Contentious Mafolie Plan Seeks Zoning Change

A St. Thomas man will try again to have his residential property zoned commercial. Neighbors fear traffic congestion and loss of privacy. (Photo: Source staff)

The would-be developer of a gift shop and scenic lookout in St. Thomas will present his case for a zoning change, according to the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.

Lionel Warrell wants to change a parcel in Estate Elizabeth, just up the road from Mafolie Hotel, from its residential zoning to allow for a commercial business, according to DPNR.

Similar plans have been reviewed and dismissed by the Senate at least three times. In 2018, neighbors worried about traffic congestion from the enterprise, and in 2020, Sen. Myron Jackson chastised Warrell for presenting essentially the same plan they’d turned down in 2015.

The 2015 effort was met with fierce opposition by neighborhood residents who said, in addition to the zoning issue, that the roadway was far too narrow to accommodate existing parking needs much less those of an additional business.

A grey shipping container marks where a would-be developer wants to build a gift shop and scenic look out. (Photo: Source staff)

137 people signed an online petition asking DPNR to block plans for the development. They cited the area’s residential ambiance, which they said would be forever changed by allowing commercial enterprises in the area. They also pointed out several long-existing lookouts with similar amenities nearby: Drake’s Seat, Mafolie Hotel, the Skyline Drive lookout, Mountain Top, and Sibs Bar and Restaurant.

The petition also alleged Warrell had cleared the land in an improper fashion, allowing boulders and other runoff to wash across a neighboring property and clog a nearby gut.

“If he wanted to go into business, there are any number of commercially zoned properties that he could have purchased. With this piecemeal rezoning, are there to remain any true residential areas where one can enjoy some peace? Please protect the remaining residential areas of this neighborhood as this commercial venture will greatly reduce the quality of life and cause further issues for the residents of this area,” the petition read.

Warrell has denied any code violations. A grey shipping container with a hole cut in the side has sat on the 1.251-acre plot for at least the last seven years. At one point Warrell used it to sell drinks despite the area being zoned residential until the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs pulled his business license.

The virtual public hearing will be held Oct. 19 at 10 a.m. Anyone wishing to listen in or comment can email [email protected] with the subject line “Application ZAT-22-16 virtual hearing registration.”

Free Entrepreneurial Camp for USVI High School/ College Students

Image provided by AMPS Entrepreneurship Institute

Amps Entrepreneurship Institute and the Natural Resources Conservation Service are seeking 25 motivated USVI 16 to 22-year-old students to participate in the free ground-breaking “Shaping Equity through Conservation Entrepreneurial Camp.” This is a 3-day retreat in St. Croix to help Virgin Islands youth explore business opportunities in conservation, agriculture, marketing, IT and more.

The retreat targets high school and college students in the U.S. Virgin Islands who will be working with farmers, meeting heads of state and business owners from the U.S. The students will receive hands-on business training, form teams, and vie for prizes for the best conservation-oriented business plan.

It will be a literal laboratory for entrepreneurial education and leadership development. And the initiative does not end with the retreat but kicks off a year-long mentorship with the USDA and local agriculture professionals.

Students interested in participating in this exciting opportunity should visit and apply by October 15, 2022.

The program is being led by Amps Entrepreneurship Leadership Institute, funded through a national NRCS Equity grant.

“Amps Entrepreneurship Leadership Institute is paving the way for 25 high school and college students to start a business by solving a problem. Their mission: analyze ways the USDA can improve on conservation and create a business around it. This innovative model is attracting corporations at a time most industries are struggling to hire a competent and competitive workforce.”

The retreat will be held at the Tamarind Reef Resort and Spa in Christiansted.

The founder of Amps Entrepreneurship Leadership Institute and CEO of Amps International, LLC, James Amps II, has been empowering youth for over a decade, working directly with more than 20,000 youth worldwide.

Amps says, “This model introduces youth to careers they might not normally consider. Everybody wants to “Save the Environment” but what if you could help do it and build a career out of it? More importantly, your own business!”

The institute recognizes USDA-NRCS Director for Racial Equity and Justice Vivian Dickson who was instrumental in spearheading the proposal to explore ways to get youth excited about equity in conservation and knows youth entrepreneurship is an untapped resource the next generation is prepared to master.

For more information, please contact: James Amps II/Founder, Amps Entrepreneurship Leadership Institute, CEO, Amps International, LLC, 954-668-8008 / 754-276-5286.

WAPA Executive Director Smith Says Solar Would Save Big Bucks

BMR’s solar farm on St. Croix (Source file photo)

Andrew Smith, executive director of the Water and Power Authority, is trying to streamline the process to get major solar production in the territory because he says it will save the Authority a great deal of money. Members of WAPA’s Governing Board Tuesday expressed encouragement for the efforts of his team but questioned whether the process had flaws.

Anthony Thomas, who is commissioner of the Department of Property and Procurement as well as a member of the board, questioned whether the team was comparing “apples to oranges” in its presentation at the board meeting. The firms making proposals were making different types of proposals. He asked whether it would not have been best to give the details of a development to the firms and then have the firms respond with proposals within WAPA’s parameters.

Instead of following that traditional request for proposals, in April the WAPA team reached out to local and international solar developers for indications of interest in terms of price and project scope. Smith said that WAPA being a semi-autonomous agency was not bound to the RFP process as long as it was open and public about what it was doing.

The firms, at one time seven were involved, came up with the proposals they believed were best in terms of scale and battery storage. Smith said battery storage was imperative to keep the grid stable. He pointed out that when Hurricane Fiona passed some areas of the territory did not see the sun for three days. He also said that even with battery storage the Territory would probably always need some fossil fuel backup.

The proposals that came in were consistent in supplying just half of the power generation needed in St. Croix. Smith said the process was not intended to result in a power purchase agreement immediately, but he was hoping to come up with one by mid-October. He and his team presented the same details to the Public Services Commission earlier this week.

Andrew Smith has been before the PSC and the Governing Board with the solar proposal this week. (Source file photo)

At that time, he said the most attractive proposal was being made by Leeward Energy which reportedly is now applying for Qualified Facility designation from the PSC.
Board Hubert Turnbull asked what the fate of BMR Energy would be. It operates the 4-megawatt solar farm in Spanish Town on St. Croix and is redeveloping the 6.4-megawatt solar farm at Donoe on St. Thomas. Smith said it would still be part of the grid.

In a phone conversation with the Source after the meeting, Smith explained some of the numbers. St. Croix’s peak demand is 40 megawatts. However, Leeward Energy’s proposal for an array of 60 megawatts of panels and 60 megawatts of batteries would supply the island with only half of its power needs.

The solar panels don’t generate full capacity early in the morning or late in the evening, and they don’t produce any power at night. He also emphasized as he did at both meetings that the process was not over. “We are all ears,” he said if anyone comes in with better pricing and shows the capacity to be able to do the job.

In other action during Thursday’s meeting, the Governing Board approved extending its contract for its underground hazardous mitigation projects at no extra cost and approving the purchase of 600 composite poles. The two are related, both are designed to harden the grid. The composite poles, which are advertised as hurricane resistant, are installed where putting electrical service underground is not feasible.

During the meeting, Kyle Fleming, Director of the Energy Office, was chosen to remain chairman of the board for another term. Board members Juanita Young, Joel Lee, Cheryl Boynes-Jackson, and Elizabeth Armstrong also attended the meeting.