Concrete deck in Cruz Bay could be torn down

A concrete deck on St. John could be torn down because it exceeds the height of approved plans, and members of the Historic Preservation Committee said at a recent meeting that allowing it to stand would set a bad precedent for future building projects in the Cruz Bay Historic District.

The St. Thomas-St. John Historic Preservation Committee has denied approval for a concrete deck on the beach in Cruz Bay, St. John, which members say is too tall and may now need to be demolished.

Chairwoman Pamela Reid Montegut said the committee received plans, but “the construction has already taken place, and the construction does not reflect the plans that were submitted.”

Sean Krigger, the director of the V.I. State Historic Preservation Office, said a storm-damaged wooden deck at the location predated the Cruz Bay Historic District so property owner Rodger Harland’s request to replace the structure with a concrete deck was “grandfathered in.”

Harland, who is off-island, did not attend the recent committee meeting held via video conference.

“It’s my belief that we would not have approved such a permanent structure in a public space,” said Committee member Kurt Marsh, who questioned why V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Jean-Pierre Oriol was seeking their approval “after the fact, when we probably would not have voted in favor of it to begin with.”

Krigger clarified that “there’s no question about the concrete, that’s not a violation. It’s only the height of the deck that’s a violation.”

When contacted by The Daily News via email, Harland responded that work on the deck was inspected as it progressed and that he “complied with every design feature” the Historic Preservation Office requested.

According to Krigger, the deck was developed by Harland for Low Key Watersports, and their operations waterside. That deck was to facilitate their clients, especially ADA accessibility and they work a lot with disabled veterans.”

He added that the deck was built at the lower level for beach access “so, for the applicant to change the height of the deck to road level, deviates from the purpose of the original deck at beach height and what the approved plans, or the submitted plans, reflected.”

Committee member David Knight Sr. said that the property owner could take the matter to the Board of Land Use Appeals if they vote against the deck.

“The next time somebody brings us a set of plans, what obligation do they have to build it according to the plans they submitted? What kind of a precedent does that set?” said Montegut. “For us to do anything but deny it — I just can’t see our way clear to approving it.”

“If we deny it, are they going to be ordered to demolish it?” said Knight.

“That’s up to CZM, the division of CZM — not the Committee of CZM,” Krigger said.

“To me it’s very straightforward. He submitted plans for ‘A,’ he built ‘B,’ and we can’t have that,” Montegut said.

“What he would have to do is resubmit a set of plans that matches what he did, or he would have to destroy what he built and build what he submitted as plans,” said committee member Enrique Rodriguez.

Committee members voted unanimously to deny approval for the deck, and Marsh said they need to be more proactive in outlining what is and is not allowed in the Cruz Bay Historic District.

A business in Cruz Bay recently “erected neon glowing signs” on their property, Marsh said. “If we don’t have these conversations now we’re going to keep having situations where we’re responding to projects,” rather than being consulted first before construction begins.

— Contact Suzanne Carlson at 340-714-9122 or email scarlson@dailynews.vi.