Minister of VROMI announces Simpson Bay draft zoning plan will be adjusted

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PHILIPSBURG – Minister of VROMI Angel Meyers announced that adjustments will be made to the draft development (zoning) plan for Simpson Bay, which includes the area to the West of the John Sainsbury Lejuez Bridge up to, and including the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) property, and the entire Simpson Bay Lagoon.

The draft zoning plan Simpson Bay was placed on public review from May 5-June 3, 2014, pursuant to a public hearing held earlier. The Minister of VROMI received a total of 28 objection letters mostly centered on the following four subjects: the Simpson Bay pier, the airport expansion plans, marinas, and to a lesser extent the proposed lagoon boardwalk.

Minister Meyers has thoroughly reviewed the objections submitted and has taken note of the advice of the Independent Committee of Experts on the objections. The Committee rendered their final advice to the Minister on January 5, 2016, wherein it concluded that a majority of the objections submitted were (partially) founded.

The Minister has decided to proceed with the finalization of the plan to present to Parliament, while certain adjustments will be made to the draft zoning plan for Simpson Bay that was initially placed on public review, in order to address the concerns brought forward.

Special attention will be given to the following issues:

  1. Simpson Bay Pier: a mixed use (commercial/residential/recreational) development will be facilitated for the Simpson Bay pier (former BBW area) in terms of zoning. This will be done to maintain the primarily residential characteristics of the area, and calls for part of the pier to be used as a public recreational area. The contested development of a cruise pier will no longer be facilitated in terms of zoning;
  1. Airport expansion: The long-term Airport Master Plan will be critically reassessed in collaboration with airport authorities. The intention is that zoning for land reclamation will be kept to a minimum, whereas only reclamation, which is strictly needed to facilitate the long-term expansion needs of the airport will be accommodated.
  1. Lagoon Boardwalk: Part of the beautification and infrastructure improvement plans for Simpson Bay include the lagoon side boardwalk. The proposal for the Simpson Bay lagoon boardwalk will be improved upon based on new insights, some derived from residents and businesses in the Simpson Bay community during prior Town Hall meetings. New conditions will include that no additional filling of the lagoon will be required and that all existing water rights be respected.
  1. Wastewater treatment plant: a wastewater treatment plant for the Simpson Bay and Cole Bay areas is an absolute necessity in order to prevent sewage from entering the Simpson Bay Lagoon. The eventual location of the wastewater treatment plant will be incorporated in the respective zoning plan, pending the outcomes of stakeholder consultations and the ongoing assessments from the technical teams from both sides of the islands.
  2. Marinas: Concerning zoning for marina-related expansion in the Simpson Bay lagoon, there will be no significant revisions compared to the first draft placed on public review. The primary objective of the marina zoning designation is to regulate and prevent unbridled growth of all future and current marinas. Minister Meyers explained that areas that currently grant additional marina development are limited, and based on existing plans or commitments.

Additional consultations may be planned by the Ministry’s Zoning Team in order to prepare the adjustments, which will be presented to the stakeholders of the Simpson Bay community in order to clarify how the objections have been addressed. This will be done as an extra measure, prior to continuation of formal legislative procedures to establish the draft zoning plan.

Although this approach will further prolong the already lengthy procedure, Minister Meyers considered it important for the draft zoning plan to have the greatest possible support from stakeholders and the community.