how controversial this project was, and knowing how many people wanted to participate in the hearings, the meeting was convened in a room too small to accommodate the people who came to participate. People could not hear the proceedings, nor could they testify and have their concerns heard. This is not how “Public Hearings” are supposed to be conducted.
Defects in the Environmental Assessment Report
The so-called “Environmental Assessment Report” (EAR) written by Amy Dempsey (Bioimpact) has so many errors, omissions, inconsistencies and outright distortions that it should have been returned to the developer after a cursory review by CZM staff with a letter highlighting the main problems and requiring a major revision of content. This was not done – in fact no modifications were required, none were provided, and the CZM staff accepted the document as provided by Bioimpact and incorporated it without any further review into their findings.
The problems with the EAR are far too extensive to list here. They can be found in the Agency Comments section of this website. The main topics discussed in those documents include
- Marina location – on top of some of the most lush marine meadows of St John, critical foraging habitat for endangered sea turtles
- Marina location – adjacent to healthy mangroves that are a nursery for valuable fish species, including lemon and black tip shark
- Wind and Wave concerns – the location, on the windward side of Coral Bay harbor, is the precise location where boats are washed ashore after storms and squalls. The applicants used incorrect and incomplete data to try to prove that the location was suitable for a marina.
- Total lack of mitigation for impairment of aquatic function – the marina structures and boats will cause extensive degradation of marine meadows. The applicant was required to mitigate this impact by providing habitat creation, restoration, or enhancement. This was totally absent from the EAR. In exchange for destroying 300,000 square feet of marine meadow, the applicant offered to transplant 2,500 square feet of sea grass into a location where it is unlikely to survive.
- Failure to analyse cumulative impacts – by dividing the project application into two parts – a land application and a water application – the applicant never looked at or analysed the cumulative environmental impact of the two projects, as required by law. On the other hand, where it was convenient to their case, they did combine the two to try to demonstrate, for example, the extent of job creation.
These are just some of the extensive defects in the Environmental Assessment Report. Please refer to the Agency Comments for more details.
Failure to Identify and Mitigate Impacts
In the CZM review process, one of the key reviews is to determine whether project, as proposed by the developer, mitigates to the greatest extent feasible all of the adverse environmental impacts, in order to substantially lessen or eliminate the impacts. The “environment” in CZM law is defined to include the natural environment, the economic environment and the social environment.
- Natural Environment: The Summers End Group EAR totally failed to either identify or mitigate environmental impacts. As far as the natural environment is concerned, the impacts to endangered species (marine turtles, corals) were either ignored or not analysed with any scientific precision. The impacts to critical protected habitat (mangroves, marine meadows) were incorrectly stated. And there was literally no mitigation offered for the extensive impacts the construction of this proposed mega marina would cause.
- Economic Environment: The Summers End Group looked solely at the claimed economic benefit of the proposed marina, and totally failed to consider the adverse economic impact on the existing, thriving eco-tourism economy of Coral Bay. They literally did not mention the impact that years of construction noise and the disruption of the existing quality of life in Coral Bay would have on the thousands of tourists who come back to Coral Bay year after year for precisely what it is today – a quiet, artsy community surrounded by the grandeur of the Virgin Islands National Park. The adverse impacts on the economy far overshadow any claimed positive economic impacts. These adverse impacts were neither identified (as required by law) nor mitigated (as required by law). See the Economic Analysis prepared by the Coral Bay Community Council for more detail on this topic.
- Social Environment: The third aspect of environment – the social setting – was only partially considered by the Summers End Group, and none of the adverse impacts were even mentioned. The applicant claims the marina will improve quality of life for families in the Coral Bay area. However the public comments – literally hundreds of residents and visitors – claim just the opposite. They say that this project attempts to impose a lifestyle of luxury shops, mega yachts, and gated communities that is so totally divergent from 300 years of Coral Bay history as to render it an attempt to totally reinvent Coral Bay to conform to the image of a non-resident investor. There is no discussion of how land values may increase causing property taxes to become unaffordable. There is no discussion of how the decline in tourism will cause people to be unable to afford their mortgages. There is no discussion of how the literally hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment over the past 30 years – investments in homes, roadways, businesses – will be compensated for loss of their investment if the marina causes fundamental changes in the appeal of Coral Bay.