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Viequenses oppose luxury million-dollar condominiums

Vieques – A project of 64 apartments proposed by Vieques Property Development for the southwest coast of Vieques was rejected by the majority of the Viequense community because it would require a large zoning change and possibly damage the environment.

Dos Palmas is composed of 64 condominiums in 23 buildings of 3-stories each, the construction of a restaurant, administrative office, pool, tennis court, gazebo, and 180 parking spaces.  The Planning Board (JP in Spanish) held a public hearing in Vieques last Friday,  March 14, 2008, for the zoning change.

Kathy Gannett, a resident of the Esperanza neighborhood, expressed that “the proponed change in zoning for this Project is in conflict with the Master Plan for Sustainable Development for Vieques, approved by the Puerto Rican government in 2004.  The Master Plan recommends tourist projects of low impact, not large scale projects like Dos Palmas.”  Gannett presented to the Planning Board 25 signatures of residents who oppose the project, many who live close to the site of the proposed project.

Nilda Medina, of the Comité for the Rescue and Development of Vieques, which also opposes the change in zoning, requested that the Planning Board require the developer to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate the social and environmental impact of this coastal project.

Planner José “Tato” Santana Rivera expressed his concern, “The proposal to classify these lands as Residencial-3 is inconsistent with the current public policy of the Municipality.  In the Territorial Plan, these 11 acres are classified as “Common Rustic Land” and “Specially Protected Rustic Land” with the purpose that these lands cannot be developed for urban use until all the existing urban lands in Vieques have been used.”

In the opinion of Jorge Fernández Porto, of the Senator María de Lourdes Santiaog’s office, “They want to grow cement in lands with Agricultural potential, in opposition to the specialized agency, the Dept. of Agriculture, which opposes the project.”  In addition, all of the government agencies which were consulted objected or opposed the project.

The community is worried because the Planning Board already has approved two condominium projects of about 50 units each in the same La Hueca neighborhood.

Many people testified about the lack of infrastructure in the area for so many condominiums and about the possible loss of access to the beach which is called “Boat Pass” and is used by the Vieques residents for fishing and recreation.

Many Viequense leaders have criticized Mayor Dámaso Serrano for having proposed for Vieques luxury tourism as there is in St. Barth’s.  The Mayor has endorsed the Dos Palmas Project.  The youth Jaemi Peralta, a resident of the neighborhood of Esperanza, asks, “How will this project benefit the future youth of Vieques when they are selling each condominium for a million dollars?”

The developers, who live in Pennsylvania, have told potential buyer who have called them that the beaches will be private and that they have already accepted deposits for 30 of the 64 units (even though the project has not been approved).

The number of the Zoning Request is  #2002005-76-0469-JPU.

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